Key Takeaway: This article provides educators with a manual on how to utilize positive and proactive behaviour management strategies to improve student engagement in virtual environments using platforms like Zoom or G Suite. Consistent, clear routines and expectations, explicit teaching of the desired behaviour and opportunities for communication between students and teacher have resulted in higher engagement and learning outcomes. —Frankie Garbutt

“High-levels of classroom engagement and on-task behaviour have been linked to positive outcomes for students,” says Renee Speight (University of Arkansas) and Suzanne Kucharcyzk (University of Arkansas) in this article of the Journal of Special Education Technology. The authors argued that strategies of Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports (PBIS), used to” facilitate improvements in student engagement,” should be adjusted to the virtual environments as part of teachers’ “instructional repertoire.”

Speight and Kucharczyk outline that PBIS is a “system of support involving direct instruction of expected behaviours and modification of the classroom environment through antecedents and consequences to promote student demonstration of expected behaviours.”

The following strategies have been identified as “high-leveraging practices for inclusive educational environments:”

  • Creating clear routines: This applies to aspects of a lesson like readiness to learn, instructional routines as well as task submission. Such routines will “minimize the labour required to re-create learning processes with the shifts from in-classroom to virtual learning.”
  • Explicit instruction on expected behaviours: “Teachers should identify three to five behaviours critical to a positive and productive virtual learning session” and “steps should be taken to explicitly teach” these. This could be complemented by visual depictions of the expected behaviours
  • Prompting and acknowledging expected behaviour: Once behaviours are identified and taught, teachers should “use precorrection” (like prompting) “at the onset of instructional sessions or shifts in teaching arrangements, such as when students move into breakout sessions.” To individualize prompting, teachers could use the chat feature in Zoom or G Suite.
  • Opportunities to respond: Teachers should consistently create opportunities to respond “to increase active engagement” by using tools such as “polls and participant nonverbal responses” as well as “Google Forms.” To allow for equal participation, students should be given wait or thinking time prior to responding.
  • Access to reinforcers: Reinforcement of “desired behaviour changes” ought to be “guided by student preferences which can be determined by using preference assessment” through tools like Google Forms. In virtual sessions, it is crucial that access to reinforcers are regular and miscellaneous.

The authors concluded that the practices of PBIS, embedded into the virtual learning setting, can result in students demonstrating expected behaviours and facilitating “high levels of engagement and learning.”

Article summarized

Speight, R., & Kucharczyk, S. (2021). Leveraging Positive Behavior Supports to Improve Engagement in Virtual Settings. Journal of Special Education Technology, 36(2), 90–96.

Summary by: Frankie Garbutt — Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.

Key Takeaway: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) creates and supports personalized learning experiences that build learner independence, agency, and engagement. Maintaining student engagement, establishing a consistent learning routine, and monitoring progress and making instructional changes are ways to successfully apply UDL principles when teaching problem-solving skills remotely to students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). —Ashley Parnell

Summary: The shift to digital learning environments has provided an opportunity for special educators to use technology to deliver effective, high-quality instruction. Specifically, substantial research supports the use of Video-based Instruction (VBI) for teaching mathematics to students with ASD.

In this article, Cox, Root, and Gilley describe how one special education teacher, Mrs. Shaw, plans to “utilize VBI through free online platforms (i.e., SeeSaw, Loom) to implement a mathematical problem-solving instructional strategy (i.e., Modified Schema-based Instruction; MSBI) for students with ASD while at home.” On demand (i.e., asynchronous) videos will be used to deliver explicit strategy instruction, while allowing for flexibility (i.e., time, place, & pace) and opportunities to differentiate instruction based on individual student needs and preferences.

MSBI is an evidence-based practice for teaching mathematical problem-solving to students with mathematics-related disabilities and challenges. Supporting executive functioning skills and flexibility, MSBI provides a structured sequence of problem-solving strategies that can be applied across scenarios including: 1) identifying problem structure based on important features, 2) representing that information on a schematic diagram (i.e., graphic organizer), 3) making a plan, and 4) carrying out the plan and checking for reasonableness.

The study encourages teachers to merge/draw upon current research on TAI and evidence-based practices when planning for virtual problem-solving instruction, making sure to consider how the following high-impact instructional strategies can be maintained and addressed within remote learning environments.

Maintaining Student Engagement. “Students must be engaged in order to make progress on learning goals…The UDL framework helps teachers proactively consider barriers students may face during learning, and intentionally design instruction to reduce potential barriers.” Mrs. Shaw will increase engagement by contextualizing word problems within real-world themes relevant to student interest and background. Using VBI allows special educators to maintain principles of explicit instruction (i.e., modeling, quick pace, active student responding,etc.) while SeeSaw provides flexible opportunities and methods for students to demonstrate their learning, further enhancing student engagement.

Establishing a Consistent Learning Routine. Cox et al. emphasize the importance of predictable and consistent learning routines for students with ASD during remote learning. Screencasting tools such as Loom can be used to create a sequence of scripted video models that follow a model—guided practice—independent practice format. Visual supports including graphic organizers and checklists also provide structure and systematically guide students in following the problem-solving routine and daily schedule. Instructional videos and visual supports can be embedded within digital engagement platforms (e.g., SeeSaw) to establish clear and consistent expectations and routines.

Monitoring Progress and Making Instructional Changes. Aligning with the UDL framework, “Instructional data is used both to increase support when needed as well as challenge and progress through phases of learning.” Mrs. Shaw will view online work samples and student screen recordings during work completion, features available in Seesaw, to analyze errors and guide instructional decision making and modifications. Technology can be further leveraged to increase or decrease support (i.e., 1:1 Zoom sessions, targeted video models, fading of visual supports, self-monitoring tools).

Article Summarized:

Cox, S., Root, J., & Gilley, D. (2021). Let’s See That Again: Using Instructional Videos to Support Asynchronous Mathematical Problem Solving Instruction for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Special Education Technology, 36(2), 97-104.

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.