Equipped with the right tools and support—evidence-based practice—special education teachers can help their students master their individual goals and achieve success. Here are five best practices that all schools can start using now to help teachers improve instruction and students achieve their goals:
1. Use evidence-based curricula.
The term “evidence-based practice,” or EBP, refers to an approach in which the process of clinical decision-making utilizes current, high-quality research evidence, integrated with practitioner expertise and client preferences. Organizations such as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association have published position statements encouraging the use of evidence-based practices in clinical care.
Several mechanisms can be put into place to support special educators in utilizing evidence-based curricula and programs to help students accelerate progress. For evidence-based programs to be effective, the content must be easily accessible, searchable and structured with clear sequences.
Train educators on how to implement the EBP as intended, along with a set of guidelines that includes specific information on the practice (which students should participate, how long the program will take, the length and frequency of sessions, required materials, etc.).
2. Ensure fidelity of instruction.
Educational research consistently shows that the success of evidence-based programs depends on high-quality and consistent implementation by educators. Often referred to as “fidelity,” a learning platform designed for special education can utilize technology to ensure that educators follow the instructions within each lesson plan so that all of the points and objectives are covered.
Mechanisms such as easy navigation within a program/curriculum, scripted instructions for the educator, and a recommendation engine for specific programs and sequences can help educators identify, select, and implement individualized programs and curricula adapted to the varied needs of their students.
3. Increase practice intensity.
Studies have shown that increased practice time yields improved outcomes for special education students. One way to measure intensity in special education is the number of practice repetitions (e.g., trials or productions). By using a dedicated, special education learning platform, students will receive individualized instruction and practice, as well as an increase in practice opportunities.
With a dedicated special education learning platform like Amplio Learning, therapy minutes are individualized, based on areas of need. Additionally, the amount of repetitions per minute can be significantly greater. The result is that students utilizing a dedicated special education platform may experience 10 times the opportunities, or trials, to practice their individual goals when compared to status quo therapy models.
4. Provide feedback.
Providing feedback is often mentioned as a powerful influence on learning and achievement, though the impact may be positive or negative. Studies show that effective feedback should be corrective, immediate and specific. Corrective feedback focuses on what the student should do, rather than on the incorrect response.
Timing of the feedback is also important because feedback that is delayed from the performance is less effective than feedback delivered immediately. Lastly, feedback should be specific or modeled so that the student can grasp what was missing from the response.
For example, when a child working on an advanced learning platform responds with a partial or incorrect answer, the platform can immediately react with supportive and specific messages, offering hints and tips as to what needs to change in the answer, as well as the opportunity to try again.
5. Use the data.
Data-driven instruction has long been the holy grail of education, taught in universities, yet classroom teachers often do not know how to make use of the data. Education leaders can look to other professions for guidance on creating a clear decision methodology around data. For example, the medical field uses advanced tools to assist in data-driven decision-making, which results in actionable insights for practitioners and improved outcomes for patients.
Educators can use data to fine-tune and improve their instruction and interventions to help students make faster progress. However, they also need a systematic approach to collecting the data, analyzing it for insights, and implementing it. By providing data-driven research, EBP-enabled platforms help teachers readily achieve these goals and create individual learning opportunities for students in special education.