Journal of Abnormal ChildPsychology, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1978, pp. 203-209

Peer Facilitation o f Generalization in a Preschool Classroom Trevor F, Stokes 2

University of Manitoba Carol L. D o u d , Trudylee G. R o w b u r y , and Donald M. Baer

University of Kansas

Two 5-year-oM deviant preschoolers taught each other, as peer-tutors, to identify pictorial figures describing prepositional retationshipz During training sessions monitored by the experimenter, the child in the peer-tutorrote presented stimulus materials and provided consequences for the responses o f the child in the tutee rote. An assessment o f generalization by each child to an academic classroom setting occurred each day. The data showed that the peer-tutor couM facilitate generalization, when the tutee was probed in the peer-tutor's presence. However, it was found that the salience of the peer-tutor's presence was critical to this effect. In particular, when the peer presented the stimuli or offered occasional consequences for some correct responses, generalization was greatly enhanced.

The generalization o f behavior changes following specific teaching procedures is an i m p o r t a n t area o f research and therapeutic concern in behavior analysis. One generalization-programming tactic discussed in the review by Stokes and Baer ( I 9 7 7 ) was the use o f salient c o m m o n stimuli. In this technique, i m p o r t a n t

Manuscript received in Final form August 15, 1977. ~This research was supported in part by PHS Training Grant HD 00183, Research Grant MH 11739, and a Dissertation FeRowship from the University of Kansas. Appreciation is expressed to the classroom teachers, Scott Simmons, Janet Wedel, Sue Paxker, and Tena McEachern, for their patience and cooperation in the implementation of these procedures, and to Merril Stokes, for her help and encouragement during this study. 2 Address all correspondence to either T. F. Stokes, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada R3T 2N2, or D. M~Baer, Department of Human Development, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045. 203 0091-0627/78/0600.0203505.00/0 9 1 9 7 8 Plenum Publishing Corporation


Stokes, Doud, Rowbury, and Baet

stimuli that occur in a generalization setting, and are easily transported, are incorporated into a training setting in a way that makes those stimuli functional in the training procedures. Thus, if the salient stimuli are made to be common in both training and generalization environments, generalization may be programmed because discriminative stimulus control of the relevant behavior is promoted. An example of common stimuli control of generalization was the study by Johnston and Johnston (t972). Peers were involved functionally in the training of correct articulation, and generalization in the presence and absence of the peers was examined systematically. Correct consonant articulation occurred at a higher rate when peer-tutors were present in those generalization settings. However, Johnston and Johnston (1972) did not examine whether generalization was promoted because of the peers" discriminative presence in the generalization settings, or whether the generalization observed was a function of the peertutors' spontaneous generalization o f tutoring, such that training was conducted during generalization. Therefore, Stokes and Baer (1976) examined generalization in the presence of preschool peers who never tutored in the generalization setting. During training, a peer-tutor presented stimulus cards to his student and provided differential verbal acknowledgement of the student's correct and incorrect word-recognition responses. Performance in the training setting increased to a near-perfect level and stabilized. Generalization of word recognition was assessed each day; initially, it was inconsistent and erratic. Therefore, the student was probed for generalized word-recognition while his peer worked on an academic task at an adjacent desk. Generalized tutoring was not displayed, yet the student's generalized word-recognition was facilitated in his peer's presence. Thus the studies by Johnston and Johnston (1972) and Stokes and Baer (1976) of peer-facilitated generalization suggest that peers involved in training can assume important discriminative control of a tutee's generalization, simply as salient stimuli common to both settings. The present study was conducted to replicate these effects and to examine further the degree of prominence that might be required of the facilitating peer in the generalization settings for some subjects.


Subjects and Settings The subjects (Buddy and Mickey) were two 5-year-old boys attending a special preschool classroom for children with academic and social behavior problems at the University of Kansas. The preschool was located in a 20 X 15foot classroom containing separate work and play areas. The work area was the

Facilitation of Generalization


generalization setting and a small 5 X 4-foot tutoring room in one comer of the classroom served as the training setting. General Procedures and Measurement The subjects' task was to correctly label six figures describing prepositional relationships. The figures were approximately 4 inches by 3 inches, drawn on cards 8 inches by 5 inches. The prepositional relationships were depicted pictorially with drawings of a boy in a wagon, a boy out of a wagon, a light above a table, a car behind a garage, and a cat in front of a chair. The correct response in each case was a verbalization at least of the italicized word(s). These relationships were trained during daily peer.tutoring sessions; assessment of the generalization of these skills to an academic setting also occurred each day. Experimental sessions were conducted 4 days per week, Monday through Thursday. Training and generntiTation responses to the stimuli were tape-recorded and scored at the end of each day. An assessment of the reliability of the recording of correct responses was made on 17% of the experimental days, during each experimental condition, by two observers listening to the tape and making independent judgments. Reliability was computed by dividing the number of agreements on the occurrence of correct responses by the total of the number of agreements and disagreements, and multiplying this proportion by 100 to form a percentage. Comparison of these records showed the occurrence reliability in training sessions to be 97%, and during generalization probes, 98%. Training In the tutoring room, the two children sat adjacent to one mother on one side of a table; the experimenter sat on the other side. The subjects exchanged roles during the training session, such that each boy was the first tutor every other day. Thus each subject served as both tutor and tutee for the other. The tutor turned each stimulus card for the tutee and said, "Describe this picture." There were eight random orders of the six cards. A different random order was presented each day, in 8-day cycles. The experimenter monitored the tutoring, provided prompts when necessary, and dispensed edible antisocial consequences for correct responses and appropriate tutoring and social behavior. Generalization The generalization session was conducted by one of the regular preschool teachers (not the experimenter). The teacher gave the foUowing instructions: "Buddy/Mickey, took at the picture, describe the picture on the card, and then


Stokes, Doud, Rowbury, and Baer

turn to the next card. Raise your hand when you are finished." The teacher then left the work area and waited in the play area until the child had trmished the cards. There were never any consequences given by the teacher for correct and incorrect responses by the subjects. When the subject had finished describing the pictures and raised his hand, the teacher allowed him to return to the play area. The subjects came to the generalization setting either individually or together, depending on the experimental conditions (described next). Daring Urtfacilitated Generalization, the subjects were tested at different times and in the absence of their peer. That is, one subject went through the stimulus cards and left the work area; then the other subject went to the work area and completed the same task before resuming play. During Facilitated Gener~liTation I, the subject completed the task in the presence of his peer, to assess whether that peer's presence during generalization sessions was sufficient to accomplish generalization. That is, the peer came to the generalization setting first and was given a writing task to complete. As soon as the peer started on this task, the subject was called to the work area and was seated at the same table as the peer. The stimulus cards were then placed in front of this child, with instructions to describe the pictures. No consequences were given by the peer or by the teacher for correct orincorrect answers by the subject. The subject returned to play after completing the cards and was followed by the peer after the peer completed his writing task. Facilitated Generalization II was planned as a condition in which the peer would watch the subject describe the stimulus cards but would not be occupied at an independent task himself. However, it immediately became a peer-monitoring condition, in which the peer spontaneously generalized his tutoring behaviors: He asked the subject to describe the prepositional relationship and occasionally provided consequences for some of the subject's correct and incorrect responses (approximately 35-50% of them). Both subjects came to the work area at the same time and were seated side by side at the table. One of the children served as the peer and the other as the subject who completed the task. The teacher instructed the peer to turn the cards over for" the subject; the teacher then instructed the subject to describe the pictures on the cards as his peer turned them over. After the subject had described each card, both children were allowed to return to the play area. In the Facilitated Generalization III conditions, the peer turned over the cards for the student but never provided consequences for the subject's responses or verbalized to the subject. Thus Facilitated Generalization III represented a condition in which the prominence of the peer was between that displayed in Facilitated Generalization I and that of Facilitated Generalization II, and truly represented facilitated generalization rather than the effects of generalized tutoring of responding in the generalization setting. During Facilitated Generalization III, the peer was told to turn over the cards for the subject but

Facilitation o f Generalization


not to tell him whether he was right or wrong. The subject was told to describe the pictures on the cards. After the subject had completed the task, both children returned to the play area. To ensure that the peer never dispensed consequences for the subject's responses, he chose a small toy at the beginning of the preschool day and was told that he could earn that toy if he turned over the cards appropriately without saying anything to the subject. Thus the peer was reinforced for not tutoring during generalization sessions.

Design Correct description of prepositional relationships was examined in both the training and generalization settings. Peer-tutoring in the training setting commenced at the outset of the experiment. Experimental control of generalizationprogramming manipulations in the generalization setting was documented in both multiple-baseline and reversal designs (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968). After a period of Unfacilitated Generalization, the conditions of Facilitated Generalization I, II, and III were introduced sequentially, interspersed with conditions of Unfacilitated Generalization, according to a multiple-baseline-across-subjects design. Further experimental control of the generalizationprogramming procedures with Mickey was evidenced by a series of reversal designs. That is, experimental conditions alternated regularly between Unfacilitated Generalization and Facilitated Gener~liTation I, II, and III.

RESULTS Daily percentages of correct prepositional recognition responses for Buddy and Mickey in both the training and the generalization settings are shown in Figure 1. This figure shows that the peer-tutoring correlated with an increase in performance level in the training setting to a consistently high level with both subjects. However, the rate of correct responses during generalization probes varied according to the experimental conditions. Both subjects displayed a high level of reliable generalization during the experimental conditions of Facilitated Generalization II and III. Performance during Unfacilitated Generalization and Facilitated Generalization I was typically low and/or unstable. Overall, Buddy's generalization performance averaged 39% during Unfacilitated Generalization, 17% during Facilitated Generalization I, 83% during Facilitated Generalization II, and 93% during Facilitated Generalization III. Overall, Mickey's generalization performance averaged 2% during Unfacilitated Generalization, 0% during Facilitated Generalization I, 76% during Facilitated Generalization II, and 81% during Facilitated Generalization III.


Stokes, Doud, Rowbuty, and Baer BUDDY 1oo UJ Z 0


cO 60 W C~ Z 0 IZ 0 0



111 n~ I



< MICKEY Z 100"






0 0 O. W O.





0 w Z 20 W

CC W n

9'... ,v, 9~., ....~ "~, '7~_ 10


30 40 DAYS

"'7""ic, 50

Fig. 1. Daily percentages of correct prepositional recognition responses for Buddy and Mickey in the training and generalization settings.

DISCUSSION The present study shows that peers who participate in training can assume sufficient discriminative value to control generalized responding, because they are salient stimuli c o m m o n to both settings. The data also emphasized that the salience o f the peer can be a critical dimension that determines the effectiveness of peers as c o m m o n stimuli who facilitate generalization.

Facilitation of Generalization


The Facilitated Generalization I condition of this study partially replicated the data obtained during the similar Facilitated Generalization condition of the Stokes and Baer (1976) study. That is, generalized tutoring did not occur (success of replication), but facilitation of generalization did not occur either (failure of replication). Therefore, during the Facilitated Generalization II condition, the salience (i.e., the activity prominence) of the peer in the generalization setting was increased so that the peer presented the stimulus cards to his student during probes, rather than working on an independent academic task. Under these conditions, generalized recognition was displayed, but it was not possible to determine whether this was simply a discriminative stimulus effect, because the peer generalized his tutoring. At least, the salience of the peer-tutor had a functional effect on the generalization of his tutoring behaviors. A third intervention condition, Facilitated Generalization III, then was programmed to examine facilitated generalization under conditions more prominent than the peer's passive presence but less prominent than during training, in that the experimenter programmed the peer's nonparticipation so that he never provided consequences or verbalized to the subject. Under these conditions, facilitated generalization was evoked reliably. These data, together with the previous studies (Johnston & Johnston, 1972; Stokes & Baer, 1976), show that facilitated generalization may occur with minimal restructuring of the generalization setting; that spontaneous generalization of tutoring may occur and thereby establish generalized responding; but that the prominence or salience of the peer in the generalization setting can be an important determinant of the generalization facilitated. Taken together, these studies emphasize some benefits of using peer-tutors because such peers are frequently agents of generalization programming, as a function of either tutoring or stimulus presence in the generalization setting. Furthermore, if generalization is not a natural outcome of the behavior modification procedures, a simple manipulation of increasing the prominence of the peer in the generalization setting is probably sufficient to accomplish generalization.


Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal o f Applied Behavior Analysis, 1968, 1, 91-~7. Johnston, J. M., & Johnston, G. T. Modification of consonant speech-sound articulation in young children. Journal o f Applied Behavior Analysis, 1972, 5, 233-246. Stokes, T. F., & Baer, D. M. Preschool peers as mutual generalization-faciLitatingagents. Behavior Therapy, 1976, 7, 549-556. Stokes, T. F., & Baer, D. M. An implicit technology of generalization. Journal o f Applied Behavior Analysis, 1977, 10, 349-367.

Peer facilitation of generalization in a preschool classroom.

Journal of Abnormal ChildPsychology, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1978, pp. 203-209 Peer Facilitation o f Generalization in a Preschool Classroom Trevor F, Stokes...
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