Identifying Active Ingredients: Examining the Relationship Between Teacher Fidelity of Implementation of Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching and Student Engagement

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
V. Li1, T. Holt2, S. R. Rieth3, K. S. Dickson4, J. Suhrheinrich5 and A. C. Stahmer6, (1)Child & Adolescent Services Research Center, San Diego, CA, (2)CASRC, San Diego, CA, (3)San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, (4)Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, San Diego, CA, (5)University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, (6)Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California at Davis MIND Institute, Sacramento, CA

ASD interventions are complex and generally composed of multiple components targeting skills across several domains. When using packaged interventions, teachers have reported difficulty in utilizing all components effectively (Stahmer, Suhrheinrich, Reed, & Schreibman, 2012). To date, there is little research examining the individual components of multi-component interventions and how they influence student behavior and outcomes. Identification of the active ingredients in interventions may allow for streamlined, more efficient intervention protocols. Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching (CPRT) is a multi-component behavioral intervention developed for use in classroom settings for students with ASD. Close examination of how teachers’ use of CPRT relates to student behavior may provide valuable information on how the protocol may be optimally utilized in classroom settings.


The objective of the current project is to examine the relationship between student active participation in learning activities and teachers’ fidelity of implementation (FI) of CPRT. Results may inform which components of CPRT are necessary to best promote student engagement.


99 special education teachers (94% female) in the greater San Diego area received training in CPRT as part of a randomized trial of the intervention. All teachers supported at least one student with an educational classification of autism. Classroom observations were recorded at multiple time points before, during and after CPRT training during regular classroom activities. Observations were coded using two separate coding systems to evaluate: 1) teachers’ FI of CPRT and 2) child engagement in the activity. Fidelity measurement involved rating each teacher on 19 CPRT components using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = does not use, 5 = uses throughout). Student engagement in the activity was continuously coded using observational coding software. Correlations between teacher fidelity on individual components of CPRT and student engagement was examined across all videos.


Based on nearly 200 video observations thus far, preliminary results indicate that higher student engagement is associated with decreased use of turn taking, motivating materials, direct reinforcement, and reinforcement of good trying strategies by teachers. An additional 300 video observations are being examined to further explore these preliminary relationships, as well as allow for more complex analyses that address questions of prediction. Furthermore, the relationship between fidelity and student characteristics such as ADOS severity scores and communication skills will also be assessed.


Data suggest that student engagement is related to teachers’ fidelity to CPRT strategies. Although current analyses do not allow for interpretation of the direction of influence, a possible explanation is that teachers may be implementing fewer motivational components of CPRT when students are more actively engaged. Teachers may not see a need to take turns or incorporate motivating materials when the students are actively participating. However, if students are consistently engaged without these components present, this is valuable information for determining the active ingredients of multi-component interventions such as CPRT. Further analyses will continue to address the question of active ingredients and student characteristics as a predictor of engagement in order to promote efficient and effective use of the intervention in classroom settings.