Collaborating to Reach Every Learner

“We are entering an exciting time in education. With the widespread adoption of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, the continued emphasis on access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities, and increasing diversity in schools, we are at a critical juncture—one that demands that general education teachers and intervention specialists work together.”

I love this statement and why it was written. Dr. Moira Konrad, Associate Professor of Special Education at The Ohio State University penned it as the opening statement to introduce a special issue of Intervention in School and Clinic, a national peer-reviewed journal that is featuring a series of five articles about formative instructional practices. I had the recent pleasure of co-authoring these articles with Dr. Konrad, several of her colleagues, and Virginia Ressa from the Ohio Department of Education. Collectively, we make the case that new standards present the right opportunity to move toward improved practices characterized by formative instructional practices (FIP). Specifically, FIP supports better alignment between assessments and instruction, more effective progress monitoring, consistent use of data to make instructional decisions, and an emphasis on helping students know where they are in their learning in relationship to where they need to be.

Having these articles published is—well, I can’t lie — thrilling! But, equally exciting was the opportunity to collaborate with various special education experts who clearly see how FIP can serve as a very important bridge between general and special educators. At this time higher expectations, new assessments, and intensified accountability measures are challenging us to make significant changes to what is taught and how we determine success. It is very apparent that special educators will need now, more than ever, the content expertise of general educators, and general educators will need the intervention expertise of special educators. FIP provides educators in each of these fields with a common vocabulary, orientation to teaching and learning, and strategies that support student learning of the standards.

Before I share some takeaways, I want to point out that the articles represent only one of many collaborations that have produced FIP tools and examples for teachers who work with diverse learners. A new series of three FIP modules entitled “Reaching Every Student” has been developed. These modules feature strategies designed to help all educators better apply FIP to their work with English language learners, gifted students and students with disabilities. Visit to explore and enroll in each of these new modules.

Now, here are some practice-oriented and evidence-based ideas that are addressed in the articles:

  • Intervention specialists have long used FIP. They haven’t given the practices the same name, but special educators routinely set measurable learning goals, continuously monitor students’ progress toward mastery of those goals, and adjust instruction based on progress monitoring data. Intervention specialists are well-positioned to support schools with the adoption of more rigorous standards.
  • The importance of creating and sharing clear targets for all students cannot be underestimated. Intervention specialists help to make targets better understood by students. They are also able to balance the general curriculum and individualized needs of students when they work within a team to develop standards- and IEP-based learning targets.
  •  Intervention specialists can work with general educators to use and have students participate in several methods of collecting data. These methods can include direct observation, teacher-made tests, curriculum-based measurement, rubrics, and goal attainment scaling. Regardless of the method, collecting accurate evidence is key.
  • The purpose of formative instructional practices is to help move students’ learning forward, and that learning cannot advance without feedback. Thus, effective teaching does not occur in the absence of effective feedback. There are several evidence-based teaching strategies you can use to embed frequent feedback opportunities and make delivery of feedback powerful in classrooms.
  • Merely involving students in the learning process is not sufficient; to maximize outcomes, students must take ownership of their learning. Educators can use evidence-based approaches to cultivate student ownership of learning that pushes student ownership for all learners beyond our current notions of student engagement.

The articles and each of the Reaching Every Student modules are available now. They could be used as part of a blended learning experience to support collaborations across special and general educators in your building. So inspire general and special educators to work together to prepare each other in the advent of new standards to help every learner grow. And consider how to use these tools to address educator professional growth goals.

Let me know how the FIP Team can help. For more examples of FIP in Action where intervention specialists are working alongside classroom teachers to meet the needs of all learners, check out:

FIP in Action: Math Grade 3 Advancing FIP through PLTS, which features an intervention specialist working with a team of Grade 3 math teachers.

Coming Soon: FIP in Action: Science 8 which features an intervention specialist working with a team of Grade 8 science teachers.