Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling


The habilitation and training of the developmentally disabled has improved markedly in the last two decades. The creation of small, community-based living facilities has allowed these individuals to move from restrictive settings into the community where training in daily living skills can occur in a more natural fashion. While this movement has been positive for the consumer, the preparedness of the staff working in those facilities has not been adequately addressed. Many human service agencies use a generic training package to prepare their staff, yet current research indicates that such training is less than adequate, both in terms of preparing the staff, and in terms of client habilitation. The current study investigated four distinct performance techniques for direct care staff working in group home settings. The use of incentives, performance-based feedback, specialized instructional tools, and staff training were all evaluated for their effectiveness at improving staff skills as behavior modifiers. Further, secondary effects of these techniques were assessed by measuring their impact upon client behavior. While all of the techniques demonstrated clear effects on both staff and resident behavior, differential effects were observed for each technique on the respective dependent variables. Providing staff incentives contingent upon client learning produced the greatest effects on client behavior as the staff utilized creative prompting techniques in teaching each resident. The use of performance-based feedback for the staff had a similar positive effect on client learning by causing the staff to adhere to a regimented training format. Providing the staff with specialized instructional tools demonstrated a slight improvement in client learning and allowed the staff to conduct a high rate of training trials, but did not affect the staff's skills as behavior modifiers. Finally, training the staff in generic behavior modification techniques improved their communication and reinforcement skills, yet did not produce the greatest rate of client learning. The results suggest that mental health agencies responsible for resident habilitation should conduct comprehensive staff skill assessments to determine how training resources might be best allocated.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons