Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Sebastian Striefel


The author investigated the effects of abrupt and graduated temporal reductions on academic performance. Six elementary school children who were referred to a remedial special education classroom received token reinforcement contingent on the number of correct math problems answered during daily sessions. A multiple baseline across subjects design with replication of baseline and experimental conditions was employed. The design also balanced the order of exposure to an abrupt reduction in time limits (20 - 5 - 20 min.) and a graduated sequence of time reductions (20 - 15 - 10 - 5 - 20 min.). Children also performed copying tasks daily under a constant time limit in order to assess the degree to which the effects of temporal manipulations on one academic behavior (math) generalized to another academic behavior (copying). The findings demonstrated that as a result of systematic temporal reductions students completed more math problems correctly in five minutes than twenty minutes of baseline. More specifically, the findings demonstrated that graduated temporal reductions markedly enhanced the math performance of slow learners. Furthermore, when students were exposed to an abrupt temporal reduction first their math performance declined, whereas, abrupt temporal reductions which followed graduated temporal reductions markedly enhanced both rate and number of correct math problems. A return to baseline conditions demonstrated that the improved math rates were not completely reversible. Additionally, improved math performances were found to be enduring as indicated by two follow-up math probes conducted two and five weeks after the study. Although copying performance improved over the duration of the study, these improvements did not closely correspond with the math time manipulations. Therefore, the effects of temporal manipulations on math performance did not appear to generalize to a non-reinforced behavior (copying words) that was performed under constant time limits.