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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Running DTT in Groups

A few weeks ago, a reader asked if it was possible to conduct discrete trial training in pairs or small groups.  Well, the answer is YES!  One of the myths about DTT is that it has to be conducted one-on-one and I think that this causes a lot of teachers to avoid using it as they don't have the staff to provide one-on-one DTT sessions throughout the day.  I am fortunate in my classroom to have 3 staff members and 5 students.  I can't provide one-on-one instruction all day long, but with creative scheduling, I can fit in short one-on-one DTT sessions.  But, these short sessions (usually 20-30 mins) does not provide enough instruction or practice for my students with severe ASD.  So, we have to group students for DTT sessions and we also embed discrete trials into our math and literacy centres.   

There have been several studies that indicate that you can run discrete trials in pairs, small groups and even larger groups, however I have only ever conducted discrete trials with a maximum of 3 students.  Most of the discrete trial sessions in my classroom occurs in pairs.  Before you try to conduct dyad or small group DTT instruction, you want to make sure the instructors are properly trained in providing DTT.  Once they demonstrate competency in running DTT sessions one-on-one with a student, then you can have them try it with a pair of students.  Running effective discrete trial training takes time to learn, lots of practice and a high level of organization.       

My amazing EA Kathy running discrete trials with two of my students.

1)  Knowing When Your Students Are Ready

Just as you want to make sure your staff are ready to try small group DTT instruction, you also want to ensure your students are ready.  Good indicators of this readiness include the ability to stay at the table for upwards of 15 mins during one-on-one DTT sessions or other group lessons.  You also want to make sure that they have good attending skills.  If you have difficulty gaining and maintaining a student's attention for a short period of time (5 mins) during one-on-one instruction, then this student is most likely not ready for dyad or small group instruction.  Finally, the student should have low frequencies of excessive or disruptive behaviours.  If you student exhibits mid to high frequency behaviours, such as loud vocal noise (screaming/yelling), aggressive or self-injurious behaviours, then they are not ready for group based DTT.  Lastly, the students should have repertoire of mastered tasks that they can do independently.

2)  Groupings 

When making your groups for this type of instruction, you will want to put students together who have the same or similar goals.  This will make it easier for you to organize teaching materials and run the trials.  You also want to make sure that they get along.  If you have two or three students, like I do, that aggravate or target each other, you will want to avoid putting them in the same group.  And finally, consider the type of reinforcers the students like.  I have found that is it easier to group students who have similar tastes in the edibles they like or are able to use token economy systems.  When running group based DTT, I avoid using toys or pairing students who like the same toy as this usually ends up in a fight over that toy.  It makes the instruction run much more smoothly if you can use edible reinforcers or tokens as they are quick to deliver and disappear quickly so you can carry on with instruction at a good pace.

3)  Organization 

When you group students together who have the same or similar goals, it makes organizing your teaching materials so much easier.  In this post, I shared how I organize my DTT area of my room, including how I organize teaching materials.  When setting up materials for dyad or group DTT, I put all of the students materials in one bin.  If we are using flashcards, I put them in a baggie and label the baggie with the goal number so it's easy to locate.  

Discrete Trial Learning Kit:  Letters

If we are using cards that have a choice of answers on them that the students point to, I make sure that both of the students targets for that goal are in those cards.  We usually put these cards on a binder ring, so that it's easy to flip to the next card.  

Assessment Rings from Erin from Creating & Teaching

Assessment Rings from Erin from Creating & Teaching

We use a lot of visual prompts with my students, and found the easiest way to organize them is to put velcro them to choice boards.  Then when we are teaching that skill and we need to use a visual prompt, the one we need is easy to locate and hold up quickly.

If you're using token boards with your students during dyad or group DTT, it's easy to organize the tokens.  If you're using edibles, it can be more complicated unless you store them in containers like these.  These little containers have several compartments and make it easy to store a variety of edibles (based on your students' preference) in them.  

4)  Running Trials 

Now that you have everything organized, you're ready to teach!  There are three ways that we run discrete trials in groups.  The first method is to have students take turns in responding.  I personally prefer this method as it allows me to stay organized and keep a good pace of instruction.  When using this method, you are presenting trials on the same goal to every student in the group and you present the trial one at a time to each student.  For example, if we are working on identifying numbers, I would present Kathy's trial to her, then present Dan's trial to him and then Tim's trial to him.  While I am running the trial with one student, the others are sitting and waiting for their turn.  This method allows you to present each student's particular target to them and allows them to respond at their current level, eg., receptively by pointing to the target or expressively by vocalizing the target.  The video below demonstrates this method.

The second method is called chorale responding, which I am sure you are all familiar with!  Basically, you present the trial and the students in the group all respond at the same time.  This is a great method to use when you trying to teach students to look to their peers to know how to respond or what the correct response is.  The final method I use in my classroom is to have some students work on a mastered or independent activity while you run discrete trials with another student in the group.  We use this method during our math and literacy centers, when students only have one or two goals they are working on that require discrete trial instruction.

5)  Data Collection 

It wouldn't be DTT without data!  But how do you collect accurate data during group based DTT?  I'll be honest with you, this is something that I am still struggling with.  I haven't found a method that I like and that is easy enough so all the staff in my room can run the trials, keep the kids on task and engaged and collect data at the same time.  But, I do have a few options that we have used to share with you.  I'll start with the easiest.  We use this data sheet from Christine Reeve's Taming the Data Monster book during math and literacy centers.  Because we only running discrete trials with one student at a time, it's easy to take the data on that individual student's responses.  I have a binder with each student's data sheet in and their teaching materials for DTT that I keep in the bin that is used for that center.  Staff simply have to pull our the binder, flip to that student, pull our the teaching materials, run the trials and collect the data.  Easy peasy!

Christine Reeve Discrete Trial Training Data Sheet

Another data sheet we have used with dyad DTT is similar to the first data sheet, but has space for staff to collect data on two students for the same goal.  As this one isn't self-graphing, you need to graph the data on a separate sheet.

The third option we have used is another one from Christine Reeve's book, which she calls a "Naturalistic Data Sheet".  We use this one during whole class lessons, but have also adapted it to use when running group DTT.  This one is especially useful when all the students are working on the same goal and for chorale responding.  It has room for up to five students and five goals per student.

Christine Reeve Naturalistic Data Sheet

Do you run dyad or group based DTT in your classroom?  What are you best tips?  Have any data sheets I might find useful?  Please share with me!  

Until next time,

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I too using the discrete trial data sheet from the book Taming the Data Monster. I still struggle to record it for two students so I might try Naturalistic data sheets I had never thought to use that particular sheet during my rotations but I can see how it would be simple enough to use.


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