The impact of staffing ratios on the implementation of behavior modification programs in classes for profoundly retarded students

Arnold Lawrence Cabasso, Fordham University


There has been a great deal of research demonstrating that profoundly retarded students can learn a variety of skills. Almost all of this research used behavior modification techniques in trainer-to-learner ratios of 1:1. With profoundly retarded students now in educational classes, with ratios much higher than 1:1, the question is whether the same techniques can be applied successfully with higher ratios. This study examined the effectiveness of 10 teachers of classes for profoundly retarded students applying two behavior modification techniques across three different teacher-to-student ratios: 1:1, 1:2, and 1:4. The first technique, positive reinforcement, was considered correct if the teachers reinforced the student(s) when a trial was correctly performed, incorrect if it was ignored or if the teacher reinforced an incorrect trial. Chaining, the second technique, was considered correct if the teacher prompted the student to perform one step of the task at a time, and incorrect if more than one step was prompted at a time. The third dependent variable was a measure of student trials correct and incorrect across the same staffing ratios. The results showed a very significant breakdown of teacher's applying positive reinforcement under a 1:4 staffing ratio. Teacher's application of chaining at this ratio also was lower than at the 1:1 ratio. The student's rates of correct and incorrect trials did not differ across the three ratios. In light of these results, current classroom practices must be critically examined. Investigations should be made into whether teachers can be trained to perform behavioral techniques in groups of four or more. Other recommendations included training profoundly retarded students in groups of one or two for short periods of time, while other students engage in other activities. Further research may indicate whether other techniques can be used to teach greater numbers of students at the same time.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Special education

Recommended Citation

Cabasso, Arnold Lawrence, "The impact of staffing ratios on the implementation of behavior modification programs in classes for profoundly retarded students" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918439.