Generalization

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Generalization Image

How does TeachTown: Basics incorporate Generalization?

In addition to providing a motivating teaching setting for children with ASD, the TeachTown: Basics program addresses generalization in the software in many ways. First, concepts are taught through a variety of teaching modules including receptive identification (e.g. “Can you find the blue bird?”), matching (e.g. “Match the color to the object” match color blue to a blue bird), etc. The discriminative stimuli and exemplars during the discrete trials also help with generalization by varying the instructions from trial to trial (e.g. Trial 1 “Do you see an airplane?”; Trial 2 “Which one is an airplane?”) and using a large sample of images including photographs, drawn images, and animation for certain concepts (e.g. actions). The use of multiple exemplars is very important for improving generalization, as has been demonstrated in many research studies (e.g. Jahr, 2001; Reeve, Reeve, Townsend, & Poulson, 2007). This variety helps to ensure that the children are not memorizing images or cues. TeachTown: Basics currently has more than 15,000 sounds and images. The sounds and images in the lessons are different from the pre and post-tests to further ensure that the student is not memorizing responses. Generalization is also planned by teaching more than one concept at a time. Varying the instructions and stimuli can result in better acquisition, motivation, and generalization (e.g. Dunlap & Koegel, 1980). TeachTown: Basics also includes Off Computer Activities that are designed to further the mastery of skills learned on the computer, to enhance generalization to the natural environment, and to teach skills not targeted on the computer (e.g. expressive language, play, social interaction, and motor skills).

Stokes & Baer’s Generalization & Maintenance Strategies (1968)
How TeachTown: Basics Implements these strategies:

  • Provide instruction in natural environments where the skill is actually needed - all TeachTown: Basics instruction including On Computer Lessons, as well as the Off Computer Activities are recommended to be done in the classroom or in the home with common items, students, and teachers
  • Teach in a setting that is similar to those environments where the skill is to be used - TeachTown: Basics students learn new skills in the classroom (or home) that are intended to be used in the classroom (or home)
  • Use props to enhance the similarity of the teaching and natural settings - everyday materials and images are used throughout the computer lessons and the Off Computer Activities
  • Teach peers, teachers, parents, and others to reinforce skill use - through comprehensive training and precise instructions, reinforcement is applied in intermittent schedules throughout the curricula
  • Teach the skill in the context of a variety of situations and settings by multiple role plays with different persons - varied instructions, varied teaching formats, and multiple exemplars are utilized both on and off the computer

Reinforcement Systems

  • Provide reinforcement immediately following the desired behavior - reinforcement is delivered on a VR4 schedule
  • Systematically lean reinforcement to an intermittent schedule - the VR4 schedule is a lean schedule of reinforcement to begin with. The off computer activities are more flexible in that reinforcement can be delivered more often and faded as the student gains more skills
  • Natural maintaining contingencies - Shifting the trained skills to the natural should likely then lead to natural reinforcement and contingencies where behaviors and responses can be maintained naturally and over time

Task Instruction

  • Over learn the skill by practicing it in different sets of circumstances - pre and post-tests, learning trials, and maintenance tasks track how well the student has learned the skill. Off Computer Activities also offer an additional environment where the student can take a trained skill and use it in an applied setting with a variety of materials and other students
  • Systematically withdraw instruction using periodic review and re-teaching of the skills if necessary - Varied instructional and stimulus control is incorporated, while students work both on and off the computer and with varied teachers, students learn to shift instructional and stimulus control to a variety of teachers
  • Instruct the child to recognize opportunities to use the skill in situations other than the original teaching situation - each lesson in the software has an Off Computer Activity linked to it specifically designed to generalize skills learned on the computer to the natural environment.

Clinical definition: Generalization refers to when a student behavior occurs appropriately when new materials, environments, and/or people require or elicit a desired response (Openden, D., Whalen, C., Cernich, S., & Vaupel, M., 2009, p. 4).