Academic learning time (ALT) has long had the theoretical underpinnings sufficient to claim a causal relationship with academic achievement, but to this point empirical evidence has been lacking. This dearth of evidence has existed primarily due to difficulties associated with operationalizing ALT in traditional educational settings. Recent advancements in computer-based instruction provide an unprecedented opportunity to model ALT and to test the underlying theory. A widely-used computer-based early-reading curriculum was operationalized using Berliner's model of ALT (Berliner, 1991). This curriculum was then mapped to a computer-based assessment to determine an appropriate method of quantifying early-reading ALT. Software limitations required that ALT be quantified as a summative measure. Data were collected from 1,347 prekindergarteners and were analyzed using a dose-response approach that associated usage of the curriculum with a generalized variable of early-reading achievement. Gains across four early-reading skills were demonstrated via linear regression to be predicted by minutes of usage (Adj. R2 = .078). A sample optimized to test the hypothesis showed a stronger correlation (Adj. R2 = .096). Time spent using the Free Play version of the curriculum did not uniquely predict additional variance. Similarly, gains on reading skills that were not taught explicitly by the curriculum were not predicted by overall usage. These three results were interpreted as supporting the ALT learning model. Post-hoc analyses were performed on curriculum-usage compliance and on within-curriculum progress, both of which were statistically significant when added to the basic dose-response model. Multiple exploratory best-fit models were constructed. The strongest accounted for just under 20% of the overall variance (Adj. R2 = .186). Effect sizes were in the medium-to-large range for the entire sample (D = 0.71) with significant improvement for the optimized sample (D = 1.26). Children in the optimized sample who used the program over 20% more than recommended had even stronger gains (D = 1.67). The ability to remotely and accurately quantify interaction with a computer-based curriculum and assessment in the home defines a new vista in ALT research.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Academic Learning Time, Dose Response, Early Reading, Compliance, Progress, Preschool, Home



Included in

Psychology Commons