If you have ever planned a road trip, a camping trip, or a weekend vacation there is always a common thread: a plan or a guide. There is a need to plot out a course so that the most economical, gratifying, memory-making pathway is designed and carried out. This can be difficult, take some time, and creativity to ensure success. The same can be said about designing classrooms, pedagogy, and procedures for our learning environments. The words of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra ring true when preparing for students to return to our schools and classrooms, “To be prepared is half the victory.” The need to use all of the resources available is imperative to design functional, interactive, and enriching learning environments.
Many resources are provided to school personnel before the year begins: IEPs, 504 plans, behavior plans, Token Economy systems, etc. The reality is that there are times when these resources are not combed through to find what each person is responsible for to ensure that their students are getting everything that is afforded them through their educational day. Let’s just begin by stating what one should look at within the paperwork: 1) Goals and Benchmarks 2) Implementer(s); 3) Methods of Evaluation; 4) Progress Report Timing; 5) Strategies to be used; and 6) Locations (LRE). These areas show what the student is working towards, who is going to help them get there and what they will do to get them there, how we will assess if the student has made progress, when we will share that information, and where will the student be throughout the day. All of these areas are critical to ensure the student makes progress in your classroom.
With so many working parts, each person working with students needs to know their role. They need to find in the paperwork when and where they are being asked to do something. Once they discover the role they will play within the scope of the student’s educational day, they must understand the strategies and data collection processes and procedures. These vital components will allow quality analysis and decision making.
Strategies and data collection can often be missteps for professionals. The strategy is not familiar to the professional or they have the “gist” of what they are being asked to do. But in reality, they may not be using a strategy or intervention properly and thus it is not providing the assistance the student truly needs. This struggle with implementing a strategy effectively can directly correlate to data collection. If the strategy is not being done properly it can impact the reliability of the data being collected. It can also work the other way; the strategy is being done with fidelity, but the data collection is suspect. These issues arise in schools every day, and it can originate from educators feeling that they can inform somebody that they don’t know how to perform a strategy or intervention properly (i.e. sensory breaks), or which prompt/cue they actually utilized with the student to get the response they were needing. But it can also be that they are not comfortable using daily point sheets, a token economy, or a multi-tiered level system. The key is to ensure that any professional who is asked to perform a task with a student is trained and has a solid understanding of what they are doing, how exactly they are to perform, and in what settings these will occur. As stated before, there are many working components to the student's day and it can be difficult to get everybody working cohesively.
Ultimately, if all of the working parts are working efficiently and effectively then the reporting of data to all stakeholders is reliable and valid and in turn allows for robust data-driven decisions. This will allow for adjustments to be made where needed and keep those improving areas moving in the right direction. This process of knowing your role, creating a plan, and adjusting for bumps in the road will make the educational journey for the student one full of great memories. It can also lead to some great memories for the professional and the other passengers on the ride as well.
Dr. Behave goes into more detail about this topic in a recent webinar. View the free, on-demand recording.