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:

As educators, we must consider our collaborative planning, teaching, and assessment practices for Special Educational Needs (SEN) students to establish a deliberate connection between their Individual Education Program (IEP) and mainstream science objectives. In the science classroom, this might include using a range of methods, techniques and strategies that will enable all students to demonstrate their conceptual understanding of science as well as to build interest and confidence in the subject. —Niki Cooper-Robbins

Scientific Literacy for SEN Students

This article outlines a Turkish study conducted with 12 grade 5-8 SEN students and the contributions of 15 science and SEN teachers. The aim of the study was to:

  • develop a scientific experimental guidebook for the students;
  • investigate the book’s effect on the students’ conceptual understanding of physical events in science.

The study took place against an identified, national need to improve the scientific literacy of SEN students through a better understanding of science topics. The launch of a new curriculum brought with it an expectation of closer collaboration between the science and SEN teachers. The importance of this research becomes apparent when you come to realize that in this context, it is the norm for SEN students to receive their Turkish, math, and science education in the separate SEN resource space as opposed to the mainstream classroom. “Resource rooms take mainstream students’ learning needs into consideration,” and this was the missing element (excuse the pun!) in the science classroom. In contrast, the science teachers had the subject knowledge, but the SEN teachers did not. The purpose of the scientific experimental guidebook was to bridge the gap referred to as ‘pedagogical content knowledge’ between the SEN and science environments. 

Deliberate & Inclusive Design

The guidebook incorporated interactive techniques to increase interest in and attitudes towards science and to empower students to express, support and generate their ideas in a range of ways. Avatars of the students and QR code links to YouTube videos of experiments were designed to build confidence, interest and belonging. Discussion-based routines to support the introduction, exploration and evaluation of concepts played a key role in the simultaneous development of conceptual understanding and social skills.


The results of the study showed that the guidebook was successful in that it did support conceptual understanding in a positive way. The data revealed that the “hands-on and minds-on” experiences enhanced understanding, and the option to express insights through drawings proved more successful than the tests and interviews. When considering why, the reason given was the students’ complex and varying profiles. For example, students with dyslexia or dysphasia were less inhibited when conveying understanding through drawings as opposed to writing or speech. 

The study identified that the students struggled to transfer knowledge to new situations, and this was particularly evident with the more abstract concepts. The main finding, therefore, was that learning was more effective when the learning experiences were multi-sensory and interactive.

In addition, the study was found to be “in harmony with Dilber’s (2017)1 views, emphasizing that science topics should be contextually linked with daily life … Moreover, such a learning environment (i.e. conducting science experiments within small groups, watching experimental videos, and discussion about the results) may have enabled [SEN students] to imagine the concept in their minds.2 This means that peer learning and effective teaching strategies overcome students’ difficulties in understanding science concepts.”3 

Summarized Article:

Er Nas, S., Akbulut, H. İ., Çalik, M., & Emir, M. İ. (2021). Facilitating Conceptual Growth of the Mainstreamed Students with Learning Disabilities via a Science Experimental Guidebook: a Case of Physical Events. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 45–67.

Summary by: Niki Cooper-Robbins—As an ESL Coach, Niki is an advocate for the needs of language learners and, through the MARIO Framework, endeavors to nurture and celebrate linguistic diversity in education.

Additional References:

  1. Dilber, Y. (2017).  Fen bilimleri öğretmenlerinin öğrenme güçlüğü tanılı kaynaştırma öğrencileri ile yürüttükleri öğretim sürecinin incelenmesi / Examination of the instructional process carried out by the science teachers with mainstreaming students diagnosed learning disabilities [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. University of Karadeniz Technical.
  2. Talbot, P., Astbury, G., & Mason, T. (2010). Key concepts in learning disabilities. Sage.
  3. Thornton, A., McKissick, B. R., Spooner, F., Lo, Y., & Anderson, A. L. (2015). Effects of collaborative pre-teaching on science performance of high school students with specific learning disabilities. Education and Treatment of Children, 38(3), 277–304.

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: 

Leaders should know how inclusion is practiced in their setting and how students’ voices are heard to inform inclusive practices and personalize learning. It is vital that principals understand their role in creating inclusive school environments by using effective tools to support the implementation of such practices because inclusion involves all members of the community. —Frankie Garbutt

A Policy Change

Inclusion involves shared values and expectations as well as classroom strategies and leadership that all work towards the common goal of meeting the diverse needs of pupils in the context of the school. Thus, school leaders and administrators must pave the way for how inclusion is practiced in their schools. 

Commonly, students with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are placed in special schools or personalized programs. Changes to Swedish policies now dictate that students with ASC are to be placed in mainstream settings, which might put a strain on the staff and students alike. However, “equivalent education does not mean that the education should be the same everywhere or that the resources of the school are to be allocated equally. Account should be taken of the varying circumstances and needs of pupils. There are also different ways of attaining these goals. The school has a special responsibility for those pupils who for different reasons experience difficulties in attaining the goals that have been set up for their education. For this reason, education can never be the same for all.”

The Study 

This study by Lüddeckens and Anderson (Malmö University) and Östlund (Kristianstad University) focuses on three questions:

  1. “What commitment and actions do principals consider important for developing an inclusive school for all students, with a particular focus on students with ASC?
  2. How do the principals reflect on their own leadership in the development of inclusive education, with a particular focus on students with ASC? 
  3. Based on the results, what are the implications of the study in practice?”

Six principles were interviewed, and data was thematically analyzed by the authors to identify patterns and best practices for the future. The authors used thematic analysis to identify patterns in the data in relation to participants’ lived experience, perspectives, behavior, and practices. 


One of the main findings was the conceptualization of inclusion as “the students’ own sense of participation in school, with the implication that it is important to consider the student perspective in decision-making process.” However, one aspect that recurred throughout the study was accountability and how adults might unknowingly create barriers by their attitude toward students, including what and how something is said, the way students access knowledge, and how students demonstrate their learning. 

The authors suggest that policies and frameworks ought to be accessible by all staff and that observations and continued professional development should be essential to creating an inclusive environment for all students. Inclusive leadership “requires good knowledge of special education in addition to the ability to listen and demonstrate a high ethical pathos with authentic, visionary and sustainable leadership.” 

Summarized Article:

Lüddeckens, J., Anderson, L., & Östlund, D. (2021). Principals’ perspectives of inclusive education involving students with autism spectrum conditions–a Swedish case study. Journal of Educational Administration.

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

Academic researchers Johanna Lüddeckens and Lotta Anderson participated in the final version of this summary. 

Key Takeaway

There is a scarcity of research focusing on individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (d/Dhh). Studies show that mathematical performance in d/Dhh students depends more on general cognitive abilities than on specific numerical abilities. This puts emphasis on the importance of general abilities for the development of mathematical abilities during the preschool years that can be rooted in the real world. — Jay Lingo

Why Study Math Achievement for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing?

There is much research on hearing children and children with mathematical learning disabilities that shows that mathematical performance is dependent on general cognitive and specific numerical abilities. However, there is a scarcity of research focusing on individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (d/Dhh). This current study aims to examine the contributions of three general cognitive abilities (nonverbal IQ, processing speed, and spatial ability) and two specific numerical abilities (symbolic and non-symbolic numerical magnitude processing) to curriculum-based math achievement in d/Dhh students. 

In order to fully understand this study, it is important to build a common definition of these abilities. Nonverbal IQ is the ability to analyze information and solve problems using visual or hands-on reasoning. Processing speed is the time it takes a person to process visual or auditory information. Spatial ability is the ability to transform and rotate objects in mental space. In addition, we could use a common example to identify symbolic and non-symbolic stimuli. Symbolic stimuli are abstract concepts such as digits while non-symbolic stimuli are concrete representations such as a tally or dot array. 

“Decades of research have consistently shown that d/Dhh children lag behind their hearing peers in mathematics.”1,2 This leaves us with questions such as, what are the factors that could affect this? How do we determine predictors which may raise potential opportunities for numerical development? 

Results: General Cognitive Abilities Better Predict Math Achievement

This study found that general cognitive abilities, such as spatial ability and processing speed, were the predictors of mathematics achievement in d/Dhh students rather than specific numerical abilities. This emphasizes the “importance of general abilities for the development of mathematical abilities during the preschool years,” “especially for children who have difficulties in mathematical learning.”

The specific ways of training general cognitive abilities can be rooted in the real world. For example, educators and teachers can use regular activities such as paper folding, paper cutting, and LEGO construction to develop children’s spatial ability. Some teachers in the study took advantage of technology and used a virtual game to improve the spatial ability of d/Dhh children. These teachers found that practicing with virtual reality 3D spatial rotations significantly improved the performance of spatial rotation in d/Dhh students. “Even findings from brain imaging studies also suggest similar patterns of brain activation in the completion of spatial and mathematics tasks.”3,4 

What about the numerical abilities, are they not considered to be important? According to Chen and Wang, statistically, there is still a “significant correlation between participants’ symbolic and non-symbolic numerical magnitude processing and their mathematics achievement,” but these specific abilities only become more important in primary school.5

In conclusion, mathematical performance in d/Dhh students depends more on general cognitive abilities such as spatial ability and processing speed than on specific numerical abilities. This puts more emphasis on strengthening general cognitive abilities to improve the mathematical performance in d/Dhh students who are at risk for mathematical learning problems.

Summarized Article:

Chen, L., & Wang, Y. (2021). The contribution of general cognitive abilities and specific numerical abilities to mathematics achievement in students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 33(5), 771-787.

Summary by: Jay Lingo – Jay believes the MARIO Framework is providing structure and common meaning to learning support programs across the globe. Backed up with current research on the best practices in inclusion and general education, we can reimagine education…together.

Additional References:

  1. Swanwick, R., Oddy, A., & Roper, T. (2005). Mathematics and deaf children: An exploration of barriers to success. Deafness and Education International, 7(1), 1–21.
  2. Gottardis, L., Nunes, T., & Lunt, I. (2011). A synthesis of research on deaf and hearing children’s mathematical achievement. Deafness and Education International, 13(3), 131–150.
  3. Hubbard, E. M., Piazza, M., Pinel, P., & Dehaene, S. (2005). Interactions between number and space in parietal cortex. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6(6), 435–448.
  4. Umiltà, C., Priftis, K., & Zorzi, M. (2009). The spatial representation of numbers: Evidence from neglect and pseudoneglect. Experimental Brain Research, 192(3), 561–569.
  5. Passolunghi, M. C., & Lanfranchi, S. (2012). Domain-specific and domain-general precursors of mathematical achievement: A longitudinal study from kindergarten to first grade. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(1), 42–63.

Key Takeaway

Experienced Early Childhood (EC) coaches whose interactions with teachers were recorded across a period of two years showed a range of coaching behaviors that were consistent with those that have been established as key practices in the existing literature. Analyses of these conversations revealed six predominant themes in the work and beliefs of experienced EC coaches. Having a clear and intentional focus, building upon previously trained strategies, and systematically documenting each session were raised by the EC coaches as being key principles of their practice. —Akane Yoshida

One-to-One Coaching and Coaching Behaviors

One-to-one coaching has become established as a key form of professional development for Early Childhood (EC) teachers in recent years, and yet “little is known about what EC coach qualities and competencies are important for successful implementation of EC coaching practices.” Certain key practices, such as establishing a positive relationship with the mentee, joint planning, making direct connections to observations, and maintaining coaching relationships for longer than 6 months are positively correlated with increased implementation of learned content and skill transfer; however, there is little consensus on minimum experience or education requirements for an effective EC coach.

In this study, the Thompson, Marvin, and Knoche analyzed a series of coaching conversations between two EC coaches and their teacher mentees that took place over a period of two years while considering the 12 behaviors for EC coaching conversations (ECCC) originally defined by Knoche and Bainter (2012):1

  • establishes/re-establishes a relationship with the teacher;
  • Encourages the teacher to share observations and priorities; 
  • encourages connections to previous conversation/session;
  • invites collaboration for topics of conversation;
  • introduces new topics for conversation;
  • verbally acknowledges or affirms teacher’s feelings, behaviors, and input;
  • shares specific observations or information;
  • shares observations, information, or suggestions based on inference/opinion, in response to teacher’s question/request;
  • invites input/reflection using questions to promote comparison/analysis;
  • clarifies intent using yes/no questions;
  • uses feedback in response to teachers input/questions/responses; and
  • promotes joint planning by using questions, comments, or clarifying statements.


The two EC coaches who participated in the study were recruited from a sample of four such professionals who were already enrolled in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) research study on the effects of parent-teacher partnerships on early childhood outcomes over a number of years. These EC coaches were specifically chosen due to their relationship with their teacher mentees as an additional aim of this study was to fill the gap in the prevailing research base by exploring whether there are any differences in the approach that EC coaches take at the beginning of a new coaching relationship as opposed to once the relationship is well established. 

Individual interviews were conducted with each coach to gain their perspectives on the benefits of coaching relationships, their level of previous training, and a description of their duties. A series of 24 audio recordings of coaching conversations—12 for each coach—were reviewed and coded in order to “capture collective evidence of varied coaching topics and behaviors over time” and to establish a rate-per-minute occurrence for the 12 behaviors for ECCC listed above. 


The coaches reflected on two years of coaching a mentee, and six themes of practice emerged: advancing relationships, using key coaching behaviors, use of a structured coaching approach, using trained strategies/practices, using documentation, and coaching benefits/outcomes. 

Each coach used all 12 of the ECCC behaviors each with varying rates. Verbally acknowledging or affirming the teacher’s feelings, behaviors, and input occurred every 3 – 5 minutes, whereas behaviors around sharing observation and requesting input happened about every 10 minutes. 

When comparing the beginning of the relationship to an established relationship, nine of the 12 coaching behaviors were used at similar rates, and three behaviors (verbally acknowledging or affirming teacher’s feelings, behaviors and input, promoting joint planning, and clarifying intent) increased as the relationship developed. Thompson et al. suggest that these findings be taken into account for professional development programs and coursework for coaches. 

Summarized Article:

Thompson, P. J., Marvin, C. A., & Knoche, L. L. (2021). Practices and Reflections of Experienced, Expert Early Childhood Coaches. Infants & Young Children, 34(4), 337-355.

Summary by: Akane Yoshida — Akane believes in the MARIO Approach because it puts student agency at the heart of the learning and goal-setting process. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.

Additional References:

  1. Knoche, L., & Bainter, S. (2012). Early childhood coaching conversation codes. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Key Takeaway:

To compensate for fluency & decoding difficulties, students with dyslexia often receive audio-support. Identification & awareness of both the benefits and drawbacks of audio-support allows practitioners to: 1) raise students’ awareness of the impact audio-support may have on their reading behavior and 2) support active and optimal use of audio-support to increase reading efficiency. —Ashley Parnell

Reading Comprehension in Students with Dyslexia

Reading comprehension is fundamental to academic learning across all subject areas. Students with dyslexia read slower and less accurately than their peers without dyslexia, which can negatively impact reading comprehension. Furthermore, students with dyslexia tend to use fewer reading comprehension strategies, which also hinders their ability to interact with and understand the text. 

To compensate for fluency & decoding difficulties, students with dyslexia often receive audio-support via narration of written text. “However, audio-support linearly guides readers from beginning to end through texts, possibly hindering the use of reading comprehension strategies in expository texts and negatively impacting reading time and reading comprehension performance.”

Examining Impact of Audio-Support

The current study sought to examine the effects of audio-support on reading comprehension strategies, reading times, and reading comprehension performance in 43 eighth grade students (21 students with dyslexia; 22 typically developing peers) from six schools across the Netherlands. Participants were provided with three types of assignments in each condition (written expository text with and without audio-support; an average of 349 words per text). Assignments were designed to encourage either intensive reading strategies (i.e., information from the whole text is needed) or selective reading strategies (i.e., information located in one specific paragraph) as noted below:

  • Summarizing (intensive reading strategy): Fill in missing words in a summary.
  • Open-ended questions (selective reading strategy): Provide examples based on information from text.
  • Statement questions (selective reading strategy): Indicate whether the statement was true or false.

By measuring student eye movements during the texts and comparing those movements to the results of adult expert-readers, researchers identified the reading comprehension strategies as either intensive or selective. Of note, students were able to control the audio (e.g. pausing, repeating, skipping, & selecting) during the audio condition.

Findings & Implication for Practice

In conflict with previous research, decoding skills did not impact comprehension of the text. This finding and others are summarized below:

  • Audio-support did not affect reading comprehension performance in any of the tasks for students with or without dyslexia, which “could partially be due to the difficulty level of some of the tasks.”
  • Performance scores did not indicate differences in reading comprehension performance between students with or without dyslexia.
  • Audio-support negatively affected the use of the selective reading strategy. In the open-ended assignments, students divided their attention more over the whole text instead of focusing on one specific part.
  • Audio-support increased reading time in students with and without dyslexia.

While these results identify some potential disadvantages to audio-support (i.e., increased reading time and reading strategy for open-ended questions), audio-support can compensate for weak decoding and may support engagement, confidence, and stamina. Rather than discourage the use of audio-support, researchers suggest the following implications for practice:

  • Raise students’ awareness of the impact audio-support may have on their reading behavior. Support and encourage active and optimal use of audio-support to increase reading efficiency. 
  • Provide explicit instruction on reading comprehension strategies & usage (i.e., when , why, and how) for all students (given that many participants with and without dyslexia failed to use the most efficient strategy).

Summarized Article:

Knoop-van Campen, C., Ter Doest, D., Verhoeven, L., & Segers, E. (2021). The effect of audio-support on strategy, time, and performance on reading comprehension in secondary school students with dyslexia. Annals of dyslexia, 10.1007/s11881-021-00246-w. Advance online publication.

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.

Key Takeaway: Trusting relationships with significant others in the academic setting are beneficial for PhD students. Having regular pedagogical conversations with trusted peers or leaders can lead to a deeper understanding of their field of study, and in turn to the success of the academic program. – Shekufeh ​​Monadjem

A trusting relationship between PhD students and a significant other, usually dissertation supervisors or course leaders, has been found to be beneficial in increasing knowledge of the subject matter being researched as well as the articulation of this knowledge. Simon and Pleschova published their findings on how these relationships (between PhD students and their significant others) contribute to the success of academic development programs.

Significant others are people “who take on importance to the individual, those whom the individual desires to impress; they might be those he or she respects, those he or she wants acceptance from, those he or she fears, or those with whom he or she identifies“ (Charon, 2001).

Those students who were in a trusting relationship were found to have regular conversations on a variety of topics starting with unavoidable subjects such as course content, assessment issues (such as exam scheduling and grading), and administrative issues, as well as more personal topics such as innovative teaching methods, syllabus design, students in their classes, and reflection on their own teaching. Simon and Pleschova found that “trust clearly had a positive influence on how often conversations took place between each participant and their significant other”.

“In cases where trust was missing from the relationship, participants did what they could to avoid certain types of conversations.” The lack of trust prevented conversations about “syllabus, reflection, and, surprisingly, administrative issues, but did not prevent conversations regarding content, assessment and students.”  The authors also discovered that when there is a lack of trust between students and their significant others, “conversations are reduced to the absolute minimum and important information is withheld, or the information conveyed during discussions is often distorted, filtered, or kept to oneself as much as possible.”

The authors posit that “the additional knowledge and skills gained while participating in the academic development program would likely influence the nature of the relationship and, with it, conversations.” It is further assumed that the students’ increased ability to have conversations about teaching matters would be noticed by their significant others, and thereby improve their trustworthiness. 

In conclusion, this study acknowledges that in an educational setting, the absence of trust “seriously limits not only the frequency of pedagogical conversations, but also the diversity of issues discussed.”

Summarized Article:

Simon, E. & Pleschová, G. (2021). PhD students, significant others, and pedagogical conversations. The importance of trusting relationships for academic development. International Journal for Academic Development. DOI:10.1080/1360144X.2021.1949324

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

Additional Reference:

  1. Charon, J.M., (2001). Symbolic interactionism. An introduction, an interpretation, an integration. Seventh edition. Prentice Hall.

Key Takeaway: The pandemic has disrupted teaching and learning in many ways. Students with IEPs likely had these documents changed to adapt to the current mode of learning. In particular, students with social-based interventions may have needed to put these on hold as social distance and virtual learning made these infeasible. As students return to a more normal school routine, IEP teams will have to reassess students’ Present Level of Performance (PLOP) and likely conduct reassessment and revision of IEPs. —Ayla Reau

Students with autism rely on routine and often require individualized instruction. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to education worldwide, Sarah Hurwitz, Blaine Garman-McClaine, and Kane Carlock (Indiana University Bloomington) sought to investigate how special educators and specialists adapted practices for such students in response to pandemic schooling conditions. 

“Special education professionals were asked to complete an online survey inquiring about service provision for students with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Participants reported:

  • making changes to Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). 
    • Adding Individualized Continuity of Learning Plans (ICLPs) to describe how service could be provided across learning modalities (i.e. online, hybrid, face-to-face). 
    • Adjusting service minutes to provide more flexibility
  • “having less time to work on behavioural goals, track student progress, or help students interact socially.” Some educators dropped social-based IEP goals and spent much less time implementing social interventions due to distancing requirements and inapplicability to virtual instruction, “with about 80% reporting more difficulty addressing social goals than before the pandemic.” 
  • having to stop using peer helpers and running social groups, which afforded fewer opportunities for social skills practice. 
  • making modifications to every aspect of teaching including materials, personnel, and format. Modifications were also made to who implemented the interventions, including coaching paraprofessionals who would then deliver small group instruction over Zoom and build collaboration with parents.

Overall, special education teachers described feeling less able to meet IEP requirements during online learning “and struggled to deliver the services, support, and attention that their students needed.”

However, the results also indicated the importance of collaboration between teachers and guardians. Getting and keeping caregivers involved in a child’s education is imperative to maintaining progress, especially while the children work from home. Since parents may not have the required training and experience needed to effectively implement their child’s education plan, offering the option to hold virtual parent-teacher meetings and case conferences may facilitate access. 

Educators also found that while some students with more intense needs struggled, others actually preferred virtual instruction. “For some students with autism, staying at home where they feel comfortable and can engage in self-regulating activities without negative social consequences, may reduce their stress and have positive impacts on learning.” This raises concerns for the future when social expectations resume. 

The authors conclude that students with disabilities are likely to have had a diminished learning experience during the pandemic. “As such, compensatory services may be required going forward.” They suggest that as schools return to more normal functioning, “IEP teams should assess what services were, in fact, delivered during school closures and across the changing educational modalities, and then conduct an assessment of each student’s current needs (i.e. reassess their Present Level of Performance (PLOP)).” If regression has occurred or limited progress was made in meaningful skills, the authors suggest IEP teams issue a COVID-19 compensatory services plan. Further, they predict reassessment and revision of IEPs to become common requirements as in-person learning resumes.  

Schools must also continue to address mental health and provide additional layers of support for teachers to address burnout, in order to retain the teachers they have, especially special education teachers. 

It is important to note that participants were all from public schools in Indiana, and the data was collected from a specific moment in the pandemic (middle of the 2020-2021 academic year), so their “perspective is grounded in experiences from a state that endeavored to open schools early, with precautions, allowing many school districts to offer hybrid and full-time in-person learning for considerable portions of the year.”

Summarized Article:

Hurwitz, S., Garman-McClaine, B., & Carlock, K. (2021). Special education for students with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Each day brings new challenges”. Autism : the international journal of research and practice, 13623613211035935. Advance online publication.

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: A number of factors affect the perception of key stakeholders in relation to the fairness of assessment practices for students with learning differences. Elements such as student disability, existing assessment processes, the socio-emotional environment, stakeholders’ conceptions of fairness, and contextual facilitators and barriers to inclusive practices interact to influence the overall fairness factor of classroom assessment. Having an awareness of this multidimensional conceptualization of fairness is helpful in evaluating whether assessment practices are offering equal opportunities to demonstrate learning, and also scaffolds students’ ability to self-advocate for their needs. -Akane Yoshida

“Creating inclusive classrooms has been a justice movement in education,” say Rasooli et. al., and in this paper they seek to fill the void they find in current literature regarding fairness in assessment practices by adding the voices of students with learning differences, their parents, and their teachers to the mix. 

Their paper contributes a framework for fairness in assessment as “a multidimensional concept that is negotiated and navigated in the cyclical and dynamic interactions with classroom teaching and interactions.” According to the authors, this conceptualization is “closely tied with the sociocultural theories of assessment that recognise the social, cultural and economic milieu within which teachers and students interpret and enact fairness in assessment.”

The study methodology describes a process by which data was pulled from open-ended surveys submitted by teachers, students, and their parents from 19 secondary schools across Australia. The questionnaires included such queries as “How was the assessment adjusted for you?” for the student survey, “Do you think this adjustment better allowed [your child] to demonstrate what [they] knew or could do?” for the parent survey, and “Do you think you would adjust assessment differently in the future for this student? If yes, please comment on what changes you would make.” for the teacher survey. Inductive and thematic coding was used by the researchers to identify themes in the responses. Through this analysis, four larger themes emerged: “conceptions of fairness, fair classroom assessment practices, fair socio-emotional environment and contextual barriers and facilitators of fair practices.”

Summarized below are the findings in relation to each theme:

  1. Overall conceptions of fairness: Participants expressed equal accessibility for all students as being the greatest determinant of fairness in assessment. Adjustments to assessment practices were thought to be fair when they offered students with learning differences optimal opportunity for success in line with mainstream expectations.
  1. Fair classroom practices: Three sub-themes emerged from the responses as factors that can support or hinder fairness in assessment:
  • Differentiation of the assessment preparation process and design (accessibility of the mode of assessment, clarity in the task format and expectations, as well as the opportunity to prepare for the assessment)
  • Differentiation of assessment settings and environment (provision of a quiet space, additional time and breaks) 
  • Differentiation of assessment scheduling (ensuring that multiple assessments do not occur within a short period of time)
  1. Fair socio-emotional environment: Three sub-themes emerged here as well:
  • Student self-concept 
  • Impact of the learning difference on the socio-emotional environment
  • Relationships with teachers and peers
  1. Contextual barriers and facilitators of fair practices: Participants identified school and national-level policies, teacher experience, availability of paraprofessionals and other human resources, class size and parent influence as being the most influential factors in fair assessment.

While the study drew upon participants from a variety of grade levels and learning differences, it concedes that future research involving a larger sample size from a wider range of educational systems would be necessary in order to lend greater credibility to its conclusions. 

Summarized Article:

Rasooli, A., Razmjoee, M., Cumming, J., Dickson, E., & Webster, A. (2021). Conceptualising a Fairness Framework for Assessment Adjusted Practices for Students with Disability: An Empirical Study. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 1-21.

Summary by: Akane Yoshida—Akane believes that developing supportive and nurturing relationships with students is key to helping them to attain their personal benchmarks for success. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.