Not a new concept, schools have had interventions in place over the years to support their students. However, not all attempts at interventions have resulted in success.
While some schools do not have the means to change or update their intervention methods, many interventions of the past offered no choice for students. As technology evolves, so do the strategies educators use to engage and motivate students.
Although the focus of this article is on how students view intervention, understanding the challenges of past interventions can also help administrators, educators, and education stakeholders identify ways to encourage students and improve the school’s outreach and support. By giving students choices for intervention, and possibly using another word for intervention in education, schools may be able to help shift how students feel about receiving this additional support.
Interventions of the Past
The most common type of intervention that many would be familiar with is reading interventions.
One of the first types of interventions established in the school, reading interventions, were used by education professionals when students were identified as performing below expectations. Various intervention methods were used. One, in Washington Public Schools in the 1930s, found improvements in reading among struggling students when teachers assigned students to small groups while working individually with the reading needs of their students.
Teachers worked with students based on various reading tests and emphasized the importance of assigning interesting reading material that students would be motivated to read.
Legislative changes in the 2000s had effects on how educational interventions were implemented. In recent decades, some methods have moved from working with individual needs to working with many students in a structured, group-based intervention.
Although the initial concept and ideas behind reading interventions were intended to help students, some students dislike being removed from the classroom. This could place labels on students, being viewed as “dumb” or “stupid” among their classmates. In addition, removal from the classroom could cause some students anxiety and frustration, leaving them with a sense of potentially missing out on something. And in many cases, being removed from general education classes could mean that students really are missing current, grade-level curriculum.
Many elementary and middle schools still pull students from core classes to offer small-group support, but other educational innovations in interventions have been introduced to some middle and high schools. Some past intervention experiences may have been negative for students. But many schools are changing their approaches to helping support students, offering students choices in how they seek additional help.
Interventions that Encourage Choice
Some schools are now offering flexible intervention methods. Flexible interventions can provide students with choices in seeking assistance from their teachers based on individual needs.
Students may be more receptive to flexible interventions. Schools that implement new intervention schedules offer students a positive outlook on academic support because students are provided with a sense of empowerment over their schedule and learning choices. Offering students choices, whether in course options or academic support, demonstrate efforts to understand and support the changing needs of a student population.
Schools that implement new approaches to interventions must consider how to encourage participation. Presenting flexible interventions takes careful consideration. For example, flexible interventions may be labeled differently among schools. Using another word for intervention in education can shift the perception from something negative or even punitive, to something that is there to support students. Some schools use labels such as Smart Lunch, Flex-Time, or Flex Period.
With students’ input, other schools try and come up with clever names, acronyms, or school-related names, such as Eagle Hour or GAME (Getting Ahead, Making Efforts) Time. When presented as a flexible choice, students can use the time to seek out additional support from teachers as they see fit.
By changing how interventions are implemented, students are more receptive to seeking help and do not feel forced into remediation. This sense of independence is important to youth and helps them navigate choices concerning their educational journey.
Making Interventions a Positive Experience
Traditional interventions that determine where students will go and what they will learn are outdated. In addition, learning needs differ from student to student, so a group effort to address many needs is not always effective. However, some schools do not have the funds, staffing, or time to change their methods.
For the schools that are able to try new methods, changes in implementing new approaches could positively affect how students view interventions. For example, students may be more receptive to a flexible intervention because they have some control over their time and choices. In addition, when students feel empowered, they are motivated and engaged.
Implementing a new program always comes with risks and challenges; however, student feedback is essential to the success of any educational implementation. Consider the importance of students having a voice, being heard, and having choices.
Changing the way schools offer intervention presents students with adaptive tools to support their success. Administrators and educators need to understand their school climate and culture to identify ways to address the academic needs of their students.
If students feel they can move around and ask questions when they have them, schools are supporting critical thinking and, in turn, teaching the value of problem-solving.
Changing how interventions are labeled can erase the stigmas of past intervention approaches (such as after-school tutoring or summer school). Offering flexible intervention time empowers students and gives them a choice to make positive choices on how and when to seek extra support. While every school may implement a flexible intervention differently, the change still symbolizes working to meet the needs of the students.
Students need to view interventions as a positive action that supports their educational success. If interventions are accepted among the student population, then students are more likely to succeed in accomplishing their educational goals. Efforts to implement innovative approaches to intervention offer students choices and a sense of independence. With choices and flexibility, students are more likely to change their views on interventions and willingly take advantage of the additional support.
Bowen, M. (2020). What you don’t know about academic interventions may be hurting your students. Learning Sciences International. https://www.learningsciences.com/blog/academic-interventions-instructional-strategies/
Dimich, N. (2018). The secret ingredient to effective interventions: Students’ perceptions. All Things Assessment. https://allthingsassessment.info/2018/07/24/effective-interventions-student-perceptions/
McCarty, R. (2014). Literacy and CCSS: Removing the stigma from the struggle. Teaching Channel. https://www.teachingchannel.com/blog/literacy-and-ccss-removing-the-stigma-from-the-struggle
Scammacca, N. K., Roberts, G. J., Cho, E., Williams, K. J., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S. R., & Carroll, M. (2016). A Century of Progress: Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 4-12, 1914-2014. Review of educational research, 86(3), 756–800. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654316652942