Autism, discrete trial teaching, teacher preparation, evidence based practices, virtual reality, coaching, simulation, avatar


In teacher preparation, more effective pathways and practices are needed for preparing, placing, and supporting beginning teachers and principals (Darling-Hammond, 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 2009b). A common issue in the field of special education is the lack of skill transfer from one setting to another (Dieker, Hynes, Hughes, & Smith, 2008). It has been posited that “practicing up” is not ethical in that novice teachers must attempt to teach with a limited knowledge of appropriate pedagogy and skill (Dieker et al., 2008). The new challenge becomes finding an effective mechanism that provides essential learning experiences and opportunities to refine teaching techniques to the highest standards of fidelity in a safely controlled and coordinated environment (Odom, 2009). Perhaps because of the ethical concerns in honing teacher skills on actual children, and despite the strong demand for professionals who are trained in discrete trial teaching (DTT), few studies have been published on training methodologies and fidelity of implementation (Fazzio, Martin, Arnal, & Yu, 2009). The training of teachers to implement evidence-based interventions such as DTT with fidelity while they are working with students with ASD cannot be over-emphasized in a teacher preparation program (Scheuermann, Webber, Boutot, & Goodwin, 2003; Simpson, 2004; 2005). The researcher utilized the TLE TeachLivE simulation classroom laboratory at the University of Central Florida as a mechanism to infuse cutting-edge technology and learning activities within program/project coursework. The TLE TeachLivE virtual classroom serves as a venue for pre-service and practicing teachers to safely gain proficiency and iv enhance fidelity of implementation of evidence-based practices. Participants experienced an immersive, real-time environment that featured interactions with Austin, an avatar that portrayed a student with autism. A trained interactor remotely controlled the behavior and responses of the avatar with which teachers engaged for practice sessions consisting of ten discrete trials. Between sessions, participants received individualized clinical coaching (ICC) on their performance. Upon termination of the intervention, two generalization probes were conducted to measure retention of fidelity over time within actual classroom settings. Results indicated that all five participants strongly benefited from learning DTT with ICC in the TLE TeachLivE learning platform. Across participants, the overall mean gain in fidelity from baseline phase (14%) to intervention phase (80%) was 66%. The fidelity means of participants in the generalization phase held to 90%, thus supporting the use of virtual environments for teacher preparation. Mean time among participants to attain higher than mastery level performance of 90% in intervention was 1.25 hours. This resulted in shorter training times than previously researched training programs (Arnal et al., 2007; Fazzio et al., 2009; Leblanc, & Luiselli, 2005; Thiessen et al., 2009). This investigation endeavored to reduce the potential of diminished pupil learning gains as a necessary consequence when honing skills in the appropriate delivery of instruction of discrete trial teaching.


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Graduation Date





Wienke, Wilfred


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education; Exceptional Education








Release Date

August 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Education, Education -- Dissertations, Academic