I think we all thought “Wow, I bet that really helps struggling students” when we first read over the value points behind tiered instruction models such as Response to Intervention (RTI), Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), etc.
But let’s be honest, it also probably became very apparent that establishing an effective and efficient intervention setting requires a significant amount of thought and effort from all involved staff members.
So, how can you be smart about managing your model’s instructional resources (classroom space(s), time, etc.) and human resources (teachers, math/reading coaches, special education, etc.) to maximize intervention value?
The following four tips will help you develop "smart" strategies to help your students get the most of your tiered instruction efforts:
1) Leverage resources to expand one-on-one instruction ability
The bottom tier of your tiered instruction model (generally known as Tier 1) often places a strong focus on differentiated instruction. Of course, every teacher strives to provide ideal learning modalities for each individual student. However, doing so effectively often requires a lot of instructional time and resources.
With the limited time constructs in mind, don’t be afraid to try out multiple instruction resources, including educational technology, to help you and your fellow staff members differentiate your lessons. One quick way to do so is to develop blended learning rotation stations (like those seen in this free ebook) that give students a chance to learn together in groups through various digital resources and educator-led activities.
Regardless of what tier you are instructing, well-utilized technology tools can afford you additional one-on-one time with the students that require enrichment, reinforcement, and assistance.
2) Make sure the progress data you collect is actionable
Gaining actionable student progress data is central to any tiered instruction efforts. The idea is that the data you collect will greatly improve your ability to move students up/down the pyramid and prescribe the next steps for tiers and the individual student. That’s an important place to start, but what is “actionable student progress data” and how do you make sure that the data you are compiling is “actionable”?
To an educator, I consider actionable data to be any type of student information that is real-time, easy-to-understand, and lends itself to a clear next step focused on helping the student meet his or her learning needs. In that vein, whole-class summative assessments are most likely not the strongest piece of “actionable data” at your repertoire, especially within an RTI or MTSS model.
To give yourself a good set of actionable progress data to work with, I recommend utilizing online tools that provide immediate feedback on a student’s achievement, whether that be through a learning management system (LMS) dashboard or individual content that reports student progress and results. Combining these data pieces with your own observations (from formative assessment measures) will give you a great picture of where your students are and where they need to go next.
3) Employ transparent communication within each tier and with each stakeholder
As you know, the process of a supplemental teacher (i.e. math coach, literacy coach, special education teacher, etc.) pulling struggling students out of class for more targeted help is a hallmark of tiered instruction. At-risk intervention is often a necessary measure, but the students who leave the room are at risk of falling behind on the details of your class, like homework announcements, quick critical thinking activities, and other “housekeeping” pieces.
In no way should the process of giving a student extra reinforcement and help be detrimental to his/her learning ability. To avoid setting a student back during intervention, be sure to make a concerted effort to keep your class website and/or LMS updated so that all students and parents have an up-to-date understanding of the learning objectives and daily events. Ensure the information is easy to understand and easily accessible.
4) Encourage formerly at-risk students who rejoin classmates
This fourth step is very important, especially if your tiered instruction system places a concerted focus on helping at-risk students make a seamless return to their main classroom. Simply put, because the formerly at-risk students have accomplished something very special in their return to the main classroom, they should be treated as such.
Once again, the actionable data that we mentioned in step two is key to student movement in any tiered instruction model. Establish set tier movement guidelines that define exactly when a student no longer needs in-depth intervention (and vice versa). Your tiered instruction strategies can easily become mired by grey area that exists between the tiers, so be sure to avoid this pitfall.
Be sure to fully support the students who make a positive tier shift. Reward them for their hard work by letting ensuring they are a full partner in the learning experience and that your support, as an educator, is available to them whenever needed. Obviously, helping your students to continue to meet their learning goals and needs is the main goal, and support and respect is a key function of helping students do just that.
More tiered instruction resources from Wowzers
If you found these four steps helpful to your tiered instruction strategies, be sure to check out the rest of the RTI-focused blog posts in the Wowzers Blog!