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Functional sequences of learning interactions

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Chapter 4 described the important components of a single learning interaction, the various values which these components can take, and the varied functions which each can perform. Of course, very little is learned as a result of a single learning interaction. New skills and understandings develop as a function of experiences which consist of a number of learning interactions distributed over time. In order to develop an understanding of what the word “yellow” means, the young child must experience many learning opportunities with yellow objects. These may be spread out over several months.

We will refer to the occurrence, on a number of occasions, or repeated opportunities to practise a given behaviour or skill as a sequence of learning interactions. Sequences of learning interactions serve many important functions: maintaining motivation, developing understanding, shaping increased levels of skill, ensuring that new skills are remembered, developing independence, building fluency, and so on.

Chapter 5 describes some of the ways in which sequences of learning interactions can vary – especially those variations which are known to affect motivation, acquisition, remembering, independence and fluency.

Chapter 5 consists of eight sections. Section 1 describes some of the ways in which presentation sequences can vary, Section 2 describes some of the different kinds of prompting sequences and prompt fading sequences which can occur, Section 3 describes a number of commonly occurring types of practice sequences, Sections 4 and 5 describe a number of different types of response-consequence contingencies, Sections 6 describes different types of schedules of reinforcement and punishment and Section 7 identifies three important types of contingency errors (contingencies which have effects which differ from those intended).