School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


David Gorman


Direct Instruction, Natural Settings, Reinforcement, Social Learning Theory, Social Skills, Students with Disabilities


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Educational Psychology | Other Education


A large proportion of students with disabilities (SWD) have social skills deficits that make it difficult for them to succeed in school, work, and life. This quantitative, quasi-experimental, non-equivalent, pretest-posttest, control group study was designed to explore whether SWD can better transfer their learned social skills to natural settings, improving their chances at independence and success, with the use of reinforcement in natural settings. The researcher included 86 students with disabilities from a school district in a predominantly white, middle class, rural Utah town. The researcher and teachers used Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) in this study to provide instruction in social skills to SWD. The Social Skills Rating Scales (SSRS) are scales that were created to measure the success of the SSIS. The researcher used these scales to determine the baseline data for each of the students and to measure the change in social skills behavior of the participants from the pretest to the posttest. The difference in pretest to posttest scores of the control group was compared to the difference in pretest to posttest scores of the experimental group. The researcher used an ANCOVA to determine if there was a significant difference in the amount of change in the pretest to posttest scores of the experimental and control groups upon completion of the study. The results showed an improvement in the social skills scores for both groups after the SSIS program. The experiment group achieved better results, although these results were not statistically significant. Future research should replicate the study while focusing on different demographics and specific disabilities. The theoretical framework for this study was Bandura’s social learning theory.