Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Previous research has shown that interspersing additional easy problems among difficult target problems increases target problem fluency and student preference for an assignment. Nonetheless, there have been some contradictory findings concerning the efficacy of the interspersal procedure, so more research is needed to determine whether teachers should use this procedure for academic assignments. The current study attempted to replicate and extend the research on this procedure by using access to a competing reinforcer (an iPad) and a homework analogue. Fourth-grade students were given access to an iPad, but were told to work first for 10 minutes each on a control and experimental (interspersal) assignment. All students worked for the entire time and did not engage with the iPad until given explicit permission. Students completed more total problems and answered more total problems and digits correctly on the experimental assignment but completed more target problems on the control assignment. Students liked the experimental assignment more and rated it as less difficult. When controlling for students’ ability to delay academic gratification, they also rated the experimental assignment as less time-intensive. Although the current preference results are in line with previous research, the differences in preference scores were small and not practically significant. Furthermore, the fact that students completed more target problems on the control worksheet is a serious concern given that the purpose of using the interspersal procedure is to increase reinforcement without sacrificing learning. Thus, overall, the results of the current study do not support the use of the interespersal procedure in instructional assignments.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Noell, George



Included in

Psychology Commons