Efficacy of TeachTown

Authors:

Christina Whalen, Debbie Moss, Aaron B. Ilan, Manya Vaupel, Paul Fielding, Kevin MacDonald, Shannon Cernich, and Jennifer Symon

Publication:

Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice

Date:

2010

Research Questions:

  • Do treatment group (i.e. TeachTown users) master lessons using the TeachTown: Basics software and are pre to post test results significant?
  • Does the amount of time spent using the TeachTown: Basics program affect performance on standardized outcome measures?
  • Do students perform better on standardized language measures after using the TeachTown: Basics program in their classroom compared to the regular education program (i.e. control group)?
  • Do developmental ages improve on a standardized developmental measure after using the TeachTown: Basics program in their classroom compared to the regular education program (i.e. control group)?

Participants:

All students (n=47) were in the Los Angeles Unified School District in self-contained autism classrooms. Students were either in preschool or K-1 classrooms and were qualified as primary eligible for autism services.

Table 1: Participant characteristics at intake

a
Grade of students and total number of students in each class
b
Range of autism severity on the CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale): 15-29=non-autistic, 30-36=mildly-moderately autistic, 37-60=severely autistic

Design:

Between subjects, randomized by classroom - treatment group (received TeachTown: Basics) vs. control group (regular special education program)

Procedure:

All students assessed in the beginning, mid-point, and end of the school year; students in the treatment group received 20-minutes/school day on the computer and 20-minutes/school day off the computer using the TeachTown: Basics program with teacher implementation for the 2008-2009 school year. Students were assessed using the following measures:

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, 3rd Edition (PPVT-III): Measurement of receptive language (i.e. comprehension) (Dunn, & Dunn, L., 1997).

Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT): Measurement of expressive language (i.e. speaking) (Williams, 1997). The Brigance Inventory of Early Development: The Brigance provides a developmental age-equivalent for various skill areas (e.g. receptive language) (Brigance, 2004)

Results:

There was a statistically significant difference at the p > .0001 level from the pre-tests to the post-tests using the TeachTown: Basics software. On average, preschool students mastered lessons in about 43 minutes and K/1 students mastered lessons in about 52 minutes. With the exception of those students who did not master any lessons, all treatment group students (n=15) mastered an average of 5-6 lessons (20-24 concepts/targets). Students who used the TeachTown: Basics program more often mastered more lessons in the program (p<.05) and students who mastered more lessons performed better on the Brigance (p,.05). Preschool students had significantly larger increases then the control group on the PPVT (p<.05) and performed better on the EVT than the control group, but not with significant results. K-1 students performed better on both the PPVT and the EVT, but, results were not significant.