Individualize Instruction, Remove Barriers, Track Student Progress: Some Tips for Making Distance-Learning Special Ed Work

The 74
EdResearch for Recovery

"Can you give an example of an online lesson that’s effective for students with disabilities?"

That’s the question Elizabeth Barker has fielded over and over as schools have prepared to reopen. But it’s the one question that Barker, a special education expert with NWEA, a nonprofit data and assessment provider, can’t answer.

Because students in special education, by definition, require individualized support, there is no such thing as a model lesson. She does, however, point to four ingredients for effective special education during in-person schooling that should guide educators as they look for ways to engage students with disabilities in distance learning.

1. Individual or small group instruction is crucial to successful in-person special education and will be key to making interventions effective in distance learning. Recommendations from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, part of the EdResearch for Recovery Project, include having paraprofessionals take over scoring exams and completing paperwork to free up special education teachers to use their specialized expertise in one-on-one settings.


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