Incremental Rehearsal

Study: Burns (2007)

Burns, M. K. (2007). Reading at the Instructional Level with Children Identified as Learning Disabled: Potential Implications for Response-to-Intervention. School Psychology Quarterly, 22, 297-313.

Descriptive Information


Acquisition and Cost

Program Specifications and Requirements


A student is presented with flashcards containing unknown items added in to a group of known items. Presenting known information along with unknown can increase retention of the newly learned items, behavioral momentum and resulting time on task. Research shows that this technique can be used with sight/vocabulary words, simple math facts, letter names, and survival words/signs.

Incremental Rehearsal is intended for use in Kindergarten through eighth grade. The program is intended for use with students with disabilities (including learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities), and any student at risk of academic failure. The academic area of focus is early literacy (alphabet knowledge), reading (fluency), and mathematics (computation).

Where to Obtain: 
The intervention is an instructional technique that is available to anyone.

The intervention is listed on several websites including: and

Cost: Incremental Rehearsal is a non-commercial intervention and, therefore, does not have a formal pricing plan.

It is recommended that Incremental Rehearsal is used with individual students 10-15 minutes per session, three to four days a week, for 10-15 weeks.

The program does not include a highly specified teacher’s manual.

Incremental Rehearsal does not require technology.

Training is not required for the instructor.

The minimum qualifications of instructors are that they must be paraprofessionals. The program does not assume that the instructor has expertise in a given area. 

Training manuals and materials are available. The technique is described in two places. There is an unpublished document (Tucker, 1988) that is available for free from the author and is included in this application. It is also described in Tucker & Burns (2016), which is available for free to members of the National Association of School Psychologists and is included in this application. The technique has also been described in the dozens of articles that have been published about it.


Participants: Convincing Evidence

Sample size: Each student was in third grade and was diagnosed with a specific learning disability in reading by school personnel using state guidelines. In addition, each student had a multidisciplinary evaluation team assessment in the previous 2 years, had full-scale IQ standard scores between 90 and 110, reading decoding age-based standard scores between 70 and 80, and a current individualized educational program that included 1 to 2 hours of special education support each day and a short-term objective that addressed reading fluency.

Risk Status: Students were diagnosed with a learning disability in reading.





Cox Index





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Socioeconomic status

  Subsidized lunch






  No subsidized lunch






Disability status

  Speech-language impairments






  Learning disabilities






  Behavior disorders






  Intellectual disabilities












  Not identified with a disability






ELL status

  English language learner






  Not English language learner



















Training of Instructors: Each was a special education teacher candidate at a local university who was completing a course on assessment in special education. Each interventionist was observed twice during the intervention session, once during the first week.

Design: Convincing Evidence

Did the study use random assignment?: Yes

If not, was it a tenable quasi-experiment?: N/A

If the study used random assignment, at pretreatment, were the program and control groups not statistically significantly different and had a mean standardized difference that fell within 0.25 SD on measures used as covariates or on pretest measures also used as outcomes?: Yes

If not, at pretreatment, were the program and control groups not statistically significantly different and had a mean standardized difference that fell within 0.25 SD on measures central to the study (i.e., pretest measures also used as outcomes), and outcomes were analyzed to adjust for pretreatment differences?: N/A

Were the program and control groups demographically comparable at pretreatment?: Yes

Was there attrition bias1 ?: No

Did the unit of analysis match the unit for random assignment (for randomized studies) or the assignment strategy (for quasi-experiments)?: Yes



 NCII follows guidance from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) in determining attrition bias. The WWC model for determining bias based on a combination of differential and overall attrition rates can be found on pages 13-14 of this document:

Fidelity of Implementation: Partially Convincing Evidence

Describe when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: Each interventionist was observed twice with a fidelity checklist.

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation: The intervention was completed with 93% accuracy.

Measures Targeted: Partially Convincing Evidence

Measures Broader: Data Unavailable

Targeted  Measure

Reliability Statistics

Relevance to Program Instructional Content

Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group


Interrater reliability for the study was 0.98.


All estimates of reliability of oral reading fluency measures on the NCII Academic Progress Monitoring Tools Chart met or exceeded 0.90.

The measure assessed generalization of the skill. The students were pre-taught words before receiving reading instruction, and the measure was based on general reading skills within the curriculum rather than retention or generalization of the taught words.

Students in the control condition received special education support that was similar to the treatment group, but also received one-on-one instruction in reading words within the curriculum.

Broader  Measure

Reliability Statistics

Relevance to Program Instructional Content

Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group






Number of Outcome Measures: 1 Math

Mean ES - Targeted: 1.45*

Mean ES - Broader: Data Unavailableu

Effect Size:

Targeted Measures



Effect Size


CBM for Reading Slope of Growth


Broader Measures



Effect Size





*        p ≤ .05

**      p ≤ .01

***    p ≤ .001

–      Developer was unable to provide necessary data for NCII to calculate effect sizes

†      Effect size based on unadjusted means not reported due to lack of pretest group equivalency, and effect size based on adjusted means is not available


Visual Analysis (Single Subject Design): N/A

Disaggregated Data for Demographic Subgroups: No

Disaggregated Data for <20th Percentile: No

Administration Group Size: Individual

Duration of Intervention: 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times a week, 10-15 weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: Paraprofessional, Training is not required

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: No

What Works Clearinghouse Review

This program was not reviewed by What Works Clearinghouse.


Evidence for ESSA

This program was not reviewed by Evidence for ESSA.

Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 9 studies

Bunn, R., Burns, M. K., Hoffman, H. H., & Newman, C. L. (2005). Using incremental rehearsal to teach letter identification with a preschool-aged child. Journal of Evidence Based Practice for Schools, 6, 124-134.

Burns, M. K. (2007). Comparison of opportunities to respond within a drill model when rehearsing sight words with a child with mental retardation. School Psychology Quarterly, 22, 250-263.

Burns, M. K., Dean, V. J., & Foley, S. (2004). Preteaching unknown key words with incremental rehearsal to improve reading fluency and comprehension with children identified as reading disabled. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 303-314.

DuBois, M. R., Volpe, R. J., & Hemphill, E. M. (2014). A randomized trial of a computer-assisted tutoring program targeting letter-sound expression. School Psychology Review, 43, 210-221.

DuBois, M. R., Volpe, R. J., Burns, M. K., & Hoffman, J. A. (2016). Parent-administered computer-assisted tutoring targeting letter-sound knowledge: Evaluation via multiple-baseline across three preschool students. Journal of School Psychology, 59, 39-53.

Klingbeil, D. A., Moeyaert, M., Archer, C. T., Chimboza, T. M., & Zwolski Jr, S. A. (2017). Efficacy of peer-mediated incremental rehearsal for English language learners. School Psychology Review, 46, 122-140.

Kwong, E., & Burns, M. K. (in press). Preliminary study of the effect of incremental rehearsal with a morphological component for teaching Chinese character recognition. School Psychology International.

Malloy, K. J., Gilbertson, D., & Maxfiled, J. (2007). Using brief experimental analysis for selecting reading interventions for English language learners. School Psychology Review, 36, 291 – 310.

Rahn, N. L., Wilson, J., Egan, A., Brandes, D., Kunkel, A., Peterson, M., & McComas, J. (2015). Using incremental rehearsal to teach letter sounds to English language learners. Education and Treatment of Children, 38, 71-91.