What Training, Professional Development, and Support Are Needed to Implement, Improve, and Sustain Secondary Intervention in Local Schools, and What was the Initial Impact Across Schools?
The field knows that facilitating change in teacher's instructional practice is incredibly difficult. It is widely recognized that the one-shot workshop has failed to reliably lead to implementation and change in practice and that more frequent and intensive professional development experiences are necessary. For example, Abbott, Walton, Tapia, and Greenwood (1999) reported such a model that included: (1) partnership (with outcome indicators including district approval, agreements and a common mission), (2) collaboration (with indicators of a list of agreed upon concerns, initiation of efforts to change practice with ongoing monitoring), (3) consultation (with indicators being research staff time spent in classrooms interacting with teachers and students, shared data-based decision making), and (4) inservice training (with indicators including workshops in effective practices and methods of inquiry shown capable of guiding decisions, planning, etc.) for promoting change in instructional practice and closing the gap between research and practice. The Kansas Center is using a similar approach to promoting change. Some of the critical features and outcome indicators are: Adoption of the 3-tiered model, the school principal guides the implementation process, the 3-tiered model encompasses a school-wide systems approach involving the entire faculty, collaboration around data collection and decision making, and on-going consultation.
Professional development. First year efforts concentrated on training and professional development of building faculty related to reading (and behavioral) intervention and DIBELS assessments and decision making. These efforts included a 5-day Summer Institute with 3 days devoted to reading intervention, followed-up by school-based workshops on specific reading curricula, and on-going consultation and feedback related to fidelity of implementation. Embedded in the training and consultation was the incorporation of procedures/assessments to implement the 3-tiered model to drive the intervention implementation. On-site support by research staff included DIBELS assessment, interpretation of student data for student screening and intervention decision making, and assistance with scheduling of secondary intervention, small reading group sessions. Ongoing monitoring of the intervention fidelity included procedural checks and direct observation of reading instruction for a sample of students in the experimental schools. Procedural checklist data collected in the winter and spring indicated variance from highest fidelity but steady improvements in the conduct of small group reading intervention procedures (discussed below) with implementation levels reaching averages of 85% to 95% across experimental schools by the end of the 1st year.
Instructional change impact. A notable change observed across experimental schools was implementation of secondary-level, small-group reading interventions evidenced by direct observation measures, the Multi Option Observation System for Experimental Studies - MOOSES (Wehby et al., 1995), a computerized classroom observation system. Observations were made of a randomly selected group of 48 first and second grade students in the experimental schools and another 48 in the control schools. Results indicated that the percentage of time students experienced secondary, small group instruction in the experimental groups averaged 35%, 21%, 31%, and 42%, compared to only 6%, 5%, 20%, and 35% of the time in the control schools. These differences were a direct result of model implementation in the experimental schools. An unanticipated additional finding was increased total time devoted to reading instruction across schools, including primary, secondary and tertiary interventions. Results based on teacher reports indicated the mean durations devoted to reading instruction over two day's observation for experimental schools were 210, 203, 177, and 167 minutes, respectively, compared to 162, 151, 341, and 126 for control schools.
Impact of the intervention on teacher behavior and student responding. Observations using the MOOSES also revealed critical differences between experimental and control group students' opportunities to respond during reading instruction in the experimental schools (including the small group interventions), compared to the control group sampled over two entire school days. For example, differences were observed in the percentage of time that students read aloud favoring the experimental group (see Figure 1). Reading silently also occurred more frequently in experimental schools (81% of intervals) compared to control schools (66%). Additionally, students were observed to be much more likely to comply with teachers' instructional demands with mean compliance frequencies across experimental schools of 534, 251, 134, and 463, compared to only 51, 67, 214, and 123 for control schools (see Figure 2). These data reflected differences in both the general class (primary) instruction and small group (secondary) instruction. Much higher levels of teacher praise were also observed in the experimental schools, a finding directly related to the smaller teacher-student ratios in the small groups, and indirectly related to school-wide changes associated with ongoing PBS (see Figure 3). Teacher reprimands of students were generally infrequent but slightly higher in the control schools, ranging from 4 to 12.
Variables influencing implementation and maintenance of secondary intervention. Observations and anecdotal reports from schools in the study indicated variation in the ability to implement interventions in a timely fashion for all students at risk for reading problems. Variables that appeared to increase implementation efforts included:
- a core group of teachers working together to 'get the job done',
- special and general educators pooling resources,
- early screening and targeting of at risk students as dictated in the 3-tiered model,
- creative/flexible scheduling to allocate sufficient time to small group instruction,
- creative uses of personnel resources i.e., many people teaching reading groups,
- flexibility providing curriculum changes to support key early literacy skills; staff support for increased use of phonics-driven curriculum for larger numbers of students.