Key Takeaway: 

Students with disabilities continue to be excluded from meaningful participation in physical education. However, structured and guided efforts to apply inclusion theory to practice at the teacher training stage has been shown to open up educators’ attitudes towards inclusion and equip them with the skills necessary to challenge ableist notions. —Akane Yoshida

Teacher Training for PE Inclusion

While inclusivity is a key feature of educational policy and legislation, physical education (PE) remains a curricular area that perpetuates the idea of able-bodiedness as the norm.1 This leads to the development of PE programs that neglect to offer the diverse learning experiences necessary for students with disabilities to fully participate in learning about and through movement.2

In this paper, authors Alfrey and Jeanes propose a model for initial teacher education that can substantially improve the experiences of students with disabilities in PE class, examining the impact of a unit of study co-created between one university and a local disability organization in Australia. 

The participants were third year student PE teachers undertaking a bachelor degree program. A 10-week unit of study was designed, beginning with the theoretical underpinnings of inclusion based on DeLuca’s framework for inclusion and leading to the co-design and implementation of lessons with young people connected with the disability organization.

Data was collected in the form of carefully timed written reflections from the teacher participants as well as recorded interviews. Both sets of qualitative data were then analyzed via a coding process. 

According to the authors, the teacher training unit “served to disrupt the [student teachers’] pre-existing normative and ableist assumptions, and better prepared them to teach students with a disability in PE. Importantly, the findings also suggest that the unit provided opportunities for [pre-service teachers] PSTs to explore and enact alternatives to the ‘disability as problem’ discourse that has circulated PE in the past.”

Success Factors 

Alfrey and Jeanes identified the following factors as being key to the success of the teacher training unit:

Impact on Knowledge and Practice

Student teachers reported that the opportunity to delve into definitions of inclusion and put Universal Design for Learning principles into practice, as well as interact with young people with disabilities for the first time (for many), was instrumental in widening their perspectives on inclusion.

Pedagogization of Theory

The unit of study was conceptualized through DeLuca’s interdisciplinary framework for inclusion (2013),3 which sets forth four stages of inclusion: 

  1. Normative, in which teachers seek to assimilate, rather than accommodate, students with differences;
  2. Integrative, in which teachers recognize differences and address them through formal modifications;
  3. Dialogical, in which teachers move away from labeling and categorizing, and instead celebrate diversity and individuality; and
  4. Transgressive, in which teachers dismantle the idea of the “dominant group” altogether and involve students in creating shared learning experiences.

Supporting the student teachers in the pedagogization of DeLuca’s theoretical framework allowed them to move away from “traditional ableist approaches” to PE, instead allowing them to “expect and celebrate diversity, avoid labels, and amplify the voices of their learners.”

Sense of Safety

Creating a supportive environment that allows student teachers the freedom to explore through trial and error was identified by participants as being a critical component of their learning.

Partnerships for Authentic Learning

Collaborating with the local disability organization lent an authenticity to the teacher training experience that participants valued.

Student Voice and Co-design

Participants stated that the opportunity to co-design lessons and collectively reflect with young people was instrumental to their training in centering student voice.

Summarized Article:

Alfrey, L., & Jeanes, R. (2021). Challenging ableism and the ‘disability as problem’ discourse: how initial teacher education can support the inclusion of students with a disability in physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 1-14.

Summary by: Akane Yoshida — Akane believes in the MARIO Approach because it puts student agency at the heart of the learning and goal-setting process. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.

Academic researcher Laura Alfrey participated in the final version of this summary. 

Additional References:

  1. Lalvani, P. & Broderick, A. (2013). Institutionalized ableism and the misguided “Disability Awareness Day”: Transformative pedagogies for teacher education. Equity and Excellence in Education, 46 (4), 468 – 483.
  2. Fitzgerald, H. & Stride, A. (2012). Stories about physical education from young people with disabilities. International Journal of Disability Development and Education, 59, 283 – 293. 
  3. DeLuca, C. (2013). Toward an interdisciplinary framework for educational inclusivity. Canadian Journal of Education, 36 (1), 305 – 347.

Key Takeaway 

It is very easy to gamify or incorporate games (virtual or otherwise) into a lesson plan to improve learning and/or motivate learners to be engaged. How can we ensure that they not only improve learning but cause learning as well? Using the Universal Design for Learning framework in connection to a review of related literature on motivation and social learning, this study has identified several effective factors that need to be considered for developing serious games. —Nika Espinosa

Role of Games in Learning

Serious games are activities that “serve as mediators to directly cause learning,” as defined by Landers (2015).1 A lot of research into serious games has shown conflicting evidence on their impact on education. However, observed inconsistencies can be resolved. Drawing from theories on social learning, motivation, and the framework of Universal Design for Learning, Watt and Smith (2021) determine guidelines for designing serious games.

“Virtually all games explored in these studies were single-player computer games.” These games do not support the importance of social learning. The evidence from social constructivism tells us that learning is dependent on the interaction between the learners. “Participation in cooperative learning strongly predicts student achievement2 as well as increasing student motivation and self-efficacy and decreasing anxiety.”3 Furthermore, the literature strongly suggests that even when the game has a social component, cooperative games are found to be more effective as opposed to competitive games with leaderboards and social components. 

“Motivation and engagement have been shown to have a positive effect on learning,4,5,6 and so can be considered moderators of learning.” Glynn et. al (2011)7 would like us to view motivation as having four key components: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and self-determination. 

There were six social learning factors and eight motivation factors identified as effective serious game design guidelines based on the literature reviewed by Watt and Smith (2021) in connection to Universal Design for Learning. 

Social Learning Factors for Game Design

The social learning factors are:

  • Introducing team-building activities before the learning activities.8
  • When designing games, a team identity that encourages membership maintenance should be developed.8,2 
  • Game design should lean more towards cooperative rather than competitive play.9,10,11,12 
  • Ensured opportunities where each member can be an expert through developing specialties.13 
  • Ensured opportunities where each member can teach other members in their expertise,13,14,15,16,17,18 
  • Experiential learning should be supported with a level of teacher guidance.19,20,21,22,23,24,25 

Motivational Factors for Game Design

 The motivational factors are:

  • Considerations for themes or narratives that are compelling.26,7 
  • Promoting self-determination through adequate decision-making and freedom of movement.27,28 
  • Provision of multiple attempts and strategies as opposed to a punitive approach to failure.29,30
  • In order to encourage grade motivation, learners need to be assessed on content within the game.31
  • Rewarding learning as opposed to performance.7 
  • Student achievement must be evident in order to earn rewards.7,8 
  • In-game rewards for learning should be included in order to benefit later play.28 
  • Immersion and visual elements should be balanced so as not to add unnecessary cognitive load.32 

An impressive, well-developed game can take several years to develop. “These games often require budgets of over half a billion dollars and teams of hundreds of developers to produce.” Educators do not have the time nor capacity to create such games. What educators can do instead is to deliver content material in a fun and engaging manner, by using these proposed guidelines, to ensure that it does not only improve learning but that there is learning happening as well.

Summarized Article:

Watt, K., & Smith, T. (2021). Research-Based Game Design for Serious Games. Simulation & Gaming, 104687812110067.

Summary by: Nika Espinosa—Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Landers, R. N. (2015). Developing a theory of gamified learning: Linking serious games and gamification of learning. Simulation and Gaming.
  2. Tsay, M., & Brady, M. (2010). A case study of cooperative learning and communication pedagogy: Does working in teams make a difference? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 10 (2), 78–89.
  3. Courtney, D. P., Courtney, M., & Nicholson, C. (1992). The effect of cooperative learning as an instructional practice at the college level. College Student Journal, 28 (4), 471–477. https://
  4. Paas, F., Tuovinen, J. E., Van Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Darabi, A. A. (2005). A motivational perspective on the relation between mental effort and performance: Optimizing learner involvement in instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53 (3), 25–34.
  1. Zhao, C. M., & Kuh, G. D. (2004). Adding value: Learning communities and student engagement. Research in Higher Education, 45 (2), 115–138.
  2. Carini, R. M., Kuh, G. D., & Klein, S. P. (2006). Student engagement and student learning: Testing the linkages. Research in Higher Education, 47 (1), 1–32. s11162-005-8150-9
  3. Glynn, S. M., Brickman, P., Armstrong, N., & Taasoobshirazi, G. (2011). Science motivation questionnaire II: Validation with science majors and nonscience majors. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48 (10), 1159–1176.
  4. Slavin, R. E. (2011). Instruction based on cooperative learning. In R. E. Mayer & P. A. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Learning (pp. 344–360).
  5. Abu-Dawood, S. (2016). The cognitive and social motivational affordances of gamification in E-Learning environment. Proceedings – IEEE 16th International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies, ICALT 2016, (July 2016), 373–375. ICALT.2016.126
  6. Johnson, D. W., Maruyama, G., Johnson, R., Nelson, D., & Skon, L. (1981). Effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures on achievement: A meta- analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 89 (1), 47–62.
  7. Kolawole, E. B. (2008). Effects of competitive and cooperative learning strategies on academic performance of Nigerian students in mathematics. Educational Research and Reviews, 3 (1), 33–37.
  8. Qin, Z., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1995). Cooperative versus competitive efforts and problem solving. Review of Educational Research, 65 (2), 129–143.
  1. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  2. Devin-Sheehan, L., Feldman, R. S., & Allen, V. L. (1976). Research on children tutoring children: A critical review. Review of Educational Research, 46 (3), 355–383. https://doi. org/10.2307/1170008
  3. O’Donnell, A. M. (2006). The role of peers and group learning. In P. A. Alexander & P. H. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 781–802). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  4. Palincsar, A. S., Brown, A. L., & Martin, S. M. (2011). Peer interaction in reading comprehension instruction. Educational Psychologist, 22 ( 3–4 ), 231–253. 520.1987.9653051
  5. Rosenshine, B., & Meister, C. (1994). Reciprocal teaching: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 64 (4), 479–530.
  6. Webb, N. M. (2008). Learning in small groups. In T. L. Good (Ed.), 21st Century education: A reference handbook (pp. 203–211). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
  7. Brown, A., & Campione, J. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice (pp. 229– 270). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  8. Hardiman, P. T., Pollatsek, A., & Well, A. D. (1986). Learning to understand the balance beam. Cognition and Instruction, 3 (1), 63–86.
  9. Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41 (2), 75–86. https://
  10. Mayer, R. E. (2004). Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning? The case for guided methods of instruction. American Psychologist, 59 (1), 14–19.
  11. Moreno, R. (2004). Decreasing cognitive load for novice students: Effects of explanatory versus corrective feedback in discovery-based multimedia. Instructional Science, 32 (1–2), 99–113.
  12. Sweller, J., Mawer, R. F., & Howe, W. (1982). Consequences of history-cued and means-end strategies in problem solving. The American Journal of Psychology, 95 (3), 455–483.
  13. Tuovinen, J. E., & Sweller, J. (1999). A comparison of cognitive load associated with discovery learning and worked examples. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91 (2), 334–341.
  14. Garris, R., Ahlers, R., & Driskell, J. E. (2002). Games, motivation, and learning: A research and practice model. Simulation and Gaming, 33 (4), 441–467. https://doi. org/10.1177/1046878102238607
  15. Black, A. E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The effects of instructors’ autonomy support and students’ autonomous motivation on learning organic chemistry: A self-determination theory perspective. Science Education, 84 (6), 740–756. 237X(200011)84:6<740::AID-SCE4>3.0.CO;2-3
  16. Westera, W. (2019). Why and how serious games can become far more effective: Accommodating productive learning experiences, learner motivation and the monitoring of learning gains. Educational Technology & Society, 22 (1), 59–69. Retrieved from stable/26558828?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
  17. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Macmillan.
  18. Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G. V., & Pastorelli, C. (1996). Multifaceted impact of self-efficacy beliefs on academic functioning. Child Development, 67 (3), 1206–1222.
  19. Herrington, J., Reeves, T. C., & Oliver, R. (2010). A guide to authentic e-Learning. In A Guide to Authentic e-Learning.
  20. Cheng, M. T., Lin, Y. W., She, H. C., & Kuo, P. C. (2017). Is immersion of any value? Whether, and to what extent, game immersion experience during serious gaming affects science learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48 (2), 246–263.

Key Takeaway

How can we make certain that the technological tools available to educators are effective in engaging and ensuring learning for students who have learning difficulties? Love and Ewoldt suggest having a guide to help educators evaluate the digital resources that help our neurodiverse learners be successful during online learning. —Nika Espinosa

A Guide to Gauge Online Learning Tools

As we continue to navigate online learning as a response not only to education evolving but the worldwide pandemic as well, it is imperative that we scrutinize the different platforms we use to ensure that all our students are engaged, supported, and learning appropriate content. “However, information related to how students with learning disabilities (LDs) access online learning environments has proven difficult to ascertain.”1 There are so many platforms out there; how do we gauge the most effective ones? As our learners are neurodiverse, it is highly unlikely that special educators will find a standardized platform that will suit our learners. Love and Ewoldt instead propose, through the lens of universal design for learning, a guide to gauge these platforms for our students.

“In supporting students with LDs in asynchronous environments, the process for evaluating, implementing, and supplementing asynchronous instructional materials should be systematic in nature.” The authors, in their article, proposed the following guidelines:

Alignment with Standards 

Schools and educators work in environments where academic standards are expected to be achieved. It is important that the digital resources being utilized allow for opportunities, if not certainty, for standards to be met. As special educators, we need to make those clear connections between individualized educational goals and academic standards. However, the authors encourage going beyond just alignment. Once learning targets are determined, educators then need to determine if the instructional digital resources can support our neurodiverse learners.

Addressing Student Needs 

Love & Ewoldt suggest that educators consider the following steps:

  • ensure that an organizer is present for the task;
  • activate background knowledge and make material relevant by connecting to previous learning;
  • clearly establish learning targets;
  • help students in organizing themselves;
  • ensure explicit instruction that includes academic language, key concepts, and opportunities that allow for student application;2 
  • and provide opportunities for students to give and receive feedback.

These points can evaluate whether the instructional materials will be able to reach learning targets and, at the same time, ensure that our student accommodations or scaffolds are met. 

Course Navigation 

Materials used need to be scrutinized on how well they can support our learners’ navigation of both platform and content, presentation of academic language, and how they address student accommodations and modifications. “Significant evidence supports the idea that when information is presented clearly through the material given to students with LDs via digital interfaces, gains in new knowledge and skills can be made in a variety of academic areas.”3 Multimedia used should also present information in such a way that it doesn’t distract the learner from the learning engagement. 


“Finally, special educators should ensure that adequate measures of student progress are available within the tools they are evaluating.” This can look like feedback on how students are responding to the technological resources, but at the same time, it should also include independent tasks that show learning. Special educators can scrutinize whether these resources are able to reflect student learning. 

There are many fantastic digital platforms available to educators to support and enhance learning. “However, given the rapidly evolving nature of research into the technology necessary for delivering online instruction, it is important that guidance be provided to practitioners for establishing and implementing effective online learning environments.” The guidelines proposed by Love and & Ewoldt can help us ensure that our neurodiverse learners will be supported and are learning along with their peers. 

Summarized Article:

Love, M. L., & Ewoldt, K. B. (2021). Implementing Asynchronous Instructional Materials for Students With Learning Disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 105345122110018.

Summary by: Nika Espinosa – Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Basham, J. D., Carter, R. A., Rice, M. F., & Ortiz, K. (2016). Emerging state policy in online special education. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 29(2), 70–78.
  2. Hughes, C. A., Morris, J. R., Therrien, W. J., & Benson, S. K. (2017). Explicit instruction: Historical and contemporary contexts. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 32(3), 140–148.
  3. Kennedy, M. J., Thomas, C. N., Meyer, J. P., Alves, K. D., & Lloyd, J. W. (2014). Using evidence-based multimedia to improve vocabulary performance of adolescents with LD: A UDL approach. Learning Disability Quarterly, 37(2), 71–86.

Key Takeaway

By using Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusive Design methodologies and principles in combination, websites can be designed to be accessible for all people. Innovative solutions to website design must be done in conjunction with people with disabilities, in order to ensure accessibility. This will allow all citizens to have access to information without barriers, especially during a pandemic. —Tanya Farrol 

The Need for More Accessible Websites

The pandemic has caused more and more people to rely on the internet to gain access to basic services, like food, education, healthcare, and legal services. This has led to the glaring realization of how inaccessible websites are for people with disabilities and how they can pose a barrier. In 2019 and 2020, over 1 million US websites were tested by WebAim, and 98.1% were found to be non-compliant to legal accessibility standards.1

This article explores the various disability models to the design process, and examines how Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusive Design methodologies and principles can work in combination to design accessible websites for all people.

Over 1 billion people today (15%) of the population have a disability.2 The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) classifies disability as “impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions” and takes into consideration “body functions, body structures, activities, participation and the environment” in the design thinking process.3 The ICF is concerned with providing insight into the “human experience when accessing information online.”

With the creation of the Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit for the business and technology sectors, it “redefines what disabilities are and how they happen” (O’Neill, 2021). The toolkit uses a Persona Spectrum Model and explains that there are three types of disabilities—permanent, temporary, and situational.4 For example, the big buttons on an Xbox Adaptive Controller works for someone in a cast (temporary disability), a parent holding a child (situational disability), and a person with one arm (permanent disability).

Ableism is prevalent in our society. We continually devalue disabilities by using a medical model to “fix” the disability. This ableism has led to the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities to participate in our society. Web designers have ability biases where they design based on their own perceptions of the needs and wants of people with disabilities. Instead, we need to invite people with a variety of disabilities to be part of the design process, in order to innovate and improve web accessibility. 

Abilities Design is an umbrella term for the three design disciplines that design for accessibility and for people’s various abilities: Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusive Design. They are outlined briefly below. 

Universal Design

“Universal Design focuses on developing solutions that can be used by everyone without any alterations” (O’Neill, 2021). It is commonly known as Design for One—Design for All. It has 7 principles: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for approach to use.5

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL is founded on the earlier work of Universal Design and is a framework to improve teaching methodologies based on how people learn. It has three principles:

  • Engagement—motivating students to learn—the why of learning
  • Representation—presenting information in different ways—the what of learning
  • Action and Expression—differentiated ways to express learners knowledge—the how of learning6

Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design is a methodology that provides adaptive solutions in their designs for various people. The framework centers around:

  • recognizing that the design must take into account each person’s ability and uniqueness;
  • using  “open and transparent processes” and co-designing with the people “who will be most affected by the design solution;”7
  • designing in a “complex adaptive system” that “suits the needs of different people.”8

Case Study: Two Judicial Websites

O’Neill (2021) performed a case study into the accessibility of two judicial websites, the US Southern District of Mississippi and the Sixth Judicial District of Minnesota, used the three disciplines of Abilities Design. For Universal Design, there were too many drop-down menus, which made it difficult for people with sight impairments or learning disabilities to find information. For UDL, there was too much written text, making it challenging for people with dyslexia or those whose first language was not English. In the Inclusive Design, there was a strong need to adapt the website and put in an accessibility panel that would give people greater control over the website, e.g. adjusting color contrast or changing the size of the font.

There are some great resources used by the US government to build accessible websites that adhere to the Abilities Design disciplines.

  • The US Web Design System (USWDS)—has good design principles and page templates to build accessible websites.9
  • The US General Services Administration created Accessibility for Teams—a quick, online guide for how to use inclusive design practices for accessible websites.10

Abilities Design is the way forward in using a combination of the principles and methodologies of Universal Design, UDL, and Inclusive Design to create access to digital information. By focusing on the abilities of people with disabilities and including them in the design process, we will innovate and create a more inclusive society. 

Summarized Article:

O’Neill, J. L. (2021). Accessibility for All Abilities: How Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning, and Inclusive Design Combat Inaccessibility and Ableism. J. Open Access L., 9, 1.

Summary by: Tanya Farrol – Tanya believes that the MARIO Framework is a personalized learning experience that develops skills and empowers learners to become an integral part of their learning journey.

Additional References:

  1. The WEBAIM Million: An annual accessibility analysis of the top 1,000,000 home pages. WebAIM. (2020, February). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  2. World Health Organization and World Bank. (2011). World Report on Disability 2011. World Health Organization. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  3. World Health Organization. (2002). Towards a Common Language for Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). World Health Organization. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  4. Microsoft. (2016). Inclusive Microsoft Design 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  5. The 7 principles. Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. (2020). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  6. CAST. (2021, April 20). About universal design for learning. CAST. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  7. Bjögvinsson, E., Ehn, P., and Hillgren, P.-A. (2012), Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges, Design Issues 2012, vol. 28, no. 3, Summer 2012, pp. 101–16.
  8. Treviranus, J. (2018, July 10). The three dimensions of inclusive design. Medium. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  9. US General Services Administration. (n.d.). USWDS: The United States Web Design System. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 
  10. US General Services Administration, Technology Transformation Services . (n.d.). Accessibility for Teams. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 

Key Takeaway: Co-teaching has the demonstrated potential to positively impact the experiences and academic performance of students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms, yet numerous studies have demonstrated that without sufficient training, planning time, or instructional feedback, the potential gains are not consistently realized in practice. —Erin Madonna

What Was Shared: The purpose of Yazeed Alnasser’s study was to draw out general and special education teacher’s thoughts around co-teaching in inclusive classrooms, allowing for the identification of perceived barriers to effective co-teaching. Four co-teaching pairs, eight teachers in total, were observed and interviewed at a public elementary school in Colorado, USA. The study centered three questions:

  1. “How is co-teaching implemented in an inclusive elementary school classroom in Colorado?
  2. How do co-teachers justify their preferences regarding the models of co-teaching they utilise?
  3. How do co-teachers perceive the barriers that exist in the co-teaching environment of the inclusive classroom?”

Alnassar provides a thorough literature review that elucidates the following understandings:

  • Co-teaching refers to the inclusive practice of at least two educators delivering core instruction in partnership to a heterogeneous group of students within one setting.
  • Despite encompassing multiple models of delivery, the one teach and one assist model is the most commonly used approach to co-teaching.
  • Students with disabilities, who receive instruction in inclusive settings from a co-teaching team, outperformed like peers in segregated settings who did not receive co-teaching instruction.
  • Co-teaching is an approach which has been shown to benefit diverse populations of students, including English language learners and at-risk students.
  • Additional benefits of co-teaching include reduced stigma, increased access to the general education curriculum, a reduction of disruptive behaviors, and increased stability for teachers as they are working with peer support.
  • Thorough training is necessary in order for co-teaching pairs to provide highly effective instruction.
  • Limited planning time negatively impacts the quality of instruction co-teaching pairs can provide. 
  • Special educators often do not have equal status in co-teaching classrooms, with mutual respect and trust lacking in multiple studies. Consistently, in the reviewed studies, general education teachers took primary responsibility for the content while special educators supported through reteaching, providing accommodations and modifications, and managing behavior. 
  • Preparation prior to entering into a co-teaching relationship, including conversations around potential challenges, may mitigate threats to a functioning partnership.
  • “Despite rapid increase in popularity and use, co-teaching remains one of the most commonly misunderstood practices in education.”

Research Question (1): Three themes were drawn out of the observation data:

  • The number of students with IEPs in each classroom felt unmanageable, with every classroom having at least eight students receiving special education services.
  • Adjustment of the general education curriculum through accommodations, modifications, or differentiation, was largely the responsibility of the special educators with shared responsibility for providing these services only present in one observation. Almost universally, the teachers delivered verbal instruction and wrote on the white board without providing differentiation or sufficient accommodation or modification.
  • A one teach-one assist model was used in all observations, despite the model having limited support in literature. Parallel teaching was used for only 10 minutes in one observation.

Research Question (2): One primary theme arose from one-to-one interviews with the teachers:

  • The teachers justified their preference for the one teach-one assist model by pointing out that it was possible to implement without increased planning time, that it met their understanding of the roles the general education teacher (content delivery) and the special education teacher (adapting content) play, and that it was the easiest model to use.

Research Question (3): Four themes addressing barriers arose from one-to-one interviews with the teachers:

  • All teachers struggled to identify the vision or goal of co-teaching in their school.
  • The teachers shared that they either did not have shared planning time at all or that the amount of time they had was insufficient to effectively plan together.
  • All teachers shared that they would benefit from instructional feedback and coaching, with clear expectations in place. They did not feel that this level of administrative support was currently in place.
  • All teachers felt that they had insufficient professional development around co-teaching topics.

Alnasser discusses the following points and suggests actions that may improve the efficacy of co-teaching in inclusive classrooms:

  • When administrators are lacking knowledge of effective co-teaching, it is impossible for them to provide quality feedback or coaching to their staff.
  • In-depth professional development for both teachers and administrators is needed if implementing a co-teaching model.
  • “To make co-teaching successful, it is important to provide time for teachers to engage in co-planning.” Careful attention should be paid during scheduling to the balance of all learners within an inclusive setting to ensure caseloads are manageable.
  • “None of the participants were able to identify the school’s vision for co-teaching.” Developing a clear vision for co-teaching with actionable goals is necessary for success.

Co-teaching has the potential to be a transformative practice in inclusive classrooms if quality professional development and adequate planning time are provided, if administration engages in regular feedback cycles with their staff, and if the relationship between general education and special education teachers is collaborative and mutually respectful.

Summarized Article:

Alnasser, Y. A. (2021). The perspectives of Colorado general and special education teachers on the barriers to co-teaching in the inclusive elementary school classroom. Education 3-13, 49(6), 716–729.

Summary by: Erin Madonna—Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted conviction that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.

Key Takeaway: In evaluating the intervention strategies we employ with students, we must consider both global effectiveness and effectiveness for target populations, as the success of the intervention may differ depending on the student population it is serving. As educators, we strive to be measured in practice, so monitoring the impact of an intervention within our own unique context is one way to responsibly apply what we have learned from the research base. —Erin Madonna

Self-questioning (SQ) strategy intervention is designed to engage the learner in monitoring their own understanding as they read, increasing their active construction of meaning in the process. Previous studies have shown SQ to be an effective intervention for improving comprehension, and it is cited in both the National Reading Panel report (2000)1 and Willingham’s subsequent analysis (2006-2007)2 as being supported by conclusive evidence. Furthermore, “past systematic reviews for this student population have shown that combining self-questioning strategy with paragraph restatement/summarization,3 main idea generation, and text structure analysis4 have yielded positive outcomes.”

Daniel and Williams’ purpose in undertaking this review was to address the lack of specificity in previous syntheses pertaining to the effect of the SQ strategy instruction on the development of reading comprehension skills in struggling K-12 readers rather than on a heterogenous population as previous reviews have undertaken. 

Comprehension strategies have the potential to enable struggling readers to digest text as proficient readers would.5 There are two categories of SQ strategies that have been explored in previous studies: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down strategy puts the question-generation responsibility on the student, asking them to pose and answer their own questions while reading a text. The bottom-up approach involves the teacher generating questions prior to reading, with the student actively seeking answers during the reading of the text. One benefit of a top-down approach, as shared by the authors, is that students are able to generalize their use of the strategy to other contexts. “Teaching students to independently use the strategy through a top-down approach provides them with tools to problem solve comprehension failures independently. Hence, only interventions that used the top-down approach to learning self-questioning strategy were included in this synthesis.”

Ten studies met the criteria for inclusion pertaining to the diagnostic category of students: experiment design, isolated SQ strategy instruction utilizing student-generated questions, the use of measures of reading comprehension, and English language instruction. There were 129 students identified as having a reading-based learning disability, and 137 students identified as struggling readers were included in this review. Students with comorbidity of additional diagnoses were not included. The frequency, cohort size, and duration of the strategy instruction varied between the included studies.  

In discussing the results of the included studies as well as findings from their literature review, the authors highlighted some potential hypotheses indicated in the data:

  • The “self-questioning strategy may be more effective for students who are moderately below grade level in reading.”6
  • “Students who read three or more years below grade level may need more intensive interventions such as increased frequency and duration of sessions to gain proficiency in strategy use.”7 
  • The SQ strategy may be more effective with elementary students than with secondary students.8,9 
  • “While both explicit and non-explicit strategy instruction may be beneficial for improving struggling readers’ reading comprehension, explicit strategy instruction may improve generalization and allow students to use self-questioning strategy independently.”
  • “While self-questioning strategy may benefit some students, we recommend that teachers monitor students’ comprehension outcomes and if the strategy is not having the desired effect, to consider alternative reading comprehension strategies.”

This review did not find conclusive support for the effectiveness of isolated SQ strategy instruction for students identified with a learning disability or as a struggling reader, but it did identify avenues for further investigation. The authors were careful to note important limitations to the current synthesis, namely the scarcity of research directly measuring the isolated SQ strategy amongst students identified with a learning disability or as struggling readers, small sample sizes in the included studies, and the challenge of isolating the impact of the SQ strategy in studies looking at multiple interventions.

Summarized Article: 

Daniel, J., & Williams, K. J. (2019). Self-questioning strategy for struggling readers: A synthesis. Remedial and Special Education, 0741932519880338.

Summary by: Erin Madonna – Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted conviction that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.

Additional References: 

  1. National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  2. Willingham, D. T. (2006–2007). The usefulness of brief instruction in reading comprehension strategies. American Educator, 30(4), 39–50.
  3. Sencibaugh, J. M. (2007). Meta-analysis of reading comprehension interventions for students with learning disabilities: Strategies and implications. Reading Improvement, 44(10), 6–22. Retrieved from
  4. Berkeley, S., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2010). Reading comprehension instruction for students with learning disabilities, 1995-2006: A meta-analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 31, 423–436. doi:10.1177/0741932509355988
  5. Pressley, M., Borkwski, J. G., & Schneider, W. (1989). Good information processing: What it is and how education can promote it. International Journal of Educational Research, 13, 857–867.
  6. Nolan, T. E. (1991). Self-questioning and prediction: Combining metacognitive strategies. Journal of Reading, 35, 132–138.
  7. Vaughn, S., Wanzek, J., Murray, C. S., & Roberts, G. (2012). Intensive interventions for students struggling in reading and mathematics: A practice guide. Portsmouth, NH: Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.
  8. Scammacca, N. K., Roberts, G. J., Vaughn, S., & Stuebing, K. K. (2015). A meta-analysis of interventions for struggling readers in grades 4–12: 1980–2011. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48, 369–390
  9. Wanzek, J., & Vaughn, S. (2007). Research-based implications from extensive early reading interventions. School Psychology Review, 36, 541–561.]

Key Takeaway: A number of factors affect the perception of key stakeholders in relation to the fairness of assessment practices for students with learning differences. Elements such as student disability, existing assessment processes, the socio-emotional environment, stakeholders’ conceptions of fairness, and contextual facilitators and barriers to inclusive practices interact to influence the overall fairness factor of classroom assessment. Having an awareness of this multidimensional conceptualization of fairness is helpful in evaluating whether assessment practices are offering equal opportunities to demonstrate learning, and also scaffolds students’ ability to self-advocate for their needs. -Akane Yoshida

“Creating inclusive classrooms has been a justice movement in education,” say Rasooli et. al., and in this paper they seek to fill the void they find in current literature regarding fairness in assessment practices by adding the voices of students with learning differences, their parents, and their teachers to the mix. 

Their paper contributes a framework for fairness in assessment as “a multidimensional concept that is negotiated and navigated in the cyclical and dynamic interactions with classroom teaching and interactions.” According to the authors, this conceptualization is “closely tied with the sociocultural theories of assessment that recognise the social, cultural and economic milieu within which teachers and students interpret and enact fairness in assessment.”

The study methodology describes a process by which data was pulled from open-ended surveys submitted by teachers, students, and their parents from 19 secondary schools across Australia. The questionnaires included such queries as “How was the assessment adjusted for you?” for the student survey, “Do you think this adjustment better allowed [your child] to demonstrate what [they] knew or could do?” for the parent survey, and “Do you think you would adjust assessment differently in the future for this student? If yes, please comment on what changes you would make.” for the teacher survey. Inductive and thematic coding was used by the researchers to identify themes in the responses. Through this analysis, four larger themes emerged: “conceptions of fairness, fair classroom assessment practices, fair socio-emotional environment and contextual barriers and facilitators of fair practices.”

Summarized below are the findings in relation to each theme:

  1. Overall conceptions of fairness: Participants expressed equal accessibility for all students as being the greatest determinant of fairness in assessment. Adjustments to assessment practices were thought to be fair when they offered students with learning differences optimal opportunity for success in line with mainstream expectations.
  1. Fair classroom practices: Three sub-themes emerged from the responses as factors that can support or hinder fairness in assessment:
  • Differentiation of the assessment preparation process and design (accessibility of the mode of assessment, clarity in the task format and expectations, as well as the opportunity to prepare for the assessment)
  • Differentiation of assessment settings and environment (provision of a quiet space, additional time and breaks) 
  • Differentiation of assessment scheduling (ensuring that multiple assessments do not occur within a short period of time)
  1. Fair socio-emotional environment: Three sub-themes emerged here as well:
  • Student self-concept 
  • Impact of the learning difference on the socio-emotional environment
  • Relationships with teachers and peers
  1. Contextual barriers and facilitators of fair practices: Participants identified school and national-level policies, teacher experience, availability of paraprofessionals and other human resources, class size and parent influence as being the most influential factors in fair assessment.

While the study drew upon participants from a variety of grade levels and learning differences, it concedes that future research involving a larger sample size from a wider range of educational systems would be necessary in order to lend greater credibility to its conclusions. 

Summarized Article:

Rasooli, A., Razmjoee, M., Cumming, J., Dickson, E., & Webster, A. (2021). Conceptualising a Fairness Framework for Assessment Adjusted Practices for Students with Disability: An Empirical Study. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 1-21.

Summary by: Akane Yoshida—Akane believes that developing supportive and nurturing relationships with students is key to helping them to attain their personal benchmarks for success. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.

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.

Key Takeaway: Educators can consider Goldilocks to be a metaphor to describe learners who experience Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Utilizing both classroom menus and UDL design challenges can help educators plan a range of activities in their classes which can serve as a “buffet” from which learners can pick “just right” activities. —Matt Barker

“Goldilocks is the perfect metaphor for describing learners experiencing universal design for learning (UDL) because it highlights the importance of learner agency,” says Edyburn and Edyburn as they dive into the essential practices for developing meaningful classroom menus or buffets to meet the needs of diverse learners. The teacher plays a pivotal role in planning educational activities and as such needs support as to how to implement UDL both through the use of educational materials and technologies. Teachers need to consider the general characteristics of diverse learners and support them to choose “just right” learning activities to improve learning outcomes. 

First, teachers need to “bridge the gap between knowing about UDL and doing UDL.” The challenge is for teachers to provide a variety of meaningful activities. One way to do this is for teachers to embark on “discovering alternatives,” essentially, recognising that there are many similar products in the technology marketplace that address a particular challenge.

One example is supporting students with managing their to-do lists. In this instance, it is recommended that the teacher provides a menu of options. This might include the “cloud-based to-do list Remember the Milk”. In this example, the variety of options could be provided as a web list menu, where the learners are supported to review the options to find the one that is “just right.”  To find programs to add to this menu, the authors suggest using a crowd-sourced recommendation platform such as AlternativeTo. In this instance, searching “Alternatives to Remember The Milk” should bring up said platform.

Edyburn and Edyburn (2021) also suggest exploring curated guides. This essentially means investigating websites curated by educators that help teachers navigate various technology tools for learners. 

Once the teacher has begun collating their technology tools, they need to consider how to organize and manage these resources in an online toolkit format. The authors provide three management system suggestions:

  • Using a Web List Menu through the use of web pages
  • Providing an Equalizer Menu, where a range of options are available from easiest to hardest
  • Utilizing a Tic-Tac-Toe Menu, where teachers identify nine learning activities for a topic and students select a row of three activities to complete

The authors then investigate the use of Design Challenges to provide solutions in terms of rolling out UDL in the classroom. They explain that “the development of UDL design challenges” has been created to empower “educators [to] think about accessibility, engagement, and learning solutions in a format that could help standardize decision-making about design interventions.” Furthermore, each challenge is modelled to value academic diversity by asking “what do teachers need to know about why and how students struggle to proactively embed supports to ensure that students can access, engage, and benefit from the learning activities?”

Finally, the authors suggest a four level rubric that can be used by the teacher to assess how effectively they have created a series of “just right” activities. In this instance, they consider text complexity, but the performance indicators can be edited to match the planned activities. The rubric levels are:

Level 0: Beginning performance

  • “no evidence of meaningful student choice”

Level 1: Approaching performance

  • Demonstrates “an appreciation for the need for UDL”
  • Provides an element of choice

Level 2: Meeting performance

  • Multimedia options provided in how the activity is accessed
  • The teacher has a “clearly articulated philosophy that recognized that no single intervention may be sufficient and that multiple tools may be necessary”

Level 3: Exceeding performance

  • As well as level 2, the teacher provides tools that “the students can use to modify the cognitive accessibility of the text” (referenced in Edyburn, 2002)1

Summarized Article:

Edyburn, K., & Edyburn, D. L. (2021). Classroom Menus for Supporting the Academic Success of Diverse Learners. Intervention in School and Clinic, 56(4), 243-249.

Summary by: Matt Barker — Matt loves how the MARIO Framework empowers learners to make meaningful choices to drive their personalized learning journeys.

Additional References

  1. Edyburn, D. L. (2002). Cognitive rescaling strategies: Interventions that alter the cognitive accessibility of text. Closing the Gap, 1, 10-11.