Key Takeaway: 

Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) face an increased risk of mental health issues and behavior-related disciplinary action, impacting their academic success. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these risks have been significantly exacerbated due to physical and social isolation. Educators working to support students with EBD must adapt their methods of instruction and communication in order to provide consistent and effective services. Thus, educational policies and guidelines must be re-evaluated to reflect the new challenges brought forward by virtual learning environments.  — Taryn McBrayne

Pandemic Effects on Students with EBD

In the United States, “5% of all students with disabilities receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) fall under the disability category of emotional disturbance.”1 Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), “are significantly more likely to be suspended, expelled, and arrested than their peers without IEPs and with IEPs for other disabilities.”2 As a result, students exhibiting EBD and who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) often have access to intensive behavior interventions and support plans that are managed by special education teachers. However, following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, many schools closed, “potentially exacerbating the risk factors experienced by students with EBD.” 

Following the closure of schools, districts needed to determine new policies regarding how students with an IEP would receive the support and services that they are legally entitled to. While technology aided in the provision of these services, those with limited access to technology (i.e., lower bandwidth, lack of access to appropriate devices) may have had compromised access to services, resulting in a negative impact on learning.3,4 

Hirsch et al. “surveyed special education teachers (SETs) and resource specialist program teachers (RSPs) who were serving students with EBD in spring 2020” in order to “gather information about the extent to which these educators delivered the various supports and interventions delineated in students’ IEPs during school site closures.” Survey respondents represented 35 states, the majority of whom reported working in public schools. 

The results of the survey can be summarized as follows: 

Communication Resources

  • “Virtual meetings using platforms like Zoom were the most frequently (37.9%) used by all educators,” followed by telephone conferences and virtual classroom platforms such as Google Classroom and Seesaw. The chosen platforms varied based on district and individual school policy. 
  • It was unclear what activities were conducted via these communication channels and to what extent students were able to receive academic instruction through these platforms. 

Intervention Strategies

  • “Over half of respondents who were delivering optional or mandatory remote instruction indicated that they checked in with all of their students with EBD regarding their social, emotional, and behavioral well-being during school site closures.” 
  • Additional commonly reported strategies included “prevention strategies, reinforcement, and structured social skills activities.” 
  • Implementation of certain intervention strategies may have been contingent on the ease of virtual delivery.
  • “Anecdotal parent reports via email or phone call” were reported as the most common form of assessment data to measure student progress. These assessments were largely collected by SETs in comparison to RSPs.  


The authors of the article acknowledge that because the survey was conducted during the midst of the pandemic, their study is not without limitations. Some of the limitations mentioned in the article include: lack of a fully representative sample, reduced list of intervention strategies provided in the survey questions, and a reliance on respondent self-reporting. 

Despite these limitations, Hirsch et al. propose “numerous practical, policy, and research implications and directions for future research.” The authors call on policy-makers and educational leaders to develop specific “guidelines for mandating and supporting continuity of instructional services particularly for students with disabilities during school site closures.” They also suggest that gaps in access to technology need to be addressed to prevent an increasing “homework gap” for those learners who do not have the capability to complete tasks as a direct result of poor internet access. Furthermore, while the results of the study suggest that student well-being check-ins were prioritized, some respondents admitted to not checking in with their students at all, prompting a re-evaluation of communication methods during virtual learning. 

Summarized Article:

Hirsch, S. E., Bruhn, A. L., McDaniel, S., & Mathews, H. M. (2022). A Survey of Educators Serving Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders During the Covid-19 Pandemic. Behavioral Disorders, 47(2), 95–107.

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne — Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

  1. National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Children and youth with disabilities.
  2. Lipscomb, S., Haimson, J., Liu, A. Y., Burghardt, J., Johnson, D. R., & Thurlow, M. L. (2017). Preparing for life after high school: The characteristics and experiences of youth in special education. Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012: Vol. 1. Comparisons with other youth (NCEE 2017-4016). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
  3. Kormos, E. (2018). The unseen digital divide: Urban, suburban, and rural teacher use and perceptions of web-based classroom technologies. Computers in the Schools, 35(1), 19–31.
  4. Williamson, B., Eynon, R., & Potter, J. (2020). Pandemic politics, pedagogies and practices: Digital technologies and distance education during the coronavirus emergency. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(2), 107–114.

Key Takeaway:

School-wide interventions that reduce bullying can also reduce school attendance problems. Interventions in this area should also be targeted towards autistic youth as they experience a high rate of school refusal linked to the bullying occurring in school settings. Identification of attributes such as the ability to maintain control when angry and the ability to control negative thoughts can help protect this population from school refusal and may be a potential pathway for effective interventions.—Ayla Reau 

School Refusal

School refusal (SR) is “characterized by a young person’s reluctance or refusal to attend school in conjunction with emotional distress.” This is typically measured on a threshold for absence or difficulty attending over a certain period. Emerging school refusal (ESR) is the term used to describe the period before these thresholds are reached. Absence from school can negatively impact “academic achievement and socio-emotional outcomes, contribute to family stress, and place extra burden on school staff,” so early intervention is key for students exhibiting ESR. 

Bullying, ASD, and Psychological Resilience

It is widely accepted that being bullied is associated with SR in youth. Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are especially vulnerable to bullying in mainstream settings, which could explain the “high rate of SR among autistic youth.” Therefore, there is a need for interventions that reduce SR and ESR among bullied youth. 

“Psychological resilience refers to an individual’s capacity to resist the harmful effects of adverse stressors and to resume functioning despite them.” It has been associated with “reduced anxiety and depression among autistic boys, parents who have an autistic child, and non-autistic siblings of a young autistic person.” The current study focuses on the link between psychological resilience and ESR in bullied autistic youth, and data was collected through an online questionnaire completed by 58 young autistic males. 

Major Findings

  • 56% of bullied autistic youth asked their parents to stay home from school because of bullying (ie. displayed ESR). 
  • A significant inverse relationship (one increases, the other decreases) was found between ESR and two aspects of psychological resilience: the ability to maintain control when angry and the ability to control negative thoughts.
  • No statistical relationship was found between psychological resilience and ESR in elementary school children. 

Overall, the “identification of attributes that can help protect bullied autistic youth from engaging in school refusal may be a potential pathway to effective interventions for these young people.” Further studies are needed to determine whether psychological resilience acts as a protective factor against ESR and SR in bullied autistic youth and/or whether the experience of bullying leads to increased resilience and a decreased likelihood of SR happening over time. Regardless, educators and school administrators should carry out school-wide interventions that reduce bullying in order to reduce school attendance problems and foster a sense of well-being and safety at school. 

Summarized Article:

Bitsika, V., Heyne, D. A., & Sharpley, C. F. (2022). The inverse association between psychological resilience and emerging school refusal among bullied autistic youth. Research in developmental disabilities, 120, 104121. 

Summary by: Ayla Reau—Ayla is excited to help continue to grow the MARIO Framework, seeing the potential for it to impact all students across any educational context.

Key Takeaway: 

Social and emotional learning (SEL) should be explicitly taught in schools, especially in secondary schools. SEL competencies can lead to improved peer relationships, heightened resilience, and a more positive school climate among secondary school students. It also empowers students who have been subjected to varying degrees of peer victimization. —Shekufeh Monadjem

The Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) strives to create “a preventative school-based framework which aims to promote resiliency and a positive school climate,” and is quickly becoming an essential part of school curricula.1 “Teaching SEL skills to youth within schools has been linked with increased social skills, academic performance, and reduced mental health problems and behaviour problems among students.”2

This study by Fredrick and Jenkins (2021) sought to examine the relationship between student perception of SEL skills taught through SEL instruction and peer relationships. 228 racially diverse participants from Grades 8-12 were included in the study.

The Benefits of Explicit SEL Instruction

Results showed that “SEL instruction was positively related to student SEL skills and positive perceptions of peer relationships, and the strengths of these associations were similar across boys and girls. In addition, these associations were similar for youth experiencing low, moderate, and high levels of victimization, but were especially robust for the high-victimization group.”

In addition to promoting student SEL skills, another purpose of SEL instruction is to “promote positive peer relationships and this may be especially important among high school students, given the value that adolescents place on friendships.”3 A critical aspect of school climate and culture are students’ perceptions of whether classmates treat each other with respect and inclusivity. Positive peer relationships are more evident in schools and classrooms where “teachers and staff provide social-emotional support, utilize curricula and activities which foster social interactions, and where adults model respectful and caring behaviour.”3 Research has supported a link between the teaching of SEL skills and positive peer relationships, as well as a reduction in aggressive behaviour and homophobic name-calling.

Previous research had shown that efforts to promote a positive school climate may have been harmful to students who continued to experience peer victimization.3 In contrast to previous research, findings from the current study revealed that SEL instruction was positively related to heightened SEL skills and positive peer relationships for both boys and girls, and these findings were more robust for students experiencing high levels of peer victimization.

Summarized Article:

Fredrick, S. S., & Jenkins, L. N. (2021). Social Emotional Learning and Peer Victimization Among Secondary School Students. International Journal of Bullying Prevention, 1-11.

Summary by: Shekufeh Monadjem –  Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enable students to view the world in a positive light as well as enabling them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.

Additional References:

  1. Shek, D. T., Dou, D., Zhu, X., & Chai, W. (2019). Positive youth development: Current perspectives. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 10, 131–141.
  2. Bear, G. G., Yang, C., Mantz, L. S., & Harris, A. B. (2017). School-wide practices associated with school climate in elementary, middle, and high schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 63, 372–383.
  3. Bear, G. G. (2020). Improving school climate: Practical strategies to reduce behaviour problems and promote social and emotional learning. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
  4. Garandeau, C. F., Lee, I. A., & Salmivalli, C. (2018). Decreases in the proportion of bullying victims in the classroom: Efects on the adjustment of remaining victims. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 42, 64–72.

Key Takeaway

Vocabulary and grammar instruction alone is not enough to become an expert in writing. Students that use self-regulation strategies exhibit increased writing skills and success. Specific self-regulation behaviors exhibited in the writing process can be classified into seven categories: regulation of environmental factors, regulation of sensory and motivational factors, planning, strategy development, regulation of temporal and social factors, monitoring, and evaluation. —Ayla Reau 

Self-Regulation and Writing

Self-regulation is defined as the “whole of the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that the individuals develop in order to” determine, and make the efforts needed, to reach goals. The current body of research suggests that vocabulary and grammar instruction alone is not enough to become an expert in writing, and that “use of self-regulation strategies is important and necessary for increasing writing success and performance.”

While current research has shown a strong relationship between self-regulation and writing skills, there is insufficient detailed research on which “behaviors exhibited in the writing process can be accepted as self-regulation skills.” 

Therefore, the study by Sarikaya and Yılar seeks to identify in detail the “self-regulation behaviors exhibited by the 4th-grade students in the writing process within the scope of peer-assisted writing activities.”

Peer-Assisted Writing Study

A peer-assisted writing environment was used in this study to reveal students’ thinking styles and self-regulation behaviors, but the behaviors seen from this study can be transferred to independent writing. Peer-assisted writing can be defined as “the process in which students work together in pairs (in the context of writing) to plan, create, write and edit a story or text.”

The student participants exhibited self-regulation behaviors that could be classified into seven categories: “regulation of environmental factors, regulation of sensory and motivational factors, planning, strategy development, regulation of temporal and social factors, monitoring, and evaluation.”

The following section lists the behaviors the authors observed in their student participants in each of these categories. Teachers can guide and model to students how to use these strategies in writing in relation to self-regulation. In addition, writing interventions could also be developed around these specific skills or categories. 


The study observed behaviors for the regulation of environmental factors such as the student arranging or checking the lighting, temperature, and sitting position. When participants try to organize the physical environment before writing they are identifying and eliminating distracting factors to create a positive environment for writing to occur. 

Behaviors for the regulation of sensory and motivational factors were observed, like subject interest, maintaining motivation, and rewarding oneself. Goal and target setting in particular is key to initiating the self-regulation process as goals serve as a way for students to continue to monitor and evaluate the entire writing process. 

The study observed behaviors for planning-related self-regulation. For example, a student would focus on the purpose of writing, question the topic and text, or thinking about the story before and during writing. These behaviors enable students to self-organize their writing. Questioning of what is done and what to do next, along with accessing prior knowledge, all require self-regulation skills. 

Strategy development behaviors were observed, including researching the topic, writing more legibly, paying attention to transitions, and others. “Strategy development behaviors are regarded as self-regulation skills in relation to writing action such as making plans to avoid deviating from the subject of writing, forming drafts in mind or by writing and sticking to this draft, paying attention to the harmony of ideas.”

Planning and using time effectively, and seeking help are behaviors related to temporal and social factors and require strategies for understanding and communicating.

The study observed the self-regulation behaviors related to monitoring. For example, students would review for typos, evaluate the level of writing, and check for clarity and adherence to the topic. The ability to follow the writing process with a self-developed monitoring mechanism (comparing their goals to their performance) requires advanced self-regulation skills. 

Evaluation behaviors, like comparing performance and deciding if the goal is met, were identified during the writing process. “The process of reviewing, editing, decision making, judgment, and, accordingly, regulating the behavior of the writers are the integral parts of self-regulation.”

Summarized Article:

İsmail Sarikaya & Ömer Yılar (2021) Exploring Self-Regulation Skills in the Context of Peer Assisted Writing: Primary School Students’ Sample, Reading & Writing Quarterly, 37:6, 552-573, DOI: 10.1080/10573569.2020.1867677

Summary by: Ayla Reau—Ayla is excited to help continue to grow the MARIO Framework, seeing the potential for it to impact all students across any educational context.

Key Takeaway:

It can be tempting to implement rewards and punishment in the classroom and educators tend to forget about the importance of intrinsic motivation to foster academic growth and engagement. Shkedy et al. (2021) explored how implementing Visual Communication Analysis (VCA) along with self-determination theory when teaching students to type independently may provide an avenue to build intrinsic motivation among students with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities. Consequently, the learning and functional communication skills of these students would improve. —Michael Ho

The Study

Shkedy et al. (2021) examined the efficacy of using Visual Communication Analysis (VCA) in teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and speech and language impairment to type independently as a means of expressive and functional communication. VCA is an “experiential therapy that is used to teach communication and can also be used to teach academics, while building confidence and self-esteem, and ultimately decreasing maladaptive behaviors.” In this study, Shkedy et al. (2021) investigated the relationship between instructional time each student received in typing and the letters correct per minute. 

The researchers hypothesized that VCA implementation will increase psychological well-being and decrease maladaptive behaviors among children with ASD, ID, and speech and language impairment. 

Major Takeaways 

  • “The rise in the number of students with disabilities served under the federal law of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in public schools increased between 2011 and 2017, from 6.4 million to 7.0 million students.”1
  • Students with ASD and ID have been significantly increasing over the past few years, and there is a need to provide personalized support to each student based on their needs and abilities.
  • “Special education classrooms are usually very structured and rigid and the majority are managed using token systems,” indicating that there is very little autonomy in a special needs classroom. This contradicts what special educators are responsible for—to meet the needs of each unique learner.
  • VCA has led to significant decreases in maladaptive and self-injurious behaviors, an increase in verbalizations and effective toilet training.
  • VCA combines Self-Determination Theory (SDT) with visual support, prompting, and technology; it provides students a variety of choices and perceived control when learning, in order to develop intrinsic motivation and competence.
  • Deci and Ryan (1985a & 2000) defined Self-Determination Theory (SDT) as a theory of intrinsic motivation that has three components—autonomy, competence, and relatedness; these three components tend to foster motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity.2
  • 27 students aged 5.5 to 11.5 years, who had at least one diagnosis of ASD, ID, speech-language impairment, were recruited from three special day classrooms across two elementary schools in South Bay Union School District, San Diego County, California. 
  • On average, a minimum of one class period per school day was allocated to using VCA, and data was automatically collected by a software. Based on self-determination theory, the students were provided choice, autonomy, and competence at the appropriate level without any rewards or punishments.

The Findings

  • The results indicated that there was a consistent positive effect of VCA-based instruction on typing efficiency for all groups of students (ASD, ID, speech-language impairment, and autism comorbid with ID), regardless of the diagnosis.
  • With the use of VCA, participants learned to type effectively, thereby improving their learning and functional communication skills. In addition, participants found success with learning novel tasks, as the difficulty of the task gradually increased after each successful performance.
  • Educators, professionals, and parents can use the data from this research to create opportunities for children with ASD, ID, and/or speech-language impairment to design and implement effective instruction on communication through typing.


Firstly, the time dedicated to the study varied from one student to another based on teachers’ expectations. There is also a lack of standardized assessments used prior to the beginning of this study, as age limitations on some assessments meant that younger participants were given different assessments from older participants. In addition, the age range of the participants ignored older students from secondary schools. Finally, less than 25% of the participants were females.

Summarized Article:

Shkedy, G., Shkedy, D., Sandoval-Norton, A. H., Fantaroni, G., Montes Castro, J., Sahagun, N., & Christopher, D. (2021). Visual Communication Analysis (VCA): Implementing self-determination theory and research-based practices in special education classrooms. Cogent Psychology, 8(1), 1875549.

Summary by: Michael Ho—Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.

Academic researchers Dalia Shkedy and Aileen Herlinda Sandoval participated in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Children and youth with disabilities. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from
  2. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Cognitive evaluation theory. In Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior (pp. 43–85). Springer, Boston, MA.

Key Takeaway: 

Common training procedures proved effective for training preschool teachers to collect progress monitoring data, an essential skill for teachers, especially those working within the implementation of multi-tiered support systems. While teachers acquired, maintained, and generalized data collection procedures, they did not implement these procedures outside study sessions, highlighting the importance of top-down scaffolds to ensure regular implementation of progress monitoring. – Ashley Parnell

Progress Monitoring

“Progress-monitoring is an essential skill for teachers serving children for whom the general curriculum is insufficient.” “The reason for progress monitoring is simple: it gives you data to measure whether the intervention or instruction a student is receiving is actually helping them close gaps in their learning”.1  

Increased adoption of multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS) across education programs heightens the need for feasible, routine, and reliable data collection systems. In turn, identifying effective methods for training teachers to implement data collection is crucial. 

The Study 

In response to this need, the current study evaluated the effects of a training package on teacher implementation of data collection procedures in inclusive preschool classrooms.

Two teachers (one lead and one assistant) per class in two different classrooms were trained to implement a teacher-directed behavioral observation (TDBO) data collection, which involved:

  1. Securing student’s attention
  2. Presentation of demand or question
  3. Absence of any form of prompting
  4. Provision of specific praise of correct response or ignoring/responding neutrally to errors.
  5. Scoring of each trial as correct or incorrect.

Each teacher was assigned three children in their respective classroom. All children scored in the bottom 25% of their class on the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System (AEPS), a criterion-based assessment, in one of the following areas: concepts, premath, or phonological awareness and emergent reading. Using the AEPS assessment data, one behavior/skill and 5-10 related targets were identified for each child (e.g., labeling of letter sounds, letter A-J; counting objects, numbers 1-5). 

Teacher training package consisted of: 1) a video-based multimedia presentation, 2) a single-page hand-out describing each TDBO procedure, and 3) structured feedback following each training session. Sessions took place in the classroom setting 4 days per week (3 sessions per day with each child assigned to them) for 3 months. Teachers selected the materials and activity in which they collected data on the child’s target skill. Generalization data were collected throughout the study, with the exception of participants that mastered the material during the skill acquisition phase. 

Results and Implications

Results suggest:

  • Commonly used teacher training practices are functionally related to teacher mastery of TDBO procedures for collecting data on child progress within inclusive preschool classrooms. 
  • Generalization probes indicated that teachers may be able to implement and maintain the procedures with fidelity across children and skill types. 
  • Teachers reported never using the data collection procedures outside of study sessions.

Implications to practice include:

  • Lack of data collection outside sessions highlights the need for stakeholders within MTSS models to consider a systems-level approach to development and implementation, as training alone will likely be insufficient in ensuring implementation if there is no oversight.
  • Initial lectures in teacher training are almost always conducted in person. Technology can be leveraged successfully to improve common teacher training practices and reduce in-person training time, promoting accessibility, and flexibility (i.e., video-based multimedia presentation).

Summarized Article:

Shepley, C., Grisham-Brown, J., Lane, J. D., & Ault, M. J. (2020). Training Teachers in Inclusive Classrooms to Collect Data on Individualized Child Goals. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 0271121420915770.

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion, and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Academic researcher Collin Shepley participated in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. Spruell, F. M. (2021, June). Progress monitoring for MTSS at the secondary level. Branching minds.

Key Takeaway:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) continues to grow in popularity in school curriculums as a means to promote academic success and healthy development. However, students with disabilities may require specific interventions that address particular needs, thus calling on general educators to consider the effectiveness of their SEL interventions in order to best support all learners. — Taryn McBrayne 

Do Universal SEL Interventions Help All Students?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is becoming increasingly prominent in mainstream classroom curricula. According to Dusenbury et al., (2018), “all states [in the US] have integrated SEL into preschool academic standards and 14 have done so through high school.”1 However, given that many students with special education needs are in general education classroom settings, the authors of this article, Daley & McCarthy (2021), suggest that we must also question “whether and how students with disabilities are considered” in universal SEL interventions in order to determine the effectiveness of such curricula. 

Daley & McCarty and CASEL (2015)2 emphasize that SEL interventions for students with disabilities “tend to focus on supporting the skills, knowledge, and strategies of individual students, whereas universal SEL interventions may address individual students’ development, focus broadly on classroom or school climate, or may combine these strands.” The need to accommodate for various learning differences and stages of development, in combination with an overall lack of educator knowledge in this domain,3 means that further attention should be placed on investigating how to improve SEL interventions for all learners, including those with disabilities.

A Systematic Review of Middle and High School Interventions

The authors completed a systematic review of numerous peer-reviewed studies published prior to 2019 in addition to CASEL and RAND reports in an attempt to further understand the effectiveness of universal SEL interventions. The review targeted interventions amongst middle and high school students, given that SEL can be particularly challenging for students with disabilities in this age group, and addressed 3 key research questions: 

  1. To what degree are students with disabilities included as participants in studies of universal SEL interventions for middle and high school students?
  2. What evidence suggests attention to students with disabilities in the design of universal SEL interventions for middle and high school students?
  3. What evidence suggests effectiveness of universal SEL interventions specifically for middle and high school students with disabilities? 

Key Findings

In response to the first research question: 

  • The authors found that “students with disabilities receive minimal attention in reports of middle and high-school SEL interventions,” meaning that it was unknown whether or not these students were present during SEL interventions or not. 

In response to the second research question: 

  • The study found inconclusive results on how much training staff had on providing SEL interventions for students with disabilities. 
  • “Similarly, accommodations, modifications, and differentiation as part of intervention materials were described in only 10 studies,” suggesting that training materials may not be accessible in most schools. 
  • However, most literature mentioned various differentiation models, including school-wide positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS), multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), or a comprehensive, integrated, three-tiered model of prevention, showing promise for supporting all learners. 

In response to the third research question: 

  • Four studies involving a bullying prevention intervention showed that “students with disabilities tended to exhibit different intervention effects than peers without disabilities,” yet the long-term success of these effects remained unclear. 

Based on the analysis provided by Daley & McCarthy, several implications can be drawn. To begin, the literature review demonstrates the need for increased reporting on the percentage of students with disabilities and the documentation of the type of disability in SEL interventions in order to better evaluate the effectiveness of universal interventions. As well, it is evident that educators require additional training on best practices for differentiation, such as Universal Design for Learning. A third implication is the “potential role of approaches used in special education practice to more directly inform the design of universal SEL interventions.” 

In conclusion, Daley & McCarthy acknowledge that “because the majority of studies do not specify whether students with disabilities were included . . . these findings merely reflect what has been reported.” Thus, more robust data is required in order to provide a more nuanced investigation into the topic. Regardless, it is apparent that additional support is needed to improve the inclusivity of universal SEL interventions. 

Summarized Article:

Daley, S. G., & McCarthy, M. F. (2021). Students With Disabilities in Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Systematic Review. Remedial and Special Education, 42(6), 384–397.

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne — Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

  1. Dusenbury, L. A., Dermody, C., & Weissberg, R. P. (2018). Statescorecardscan.
  2. CASEL. (2015). 2015 CASEL guide: Effective social and emotional learning programs—Middle and high school edition. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (n.d.).
  3. Pavri, S., & Hegwer-DiVita, M. (2006). Meeting the social and emotional needs of students with disabilities: The special educators’ perspective. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 22(2), 139–153. International Pty Ltd. (2018). NVivo for Mac [Computer software].

Key Takeaway:

Studies show that the positive response of a school towards students with learning disorders, beyond academics, has a positive impact on their overall quality of life (QOL) further down the line. Schools and educational policies need to ensure that their response to student evaluations and identified interventions will bear positive long-term effects on their students. —Nika Espinosa

Going Beyond Academic Proficiency

Most of the interventions that schools provide for students with learning disorders cater to improving academic proficiency. “However, learning disorders can have meaningful psychosocial implications for both the children and their families.”1 As educators, we are aware of the impacts of learning disorders on self-esteem, self-efficacy, and even the effects of the diagnosis on the entire family. 

This contributes to a student’s overall quality of life (QOL). “QOL can include psychosocial factors but more broadly refers to the individual’s well-being as it relates to personal and social contexts, rather than internal states (e.g., depression, anxiety) or specific behaviors.” The authors of this study documented the QOL of students with learning disorders a year after the school had provided responses and/or interventions. 

There are studies that show the beneficial effects of academic interventions on the social outcomes of students. “Thus, specialized instruction has the potential to accrue benefits extending beyond academic skill acquisition.” However, there are no studies that examine the effects of these interventions on students’ QOL. 

Findings from Response to Assessment One Year Later

The authors of this study, Waber et al., believe that QOL can be a potential indicator to guide the services provided by schools. “More specifically, a positive response from the school to the child’s learning disorder, including provision of special education services, could alleviate school-related stress, thereby leading to improved school-related QOL for the child and family.” Therefore, a negative response could have the opposite effect. 

The initial findings show that in just one year, a student’s QOL was dependent on the school’s response to assessment and evaluation, whether this was positive or resulted in little to no change. An increase in interventions and/or a positive response to the evaluation rendered an improvement on academic QOL, along with parental perception that the school understands their child.

Based on these findings, “psychosocial and quality of life issues should thus be a central consideration for research and clinical practice as well as policy.”

Summarized Article:

Waber, D. P., Boiselle, E. C., Forbes, P. W., & Sideridis, G. D. (2021). Special Education Services and School-Related Quality of Life in Children With Learning Disorders and Their Families: A One-Year Follow-Up Study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 002221942110608.

Summary by: Nika Espinosa—Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Al-Yagon, M. (2015). Externalizing and internalizing behaviors among adolescents with learning disabilities: Contribution of adolescents’ attachment to mothers and negative affect. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(5), 1343–1357.

Key Takeaway:

As we consider how to structure professional development opportunities aimed at improving educator implementation of intensive intervention, it would be wise to access tools such as Desimone’s (2009) PD framework and Fuchs et al.’s (2018) Taxonomy of Intervention Intensity. This way, the results of professional development may become more clearly identifiable within our MTSS programs. —Erin Madonna

Meta-Analysis of Professional Development Impacts 

In this synthesis, McMaster et al. analyzed 26 studies in order to learn more about the impact of professional development (PD) on intensive reading intervention outcomes for students identified as at-risk, “nonresponsive to intervention,” or identified as having a reading-related disability. 

The included studies focused on implementers within the school setting, such as content or homeroom teachers, special educators, intervention specialists, or paraeducators. The interventions implemented in the included studies addressed a range of reading skills, with the most common interventions targeting phonics, word reading, and fluency. 

Interventions were delivered in one-to-one or small group settings, meeting usually 4 to 5 times a week, and averaged 39 minutes per session. The study team sought to answer the following research questions:

  • Research Question 1. How have researchers supported implementation of intensive reading intervention with PD?
  • Research Question 2. To what extent does this support align with essential PD elements (e.g., Desimone, 20091)? 
  • Research Question 3. How have researchers measured the effects of PD on implementer outcomes?”


The researchers reported that most PD was delivered in a workshop setting lasting an average of one to two days. Some of the studies used a literacy learning cohort model where an initial training institute was then followed by monthly small-group meetings and personalized coaching. Additionally, a few trainings included modeling and coaching through active practice. Most studies did include an element of ongoing support ranging from weekly to monthly contact time. 

Overall, McMaster et al. found that descriptions of the trainings were sparse and left many details out making it difficult to extrapolate the most effective PD practices. This was, in part, largely due to the fact that most of the included studies were primarily focused on the effects of the intervention on student outcomes rather than the effects of PD on teacher implementation. Implementer outcomes that were most frequently cited in the included studies were fidelity and implementer satisfaction and perceptions, with a few studies reporting changes to teacher practice and teacher knowledge. 

One compelling finding shared noted that, “Student measures indicated that the PD also influenced student learning. Students whose teachers received ongoing PD outperformed those whose teachers did not on measures of word attack and nonsense word fluency with effect sizes ranging from d = .37 to .46. These results indicate that ongoing PD can result in gains for both teachers and students.”2

In the discussion of Pinnel et al.’s study,3 the authors mentioned that “…teachers who received PD including the one-way glass observations had teacher interactions better tailored to individual children than those who did not receive this training. This finding suggests that the observations and discussions, as well as training hours provided over a longer period, may help teachers be more student specific.”

Limitations and Future Research

The definition of “intensive intervention” adopted by McMaster et al. may have acted as a limitation in this synthesis. Due to the somewhat limited literature base, the authors loosened their definition of intensive intervention so that more studies could be included. This may have impacted findings and future research should consider whether intensive intervention, defined more strictly, requires PD of a different nature. 

McMaster et al.’s synthesis presents possible avenues for future research exploring the impact of PD on intensive intervention outcomes. A more direct focus on the connection between PD and implementer outcomes, as well as the incorporation of Desimone’s (2009)1 PD framework, may allow for better articulation of the “causal mechanisms between PD and teacher and student outcomes.” The inconsistent description of the various PD structures and the lack of consensus around how implementer outcomes are best measured made it difficult to glean causal links from the current literature base. 

The authors close with the following statement:

“Our hope is that, as research in this area continues to grow, educators will have the necessary tools and support to improve reading outcomes for students with the greatest needs.” 

Summarized Article:

McMaster, K. L., Baker, K., Donegan, R., Hugh, M., & Sargent, K. (2021). Professional Development to Support Teachers’ Implementation of Intensive Reading Intervention: A Systematic Review. Remedial and Special Education, 42(5), 329–342.

Summary by: Erin Madonna—Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted belief that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of multidisciplinary research.

Additional References:

  1. Desimone, L. M. (2009). Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures. Educational Researcher, 38, 181–199. https://
  2. Brownell, M., Kiely, M. T., Haager, D., Boardman, A., Corbett, N., Algina, J., & Urbach, J. (2017). Literacy learning cohorts: Content-focused approach to improving special education teachers’ reading instruction. Exceptional Children, 83, 143– 164.
  3. Pinnell, G. S., Lyons, C. A., Deford, D. E., Bryk, A. S., & Seltzer, M. (1994). Comparing instructional models for the literacy education of high-risk first graders. Reading Research Quarterly, 29, 8–39.

Key Takeaway:

Mind wandering has the potential to negatively impact the process of learning and has become more prevalent with the increased practice of online learning. Self-regulation interventions may be able to decrease mind wandering and should be widely taught to students. —Ashley M. Parnell

Self Directed Learning and Mind Wandering 

“Mind wandering, the direction of attention away from a primary task, has the potential to interfere with learning, especially in increasingly common self-directed, online learning environments.” Given the prevalence and negative consequences of mind wandering, this shift towards “self-directed learning environments with minimal supervision and maximal learner control has escalated the importance of the self-regulation of attention to ensure successful learning.”1  

Self Regulation to Combat Mind Wandering

Self-regulation can be defined as the ability to manage one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions to achieve a learning goal. “Decades of empirical evidence supports self-regulation’s role in enhancing learning, as well as strategies that may be taught and used to combat mind wandering and encourage on-task focus.” 

In response, the current study sought to examine the extent to which mind wandering harms training outcomes in self-directed learning environments, as well as to compare various strategies to prevent off-task thought. Drawing from three core theoretical perspectives on the causes of mind wandering, researchers created three intervention conditions, each focusing on more than one self-regulation strategy as summarized below.

Theoretical PerspectivesObjective & Intervention Strategies
Current concerns hypothesis: Mind wandering occurs when personal concerns and goals are more valued than the primary taskIncrease value of the task and decrease other concerns/distractors by:Goal settingEnvironmental structuring (i.e., identification & removal of environmental distractions)
Executive failure hypothesis: Mind wandering is a failure of executive controlUse proactive executive control to direct focus on-task through:Planning of learning activities & objectivesMetacognitive monitoring (constant evaluation of one’s learning progress)Use reactive executive control to suppress cues that trigger mind wandering through:Implementation intentions (i.e., If-then self statements)Time management Environmental structuring  
Meta-awareness hypothesis: Mind wandering results from not being aware of the contents of consciousness.Increase awareness of consciousness through:Mindfulness (attention to & awareness/ acceptance of the present moment)Metacognitive monitoring 

Researchers tested these three interventions in two experiments: a field study with 133 working adults and a lab study with 175 college students where participants completed a self-directed online Excel training. While self-regulation interventions and excel training conditions remained the same across studies, setting, timing, and participants differed.


Researchers reported the following findings based on the two studies conducted:

  • Mind wandering during training negatively impacts self-directed learning outcomes including knowledge, self-efficacy, and trainee reactions to training.
    • The negative effects of mind wandering were notably stronger in Study 2, which incorporated less self-pacing and reported lower motivation levels.  
    • Short, one-time, online intervention was not enough to alter use of self-regulation strategies.
  • Interventions largely failed to impact trainees’ self-regulation, mind wandering, or learning relative to the control group. However, the ineffectiveness of the self-regulation interventions does not indicate that the selected self-regulatory strategies were ineffective in deterring mind wandering. 
    • Correlational results indicated that strategies strongly associated with decreased mind wandering include:  “a) practicing mindfulness by being present in the moment, b) forming and utilizing implementation intentions, c) intermittently monitoring performance using self-directed evaluative questions, and d) structuring the learning environment to minimize distractions.” 

Considerations & Implications for Practice

Results warranted consideration of the following implications for practice:  

  • Motivation levels matter in training/learning. Designing and delivering self-directed learning in ways that do not bore or overwhelm learners, and incorporating motivational incentives, may decrease mind wandering and, subsequently, the harmful effects of mind wandering.
  • Initial, albeit limited, results identify strategies that may decrease mind wandering: mindfulness, metacognitive monitoring, implementation intentions, and environmental structuring. Given self-regulation’s inherent role in online learning, efforts to develop effective interventions to teach and develop these self-regulation strategies and skills should continue. 

Summarized Article:

Randall, J., Hanson, M., & Nassrelgrgawi, A. (2021). Staying focused when nobody is watching: Self‐regulatory strategies to reduce mind wandering during self‐directed learning. Applied Psychology. 10.1111/apps.12366

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion, and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Academic researcher Jason Randall participated in the final version of this summary. 

Additional References:

  1. Johnson, R. D., & Randall, J. G. (2018). A review of design considerations in e-learning. In D. L. Stone & J. H. Dulebohn (Eds.), Research in human resource management (pp. 141– 188). Information Age Publishing.