A Cognitive Approach To The Psychoeducational Development Of Low-Functioning Adolescents

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Psychology


This study was designed to investigate whether or not specific cognitive skills can be taught in a school setting to low-functioning adolescents. It also compared the transfer effects of different cognitive training programs to the areas of mathematics learning and abstract thinking and reasoning abilities.The 2 independent variables of interest were: nonverbal vs. verbal cognitive skill training and comprehensive unitary vs. limited mixed training in both skill areas. The 4 dependent variables were: (1) a test of verbal cognitive skills; (2) a test of visual-spatial skills; (3) a mathematics achievement test; and (4) a standardized measure of abstract thinking and reasoning abilities.The subjects were 83 eighth-grade students enrolled in "functional" mathematics classes. The 3 experimental treatment groups comprised: (1) a group trained only in nonverbal skills, (2) a group trained only in verbal skills, and (3) a group whose training for the same period of time was divided between verbal and nonverbal skills. Three intact classes of students performing at least 2 years below grade level in mathematics were randomly assigned to treatment groups. For a 3-month period, 2 weekly sessions of cognitive training, implemented by the experimenter, replaced regular mathematics instruction.The experimental design allowed for comparison among treatment groups. A no-treatment control group was excluded from the study to avoid the risk of "experiment bias." The data analysis indicated that: (1) The Verbal group outperformed the Nonverbal group on the test of verbal skills, (2) The Nonverbal group outperformed the Verbal group on the nonverbal skill test, and (3) Limited mixed skill training was as successful as comprehensive unitary skill training for both specific criterion skill tests. There was no difference among groups on either of the transfer measures.Without a control group, it is impossible to conclude whether or not cognitive skill training actually transferred to other areas of academic performance. It can be concluded, however, that: (a) low-functioning adolescents are able to learn specific cognitive skills in a relatively brief period of time, and (b) that mixed training is a more important consideration than comprehensive training in a single skill for these youngsters.


Education, Educational Psychology

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