While it’s important to consider what effective intervention is, I think it’s just as important to consider what it is not. Below are some thoughts...
Effective intervention is NOT immeasurable.
Intervention with no data cannot be effective. In order to know if what we are doing is working, it’s important to check in often, collect data, and make decisions based on that data. Data should be used as a tool to diagnose where students are and what they will need going forward.
Simply creating an intervention time and providing assignments for students to work on during that time will not move the needle. Instead, we must collaborate to look at what students are doing, where they are in their journey, and what tools we need to add to their backpack to help them progress.
Measuring the impact that intervention has on our learners helps us continue to make progress. When there is no progress, there will be frustration. Intentional intervention with meaningful data can make a huge difference in learner’s experience and willingness to invest.
Effective intervention is NOT irrelevant.
Just like anything else that we do in the classroom, the methods that we put in place must be meaningful. This means that we have to know our learners well.
If a stranger was following you around the grocery store putting things into your basket, you would be putting those things right back on the shelf. If what we are doing isn’t relevant and our learners don’t value the content, it can feel like we are putting things in their baskets only for them to put them right back on the shelf. However, if that same stranger was putting things in my basket while reminding me why I needed that specific item, I would probably be grateful and appreciate them differently. The same is true for our learners. If we can make the concept or standard relevant and help them make a personal connection, they will be much more likely to keep it in their basket.
Effective intervention is NOT insulting.
Learners shouldn’t feel like intervention is a negative experience. Instead, they should understand that very few learners understand everything and it is likely that, at some point, everyone will require some form of intervention. It might sound silly, but I think it’s important to be creative and innovative with how we refer to intervention time during the school day.
Many schools refer to this time as WIN (What I Need) Time. I like this because it speaks to the reality that learners may need different things on different days. Some days, they might need extra support, other days they might need enrichment. However, if we are going to call that time What I Need, it’s important that we are intentional about making that time about what our students actually need and not what we think they need, assume they need, or wish they needed.
It’s insulting to make intervention about rules and timelines. Even if that is the reality, possibly because of the result of a standardized test, we still have to find ways to intentionally focus on real goals and meaningful outcomes of an intervention program. In doing so, I think we will help our learners realize that if intervention is part of their day, that simply means that they are being given an opportunity to practice autonomy, mastery, or even find purpose.
When we begin really consider what intervention is and is not, it will no longer be about getting the correct answer, but instead our learners will begin to think about thinking and truly recognize the power of deep understanding.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about intervention lately. If I’m honest, it’s likely because it’s a reality that hits close to home. I think it’s important to have very real conversations about what this should and should not look like. While I know most of us know the things that I am about to share, I needed to write them down and get them out of my head. So, maybe you need to hear these things, maybe you don’t. But, with a strong focus on intervention in Texas this year, I just wanted to make it a priority to share.
The Edvocate shares that "...classroom intervention is a set of steps a teacher takes to help a child improve in their area of need by removing educational barriers." I think the question becomes, "What does effective intervention look like?" In thinking about this, I decided to share my thoughts and perspective of what I think intervention is and what it is not.
Effective intervention IS intentional.
Intervention must be done with intention. Every child is different and requires different strategies and solutions in order for intervention to work. It’s important that we are intentional about WHY and HOW intervention is being provided.
When a surgeon is operating on a patient, they never randomly choose what needs to be addressed. There is a diagnosis and ultimately, a strategy put into place so that the surgery that takes place will produce the desired outcome. The same should be true for intervention. We have to know exactly what needs to be learned and why it’s not being understood. Is it a possibility that in order to learn, we need to consider a different strategy, a different voice, or a different motivation?
A different strategy can be considered if students are simply not learning the concept, idea, or standard in the way that it is being taught. Doing the same type of intervention at a different time of day makes no sense. If a learner is unable to understand, it’s important to consider alternative ways to help them make connections to learn in a way that makes sense for them.
Sometimes, they simply need to hear it said in a different way. I can think of many times that one or two of my students just couldn’t “hear” it from me. For whatever reason, the way that I was teaching the content or asking them to learn the content just didn’t click. Allowing our learners to experience learning from someone else’s perspective can sometimes help them understand and make important connections. That voice might be that of a peer, an outside expert, or another educator.
Finally, we may need to explore a different form of motivation. Daniel Pink talks about 3 Forces of Intrinsic Motivation...autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If a learner isn’t driven through mastery, the intrinsic motivation to get better, maybe we need to focus on purpose, using that skill to accomplish something bigger or creating change. Or, maybe we need to provide more autonomy, more choice, and more opportunity for students to self-direct in order to learn a particular strategy or skill. I’m not suggesting that we make the intervention optional, I’m simply suggesting that we give them the opportunity to have a voice in what their invention looks like.
Effective intervention IS interactive.
I believe that intervention is a two-way street. While it's important for us, as educators, to facilitate and help our learners understand, it’s also important for them to invest and provide the feedback that we need to make decisions.
Intervention can be made interactive by making formative assessment a priority. Frequent check-ins and clear communication is important to help us know if the intervention that is being provided is working or if we need to consider alternative solutions.
Being self-aware is an important SEL skill that our learners need to practice. Give them the opportunity to practice this skill by asking them how they feel throughout a learning experience. I like the idea of providing a scale and asking learners to rate how well they understand what is being learned. Below is an example of what I think it might look like if we were to make this a priority each day.
In The definition of interactive is “two people or things influencing or having an effect on each other. If we want to have an effect on our learners, we have to intentionally understand where they are and what they need. We should affect them through providing effective instruction and intervention. They should affect us by providing the feedback that we need in order to do so.
Effective intervention IS impactful.
If intervention isn’t impactful, then it’s a waste of time. The definition of impact is “to have a strong effect on someone or something.” If what is being done or learned during an intervention time doesn’t leave an impact, our learners will forget what has been learned as soon as they walk out of the door. We ultimately have to understand who they are, what they enjoy and how they learn to impact them. Otherwise, we are simply spinning our wheels which will result in frustration for both the educator and the learner.
Sometimes, learning can happen through direct teach or explicit instruction. Other times, learning needs to happen through doing. Regardless of how we make it happen, it’s important to not ask how will I teach, but how will they learn. And, the reality is doing the same thing every day, such as sitting in front of a computer answering question after question, will not result in true understanding of a concept or standard.
In order for the intervention to be effective, we consider what is being learned and why it is not being understood. Is it because there is a lack of prior knowledge? Is the learner missing necessary foundational pieces? Why was the original opportunity to learn ineffective?
The bottom line is that if we want intervention to have an impact we must ask ourselves, “How will they learn this particular concept or standard?" What do I need to do as the educator and what do they need to do as the learner? Asking these questions prioritizes the learning and helps us remember that simply because our students hear it, see it or even do it, that doesn't mean that they understood it.
I hope that these three perceptions of what intervention are helpful and at least us begin to intentionally think about why intervention is important and how we can do in a way that is most effective. If you had to share what intervention is, what would you say?
*This is a 2-part post. The next post on my blog will include what intervention is NOT.
When I reflect on my time in the classroom, I remember how many different labels each new class of learners brought to the table...gifted, dyslexic, ADHD, twice-exceptional, English language learner, I could go on and on. We all know that this will be case this year as well. I wanted to take a little bit of time to address our perspective as educators and how detrimental it can be when we allow labels to determine that perspective. Let me explain...
You see, the reality is that when we find out that a learner is gifted, often times, our perspective shifts and we begin to focus on and notice their strengths. When we find out that a learner struggles, our perspective shifts and we begin to focus on and notice their weaknesses. I believe that as educators, it's so important that we begin the year with a strengths-first mindset. What I mean by that is that I believe that we should look for strengths BEFORE we begin to acknowledge and attempt to address weaknesses. The reality is that without knowing a students' strengths, it will be really difficult to address their weaknesses anyway.
So, how do we do that? How can we intentionally find ways to look beyond the label and begin to see every one of our learners in a way that will lead to success and confidence both in the classroom and beyond. Below are four ways that I believe that we can make this a reality.
1. Recognize and VALUE both strengths and weaknesses. While I think it's important that we identify strengths first, there is also value in helping our learners recognize and address their weaknesses. I know so many learners that are working under the assumption that they don't have strengths or they don't have weaknesses.
The reality is that every learner has both. You will have students in your classroom that may never pass a worksheet or standardized test but they can go home and put a car back together or speak three languages. So many of our learners have gifts that we will never see simply because we don't take the time to look beyond the school experience.
The same is true for their weaknesses. Many of our learners are amazing students. They have never made less than a 95 on any assignment and quite frankly, just know how to play the game really well. However, some of those learners have no idea idea how to collaborate or make their own decisions. It's important that while we want to identify and recognize strengths first, we don't forget how valuable it can be to understand our weaknesses and the role that our strengths play in addressing those weaknesses.
Finding ways this year to help our learners identify their strengths and the strengths of their peers will give them the tools that they need to address their weaknesses.
One practical way to do this is to use Thrively at the beginning of the school year. Encouraging every learner to take the Strengths Assessment within Thrively will help you, as the educator, and your students know their strengths, interests, and what they aspire to be. Having this information will be beneficial all year along and provides a meaningful learning experience for the first few days of school. The Strengths Assessment takes about 45 minutes to complete and is perfect for grades 3-12. I would suggest allowing students to work on this for approximately 10 minutes every day for the first week fo school. At the end of the week, you will have the information that you need to know your students well and help them make connections to what is being learned.
2. Reinforce the right things. So often, we reinforce what our learners produce or the outcome of a graded assignment or test. I think that reinforcing the life-ready skills that it requires to earn a good grade, follow through with commitment to an assignment, or even overcome frustration when the outcome is less than what our learners desire is even more important. You see, the more a gifted learner hears the words, "You are so smart," the more they begin to doubt themselves or feel like a disappointment when they don't feel smart. They begin to think it's who they are. When "smart" becomes your identity, there is no room for anything less than that. The same is true for our learners who hear the opposite message. If we continuously focus on their weaknesses or flaws, they will begin to think they can't move beyond those difficulties to accomplish whatever it is that they want achieve.
However, using phrases like, "I really like the way that you collaborated with ____________ to learn more about this topic," or "I saw how you took time to reflect on what you did well and didn't do well today and I couldn't be any prouder.". Maybe we say something like, "I realized that you made the decision to choose the more difficult assignment on the choice board today. I'm so excited that you were willing to step outside of your comfort zone to challenge yourself." Do you see the difference in these statements? I love this idea and I think reinforcing the right things might be what many of our students need to see beyond their labels and into who they really are and what they need to get the most from any learning experience.
3. Encourage productive struggle. This is a hard one. If you are like me, watching my students struggle was so difficult. I often wanted to save the day or at least save them in that moment. I felt like it was my job to keep them from struggling. It wasn't until I began to realize that productive struggle actually provided my students with the skills that they would need to not only succeed but survive beyond the walls in the classroom that I began make productive struggle a priority. When I did, it was difficult for me, my students, and their parents.
We often consider struggle a sign of weakness or inability to move forward and nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, struggle makes us stronger and helps us realize our ability to do hard things. Our learners can often learn more through productive struggle than any assignment that they breeze through without any difficulty. It's the struggle that prepares our learners for reality, helps them identify and value both their strengths and weaknesses, and gives them the tools that they will need to succeed beyond the walls of the classroom.
I think we can encourage productive struggle by designing for depth. I talk about this often and how important it is that we consider both our snorkelers and our scuba divers in the classroom. In a one size fits all classroom, many of our learners will never experience struggle. If we are so focused on our struggling learners that we do not intentionally design for our scuba divers, they will simply show up every day, check off the boxes, and never fully engage in the learning. Designing for depth provides an opportunity to EVERY learner to engage and be challenged. To learn more, visit Design for Depth.
4. Create a culture of willingness. Willingness is defined as the state of being prepared to do something or readiness. Many times our learners are unwilling to do hard things because they are afraid of failure or lack the drive that is required to invest. Regardless of a student's label or the labels that exist within our classroom, it's important that we build a culture that encourages a willingness to fail, a willingness to invest, and a willingness to dive deep into what is being learned.
I often times think about surfing when I think about the willingness of our learners. You never see a surfer just hanging out on their board with their knees locked and hands by their side. Instead, they are completely immersed in the experience. They are constantly challenged, knowing that they could fall off of the board at any time, and will need to be willing to get back on. I think that's what learning should look like. Our learners should be immersed in the experience as they are challenged each and every day.
In order to accomplish a culture of willingness in any classroom, the reality is that we, as educators, must model a willingness to fail, willing to invest, and willing to dive deeper. It's so important that our learners so what it looks like to take risks, invest as lifelong learners, and dive deep into new experiences and unfamiliar content.
So, that's it...four ways to look beyond the label this school year. Remember, it's imperative that we don't allow labels to determine our perspective. Stay focused on who your learners really are, what they bring to the table, and how we can prepare them academically and for their lives beyond the walls of the classroom. I believe that when we begin to do these things, our learners will respond with a willingness to invest.
Have a wonderful 2021-2022 school year! Let's do this!
I have to admit that I'm a big fan of the word purpose. Purpose should drive everything that we do in the classroom and give both ourselves and our learners a reason for the work. The definition of purpose is "the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists."
Our purpose has to go beyond "because it's included in our list of standards or because it's on the test". Instead, the purpose has to connect to life beyond the classroom. How can learners apply what they are learning to their right now? While this is important for us to consider as we design an experience, I don't think it's necessary for us to make the connection for them. Instead, I think we should challenge our learners to consider how they will apply what they've learned. The question is, "How can we do this in a way that is both manageable and meaningful?".
Most learning experiences start with an objective or a statement that clearly defines the desired outcome. I think objectives are important and help us, as educators, identify a target that we are trying to hit through the learning experience that we design. However, objectives are rarely personal for our learners and making it personal means making it meaningful.
So, how do we do that? I think that this can be achieved through encouraging our learners to create purpose statements at the end of a learning experience. You could almost see objectives and purpose statements as bookends. One at the beginning, one at the end, both holding the learning in place.
I'm not going to lie. I like simple. Sometimes, the most simple tasks can be the most meaningful and are always the most manageable. That being said, I think purpose statements can be as simple as asking our learners to complete this statement, "Today I learned _____________________, so that I can _____________________. "
The "so that" part of this statement is most important. It's the connection between what they've learned in the classroom to what they experience beyond the walls of the classroom. A learner's "so that" might connect to sports, media, art, or something else that they see as a priority or interest. The reality is that if we can help them realize how they might utilize what they've learned in a real way, the learning will be more meaningful and more likely to stick.
Purpose statements can be written or documented using something like Google Slides. I do think it's important that they are created in a place that can be reviewed over time so that learners can go back to acknowledge all they are they are able to DO because of all that they have LEARNED.
So, what do you think? Could you take things to another level by adding purpose statements to your daily routine to make learning more meaningful? I definitely think it's something to consider. If you make this a reality in your classroom, I'd love to hear how it goes. Please feel free to share in the comments below!
I've really been thinking recently about adventure mindset and how it connects to our current circumstances in education. In reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and considering my own mindset, I've come to the conclusion that this mindset is what many of us need in order to move forward and innovate so that we are able to impact and engage today's learners.
It's not a secret that I love words and I love to know what they mean and how they should be used. Adventure is defined as "an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity." Upon reading the definition, I immediately thought, "That doesn't sound like a good idea." It was the word 'hazardous' that was causing concern. That word can stir up fear or concern for those of us in education. We are not looking to be a part of hazardous situations and tend to prefer the antonyms to the word such as safe and secure. However, as I continued to explore the words, I found that hazardous actually means 'risky'. And, let's be honest, risky is what we need right now.
I'm a huge fan of the television show, Monk. I love his ability to use his greatest weakness as his greatest strength. If you haven't seen the show, let me fill you in. You see, Monk is a private investigator that suffers from OCD. However, it's because of his OCD that he is able to notice details and find clues that no one else is able to identify. In doing so, he solves crime after crime. You may be asking yourself what in the world this has to do with education. Let me explain...
A couple of years ago, our oldest child got his driver's license. I was SO nervous and a complete wreck knowing that he would be on the roads...alone. I remember asking him to drive me on the interstate in Dallas because, I knew if he could handle Dallas traffic, he could certainly handle the small highway he would use to get from our home to work and school. He agreed but soon regretted that decision. As soon as he began to drive, I had all sorts of advice. "Slow down, use the blinker, how fast are you going, are you using your mirrors?" I was like a parrot in his ear just chirping away. Finally, he pulled over and said he couldn't drive with me providing constant direction.
Wow! 2020 was definitely a year to remember (or not). While it went quickly in so many ways, it also went by so slowly. It's easy to focus on all of the negative because, let's be honest, there was SO MUCH of it. However, there were also many positive outcomes that will change the way that we do things from here on out.
We've all talked about sustainable change in education for some time. We've known that it was important for technology to become a priority and realized the importance of collaboration. However, knowing the importance of something and actually prioritizing those actions are two different things.
2020 had a way of leveling the playing field. Let me explain...there was no district, campus, or classroom that was totally prepared for what we've experienced. There were no best practices, no blog posts, no YouTube videos, and no podcasts that you could listen regarding emergency remote learning during a pandemic. I would go out on a limb and say that no one knew how it could be done in those first few days. And then...magic began to happen. Teachers began to try new things, experiment with new ideas, and share their experiences. Some things worked, some things didn't, but the reality is that we will never be the same.
Learning looks different right now. Knowing what students truly understand is difficult but more important than ever before. In order to differentiate and make learning meaningful, we have to be able to "see" what is being learned. Documentation of learning is something that should be carefully considered and done in a way that is both manageable for educators and meaningful for our learners.
So, what does that look like? How do we encourage documentation of learning and how can we do it in a way that makes sense for both in class and at home learners. First of all, I think we have to consider what we are looking for within the documentation of the learning. Below are some essential pieces of learning that I consider to be very important...
PBL, Project-Based Learning, has a big impact on learners. Edutopia describes this way of learning as "a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge." Sounds like a good idea, yes? Definitely sounds like something that might result in true engagement from our learners. I often say that completing work, paying attention, or logging into an LMS is not engagement. That's compliance. Engagement is a willingness to invest in the learning. In my own experience, I have seen more of a willingness to invest when I made project-based learning a priority in my classroom.
I was recently asked why, with all we know about the benefits of PBL, this type of learning isn't more of of a reality within our current educational landscape. Several things came to mind with the first being time. Planning and implementing project-based learning requires time to plan, time to collaborate, and time to provide feedback. It requires a different planning mindset and can seem quite overwhelming.