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Free Resource Friday: Improve LD Instruction With 'Practice Alerts'

I'm trying something new with the blog that will hopefully connect my habit of websurfing with my love of free things: a weekly link to free resources related to special education.

Today's offering comes from the Division for Learning Disabilities, a subgroup of the Council for Exceptional Children. The DLD periodically releases "practice alerts" that offer an assessment of the worthiness of various "hot" educational practices. The goal of the division seems to be to separate fads from research-validated, effective instructional practice.

The latest teaching method to get a thumbs up from the group is vocabulary instruction; basically, targeting specific vocabulary words for direct instruction, rather than assuming that children will be able to increase their vocabularies solely through reading and other forms of indirect learning.

I remember very well being assigned lists of vocabulary words in grade school, so it feels like direct instruction in vocabulary words should be considered good teaching practice. But what's particularly interesting to me about these practice alerts are the instructional methods that the division says show little research basis for effectiveness, like co-teaching, social skills or "character" instruction, or cooperative learning. All of those instructional methods have a strong fan base, but proof of their effectiveness is limited, according to the researchers consulted by the authors of the alerts.

My main concern is that some of the practice alerts are old, and that there are so many other educational practices that could use careful examination. (Where's response to intervention?) But the Division of Learning Disabilities says it welcomes comments, so if you'd like to suggest other areas their researchers should take a look at, let them know.

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