How Can Instructional Intensity be Increased, and Why Should it be for Students with Disabilities?

Instructional Intensity

 I really enjoyed Edward Kame’enui’s chapter from our readings this week. The style he presented the information was not only different, but it was also engaging. He stressed the idea that words should be taken seriously because words matter, and “the right word matters a lot” (Bateman, Lloyd, & Tankersley, 2015). I tend to agree with Kame’enui. By his logic, when we consider intensive instruction, we are considering “detailed information telling how something should be done or operated that is concentrated on a single area or subject into a short amount of time that is also very thorough or vigorous.” If we remove the word “intensive” we are left with “detailed information telling how something should be done or operated.” For the general education population just “instruction” is typically sufficient to accomplish the goal of communicating a message. (Bateman, Lloyd, & Tankersley, 2015). However, when dealing with disabilities, especially severe ones that cannot be accommodated even by Tier 2 instruction, the “intensive” part plays a crucial role in the altered design and delivery of instruction. Intensity of instruction can be increased through frequency increases, duration increases, and group size changes, as well as hiring well-trained staff.

            The Fuchs article states the claim that not many educators know how to develop or deliver intensive intervention if it differs from a typical tier-model (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). In response to their findings, Fuchs et. al highlighted two different models for delivering intensive instruction. The first model is an intensified version of Tier 2 instruction (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). In this model, an educator must consider several factors. The first factor is the student’s progression. Is the student progressing, and if so, are they progressing too slowly? If the answer is yes, then more instructional time may be needed. This allows more time for feedback and practice (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). The size of the group must also be considered. Group size is something I personally feel plays a huge role in the effectiveness and intensity of instruction. Any one-on-one instruction whether it be academic, athletic, or musical is going to cost significantly more money than a group instruction simply because instruction is going to be more intense and personalized the fewer students there are to teach. It has been surprising to find that a lot of the research we have read has indicated there isn’t concrete evidence for smaller groups, although this particular Fuchs article does indicate that research says group size matters. Two issues are important to group size: who is providing the instruction and how serious is the learning problem (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). The third factor is the duration of the instruction. The duration of the instruction is the amount of time each day instruction is provided, the frequency of sessions, and the number of weeks the intervention lasts (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). Decreasing group size, increasing intervention time, and hiring well-trained educators are expensive, but each is a way to increase intensity of instruction (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014).

            The second model in the Fuchs article is Data-Based Individualization, or DBI. DBI is empirically validated and a way to tailor instruction for students with significant struggles in learning. DBI starts where model 1 ends (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). DBI begins with a program that was modified using Model 1. The teacher selects a progress monitoring system and then collects initial scores to determine baseline scores and create goals. The teacher will continuously evaluate the student’s progress and modify the goal or instruction as needed based on what the data indicates. The teacher will also evaluate the program itself, strengths and weaknesses of the student, and the student’s behavior management system. DBI continues throughout the entire school year (Fuchs, Vaughn, & Fuchs, 2014). I guess technically DBI compliments intensive instruction modifications made in Model 1, but it’s important to constantly reiterate that accommodations and modifications are rarely effective without a well-developed plan to ensure adequate implementation. Increasing the intensity of instruction only works if you have well-trained staff, adequate resources, and a progress monitoring system that will provide feedback on the effectiveness of the instruction.

            The question of “how” was fairly straightforward, but I struggled to answer the question of “why” should instructional intensity be increased because to me with my background in athletics, varying the intensity of instruction has always been common sense. Football teams increase the intensity of their instruction by having 2-a-day and 3-a-day workouts to get ready for the season. A basketball team increases the intensity of instruction by working on the same play or executing the same shooting motion for the entirety of one, or multiple, practices depending on need. I read a story about Tiger Woods waking up multiple times in the middle of the night before the final round of a tournament calling his coach, and working on a very specific part of his swing. If the best golfer ever needs to increase the intensity, then there is a good chance everyone needs to increase the intensity at some point especially academically. Group size in baseball is solved by splitting up infielders and outfielders, or pitchers and position players. Football teams have coaches for every position so each group can receive intense small-group instruction. Tennis players and golfers receive routine personalized intense instruction. On the other hand, I took an individual 45-minute golf lesson the other day and was told by the instructor that all we needed was 10 minutes to fix the problem. Sometimes coaches will end practices short, or training sessions short, if they feel that the student or students performed particularly well that day. Intensity levels are based on need, and what needs to be done to win will be done. So, why should instructional intensity be increased? Because, regardless of the setting or the learner, instructional intensity is the gateway to success.

Bateman, B., Lloyd, J. W., & Tankersley, M. (2015). Enduring issues in special education: Personal perspectives. London: Routledge.

Codding, R., & Lane, K. (2015). A Spotlight on Treatment Intensity: An Important and Often Overlooked Component of Intervention Inquiry. Journal of Behavioral Education,24(1), 1-10.

Fuchs, D., Vaughn, S., & Fuchs, L. (2014). What is Intensive Instruction and Why is it Important? Teaching Exceptional Children,46(4), 13-18.

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