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: 

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

Progress Monitoring

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

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

The Study 

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

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

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

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

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

Results and Implications

Results suggest:

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

Implications to practice include:

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

Summarized Article:

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

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

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

Additional References:

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

Key Takeaway:

A majority of teachers in the study shared an occupational personality that coincided with the Holland Codes of Special Education Teachers (SET). “Social” surfaces as the strongest of six personality types (realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional). Social personalities were described as emphatic and possessing strong social skills. Further studies in this area may be able to positively impact school leaders and reverse the on-going shortage of SETs.—Matt Piercy

The study aimed to answer two questions:

1) What is the personality profile of special education teachers?

2) What difference exists among special education teachers in their occupational profiles?

“Findings from the study reveal that while special educators’ overall personality profile is congruent with the Holland Codes (a theory of vocational choice based on personality type) associated with special education teachers, other features may explain participants’ choices to pursue a career as a special education teacher.” 

Here are the major takeaways from the article:

  1. “Personality fit identifies the compatibility between a person and their profession and can influence an individual’s decision to stay or go.”
  2. Individuals typically continue employment when it is matched to their personality.
  3. Although Social, Enterprising, and Conventional (SEC) is not yet a confirmed occupational code for SETs, “a substantial body of research supports the SEC personality traits for SETs.”
  4. “Several research studies found that SETs have high levels of empathy and social skills.”1 
  5. SETs identify with the enterprising personality type.  Common traits of this personality type are ambitious and agreeable. Work preferences are described as persuading or directing people. “Given this finding, schools could consider increasing opportunities for SETs to express and demonstrate leadership skills to improve individual-to-profession compatibility, which can influence SET’s decisions on whether or not to remain in the profession.” 
  6. “Given the critical shortage of SETs in U.S. public schools, this study is the first to employ the Holland Code as its theoretical model for evaluating SET personality-career profiles and its relevance to teacher retention and attrition.” 
  7. “With the pool of SETs shrinking, understanding the compatible personality profiles of SETs could help boost recruitment, increase retention, and decrease attrition in the special education field…”

Several limitations however were noted. 

For example, self-reporting was subject to bias, and the survey’s length at 252 questions could have affected responses. Furthermore, most educators in the study were in their first through fifth year of teaching. These factors may cause a question of efficacy. Most notable though was that participants in the study were from one teacher preparation program made up of mostly white females.  

Summarized Article:

Scott, L. A., Bruno, L., Gnilka, P., Kozachuk, L. K., Brendli, K., & Vitullo, V. (2021). Comparing Special Education Teachers’ Personality Profile With Their Choice to Teach. Excelsior: Leadership in Teaching and Learning, 14(1), 20-35.

Summary by: Matt Piercy—Matt appreciates how at the heart of the MARIO Framework is a passion to develop relationships and a desire to empower students to uncover their purpose while building upon strengths  Further, Matt is inspired by how the MARIO team supports educators and is quickly and nobly becoming a collaborative force in pursuit of educational equity. 

Researcher Dr. Lauren P. Bruno participated in the final version of this summary. 

Additional References:  

  1. Berkovich, I. (2018). Conceptualizations of empathy in K-12 teaching: A review of empirical research. Educational Review, 72(5), 547-566.

Key Takeaway:

Practitioner journal articles are one way teachers can access the most current research and evidence-based best practices. Research suggests that educators prefer reading short articles written from a practitioner perspective that highlight elements such as implementation steps and application vignettes. These bite-sized articles can help address the research-to-practice gap in this field. —Ayla Reau 

Research-to-Practice Gap

A research-to-practice gap exists within the field of education, and it should be a “professional concern that instructional practices that have strong evidence bases to support their use in schools are not being used or sustained by teachers.” 

In special education, practitioner journal articles act as a tool for disseminating best practices in order to reduce this research-to-practice gap. A practitioner journal generally features content written by people who work/practice in the field, rather than articles written by people who work in academic institutions such as a university. 

Feedback on Practitioner Articles as a Learning Tool

In this research study, Lastrapes and Mooney sought to gauge practitioners’ opinions on these journal articles as a professional learning tool. They surveyed a number of preservice teachers and in-service general education and special education teachers on their use of practitioner journal articles. The following are the major findings: 

  • Participants indicated that while they did not read academic journals, they did read practitioner research articles. 
  • On average, teachers read eight of these articles a year. 
  • The articles are most often accessed from online search engines, university library databases, or colleagues.
  • There was a clear preference for shorter articles written from a practitioner perspective that included “real application vignettes and graphics highlighting student outcome and implementation fidelity data.”

The results also suggest that there is a further need to explore the makeup and delivery of practitioner journal articles. 

First, “different practitioner journal article purposes may warrant distinctive designs.” In knowledge articles whose purpose is to help teachers gain knowledge, elements such as the “definition and implementation steps were considered most important.” In comparison, implementation articles, whose purpose is to assist in implementation, implementation steps and helpful hints were viewed as essential. Implementation steps were the one element that was favored in both types of articles, while visuals were the element ranked lowest across both types. 

Secondly, there was a preference for a more personal presentation style to these articles. Participants preferred more personal phrasing approaches, such as “I have successfully used…,” over the more traditional research journal reporting “research has shown that…,” indicating a desire to read content written through the eyes of a teacher/practitioner.

It is also important to acknowledge that the following limitations were mentioned: 

  • Respondents to the survey came from a sample of university and public school populations in the south and southwestern United States.
  • The “collected data remain respondent perception data and have yet to be empirically tested to determine if practitioner article element change impacts professional knowledge or skill gain.”

Summarized Article:

Renée E. Lastrapes & Paul Mooney (2021) Teachers’ Use and Perceptions of Research-to-Practice Articles, Exceptionality, 29:5, 375-389, DOI: 10.1080/09362835.2020.1772068

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:

While the COVID-19 pandemic created a so-called “new normal” for social inclusion and interactions, particularly in schools where socializing is key for student progress, this study raises the question of whether new means of communication actually improved student efficacy and communication due to the altered norms of school life. —Frankie Garbutt

What Social Inclusion Lessons Can We Learn from the Pandemic?

In this article, Beaton (Leeds Beckett University), Codina (University of Derby), and Wharton (University of Winchester) set out to analyse how the pandemic of 2020 affected the social inclusion of children with learning disabilities in England. They strove to find lessons which could be learnt from this unique situation to inform future practices and success.

The authors outline that by “drawing on the work of Simplican et al., (2015),1 this paper chooses to adopt an ecological pathways approach to social inclusion, reflexively analyzing how ‘individual,’ ‘interpersonal’ and ‘organizational’ variables influence ‘interpersonal relationships’ and ‘community participation’ for children with learning disabilities.” To gather data, “semi-structured interviews were conducted with six key stakeholders. As the phenomenon in question was new, an inductive approach to thematic analysis was applied.” 

Pandemic Effects on Social Interaction

The analysis of the data allowed the researchers to identify that teachers and students embraced the new means of communication as this allowed for greater student agency in contrast to traditional means of communication in a school setting. For example, learners who identified as selectively mute used chat functions to find their voice or chose to switch cameras on or off during lessons. This resulted in improved connectedness. Equally, video conferences were an effective tool in the collaboration and involvement of parents/children and external professionals in decision-making processes like evaluation meetings. “Drawing on Simplican et al.’s (2015)1 analysis of social inclusion, structurally moving the location, intensity and formality of family liaison appears in some cases to have deepened the ‘bond’ between family and school, which arguably increases trust reciprocity and confidence.”

Increase in Parental Insight and Advocacy

Moreover, it was found that parents gained insight into their child’s learning and a more accurate representation of their skills due to their participation in the classroom during home learning. Consequently, parents and children were able to advocate for different means of learning support or increase their children’s level of independence because their Teaching Assistant, on whom they may have previously relied, was no longer available.

Nonetheless, the authors also highlight that “the nature of the pandemic has meant [that] many of the efficacious elements described in this paper rely on families and professionals possessing digital capability and capital.” Therefore, being aware of the availability of devices, access to the internet, or other necessary resources can enhance or hinder the social inclusion of stakeholders.  

Conclusively, the study outlines changes for children with learning disabilities through “increased power/agency for them and their families and/or new modes of connectedness leading to enhanced relationships with key stakeholders and timeliness of reviews.” The authors concede that the small sample size may limit the generalizability of their conclusions. 

Summarized article: 

Beaton, M. C., Codina, G. N., & Wharton, J. C. Decommissioning normal: COVID-19 as a disruptor of school norms for young people with learning disabilities. British Journal of Learning Disabilities. 2021; 49: 393– 402.

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

Researchers Mhairi C. Beaton, Geraldene N. Codina, and Julie C. Wharton participated in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. Simplican, S., Leader, G., Kosciulek, J., & Leahy, M. (2015). Defining social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: An ecological model of social networks and community participation. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 38, 18–29.

Key Takeaway: 

Students with disabilities continue to be excluded from meaningful participation in physical education. However, structured and guided efforts to apply inclusion theory to practice at the teacher training stage has been shown to open up educators’ attitudes towards inclusion and equip them with the skills necessary to challenge ableist notions. —Akane Yoshida

Teacher Training for PE Inclusion

While inclusivity is a key feature of educational policy and legislation, physical education (PE) remains a curricular area that perpetuates the idea of able-bodiedness as the norm.1 This leads to the development of PE programs that neglect to offer the diverse learning experiences necessary for students with disabilities to fully participate in learning about and through movement.2

In this paper, authors Alfrey and Jeanes propose a model for initial teacher education that can substantially improve the experiences of students with disabilities in PE class, examining the impact of a unit of study co-created between one university and a local disability organization in Australia. 

The participants were third year student PE teachers undertaking a bachelor degree program. A 10-week unit of study was designed, beginning with the theoretical underpinnings of inclusion based on DeLuca’s framework for inclusion and leading to the co-design and implementation of lessons with young people connected with the disability organization.

Data was collected in the form of carefully timed written reflections from the teacher participants as well as recorded interviews. Both sets of qualitative data were then analyzed via a coding process. 

According to the authors, the teacher training unit “served to disrupt the [student teachers’] pre-existing normative and ableist assumptions, and better prepared them to teach students with a disability in PE. Importantly, the findings also suggest that the unit provided opportunities for [pre-service teachers] PSTs to explore and enact alternatives to the ‘disability as problem’ discourse that has circulated PE in the past.”

Success Factors 

Alfrey and Jeanes identified the following factors as being key to the success of the teacher training unit:

Impact on Knowledge and Practice

Student teachers reported that the opportunity to delve into definitions of inclusion and put Universal Design for Learning principles into practice, as well as interact with young people with disabilities for the first time (for many), was instrumental in widening their perspectives on inclusion.

Pedagogization of Theory

The unit of study was conceptualized through DeLuca’s interdisciplinary framework for inclusion (2013),3 which sets forth four stages of inclusion: 

  1. Normative, in which teachers seek to assimilate, rather than accommodate, students with differences;
  2. Integrative, in which teachers recognize differences and address them through formal modifications;
  3. Dialogical, in which teachers move away from labeling and categorizing, and instead celebrate diversity and individuality; and
  4. Transgressive, in which teachers dismantle the idea of the “dominant group” altogether and involve students in creating shared learning experiences.

Supporting the student teachers in the pedagogization of DeLuca’s theoretical framework allowed them to move away from “traditional ableist approaches” to PE, instead allowing them to “expect and celebrate diversity, avoid labels, and amplify the voices of their learners.”

Sense of Safety

Creating a supportive environment that allows student teachers the freedom to explore through trial and error was identified by participants as being a critical component of their learning.

Partnerships for Authentic Learning

Collaborating with the local disability organization lent an authenticity to the teacher training experience that participants valued.

Student Voice and Co-design

Participants stated that the opportunity to co-design lessons and collectively reflect with young people was instrumental to their training in centering student voice.

Summarized Article:

Alfrey, L., & Jeanes, R. (2021). Challenging ableism and the ‘disability as problem’ discourse: how initial teacher education can support the inclusion of students with a disability in physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 1-14.

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.

Academic researcher Laura Alfrey participated in the final version of this summary. 

Additional References:

  1. Lalvani, P. & Broderick, A. (2013). Institutionalized ableism and the misguided “Disability Awareness Day”: Transformative pedagogies for teacher education. Equity and Excellence in Education, 46 (4), 468 – 483.
  2. Fitzgerald, H. & Stride, A. (2012). Stories about physical education from young people with disabilities. International Journal of Disability Development and Education, 59, 283 – 293. 
  3. DeLuca, C. (2013). Toward an interdisciplinary framework for educational inclusivity. Canadian Journal of Education, 36 (1), 305 – 347.

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

Teacher candidates’ perceptions of individuals with disabilities can be positively and significantly altered when exposed to special education content and embedded reflective practice. —Matt Piercy

Change in Perception of Students with Disabilities

A study by Szocik, Gerry & Nagro (2021) examined how eighty-three teacher candidates in the United States changed the way they perceived individuals with disabilities. Increasingly around the world, more students with disabilities are spending 80% or more of their time in general education classrooms. A guiding document created by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) attests to this, as 92 countries signed this document in support of inclusive practices. Szocik, Gerry, and Nagro indicate how “there is a push for education professionals to adopt inclusive practices and be aware of their conceptualization of disability as part of their professional identity.” Further, “materializing during classroom practice, professional identity is influenced by external factors including engagement with diverse learners,1 social and cultural contextual structures,2 personal views and experiences,3 and mentorship.”4

Reflective Practice Intervention

Despite an international commitment to inclusion, educators’ professional identities continue to be impacted by inconsistent preparation to support students with disabilities. The authors suggest a good starting point in shaping professional identity is to implement reflective activities so teaching candidates might confront any perceptions towards different types of disabilities. To do this, teacher candidates were each enrolled in a one-semester introduction to special education course, and the study occurred during two consecutive semesters of the course. Attitudes towards individuals with disabilities were measured using a series of tools, such as The Groningen Reflective Ability Scale (GRAS). Further, the perceived reflective ability was scored using a five-point Likert scale.

Throughout the course, teacher candidates were provided multiple opportunities to reflect. These included:

  • reflecting on statements about special education
  • writing about their philosophy of teaching
  • confronting any beliefs they may have about special education and topics such as disabilities

The goal was to better understand and inform how professional identities might form. Though the findings from the study did not fully expose how professional perceptions might be formed, they did indicate the connection that exists between reflective practice and attitudes towards individuals with disabilities (one part of a teachers’ professional identity). The results also reflected how teacher candidates’ professional perceptions and the way they perceive individuals with disabilities can be significantly changed. As inclusive education practices continue to grow globally, embedding reflective practice early and often into teacher education programs has the potential to create a positive impact and the realization of truly inclusive experiences. 

Summarized Article:

Szocik, K., Gerry, M. A., & Nagro, S. A. (2021). The impact of reflective practice on teacher candidates’ attitudes towards individuals with disabilities and professional identity. Reflective Practice, 22(6), 739-752.

Summary by: Matt Piercy—Matt appreciates how at the heart of the MARIO Framework is a passion to develop relationships and a desire to empower students to uncover their purpose while building upon strengths. Further, Matt is inspired by how the MARIO team supports educators and is quickly and nobly becoming a collaborative force in pursuit of educational equity. 

Researcher Katherine Szocik was involved in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. Pugach, M. C., Blanton, L. P., Mickelson, A. M., & Boveda, M. (2020). Curriculum theory: The missing  perspective in teacher education for inclusion. Teacher Education and Special Education, 43(1),  85–103.
  2. Avalos, B., & Rios, D. (2013). Reform environment and teacher identity in Chile. In D. B. Napier &  S. Majhanovich (Eds.), Education, dominance and identity. Comparative and international education  (Vol. 1, pp. 153–175). Sense Publishers. 
  3. Beltman, S., Glass, C., Dinham, J., Chalk, B., & Nguyen, B. (2015). Drawing identity: Beginning pre service teachers’ professional identities. Issues in Educational Research, 25(3), 225–245. https:// 
  4. Pillen, M., Beijaard, D., & Brok, P. (2013). Tensions in beginning teachers’ professional identity  development, accompanying feelings and coping strategies. European Journal of Teacher  Education, 36(3), 240–260.

Key Takeaway

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a general increase in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education as well as making it more inclusive by supporting students with learning disabilities (LD) and/or emotional behavioral disorder (EBD). There are a number of tools and resources available for teachers for maximizing remote instruction to make sure that all students are given equitable opportunities in STEAM education. Teachers can ensure that all of their students are able to participate in remote STEAM instruction by intentionally looking at strategies and frameworks that cater to students with LD or EBD. —Jay Lingo 

On top of that, learning structures have been expanded, adapting to different platforms of remote or face-to-face instruction each with a variety of instructional modes, including synchronous and asynchronous learning. These resources require a deliberate focus on framework and strategies.


STEAM and universal design for learning (UDL) frameworks go hand-in-hand to help ground practice to support all students. “There are seven tenets of STEAM integrated Framework (1) real-world context/authentic problem (2) science/content inquiry (3) mathematical problem-solving (4) engineered hands-on activity (5) incorporation of the arts (6) use of technology (7) general conclusion for the real world.” While “UDL can be applied as an overlay to existing curricula as a way to promote access to the content by reducing the barriers to learning,” the UDL framework is designed to provide teachers and students with support that encourages individualization of the teaching and learning process. It appears that STEAM and UDL frameworks are complementary and provide a solid foundation for STEAM education to students with LD or EBD regardless of environment or setting. 


Inquiry-based instruction

Scaffolded inquiry-based instruction finds more success for science and math learning outcomes. Using the three types of framing questions below will explicitly frame a topic to structure the discussion. 

  • Prelude – used to focus on a student’s previous knowledge as an advance organizer.
  • Outline – visually represented questions and subquestions.
  • Summary – concluding questions to connect concepts.


Students are first given the opportunity to manipulate concrete or physical objects to navigate a problem; they then progress to the representational stage, where they solve the problem by replacing those manipulatives with drawings on paper. Finally, they use the appropriate numbers, operational symbols, and notations based on the concept built from the previous stage. 

Graphic organizers 

These are visual supports that students can use to assist in organizing information to improve the understanding of content and concepts. It is often categorized by purpose: cause and effect, classifying, comparing and contrasting, describing, and sequencing. There are also multiple ways to access visual supports in remote instruction by using web-based programs such as Inspiration and Kidspiration, Mind Map, or Google Drawings where students can be guided whether in a synchronous or asynchronous setup. 

Overall, with proper support and resources available, teachers can help ensure all of their students participate in remote STEAM instruction with the inclusion of strategies and a framework that caters to students with LD or EBD. 

Summarized Article:

Taylor, J. C., & Hwang, J. (2021). Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics Remote Instruction for Students With Disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 10534512211001858.

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.

Researcher Jonté C. Taylor was involved in the final version of this summary.