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.