FAQ Friday: Is the term ‘individual’ important in my Child’s IEP?

one-on-one learningThe short answer: YES!

In 1984, Benjamin S. Bloom published a report in Educational Researcher (Vol. 13, No. 6) that examined the benefits of one-on-one education. “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring” concluded that students taught one-on-one WAY out-perform the vast majority of students taught in groups.

In close to 30 years since Bloom’s report, the evidence keeps stacking up in favor of one-on-one education, especially with children who struggle to read, write and spell — children with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other language-processing disorders. But one-on-one education is not a magic bullet. There ARE no magic bullets. Naturally, the content of teaching matters a lot and good group instruction might very well be more effective than poor one-on-one instruction.

In fact, many parents don’t realize that a public school child who has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is very unlikely to get any “individual education.” IEPs are almost always carried out in groups and often, because they have to address the needs of a diverse group, the teaching methods are often very similar to the methods used in general education.

What makes one-on-one instruction so much more effective than group education for building basic language-literacy skills?

There are a number of possibilities, but one of the most likely is that one-on-one instruction gives the child a lot more of the essential practice known as response challenges. (A response challenge is when the child is asked to respond in a way that demonstrates his or her knowledge and/or skill.) Response challenges are usually accompanied by immediate feedback, which is known to be important for building a skill. (In contrast, “homework” is practice, but usually without immediate feedback and sometimes without any feedback.) It stands to reason that there might be more opportunities for response challenges in one-on-one interchanges than in group settings.

Professor John Hattie has studied performance indicators to evaluate teaching methods — using evidence to build and defend a model of teaching and learning. (Teachers toolbox reprints a chart of Hattie’s effect sizes here.) While Hattie asserts that, when you look at a large population of children, “almost everything works” to some degree, certainly some teaching methods are more effective for some children.

As Brandt Redd comments in a July 2012 blog post that considers Hattie’s list of effects, “The top five influences all involve adapting the experience according to individual student needs.” That brings us right back to the close observation and feedback that’s possible only in one-on-one education.

Adapting learning to the individual student’s needs is basically what Lexercise is all about! Lexercise’s online services for struggling readers, writers and spellers are a motivating blend of high-touch and high-tech.

If your child has difficulty reading, writing or spelling, Lexercise can help. Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or request a free consult at this link.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.