The attainment of basic early literacy skills at an early age is one way to ensure children become proficient readers as adults. Word recognition is an important basic early literacy skill that is related to reading fluency and overall reading competency. Incremental rehearsal (IR) is a flashcard technique that has produced strong outcomes for a variety of outcomes including word recognition. Modifications to IR that are based on theory may enhance maintenance and generalization, outcomes that are frequently overlooked in flashcard intervention research. A number of theoretical frameworks were utilized in this research to enhance maintenance and generalization. The depth of processing framework was used, which suggests that semantic processing of information leads to better maintenance. The theory of common elements and Stokes and Baer's (1977) generalization framework were utilized as frameworks for enhancing generalization. In addition to intervention design, individual factors may also impact intervention efficacy. For example, working memory capacity may influence the amount of verbal information an individual can process. Decoding skill may also lead to enhanced outcomes in word recognition interventions. The current study examined the impact of theory-based modifications to IR on maintenance and generalization. A within-subjects design was utilized in which all participants were taught seven unknown words in each of three IR variants - IR, IR with vocabulary (IR-V, which leveraged the depth of processing framework), and IR with context (IR-C, which leveraged Stokes and Baer's  generalization framework and the theory of common elements). Auditory working memory and decoding skills were also measured as individual factors and potential moderators of intervention effects. Primary dependent variables were maintenance and generalization at 1 and 2 weeks after teaching. Results of the study indicated that maintenance and generalization were high across conditions, suggesting possible ceiling effects. However, 1-week maintenance was significantly greater in IR-V than IR and in IR-C than IR. Additionally, 2-week generalization was significantly greater in IR-V than IR. Effect sizes were small across outcomes in favor of IR-V and IR-C. IR was the most efficient intervention variant in words maintained per minute. A moderating effect of auditory working memory capacity was not observed. However, participants with low decoding skill maintained significantly more words through IR-V than IR at 1 week, while this difference was not observed in participants at higher decoding skill levels. Future research may investigate theory-based modifications applied to different populations (such as students with low decoding skills) or different information types. In addition, future research may investigate theory-based modifications to more efficient modifications of IR (perhaps with fewer opportunities to respond) to enhance the efficiency of these approaches.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Matthew K. Burns. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 110 pages.
Enhancing maintenance and generalization of incremental rehearsal through theory-based modifications.
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