A school-based cognitive behavior modification intervention strategy for learned helpless mentally retarded students
Ogilvie, Margaret F.
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This study assessed the usefulness of a cognitive behavior modification (CBM) intervention package with mentally retarded students in overcoming learned helplessness and improving learning strategies. It also examined the feasibility of instructing teachers in the use of such a training program for a classroom setting. A modified single subject design across individuals was employed using two groups of three subjects. Three students from each of two segregated schools for the mentally retarded were selected using a teacher questionnaire and pupil checklist of the most learned helpless students enrolled there. Three additional learned helplessness assessments were conducted on each subject before and after the intervention in order to evaluate the usefulness of the program in alleviating learned helplessness. A classroom environment was created with the three students from each school engaged in three twenty minute work sessions a week with the experimenter and a tutor experimenter (TE) as instructors. Baseline measurements were established on seven targeted behaviors for each subject: task-relevant speech, task-irrelevant speech, speech denoting a positive evaluation of performance, speech denoting a negative evaluation of performance, proportion of time on task, non-verbal positive evaluation of performance and non-verbal negative evaluation of performance. The intervention package combined a variety of CBM techniques such as Meichenbaum's (1977) Stop, Look and Listen approach, role rehearsal and feedback. During the intervention each subject met with his TE twice a week for an individual half-hour session and one joint twenty minute session with all three students, the experimentor and one TE. Five weeks after the end of this experiment one follow up probe was conducted. All baseline, post-intervention and probe sessions were videotaped. The seven targeted behaviors were coded and comparisons of baseline, post intervention, and probe testing were presented in graph form. Results showed a reduction in learned helplessness in all subjects. Improvement was noted in each of the seven targeted behaviors for each of the six subjects. This study indicated that mentally retarded children can be taught to reduce learned helplessness with the aid of a CBM intervention package. It also showed that CBM is a viable approach in helping mentally retarded students acquire more effective learning strategies. Because the TEs (Tutor experimenters) had no trouble learning and implementing this program, it was considered feasible for teachers to use similar methods in the classroom.