Students served by special education have many different types of learning differences that one must take into account to determine the best teaching strategy. Part of a teacher’s job is to determine the right teaching strategy to ensure that the student makes progress towards their educational goals. It is the responsibility of the teacher team to also make quick decision when it comes to changing ineffective strategies. This is where data-based decision making comes into play.
A teacher has the responsibility both to the student and the student’s family to assist each and every student to reach their full potential and be a contributing member of their community. Time is of the essence! If the data does not show that the student is progressing in the desired manner, the teaching team must ask several different questions:
1.) Was the data sensitive enough to measure change?
One thing to consider is if the data that was used is accurate in measuring what you want it to measure. Part of that accuracy is making sure that it is sensitive to the change that you were hoping to see with a student’s progress.
2.) Were the teaching strategies employed correctly?
This is a time to look back on the teaching trials and to determine if the strategies were followed based on the evidenced-based strategy that you have chosen to use. It might be time to look into these strategies and take a closer look at how they were written into the lesson plan.
3.) Is everyone on the teaching team employing the same teaching strategies?
Not only does a teacher need to look at the teaching strategy used, but if all the team members teaching the student adhered to the lesson plan. A teacher can use exploratory questioning and spend some time observing all the staff teach the specific skill before answering this question.
4.) Is the student motivated to learn? What other motivators can be used to motivate the student?
A large component of any student learning a new skill is to look at the motivating operations for the student. Is the student motivated by the reinforcers used by the staff or the naturally occurring reinforcers in the environment potent enough for the student to be motivated by them. Teachers may need to take some time to complete experiments around the reinforcers to find the reinforcer that will motivate the student to learn.
5.) Is there a prerequisite skill(s) that need to be taught prior to this skill?
Often times there are prerequisite skills that a teacher might need to target prior to working on the current skill. A teacher may put the current skill on hold and work on building these prerequisite skill before they go back to targeting the skill. This might also include breaking the skill down into smaller components or steps to target the skill more systematically.
These are just a couple of the questions a teacher might ask in looking at their data to determine if the current teaching strategies are effective in making change.
Summer School Decision Making
As the school year is winding to a close, teaching teams are often asking if the student needs to attend summer school to retain the skills that they previously gained in the school year. Data is necessary to measure a student’s ability to retain skills over school breaks. Previous data over other schools breaks provides the information to help determine if a student should attend summer school to retain previously retained skills. Phase change lines are used in the following graphs to mark this change in the student’s programming and to assist the educational team to determine the need for extended school year services.
Data is the powerful tool that allows educators to make the decisions needed to inform the teaching process. It is time to dive into the data and see what it is telling us.