The authors of this paper wanted to provide evidence that working memory could explain word learning variance in children, “over and above the contributions of expressive vocabulary and nonverbal IQ.”

Working memory – a predictor of word learning


Working memory can act as a predictor   

Verbal working memory measures positively correlated with vocabulary and grammar scores in a person’s first and second language. Studies have also suggested that verbal working memory measures were stronger predictors of language than attention. There is a small relationship between working memory domains and static measures of reading. 

Working memory is a more powerful predictor of later academic success than IQ. Existing vocabulary and nonverbal IQ have already been shown to relate to vocabulary acquisition in children.

Testing working memory through word learning

The study recruited 167 English-speaking second graders from two U.S. states with typical development. The children involved had to meet a series of requirements, such as passing hearing and vision screenings and achieving certain levels of mastery on academic and language testing, as well as having no history of neuropsychiatric disorders (such as ADHD or ASD). Tasks were presented as part of a computer-based game that took about six two-hour sessions to complete over the course of two weeks. The children took the test with a trained research assistant present to record and transcribe responses. The children played a series of games (tasks) that comprehensively targeted word learning (assessing “the creation, storage, retrieval, and production of phonological and semantic representations of novel nouns and verbs and the ability to link those representations”) and working memory. “The authors then established a model of working memory in children to predict an established model of dynamic word learning to determine whether working memory processes as a whole explained word learning variance over and above the contributions of expressive vocabulary and nonverbal IQ.” The model established from the data demonstrated that “expressive vocabulary, nonverbal IQ, and three working memory factors predicting two-word learning factors fit the data well.” Working memory explained 45% of the variance in the phonological word learning factor (letter-to-sound mapping) and 17% in the semantic word learning factor (storage and retrieval of word meaning). From this, the authors were able to conclude that working memory is a significant predictor “of not only what has already been learned (academic achievement) but also what is actively being learned (dynamic learning).”

Teaching strategies used to strengthen working memory

However, these results do not necessarily mean that if working memory capacity were improved then we could optimize learning. Rather educators can “tailor teaching strategies to support children with particular working memory profiles. Comprehensive working memory assessments have the potential to identify sources of word learning difficulties and help to tailor word learning teaching and interventions to a student’s strengths and challenges. 

Moreover, there are existing studies that show that “different manipulations of encoding practices, such as repeated and spaced retrieval and effortful retrieval, may benefit recall and retention in children. Further research is needed to determine whether tailoring instruction based on a child’s working memory profile could increase learning.

Notable Quotes: 

“It is possible that the relationship between working memory processes and word learning processes changes over the course of development; therefore, findings may not generalize to younger or older students.”

“It is important to note that structural equation modeling offers several advantages previously discussed, but such models cannot definitively pin down causation or thoroughly represent the complex working memory and word learning processes occurring in the real world.”

“An earlier study (Gray et al., 2019) found that children’s working memory profiles were not synonymous with learning disability diagnoses. […] The same was true of children with developmental language disorder, developmental language disorder and dyslexia, and TD [typical development].”

Personal Takeaway: 

This work highlights the importance of working memory for learning, particularly literacy, but also the importance of looking at a student as a whole when it comes to teaching. Working memory is undoubtedly a crucial executive function and is a skill that should be explicitly taught and targeted, especially for students who may need more support in this area. However, it may be equally as important to tailor interventions and teaching to a student’s strengths and challenges. By leveraging strengths educators can find opportunities to personalize instruction to best suit the needs of each student, ultimately enhancing the learning taking place for them.—Ayla Reau

Gray, S. I., Levy, R., Alt, M., Hogan, T. P., & Cowan, N. (2022). Working Memory Predicts New Word Learning Over and Above Existing Vocabulary and Nonverbal IQ. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR, 65(3), 1044–1069.

There exists much debate about the effects of digital technology environments on children. The study aimed to determine whether or not the use of an educational app can positively impact preschoolers’ attention development.

A connection to the Theory of Multiple Intelligence 

Howard Gardner’s widely embraced Theory of Multiple Intelligences, though a subject of much criticism, might provide a valuable segue into how technological classrooms adopt similar scaffolds for encouraging diversity in the varying degrees of student strengths, development rates, and preferences for learning. Further, there continues to be mounting evidence for how gamification elements might serve to motivate and engage learners. Elements leading to this success are clearly stated goals, self-choice, and immediate feedback. Gamification allows for all three.

Neumann & Neumann (2013) suggest how previous studies’ conclusions on computer-based tasks, serious video games, or digital cognitive training games can be used as scaffolding tools to assist with children’s cognitive development.

Developing sustained attention in children

171 children between the ages of 3 and 4 years old were divided into experimental and control groups for a quasi-experimental study. The children were all from a northern city in China and the income and parents’ education levels from the school were in the average range of the city.  The experimental group used an educational tablet app twice a week for 12 weeks in an effort to examine their sustained attention and attention orientation speed. Building on previous findings, educational digital apps could promote attention development in young children. The researchers believe their first hypothesis was proven, that tablet training with an educational app can foster sustained attention development in young children. However, their second hypothesis two – that tablet training with an educational app could accelerate young children’s attention orientation development – was inconclusive.

Sustained, but not gained

The results indicated that children in the experimental group had significantly longer fixation duration than that of the control group after 12 weeks of training using the app. However, the results did not provide evidence for accelerating the children’s orientation development. According to the study, attention in young children can be sustained but not necessarily gained from the use of technology apps. Yet, the researchers believe the outcomes show how educational game-based tablet apps lead to positive attention development in young children. The results of the study serve to reinforce previous research that children as young as 4 years old can have improvements in sustained attention with intervention.   

Aside from limiting media usage, a suggestion for practice is allowing students to complete one task before moving on to another. This requires setting up an expectation for how many tasks, activities, or games children are engaged with, as this will allow for greater ease in student completion.

Notable Quotes: 

“The study suggests more collaboration between educational organizations and software companies to create appropriate educational apps with built-in, routine school activities, and appropriate features for preschool students to operate, play, learn, and practice.”

“The main purpose of the study is to examine the effect of using an educational serious game in preschools on young children’s attention development. A preschool classroom has an environment full of visual, aural, or other distractions. Many empirical studies (Axelsson et al., 2016; Del Moral et al., 2015; Falloon, 2013; Neumann, 2014, 2018; Ramos & Melo, 2018; Walczak & Taylor, 2018) proceed with cognition, literacy, numeracy, and other digital interventions in school or classroom environments for the best ecological validity.“

“On the basis of the feedback from classroom teachers and children, a qualified, children-friendly app can play an important role in young children’s learning process… This implies that the school and the government should establish appropriate tablet- assisted educational serious game learning activities in preschool curricula. However, factors such as age, settings, children’s development level, teacher’s familiarity on an app content, and features have to be considered in the introduction of new technology. This requires evaluations and personal use experiences from educators and practitioners.”

Personal Takeaway

As an educator, the one element in the study that resonated most was the need for diversification of methods for how students might access learning. The tablet app provided for a range of activities, including video, drawings, nursery rhymes, and games versus a more traditional approach. Though evidence continues to be compiled for the positive effects of technology, the authors indicated how technology should be intentionally used and in balance. This aligns with my experiences in the classroom but also with years as a boarding school faculty house parent. The nature of this research centering on such young children and the introduction of technology only emphasizes the gravitas of intentionality


Matt Piercy

Summarized Article:

Wen Liu, Liting Tan, Dan Huang, Nan Chen & Fang Liu (2021) When Preschoolers Use Tablets: The Effect of Educational Serious Games on Children’s Attention Development, International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 37:3, 234-248, DOI: 10.1080/10447318.2020.1818999

Researchers conducted an updated review of the literature on interventions to promote overall self-determination and skills associated with self-determined action in students with disabilities in the school context. Associated skills included choice-making, decision-making, problem-solving, goal setting and attainment, planning, self-management, self-advocacy, self-awareness, and self-knowledge.

The Value of Self-Determination

Self-determination is integral to student achievement of both academic goals and positive post-school employment, community integration, and quality of life outcomes. Emerging definitional frameworks for understanding self-determination highlight the value of developing skills associated with self-determined action (i.e., choice-making, decision-making, problem solving, goal setting and attainment, planning, self-management, self-advocacy, self-awareness, and self-knowledge) in students with disabilities. Given the value of self-determination in the lives of students with disabilities and expansion in theory, research, and practice, an updated review of the literature on interventions to promote self-determination and skills associated with self-determined actions was needed.

Positive Findings in Article Search

Researchers identified 34 articles published between 2000 and 2015 that met the search criteria. Search criteria required that articles: a) be published in an English language, peer-reviewed journal, b) include participants with disabilities between the ages of 3 to 21, c) occur in the school context, and d) report outcomes of an intervention intended to promote overall self-determination or skills associated with self-determined action. Researchers analyzed types of interventions, populations of students with whom they were implemented, outcomes, and rigor of research. “Findings include (a) an increase in the number of participants in self-determination studies, (b) positive outcomes for students with diverse personal characteristics (e.g. disability status, gender), and (c) a need for improved rigor in reporting quality of research.” Results indicated positive outcomes of interventions to promote self-determination across grade levels (primarily middle and high school), disability groups, and setting using a variety of instructional methods.

Increased Focus Needed on Promoting Self-Determination

These findings highlight the need for increased focus on “promoting self-determination within inclusive, general education settings with students with disabilities and of diverse backgrounds.” Incorporating evidence-based self-determination instruction enhances transition planning and access to and participation in the general education curriculum. The most commonly implemented intervention was the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI; Wehmeyer, Palmer, Argan, Mithaug, & Martin), a multi-component intervention targeting multiple skills associated with self-determined action. Given the strong research base supporting SDLMI as well as the availability of materials to support its implementation, teachers should consider this comprehensive intervention for integrating self-determination skills into the instruction. While interventions promoting self-determination proved effective across age ranges, the majority (i.e., 76%) of the studies reviewed included transition-age students. Given the positive outcomes and viable means reported, practitioners can “help students set and achieve education and transition related goals, benefiting students in school and in the real world.”

Notable Quotes: 

“Given the value of self-determination in the lives of students with disabilities, it is essential that skills associated with self-determination are integrated into instruction in the school context.” 

“It is often assumed that students learn skills associated with self-determined action, such as goal setting, problem solving, and decision-making incidentally; however, more explicit instruction needs to be dedicated to these skills, which are included in almost all state or local education agency content objectives.” 

“By continuing to focus on and improve instruction to promote self-determination, it is possible to further enhance the focus on enabling young people with disabilities to set and achieve goals as causal agents in their own lives.”

Personal Takeaway

Self-determination positively predicts in- and post- school outcomes as well as transition planning for students with disabilities. Improved understanding of the development and skills associated with self-determination guides current assessment and intervention. Consequently, evidence-based interventions allow practitioners to feasibly and effectively integrate self-determination and skills associated with self-determined action into instruction within the school context for students with and without disabilities.


Ashley Parnell

Summarized Article:

Burke, K. M., Raley, S. K., Shogren, K. A., Hagiwara, M., Mumbardó-Adam, C., Uyanik, H., & Behrens, S. (2020). A meta-analysis of interventions to promote self-determination for students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 41(3), 176-188.

Listen to this article


The purpose of the current study was to identify self-regulated learning profiles among middle school students and to investigate whether these profiles related to multiple indicators of academic success and regulatory engagement in mathematics.

What is Self-Regulated Learning?

“Self-regulated learning (SRL) refers to a process of managing one’s thoughts, actions, and environment during learning or pursuit of goals.” SRL processes include goal-setting, planning, monitoring, and reflecting on one’s learning. Substantial research supports a positive relationship between these SRL processes, student achievement, and academic skills. Furthermore, SRL theorists have also posited that SRL is a context- and task-specific phenomenon. In other words, SRL can be influenced by contextual factors (e.g., quality of instruction and teacher support) and students’ perceptions of those contexts.

Measuring Levels of Self-Regulated Learning  

Three hundred and sixty-three middle school students participated in this study. Students completed self-report inventories and scales to measure perceived use of regulatory strategies, self-efficacy beliefs to engage in SRL, perception of teacher support, and feelings of connection with the school. Based on the results, researchers identified five cluster groups/profiles varying across two dimensions (i.e., SRL and perceived contextual supports) in the math classroom. Researchers then examined whether these profiles (i.e., High SRL- High Support, Solid SRL- Low Support, Low SRL- Supported, Very Low SRL- Low Support) differentially predict class engagement (i.e., measured by teacher rating scales) and math achievement (i.e., measured by report cards and standardized test scores). Students who do not feel supported or connected to school contexts and who demonstrate weak SRL skills (i.e., strategic & motivational) exhibited low levels of SRL in the classroom and were more likely to exhibit poor academic performance as reflected on standardized tests. On the other hand, students who reported frequent use of SRL skills, regardless of their level of perceived teacher support, exhibited stronger mathematics grades than those who did not frequently use SRL strategies.

Regardless of the level of support or connections that students felt in school, the groups who reported engaging more frequently in strategic and motivated behaviors for work outside of school were more likely to display adaptive SRL within the classroom, based on teacher reports.

Predictors of Student Behaviour and Academic Performance  

Research on the whole suggests that perceptions of the learning environment affect learners’ school-based functioning, but identifies SRL skills and motivational beliefs as stronger predictors of student behavior and academic performance.To best support learners who struggle in school, practitioners must understand the factors that most directly influence achievement while also recognizing that many of these factors concurrently operate and intersect within individuals in particular contexts. 

Given that SRL is a malleable, context-specific phenomena, efforts should be made to identify students exhibiting less adaptive function across both SRL skills and perceived contextual support and then provide relevant support targeting both dimensions  for these students. This is particularly important in an online learning environment, which necessitates a higher level of student responsibility and may increase the likelihood that students feel socially isolated and disconnected from teachers and others.

Notable Quote: 

“When viewed collectively, research suggests that students’ perceptions of learning contexts and teacher support are important when assessing students’ school‐based functioning, but that SRL and specific motivational beliefs may play a larger role in student behavior and academic performance.”

Personal Takeaway

Self-directed learning involves motivational, strategic, and contextual factors which uniquely and interactively influence learner achievement and engagement. An understanding of these dynamic influences and student profiles will help practitioners recognize the most at-risk students and, in turn, provide relevant supports targeting SRL skills and perceived contextual support to enhance engagement and achievement.


Ashley Parnell

Summarized Article:

Cleary, T. J., Slemp, J., & Pawlo, E. R. (2021). Linking student self‐regulated learning profiles to achievement and engagement in mathematics. Psychology in the Schools, 58(3), 443-457.

Listen to the Article


Key Takeaway
Geometry is an essential topic in mathematics, fundamental to young children’s mathematical learning and development. Results of the current study suggest that fostering self-regulation skills positively impacts the learning of early geometry skills. Accordingly, teachers should be prepared to effectively support and prioritize self-regulation skills within the context of geometric tasks and experiences. and Early Geometric Skills in Young Learners 
Ashley Parnell

Mathematics and Geometry in Early Childhood

“Early mathematical skills are important for young children as such skills establish a foundation for later mathematics learning and are predictive of later school success.”1,2 More specifically, “young children’s abilities to engage in geometric thought and spatial reasoning can support their overall mathematical and cognitive development”.3 Key aspects of geometry in the early grades include:  

  • Naming, comparing, and drawing geometric shapes
  • Describing characteristics of and establishing relationships between shapes
  • Composing, decomposing, and manipulating geometric figures

Self-Regulation and Geometry Skills

Self-regulation skills play a foundational role in learning and early mathematics. While a large body of research supports the relationship between self-regulation and mathematics, most of this research has focused on numbers and operations rather than geometry. 

Given the importance of geometry for young children, the present study investigated the relationship between early geometric skills and behavioral self-regulation skills. Participants included 202 children between the ages of 5 and 6. Trained undergraduate students administered direct measures of self-regulation and geometric skills scales to children. The mothers and teachers were asked to fill in the self-regulation skills scales on behalf of their children. The following aspects of self-regulation were measured:

  • Working memory (e.g., remembers the plans made or instructions given)
  • Inhibitory control (e.g., identify causes and consequences of others’ feelings; expresses feelings and thoughts)
  • Attention (e.g., follows rules even if they delay pleasure or conflict with his/her wishes. 

Findings from this study include:

  • “Teacher-reported self-regulation skills were positively correlated with geometric skills and behavioral self-regulation.”
  • “Higher behavioral and teacher-reported self-regulation skills of children were effective in determining the children who were in the higher geometric skills group.”
  • “A weak association among mother-reported self regulation skills, age and income with geometric skills and behavioral self-regulation skills.”
  • A significant relationship existed between age and self-regulation, but not between income levels.

Implications for practitioners include:

  • Teachers should know how to effectively support and incorporate self-regulation skills in the context of geometry experiences in early childhood settings (e.g., representing shapes through different media, drawing and constructing structures with blocks).
  • “Policy makers should prioritize and facilitate the implementation of self-regulation intervention programs and early mathematics curriculum with a strong emphasis on geometry tasks in early childhood classrooms.”

Summarized Article:

İvrendi, A., Erol, A., & Atan, A. (2021). Children’s geometric skills: Any ties to self-regulation skills?. The Journal of Educational Research, 1-10.

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion, and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional References:

  1. Ivrendi, A. (2016). Investigating kindergarteners number sense and self-regulation score in relation to their mathematics and Turkish scores in middle school. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 28(3), 405–420.
  2. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) & the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). (2010).Early childhood mathematics: Promoting good beginnings. [Online] Retrieved September 23, 2013, from
  3. Clements, D. H., Sarama, J., Swaminathan, S., Weber, D., & Trawick-Smith, J. (2018). Teaching and learning geometry: Early foundations. Quadrante, 27(2), 7-31. 

Key Takeaway:

Mind wandering has the potential to negatively impact the process of learning and has become more prevalent with the increased practice of online learning. Self-regulation interventions may be able to decrease mind wandering and should be widely taught to students. —Ashley M. Parnell

Self Directed Learning and Mind Wandering 

“Mind wandering, the direction of attention away from a primary task, has the potential to interfere with learning, especially in increasingly common self-directed, online learning environments.” Given the prevalence and negative consequences of mind wandering, this shift towards “self-directed learning environments with minimal supervision and maximal learner control has escalated the importance of the self-regulation of attention to ensure successful learning.”1  

Self Regulation to Combat Mind Wandering

Self-regulation can be defined as the ability to manage one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions to achieve a learning goal. “Decades of empirical evidence supports self-regulation’s role in enhancing learning, as well as strategies that may be taught and used to combat mind wandering and encourage on-task focus.” 

In response, the current study sought to examine the extent to which mind wandering harms training outcomes in self-directed learning environments, as well as to compare various strategies to prevent off-task thought. Drawing from three core theoretical perspectives on the causes of mind wandering, researchers created three intervention conditions, each focusing on more than one self-regulation strategy as summarized below.

Theoretical PerspectivesObjective & Intervention Strategies
Current concerns hypothesis: Mind wandering occurs when personal concerns and goals are more valued than the primary taskIncrease value of the task and decrease other concerns/distractors by:Goal settingEnvironmental structuring (i.e., identification & removal of environmental distractions)
Executive failure hypothesis: Mind wandering is a failure of executive controlUse proactive executive control to direct focus on-task through:Planning of learning activities & objectivesMetacognitive monitoring (constant evaluation of one’s learning progress)Use reactive executive control to suppress cues that trigger mind wandering through:Implementation intentions (i.e., If-then self statements)Time management Environmental structuring  
Meta-awareness hypothesis: Mind wandering results from not being aware of the contents of consciousness.Increase awareness of consciousness through:Mindfulness (attention to & awareness/ acceptance of the present moment)Metacognitive monitoring 

Researchers tested these three interventions in two experiments: a field study with 133 working adults and a lab study with 175 college students where participants completed a self-directed online Excel training. While self-regulation interventions and excel training conditions remained the same across studies, setting, timing, and participants differed.


Researchers reported the following findings based on the two studies conducted:

  • Mind wandering during training negatively impacts self-directed learning outcomes including knowledge, self-efficacy, and trainee reactions to training.
    • The negative effects of mind wandering were notably stronger in Study 2, which incorporated less self-pacing and reported lower motivation levels.  
    • Short, one-time, online intervention was not enough to alter use of self-regulation strategies.
  • Interventions largely failed to impact trainees’ self-regulation, mind wandering, or learning relative to the control group. However, the ineffectiveness of the self-regulation interventions does not indicate that the selected self-regulatory strategies were ineffective in deterring mind wandering. 
    • Correlational results indicated that strategies strongly associated with decreased mind wandering include:  “a) practicing mindfulness by being present in the moment, b) forming and utilizing implementation intentions, c) intermittently monitoring performance using self-directed evaluative questions, and d) structuring the learning environment to minimize distractions.” 

Considerations & Implications for Practice

Results warranted consideration of the following implications for practice:  

  • Motivation levels matter in training/learning. Designing and delivering self-directed learning in ways that do not bore or overwhelm learners, and incorporating motivational incentives, may decrease mind wandering and, subsequently, the harmful effects of mind wandering.
  • Initial, albeit limited, results identify strategies that may decrease mind wandering: mindfulness, metacognitive monitoring, implementation intentions, and environmental structuring. Given self-regulation’s inherent role in online learning, efforts to develop effective interventions to teach and develop these self-regulation strategies and skills should continue. 

Summarized Article:

Randall, J., Hanson, M., & Nassrelgrgawi, A. (2021). Staying focused when nobody is watching: Self‐regulatory strategies to reduce mind wandering during self‐directed learning. Applied Psychology. 10.1111/apps.12366

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion, and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Academic researcher Jason Randall participated in the final version of this summary. 

Additional References:

  1. Johnson, R. D., & Randall, J. G. (2018). A review of design considerations in e-learning. In D. L. Stone & J. H. Dulebohn (Eds.), Research in human resource management (pp. 141– 188). Information Age Publishing.

Key Takeaway

Although students with learning disabilities (LD) may experience difficulties throughout their academic career, they can develop strategies to overcome them—at times, without professional guidance. Yet, “active use of mentorship, coaching and support service units for students with LD will also contribute to ensuring greater success in higher education.” —Frankie Garbutt

Firat (Adiyaman University, Turkey) and Bildiren (Adnan Menderes University, Turkey) were intrigued by the increase in number of students with learning disabilities amongst university students overall. They wanted to know how these students may experience difficulties when compared to neuro-typical students because only a small percentage of students with LDs eventually graduate from university.

What Was Measured

The researchers collected a range of qualitative data on one student with learning disabilities (defined as ongoing problems with literacy and numeracy as well as verbal language use). They measured the strengths and weaknesses of the student throughout his academic life (from preschool to university) and how the student worked to build methods to overcome barriers to their academic progress. 

The participant’s strengths over his education career included motor development, problem-solving, social skills, a desire to develop, and self-advocacy. His weaknesses throughout his educational career included subject content, social skills, executive functioning, and metacognitive skills. 

Many of the difficulties he experienced in primary school continued through university, while one of his specific weaknesses in preschool, social skills, became a strength in his university years. 

He was able to develop strategies to succeed on his own by studying lessons, improving memory methods, and learning to speed read. Interestingly, the student had not been identified with learning needs until he entered university and took a course on learning disabilities. Alongside his academic career, the participant learned to grow his self-esteem with activities outside the classroom like “chess or wrestling.”

Recommendations and Limitations

“Socio-emotional and academic difficulties experienced by students with LD may also continue throughout their university education. In this context, academic staff may receive additional training for increasing their awareness on the requirements of students with LD and for learning how they can support these students better.” 

There are limitations to this research because “the study was carried out with a single student in the final year of his university education. Accordingly, the opinions of a greater number of students could be examined to yield more generalisable insights.”  

Furthermore, the study data relied on interviews with the participant which may be tainted by him not accurately remembering the strengths and difficulties he experienced throughout his academic career. “The acquired data are limited by the self-awareness level of the student. Hence, this can be taken into consideration in future studies and the opinions of the student can be taken together with those of their peers, students, and family members.” 

Summarized Article:

Fırat, T., & Bildiren, A. (2021). Strengths and weaknesses of a student with learning disabilities: from preschool to university. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 45(7), 958-972. 

Summary by: Frankie Garbutt- Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.

Key Takeaway: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) creates and supports personalized learning experiences that build learner independence, agency, and engagement. Maintaining student engagement, establishing a consistent learning routine, and monitoring progress and making instructional changes are ways to successfully apply UDL principles when teaching problem-solving skills remotely to students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). —Ashley Parnell

Summary: The shift to digital learning environments has provided an opportunity for special educators to use technology to deliver effective, high-quality instruction. Specifically, substantial research supports the use of Video-based Instruction (VBI) for teaching mathematics to students with ASD.

In this article, Cox, Root, and Gilley describe how one special education teacher, Mrs. Shaw, plans to “utilize VBI through free online platforms (i.e., SeeSaw, Loom) to implement a mathematical problem-solving instructional strategy (i.e., Modified Schema-based Instruction; MSBI) for students with ASD while at home.” On demand (i.e., asynchronous) videos will be used to deliver explicit strategy instruction, while allowing for flexibility (i.e., time, place, & pace) and opportunities to differentiate instruction based on individual student needs and preferences.

MSBI is an evidence-based practice for teaching mathematical problem-solving to students with mathematics-related disabilities and challenges. Supporting executive functioning skills and flexibility, MSBI provides a structured sequence of problem-solving strategies that can be applied across scenarios including: 1) identifying problem structure based on important features, 2) representing that information on a schematic diagram (i.e., graphic organizer), 3) making a plan, and 4) carrying out the plan and checking for reasonableness.

The study encourages teachers to merge/draw upon current research on TAI and evidence-based practices when planning for virtual problem-solving instruction, making sure to consider how the following high-impact instructional strategies can be maintained and addressed within remote learning environments.

Maintaining Student Engagement. “Students must be engaged in order to make progress on learning goals…The UDL framework helps teachers proactively consider barriers students may face during learning, and intentionally design instruction to reduce potential barriers.” Mrs. Shaw will increase engagement by contextualizing word problems within real-world themes relevant to student interest and background. Using VBI allows special educators to maintain principles of explicit instruction (i.e., modeling, quick pace, active student responding,etc.) while SeeSaw provides flexible opportunities and methods for students to demonstrate their learning, further enhancing student engagement.

Establishing a Consistent Learning Routine. Cox et al. emphasize the importance of predictable and consistent learning routines for students with ASD during remote learning. Screencasting tools such as Loom can be used to create a sequence of scripted video models that follow a model—guided practice—independent practice format. Visual supports including graphic organizers and checklists also provide structure and systematically guide students in following the problem-solving routine and daily schedule. Instructional videos and visual supports can be embedded within digital engagement platforms (e.g., SeeSaw) to establish clear and consistent expectations and routines.

Monitoring Progress and Making Instructional Changes. Aligning with the UDL framework, “Instructional data is used both to increase support when needed as well as challenge and progress through phases of learning.” Mrs. Shaw will view online work samples and student screen recordings during work completion, features available in Seesaw, to analyze errors and guide instructional decision making and modifications. Technology can be further leveraged to increase or decrease support (i.e., 1:1 Zoom sessions, targeted video models, fading of visual supports, self-monitoring tools).

Article Summarized:

Cox, S., Root, J., & Gilley, D. (2021). Let’s See That Again: Using Instructional Videos to Support Asynchronous Mathematical Problem Solving Instruction for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Special Education Technology, 36(2), 97-104.

Summary By: Ashley M. Parnell – Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Article Abstract

This work, a second edition of which has very kindly been requested, was followed by La Construction du réel chez l’enfant and was to have been completed by a study of the genesis of imitation in the child. The latter piece of research, whose publication we have postponed because it is so closely connected with the analysis of play and representational symbolism, appeared in 1945, inserted in a third work, La formation du symbole chez l’enfant. Together these three works form one entity dedicated to the beginnings of intelligence, that is to say, to the various manifestations of sensorimotor intelligence and to the most elementary forms of expression. The theses developed in this volume, which concern in particular the formation of the sensorimotor schemata and the mechanism of mental assimilation, have given rise to much discussion which pleases us and prompts us to thank both our opponents and our sympathizers for their kind interest in our work. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

MARIO Connections

Piaget’s introduction of the term “schema” and discussion of how children assimilate new information, from the earliest of stages primarily through the sensorimotor system, has influenced MARIO’s conception of the developmental continuum of learning. This continuum is embedded within the structure of both the elementary and secondary frameworks.