Instructional matching and its relationship to classroom behavior

Florence Rubinson, Fordham University


Although, most children are able to learn to read despite curriculum that is not matched to their ability levels, there is a group of students who perform poorly in school because of an instructional mismatch (Bennett, Desforges, Cockburn & Wilkinson, 1984; Coles, 1987; Gickling & Havertape, 1981). Instructional match is defined as the match between a student's current skill level and the difficulty of the task assigned. The continued failure that results from a mismatch has the potential of creating a wide range of negative behaviors. Tasks that are too difficult cannot maintain the student's attention. Resulting nonengaged behaviors can range from withdrawal to annoying disruptions in the classroom. An alternating treatment design was used to measure task engagement and disruptive behaviors of six third- and fourth-grade boys during an instructionally mismatched condition, instructionally matched condition, and an instructionally matched plus reinforcement condition. Curriculum-based assessment for instructional design was used to achieve the match between student ability and task difficulty. The instructional match proved sufficient to increase engagement and reduce disruption for the six subjects studied. Introduction of a reinforcement contingency to the matched condition, in most cases, further reduced inappropriate classroom behaviors. In addition, achievement was monitored. The results of a t test for nonindependent samples showed that in five cases achievement did not improve when reinforcement was added to the matched condition. The belief that instructional variables can affect student behavior has long been discussed, but rarely supported by data. The results of this study demonstrate empirically the influence of one such variable, the match between student ability and task difficulty, on task engagement and disruptive behavior. This indirect, but effective, approach for increasing appropriate classroom behaviors focused on academic objectives rather than the undesirable behaviors. Classroom discipline, a major and often immediate concern of teachers, was successfully addressed through instructional modification.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Literacy|Reading instruction|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Rubinson, Florence, "Instructional matching and its relationship to classroom behavior" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9123138.