Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Capstone Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis and Clinical Science


Health Professions

Committee Member(s)

Dr. Stephanie Kincaid, PhD, BCBA-D

Dr. Michele Williams, PhD, BCBA-D

Dr. Kara Wunderlich, PhD, BCBA-D


Most education research in applied behavior analysis (ABA) is specific to early learners, which presents significant opportunity to better determine the effectiveness of various instruction methods for college-aged learners (CALs). Within the context of pedagogy, or method of teaching, ABA is the scientific study of the effect of instructional techniques on student behaviors. The available research for college-aged learners is scattered, non-definitive, and has gaps over time. Despite declension over the past half-century, research examining evidence-based practices in education has identified multiple approaches to help instructors manage and improve individual student behaviors and academic performance for CALs. In this review, I evaluated the available research in education generally, identified methods with the most empirically supported evidence as a best practice for teachers, and suggested topics for future research to help fill in some of the current knowledge gaps in ABA within the confines of education. Additionally, I reviewed the available behavior-analytic research with CALs. These studies were evaluated by determining whether the instructional methods demonstrated clear results with significant improvements in student behaviors and student satisfaction. Analysis of the research identified personalized system of instruction (PSI) as the most effective teaching method for improving CAL outcomes. Given this finding, it is recommended that researchers in the field of ABA who are focused on CALs, develop more methods specific to PSI, encourage teachers apply them in a real-world setting, and determine how best to make this information widely available.

Rights Holder

Devon A Warner