Academic interventions aim to positively impact the behaviors and attitudes of students deemed to be at-risk in the school environment. "At-risk" status for school-age children is defined as "the risk of education failure, as indicated by poor grades, truancy, disruptive behavior, pregnancy, or similar factors associated with temporary or permanent withdrawal from school" (Kleiner, Porch, & Farris, 2002, p. 3). The array of potential causes for students' at-risk academic status almost necessitates that, in the public school context at least, a variety of school personnel be involved in creating and implementing academic interventions. Regular and special education teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and others such as reading specialists and speech therapists may all play a role. Students and their families are involved in the process as well.
Keywords Academic Intervention; Adult-Mediated Intervention; Antecedent-Based Intervention; At-Risk; Consequent-Based Intervention; Emotional Disturbance; Peer-Mediated Intervention; Self-Management Intervention; Special Education; Specific Learning Disability
Guidance and Counseling: Academic Interventions
Academic interventions aim to positively impact the behaviors and attitudes of students deemed to be at-risk in the school environment. "At-risk" status for school-age children is defined as "the risk of education failure, as indicated by poor grades, truancy, disruptive behavior, pregnancy, or similar factors associated with temporary or permanent withdrawal from school" (Kleiner, Porch, & Farris, 2002, p. 3).
Causes of At-Risk Status
That some students are academically at-risk or already failing may be due to one or more of the following:
• A lack of motivation
• Inadequate amount of time devoted to required tasks
• Receiving limited help from others
• Being unfamiliar with the material
• Encountering difficult tasks (Daly, Witt, Martens, & Dool, 1997)
It may also be the case that students encountering academic challenges at school may have one or more disabilities in the realm of learning, emotional or physical health, or intellectual functioning.
The array of potential causes for students' at-risk academic status almost necessitates that, in the public school context at least, a variety of school personnel be involved in creating and implementing academic interventions. Regular and special education teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and others such as reading specialists and speech therapists may all play a role. Students and their families are involved in the process as well.
Types of Interventions
It is helpful to think about academic interventions as belonging to at least one of the following categories:
• Child-mediated, or self-regulatory, interventions (Mooney, Epstein, Reid, & Nelson, 2003; Trout, Lienemann, Reid, & Epstein, 2007)
An intervention may also be a combination of one or more the above types.
In antecedent-based interventions, actions are taken before an outcome is measured. Consequent-based interventions entail taking some action when a specific behavior is observed. Peer-mediated interventions involve students' peers acting in supportive ways or monitoring other students' behaviors. Adult-mediated interventions have parents, teachers, and/or other adults acting as supports or behavior monitors to students. Self-regulatory, or self-management, interventions consist of students monitoring their feelings and behaviors to achieve goals. They are also known as child-mediated interventions (Trout et al., 2007).
Peer-Mediated Academic Interventions
Some well-known peer-mediated academic interventions are cooperative learning, peer modeling, and peer tutoring (Ryan, Reid & Epstein, 2004). Cooperative learning brings students of diverse abilities together to work on a project. Each student is in charge of one aspect of the project but must cooperate with one another to achieve the larger goal. Peer modeling entails providing training to a student in a particular area and asking that student to model the related behaviors in the presence of peers who need to develop those skills. The teacher calls attention to the peer model and explains the appropriate behaviors being modeled for the other peer. Peer tutoring includes reciprocal tutoring between peers, can involve students of different ages such that an older student tutors a younger student, or can be a classroom endeavor where all students in a class pair up so that everyone is a part of a classwide student tutoring team (CSTT).
In their review of studies of peer-assisted learning (PAL) interventions, Rohrbeck, Ginsburg-Block, Fantuzzo, & Miller (2003) found that in PAL interventions with elementary school students, children worked with peers in pairs or in small groups at similar rates of frequency. The majority of studies involved students tutoring peers of the same age but with different ability levels, (cross-ability). According to Rohrbeck et al., PAL interventions were most effective with students in first through third grades than with students in higher elementary grades.
Adult-mediated interventions regularly incorporate antecedent-based and consequent-based interventions. Teacher-mediated interventions such as providing one-on-one or small group academic tutoring to students or modifying the classroom environment in some way (e.g., moving a student's seat) are examples of antecedent-based intervention. Teachers take proactive action to promote certain behaviors.
Another example of an antecedent-based intervention mediated by teachers in the classroom involves an attempt to promote literacy acquisition with younger children. Good, Simmons, and Smith (1998) describe the facets of a successful early intervention focused on phonological awareness, an integral aspect of reading skill, for students in first through third grade. Along with instruction on phonemes, the intervention incorporated scaffolding, where each successive task was presented in order of increasing difficulty once the previous task was successfully accomplished, and modeling of skills for students. Students practiced skills until they had added them to their repertoire. Further instruction built upon the acquired skills by connecting phonological awareness to letters and then sounds. Reading skills were bolstered before students could fall behind and then have more difficulty catching up to more advanced peers.
As for consequent-based interventions mediated by adults, many examples are found in the research, including:
• Token economies in which teachers reinforce students based on the behavior they display (Mooney et. al, 2003).
• Home-school collaboration illustrates another consequent-based academic intervention that is adult-mediated. Cox (2005) reviewed studies that investigated the effectiveness of parents and school personnel working together to benefit students. The outcomes studied most often were academic performance and school behavior. Participants in the studies reviewed ranged in age from 4 to 16 and were mostly lower income, African American students. In one of the most effective home-school interventions parents acted as partners to school personnel by reinforcing the same target behaviors at home that school personnel reinforced at school.
• School-to-Home notes serve to notify parents of students' daily behavior and schoolwork. School-to-home notes facilitated communication between school personnel and parents. Students reported an increase in the amount of time they spent reading and parents became more involved at school due to their feeling more comfortable in the school setting.
Teachers may also use a functional behavior analysis to create effective classroom interventions for addressing poor academic performance by students. Daly et al. (1997) suggest teachers conduct a curriculum based assessment of various academic skills in order to determine the level at which students are currently performing. Once that baseline is obtained, hypotheses for why some students are not performing well (for example, not devoting enough time to the task) would be tested by implementing an intervention, such as providing the student with more time to practice the task. Another assessment would indicate whether the intervention has been successful or needs to be further adapted.
Child-Mediated, or Self-Management Interventions
According to Mooney, Ryan, Uhing, Reid, & Epstein (2005), the most frequently used self-management interventions are self-monitoring, self-evaluation, self-instruction, goal-setting, and strategy instruction.
• Self-monitoring requires student awareness of the occurrence of a specific behavior and subsequent recording of that behavior.
• As part of self-evaluation a student examines his or her target behavior in relation to a previously set standard and is subsequently reinforced (or not) for that behavior.
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