The authors of this paper wanted to provide evidence that working memory could explain word learning variance in children, “over and above the contributions of expressive vocabulary and nonverbal IQ.”

Working memory – a predictor of word learning


Working memory can act as a predictor   

Verbal working memory measures positively correlated with vocabulary and grammar scores in a person’s first and second language. Studies have also suggested that verbal working memory measures were stronger predictors of language than attention. There is a small relationship between working memory domains and static measures of reading. 

Working memory is a more powerful predictor of later academic success than IQ. Existing vocabulary and nonverbal IQ have already been shown to relate to vocabulary acquisition in children.

Testing working memory through word learning

The study recruited 167 English-speaking second graders from two U.S. states with typical development. The children involved had to meet a series of requirements, such as passing hearing and vision screenings and achieving certain levels of mastery on academic and language testing, as well as having no history of neuropsychiatric disorders (such as ADHD or ASD). Tasks were presented as part of a computer-based game that took about six two-hour sessions to complete over the course of two weeks. The children took the test with a trained research assistant present to record and transcribe responses. The children played a series of games (tasks) that comprehensively targeted word learning (assessing “the creation, storage, retrieval, and production of phonological and semantic representations of novel nouns and verbs and the ability to link those representations”) and working memory. “The authors then established a model of working memory in children to predict an established model of dynamic word learning to determine whether working memory processes as a whole explained word learning variance over and above the contributions of expressive vocabulary and nonverbal IQ.” The model established from the data demonstrated that “expressive vocabulary, nonverbal IQ, and three working memory factors predicting two-word learning factors fit the data well.” Working memory explained 45% of the variance in the phonological word learning factor (letter-to-sound mapping) and 17% in the semantic word learning factor (storage and retrieval of word meaning). From this, the authors were able to conclude that working memory is a significant predictor “of not only what has already been learned (academic achievement) but also what is actively being learned (dynamic learning).”

Teaching strategies used to strengthen working memory

However, these results do not necessarily mean that if working memory capacity were improved then we could optimize learning. Rather educators can “tailor teaching strategies to support children with particular working memory profiles. Comprehensive working memory assessments have the potential to identify sources of word learning difficulties and help to tailor word learning teaching and interventions to a student’s strengths and challenges. 

Moreover, there are existing studies that show that “different manipulations of encoding practices, such as repeated and spaced retrieval and effortful retrieval, may benefit recall and retention in children. Further research is needed to determine whether tailoring instruction based on a child’s working memory profile could increase learning.

Notable Quotes: 

“It is possible that the relationship between working memory processes and word learning processes changes over the course of development; therefore, findings may not generalize to younger or older students.”

“It is important to note that structural equation modeling offers several advantages previously discussed, but such models cannot definitively pin down causation or thoroughly represent the complex working memory and word learning processes occurring in the real world.”

“An earlier study (Gray et al., 2019) found that children’s working memory profiles were not synonymous with learning disability diagnoses. […] The same was true of children with developmental language disorder, developmental language disorder and dyslexia, and TD [typical development].”

Personal Takeaway: 

This work highlights the importance of working memory for learning, particularly literacy, but also the importance of looking at a student as a whole when it comes to teaching. Working memory is undoubtedly a crucial executive function and is a skill that should be explicitly taught and targeted, especially for students who may need more support in this area. However, it may be equally as important to tailor interventions and teaching to a student’s strengths and challenges. By leveraging strengths educators can find opportunities to personalize instruction to best suit the needs of each student, ultimately enhancing the learning taking place for them.—Ayla Reau

Gray, S. I., Levy, R., Alt, M., Hogan, T. P., & Cowan, N. (2022). Working Memory Predicts New Word Learning Over and Above Existing Vocabulary and Nonverbal IQ. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR, 65(3), 1044–1069.

The study by Kozibroda et al. (2020) was conducted as a meta-analysis of research into the practice and innovations of inclusive education following a noteworthy increase of inclusive classes and a rise in the number of teaching assistants within the Ukrainian education system from 2016-2019.

Diverse Approaches and Definitions of Inclusion

Throughout their meta-analysis, the authors report various approaches to and definitions of inclusion on national levels across Europe. However, they found the following common ground for effective inclusion:

  • Inclusive culture as the creation of a trusting environment.
  • Inclusive policy includes innovative teaching methods and the development of teachers’ competences to support the diversity in students’ education and needs.
  • Inclusive practice encompasses training and mobilization of resources such as technical equipment and sufficient classroom space.

Nonetheless, inclusive education rises and falls with “the availability of resources and the level of provision of human resources determines the level of perception of inclusive education by teachers.”

The Role of School Management in Creating a Culture of Inclusion

The authors highlight that a combination of open mindedness, communication, teacher training, parental involvement and mobilization of resources can allow for successful inclusive practices and strategies within schools and their context. The willingness to integrate students with special educational needs and disabilities must be modeled, financed, and supported by the school’s management to create a culture of inclusion.

Notable Quotes: 

“ Inclusion is a process of comprehensive provision of equal access to high-quality education of children with special educational needs through the organization of education in general educational institutions, using individualized teaching methods and taking into account the educational and cognitive activities of children.”

 “An integrated approach provides the introduction of innovations in inclusive education in the following elements of the educational system, namely: the concept (strategy) that defines the model, external preconditions and stages of inclusion; a school that defines the internal prerequisites for inclusion; a community. A differentiated approach is used in combination with the integrated one in order to identify the internal prerequisites for inclusion: values, beliefs and attitudes of teachers, and the competence of educators.”

Personal Takeaway

A rise in the numbers of students with disabilities in mainstream schooling has led to an increase in practices of inclusion. This study aimed to identify effective practices, proving that all stakeholders are responsible for effective provision for students whilst teacher efficacy and training are integral to the success of inclusive practices and cultures. This resonates greatly with my own practice because a child-centered approach rooted in transparent communication with all stakeholders and the common aim to identify and implement best practice for the child within the given context are the pillars of my own practice.


Frankie Garbutt

Summarized Article:

Kozibroda, L. V., Kruhlyk, O. P., Zhuravlova, L. S., Chupakhina, S. V., & Verzhihovska, О. M. (2020). Practice and innovations of Inclusive Education at school. International Journal of Higher Education, 9(7), 176.

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The prevalence of depression among adolescents and early adolescents in China has received more attention in recent years. Few studies have examined the influence of both autonomy and relatedness support combined as a protective and corrective effect on depression. The authors find the Chinese context a “strong testing ground for the universal importance of the combined impacts of autonomy and relatedness support on depression.” The authors examine the trends in depression in a 3-year longitudinal study investigating the impacts of teacher autonomy and support and teacher-student relationships on students’ depressive symptoms.

How teachers can help students

Some studies have shown that teacher autonomy support can act as a protective factor against student depression. In a teaching context, this means providing students with choice, providing rationale for tasks, showing respect and allowing the expression of negative effects. 

Again studies have indicated that positive teacher-student relationships act as a protective factor against student depressive symptoms, including enhancing students’ social competence. 

The Chinese education context is characterized by high-stakes testing and exam systems and more authoritative teaching styles. This highly competitive system has caused unique features of depression in Chinese students. Meta-analyses suggest that contrary to the gender differences reported in Western cultures for Chinese primary and middle school students there are no significant gender differences in the prevalence of depressive symptoms. The great value that Chinese culture places on interpersonal harmony also means that the quality of interpersonal relationships exerted a stronger impact on depressive symptoms in Chinese adolescents than in their western counterparts.

The importance of teacher autonomy support

This research is based on a 3-year longitudinal study. Data was collected as part of a large-scale educational assessment of all schools in the Mentou-gou School District, which is located in the western area of Beijing, China. In total, 1613 4th-grade students from 25 primary schools and 1397 7th-grade students from 14 middle schools were recruited during the baseline assessment in 2014. Tracking the same group of students, a second and third assessment was implemented in 2015 and 2016. “The results of this study revealed that for both the primary and middle school samples, teacher autonomy support and teacher–student relationships consistently buffered the students’ depressive symptoms over time.” These findings align with the conclusions from previous studies.

The importance of teacher-student relationships

Gender differences were only present in the primary school sample, with females having a lower initial score that increased significantly over time, compared to the male students whose scores declined over time. In middle school, depressive symptoms increased significantly with a similar rate of change regardless of gender, although females still maintained a higher baseline. The authors suggest that this is different from the Western cultural context (where female students were more likely to show a higher rate of increased depressive symptoms than their male peers) because of Chinese cultural influences. Female students who are more likely to follow and obey rules would receive more positive feedback from teachers and parents, and Chinese females typically academically outperform their male peers at this age, both of which could act as protective factors. 

Students who had higher socioeconomic backgrounds reported lower levels of depressive symptoms. This finding is consistent with current research. 

“The study confirmed the significant effects of teachers’ autonomous and supportive strategies on reducing students’ depressive symptoms in both primary and middle school.” In China, studies have found that interpersonal stress significantly predicted the depression levels of Chinese pupils. This implies that teacher-student relationships are an especially crucial factor in students’ development in a Chinese context, with a higher potential impact to offset students’ depressive symptoms.

Notable Quotes: 

“As indicated by this study, establishing a harmonious and autonomy-supportive school environment could benefit students in many ways and might reduce the potential risks of psychological problems. This implication is particularly meaningful in the schooling context, where the general teaching styles are less autonomy supportive.”

“Therefore, schools should provide teachers with training programmes regarding need-supportive teaching strategies and enhance teachers’ awareness of the importance of mental health.”

“To empower students with more autonomy, teachers could provide students with opportunities to express their thoughts and make choices, show concern for students’ negative emotions, and use noncontrolling language during instruction. In addition, teachers could improve students’ sense of relatedness by listening, expressing care, and being available during difficulties.”

Personal Takeaway:

This study serves as further research on the importance of positive student-teacher relationships and the benefits it has for teaching and learning as well as meeting a student’s developmental, emotional and academic needs. It also highlights the benefits of promoting student autonomy in the learning process. When students are given voice and choice they are more empowered, engaged, and connected to the learning environment, ultimately having positive impacts on both their academic and mental-wellbeing.


Ayla Reau

Summarized Article:

Zhang, D., Jin, B., & Cui, Y. (2021). Do teacher autonomy support and teacher–student relationships influence students’ depression? A 3-year longitudinal study. School Mental Health: A Multidisciplinary Research and Practice Journal. Advance online publication.

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:

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

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.