Perspectives on Behavior Science

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 95–119 | Cite as

Sidman Goes to College: A Meta-Analysis of Equivalence-Based Instruction in Higher Education

  • Julia Brodsky
  • Daniel M. FienupEmail author


Equivalence-based instruction (EBI) is a pedagogy based on the principles of stimulus equivalence for teaching academically relevant concepts. This self-paced and mastery-based methodology meets many of the instructional design standards suggested by Skinner (1968), adds generative learning by programming for derived stimulus–stimulus relations, and can be particularly useful in the context of a college course in which students must learn numerous concepts. In this article, we provide the first meta-analysis of EBI in higher education. The authors conducted a systematic literature search that identified 31 applied, college-level EBI experiments across 28 articles. Separate meta-analyses were conducted for single-subject and group design studies. Results showed that EBI is more effective than no instruction and an active control and that studies comparing EBI variants show differences between training variants. Future research should increase internal, external, and statistical conclusion validity to promote the mainstream use of EBI in classrooms.


Equivalence-based instruction Higher education Meta-analysis Relational frame theory Stimulus equivalence Systematic review 



We thank Ria Bissoon, Haeri Gim, Radiyyah Hussein, and Rika Ortega for assistance in conducting this study. We thank Drs. Alexandra Logue and Robert Lanson for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also thank the following researchers for providing raw data sets for this study: Dr. Leif Albright, Dr. Thomas Critchfield, Dr. John O’Neill, Dr. Kenneth Reeve, Dr. Ruth Anne Rehfeldt, Dr. Emily Sandoz, and Brooke Walker.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis.

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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Queens College and the Graduate CenterCUNYNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers CollegeColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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