A comparison between a Skinnerian program and programmed instruction: based on a new teaching aid



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Texas Tech University


This study was undertaken to compare the effectiveness of a new method of programmed instruction with that of the Skinnerian method. Considered in the evaluations were learning, retention, study time, and attitudes.

This new programmed was presented in narrative form. The key words were printed in red and underlined in black, with the remainder of the text in black. A page-size red, translucent plastic, when it was placed over a page of this program, camouflaged these red key words, and left the remainder of the text legible. In the study, this method was compared to Green and Sykes' Skinnerian program on the autonomic nervous system and to a Control program.

Female nursing students were assigned to three groups: (l) the experimental group which received both the Green and Investigator programs; (2) the control group which received both the Investigator and the Control programs; and (3) the control group which received the Green and Control programs. High and low ability subjects were determined on the basis of the Otis Gamma I.Q. scores.

Each of the three programs yielded significant learning; significant retention was also obtained after a two-week interval. However, there were no significant differences in learning or in retention (two weeks) among the programs. Study time was equivalent for the three programs.

Although originally not part of the design, a five-month retention post-test was administered. Only the Investigator program yielded significant retention. However, there were no significant differences in five-month retention among the three programs.

When the measure of retention was the post-test score minus the pre-test score, and the two retention tests were combined in an analysis of variance, it was found that both the Control and Investigator programs yielded significantly greater retention than did the Green program. However, when the post-test score proper was the dependent variable, the only significant difference found for the programs was that the Control program produced better retention than did the Green program. Similar results were obtained v/hen all three post-tests were combined in two separate analogous analyses of variance. It was suggested that the significant differences between the two experimental programs were spurious findings.

The retention results for the Green program, in comparison to those for the Investigator and Control programs, indicated that structure is necessary to produce effective retention. One basis for this conclusion was the significant positive correlation between pre-test score and retention (two weeks) post-test score for the Green program.

In a 2 X 2 X 2 analysis of variance to determine possible interactions and the effect of responding on retention (gain measures) for both the Green and Investigator programs, there was a significant Program X Mode interaction. For the Investigator program, the overt students retained more than did the covert students; for the Green program, the covert students retained more. It was suggested that the effect of writing responses to the Investigator program was to accentuate figure-ground configurations; whereas, the effect of writing responses to the Green program was to hinder the subject's obtaining a contextual grasp of the material.

Generally, the experimental subjects' responses to a questionnaire were more favorable toward the Investigator program than toward the Green program. A key item ("Which method of programming did you prefer"?) resulted in a significant preference for the Investigator program. It was concluded that organizational properties should be studied and utilized in the developing of new programming methods. An important goal of these programming methods would be to foster long-term retention.



Programmed instruction, Teaching machines