Although extensive research has documented the benefits of spaced practice, very little of that research has been conducted in schools, and even less has included students with disabilities or with academic deficits. The purpose of this study was to compare spaced and massed practice on students with an educational disability in a school setting. Three students identified as having a specific learning disability (SLD) and receiving special education services in written language participated in this study, which used an alternating treatment design. Students learned 10 lists of 6 spelling words, each list over the course of three days. Students were introduced to each word, then practiced the words using cover-copy-compare each day. Spaced and massed practice were randomly counterbalanced across lists. Spaced practice included 3 daily sessions with up to 2 opportunities to practice each word (up to 5 min each), while massed practice included 1 daily session with up to 6 opportunities to practice each word (up to 15 min). Students participated in a pretest, immediate posttest, and 5-day retention assessment for each list. The effectiveness of spaced and massed practice was measured in words spelled correct (WSC) and percent change in correct letter sequences (CLS). Small effect sizes in favor of spaced practice in spelling with two of the three students with disabilities, although they were not significantly different than zero. Visual analyses were ambiguous. These results do not suggest an added benefit to implementing spaced practice to improve retention of spelling words among students with an SLD. Variability in the results suggest that other variables may have impacted the results.


Shawna Petersen-Brown

Committee Member

Carlos Panahon

Committee Member

Kevin Filter

Committee Member

Dana Wagner

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Program of Study

School Psychology




Social and Behavioral Sciences



Rights Statement

In Copyright