samedi 16 août 2014

Universal Screening - short description

Universal Screening is the entry point for all students in the RtI model. It is the first step in the analysis which gauges whether or not the student is attaining current benchmarks in basic/core skills in reading, mathematics and behaviour. Typically, assessments occur three times per year and the results are compared to a benchmark available as part of the tool used or decided upon the teacher (or teaching team).

The screening process is necessary to ensure that a student does not fall through the cracks in a given year in such a way that they end up being a year behind in the next school year.  Once students have been assessed, their current performance can be monitored.

If they are falling below targeted benchmarks, teachers can offer in-class remediation/enrichment to bring the student to level of mastery in that particular skill.  Universal Screening enables teachers to target students' needs exactly where they are at and at the level where they are rather than giving general remediation help to many students, which may or may not be what the students need in particular.

Multitasking - Part 2

I have come across a really interesting article on multitasking (and many other things related to digital age).

The article: - Section on MultiTasking Vs. 'Hopping' or Task Switching. In this text, the authors discuss the differences between Multitasking and Hoping (switching between tasks). Unfortunately, some aspects of the discussion  are not detailed enough and may lead one to believe that the situation is better than it actually is.

For example, towards the end of the section, the author suggests that there is not enough research to clearly conclude that multitasking impairs understanding. This is probably the biggest message in the section! While it is totally true, let us not jump to a conclusion that there is no negative impact in multitasking.

The text suggests that "reading while listing to music" is an example of multitasking. In reality, it is not. If we turn to the research on human development especially on processing of reading and auditory information, we will find that reading is actually a skill directly associated with auditory sections of the brain. Some even suggest that good readers "imagine" sound in their head in order to improve processing of information. Moreover, both reading and listening to songs (with words) requires the same sections of the brain to work on executive and decoding functions.

In short, we cannot multitask as long as the tasks in question require the same section(s) of the brain to process or react. Just imagine a highway with toll payment section on it. The toll is hundreds of lines wide but each line is specifically associated with a particular model/brand of car. Each car has to, absolutely, use the appropriate toll booth. Moreover, there is a processing restriction: at the same instance no more than 7 cars can pay. Therefore, two cars of the same brand/model cannot cross the toll at the same time but a few different model(s)/brand(s) of cars can. While this analogy is limited, it still demonstrates the basic principle: the brain simply cannot keep alive more than 5-7 chunks of info at the same time. The same type or form of information cannot be processed at the same time. While the brain works much faster than any toll on the road can, it has other restrictions that our special toll does not: it cannot process more than one higher level task. That means that, according to a Revised Bloom's Taxonomy by Anderson & Krathwohl (2001), many tasks at

  • Level IV - Analyze
    • analyze
    • categorize
    • classify
    • compare
    • infer
    • etc.
  • Level V - Evaluate
    • appraise
    • judge
    • compare
    • criticize
    • defend
  • Level VI - Create(Synthesis)
    • choose
    • combine
    • create
    • design
    • construct
    • hypothesize
    • etc.
cannot be done at the same time. 

So what? Well, this goes much farther than we could initially think. If we come back to our early example of reading, research demonstrates that an effective reader will naturally analyze, evaluate and hypothesize in the process of reading a paragraph or section. 

If this hypothetical reader is also doing something else requiring the same section(s) of the brain, the reader will be Hopping. If we push it a bit farther and assume that the stream of information(from one of the sources) is continuous and cannot be stopped: the reader will loose information! However, in most cases, we can stop reading and restart again at our ease. So what is the problem? Well the problem is that the short memory and executive function will be taxed much more: before Hopping the info on the text will have to be fully processed and stored in long term memory. Before, the reader can come back to reading and restart, the information will have to be retrieved and reprocessed again. Considering that at all stages short time memory is bound to loose some information, that the executive function and many other sections of the brain have to work more, the understanding will not be the same. Of course, the essentials will probably be understood, but the depth of the text and the detailed appreciation of the language and vocabulary will be lost (at least partially).

So where is the proof? Remember the phrase that we have started with? Unfortunately, the research that specifically targets our ability to multitask is new and there is simply not enough information to build a sufficient body of knowledge in order to make a sound conclusion. That does not mean that we do not have an idea on what should happen. For instance, according to the most recent ideas in neurology, we know that the brain can rewire itself and restore some of the lost or initially impaired function. So why not multitasking? Why not imagine that we are getting better at Hopping to a point of not loosing any information? One of the hypotheses suggest that such a major rewiring of the brain cannot be accounted by a mere principle of brain elasticity. Others, like Prensky think that new generations are different. However, we simply do not know.

The jury on the multitasking may have yet to come to a conclusion, but one thing remains the same: as long as we consider that our brain has not evolved in the pas thousand years, multitasking, as a limited and extremely taxing on our brain activity, will have a noticeable impact on higher level cognitive functions of the human.

Rationale for RtI in Quebec

The current model of intervention in Quebec is the "Wait to Fail" model.  This model stipulates that a student will not receive extra assistance (or intervention) until they are two years behind the current grade level.  The problem with this model is that the first three years of school (Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2) are the most critical for students to learn literacy and numeracy skills.  If students do not have these basic skills by the time they are in Grade 3, they will continue to fall further behind as they are no longer being taught literacy and numeracy, but are expected to know them already. This intervention in this model occurs too late for students as it is too difficult to catch up.
Response to Intervention (RtI), however, offers immediate, real-time response to students who are struggling in reading, in writing, and in math.  The RtI model does not wait for a student to fall two years behind grade level, but through Universal Screening and subsequent Progress Monitoring, it gathers data regarding the current achievement level of the students, rather than relying on "gut feelings" or other emotionally based decisions. 
In addition, RtI requires Educational support teams comprised of teachers, resource staff, and administration, to use data based evidence to make decisions regarding the interventions needed for the student. All selected Interventions should be research based and curriculum based. In fact, the curriculum itself should be supported by research. Once the student has been identified as needing intervention, a Multi-Tiered delivery system will structure the intervention plan.  Lastly, RtI implies that all selected interventions and measures should be used with fidelity and integrity in the same way as defined in the research.
Challenges inherent in supporting students with special needs are numerous: teachers are not adequately trained to deal with students with special needs; costs associated with extra resource help can quickly over run a school budget; students with special needs get labelled, be it as problem children or other, and quickly fall into a trap of self-fulfilling prophecy; support outside the school is sometimes lacking (eg - lack of food, sleep, security) causing student to struggle in school; education students with special needs are not always relevant, like a stairway leading to nowhere; etc..

According to the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL, 2010)48% of Canadians have low literacy skills and more than 15 million adult Canadians will be part of this group by 2031 (a 25% increase from 2001). According to NICHD, 10% of US citizens have Learning Disabilities-80% of them in reading; every dollar spent on literacy programming results in a 241% return; a 1% increase in literacy rate would generate 18 million dollars in economic growth; if students are not reading at grade level by the third grade, the odds that they will ever read at grade level are only 1 in 17; by the 4th grade, 2 hours of specialized daily instruction is required to make the same gain that would have resulted from only 30 minutes of daily instruction if begun when the child was in Kindergarten.
CCL. (2010). The Future of Literacy in Canada’s Largest Cities: Canadian Council on Learning.