Current Practice Alerts

TLD's recommended format for citing Current Practice Alerts is as follows:

Espin, C., Shin, J., & Busch, T. (2000). Formative evaluation. Current Practice Alerts, 3, 1-4. Retrieved from http://TeachingLD.org/alerts

The Alerts series is a joint initiative sponsored by two divisions of the Council for Exceptional Children—the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) and the Division for Research (DR).

Each Current Practice Alert provides timely and informed judgments regarding professional practices in the field with a special focus on learning disabilities. Based on the adequacy of the current knowledge base and practice experience, each Alert makes a recommendation of “Go For It” (practices for which there is solid research evidence of effectiveness), or “Use Caution” (practices for which the research evidence is preliminary, incomplete, mixed, or negative).

DLD invites suggestions regarding ways in which we can improve the Alerts series as well as suggestions regarding target practices for future issues. Please contact us with your comments and suggestions.

  • Brain-Based Learning (Use caution)

    Amy E. Ruhaak
    Alert Issue 28, Winter

    Brain-based learning is the integration of neuroscience research and theory, education theory, and instructional practice used to address the specific needs of individuals student learning.  This alert describes brain-based learning and how it works in addition to reviewing the current research on the topic.

    PDF (5p, 1.52 MB)

  • Self-Monitoring (Go for it)

    Pena L. Bedesem and Brian R. Barber, Kent State University; Tanya Santangelo, Arcadia University
    Alert Issue 27, Summer

    Self-monitoring involves two components: self-assessment and self-recording. In this Alert, the authors review the literature on self-monitoring as it has been used for attention and performance in the classroom. This Alert also describes the process of self-monitoring and provides materials to support it. 

    PDF (6p, 1.74 MB)

  • Collaborative Strategic Reading (Go for it)

    Wendy Cavendish and Kristen Hodnett
    Alert Issue 26, Winter 2017

    Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) is a peer-mediated reading comprehension instructional model informed by the methods in reciprocal teaching, cooperative learning, and transactional strategies instruction. The strategies in CSR are designed to teach students with diverse abilities comprehension strategies for use with expository text. Wendy Cavendish and Kristen Hodnett describe and provide evidence for CSR in this Go For It! Alert.

    PDF (6p, 1.7 MB)

  • Peer-mediated Instruction for Secondary Students (Go for it)

    Jade Wexler, University of Maryland and Deborah Reed, University of Iowa
    Alert Issue 25, Spring 2016

    According to the authors, peer-mediated instruction is a broad term for an instructional format that requires same-age peers to take on roles and follow a systematic procedure to learn content and/or improve skills. Peer-mediated instruction can be implemented in many formats and a variety of contexts. It is meant to take advantage of the heterogeneity of skill levels and interests in secondary content area courses.

    PDF (5p, 1.67 MB)

  • Content Enhancement Routines (Go for it)

    Terese C. Aceves, Loyola Marymount University, and Nanette S. Fritschmann, National University
    Alert Issue 24, Winter 2016

    The authors provide information about Content Enhancement Routines (CER). CERs integrate several procedures for planning instruction and strategically teaching students the content supported by the use of content enhancements to promote the acquisition, storage, expression, demonstration, and generalization of complex content information. They aid comprehension and content acquisition.

    PDF (6p, 2.32 MB)

  • Explicit Instruction in Math (Go for it)

    Mary E. Little, Professor, University of Central Florida and Lauren Delisio, doctoral student, University of Central Florida
    Alert Issue 23, Winter 2015

    Mary Little and Lauren Delisio from the University of Central Florida examine explicit instruction for improving mathematics outcomes for students with LD.

    PDF (5p, 1.43 MB)

  • Strategy Instruction That Primes the Problem Structure (Go for it)

    Asha Jitendra, Professor, University of Minnesota and Amy Lein, Doctoral Student, University of Minnesota
    Alert Issue 22, Winter 2015

    Strategy instruction that primes the problem structure is an instructional approach designed to facilitate students' mathematical word problem solving performance.

    PDF (5p, 1.78 MB)

  • Learning Styles (Use caution)

    Timothy Landrum and Kimberly McDuffie Landrum, University of Louisville
    Alert Issue 21, Winter 2014

    Everyone has heard of the concept of learning styles, an idea grounded in the concept that individuals differ in the ways they learn. However, according to this Alert, "few quality empirical studies have examined whether designing and delivering instruction according to an identified learning style improves student outcomes." 

    PDF (5p, 1.7 MB)

  • Self-determined Learning Model of Instruction (Go for it)

    Wendy Cavendish and Raymond Rodriguez, University of Miami
    Alert Issue 20, Summer 2013

    The Self-determined Learning Model of Instruction has been used with students with a variety of disabilities, including learning disabilities. Its purpose is to provide a model for teachers to use to instruct their students in ways to become causal agents in their own lives, leading them to self-directed learning.

    PDF (5p, 1.85 MB)

  • Cognitive Strategy Instruction (Go for it)

    Jennifer Krawec, Missouri State University, and Marjorie Montague, University of Miami
    Alert Issue 19, Spring 2012

    Cognitive strategy instruction (CSI), an explicit instructional method that has been applied to multiple academic tasks, provides a means for educators to promote independent competence by students with learning disabilities across elementary, secondary, and post-secondary settings. CSI has a very strong evidence base; employs systematic, explicit instructional procedures that have been validated extensively; and can be applied flexibly (e.g., across group sizes). This Alert provides examples and additional resources about the use of CSI for students with LD.

    PDF (4p, 442 KB)

  • Vocabulary Instruction (Go for it)

    Sheri Berkeley, University of Georgia, and Tom Scruggs, George Mason University
    Alert Issue 18, Spring 2010

    It is important that students not only expand their vocabulary through indirect learning (such as reading), but also through direct, explicit instruction of vocabulary. Of course, it is not feasible to provide direct explicit instruction of every word that a student needs to know. For this reason, teachers need to target specific vocabulary words purposefully. This Alert addresses a group of empirically-validated vocabulary practices that include mnemonics, fluency building practice, cognitive strategies, and computer assisted instruction.

    PDF (4p, 614 KB)

  • Self-Regulated Strategy Development (Go for it)

    Kelley Regan and Margo A. Mastropieri, George Mason University
    Alert Issue 17, Spring 2009

    Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) for writing is an empirically validated model for supporting students as they write by helping them to develop relevant cognitive and self-regulation skills. SRSD for writing has been studied in K-12 classrooms with students who struggle with planning, composing, revising, or evaluating writing. SRSD for writing encourages students to accomplish writing tasks through explicit instruction and simplifying the process of composing narrative, expository, and persuasive essays while integrating self-regulatory practices.

    PDF (4p, 197 KB)

  • Functional Behavioral Assessment (Go for it)

    Angela S. McIntosh, San Diego State University
    Alert Issue 16, Winter 2008

    Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is a systematic way of gathering data to assess environmental variables that contribute to problem behaviors. Using reliable FBA data, educators and other clinicians can alter those environmental factors—antecedents and consequences of the behavior—and thereby change the behavior. Although FBA was originally developed to address severe behavior problems, it is mandated by US law and is appropriate for use in some cases with students with learning disabilities. Extensive research has shown that interventions based on FBA data are highly effective, but there are barriers to using FBA successfully. Despite the impediments, it is worth pursuing.

    PDF (4p, 141 KB)

  • Fluency Instruction (Go for it)

    Richard Kubina and Charles Hughes, Pennsylvania State University
    Alert Issue 15, Spring 2008

    Oral reading fluency occurs when a person reads accurately, at an appropriate rate, and with prosody (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen, 2005). Reading fluency instruction may include methods such as repeated reading; contingent reinforcement; goal setting and feedback; goal setting, feedback, and contingent reinforcement; and previewing. All of these methods show promise in improving reading fluency.

    PDF (4p, 139 KB)

  • Phonics Instruction (Go for it)

    Paige Pullen and John WillsLloyd, University of Virginia
    Alert Issue 14, Spring 2008

    Phonics is an instructional approach that teaches children the systematic relationship between letters and sounds, and how to use that system (the alphabetic principle) to read words. Research indicates that phonics approaches in beginning reading produce better outcomes in decoding, comprehension, and collateral skills (e.g., spelling) than do alternative methods.

    PDF (4p, 170 KB)

  • Graphic Organizers (Go for it)

    Ed Ellis and Pamela Howard, University of Alabama
    Alert Issue 13, Spring 2007

    Graphic organizers (GOs) are visual devices that employ lines, circles, and boxes to organize information. These images serve as visual cues designed to facilitate communication and/or understanding of information. There is ample research that documents improvements in reading comprehension, process writing skills, thinking skills, and learning of content-area material when graphic organizers are used.

    PDF (4p, 528 KB)

  • Reading Comprehension Instruction (Go for it)

    Rick Brigham, Sheri Berkeley, Pamela Simpkins, and Michele Brigham, George Mason University
    Alert Issue 12, Spring 2007

    Comprehension strategies are specific, learned procedures that foster active, competent, self-regulated, and intentional reading. Comprehension strategy instruction is appropriate for individuals who consistently fail to develop a coherent understanding of material that is read. One such strategy is self-questioning during reading. The self-questioning approaches discussed in this Alert improved comprehension in research studies.

    PDF (4p, 247 KB)

  • Cooperative Learning (Use caution)

    Kristen McMaster, University of Minnesota, and Doug Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
    Alert Issue 11, Spring 2005

    Cooperative learning (CL) is an instructional method that makes use of small, heterogeneous groups of students who work together to achieve common learning goals (Johnson & Johnson, 1992). Researchers have reported mixed results for CL in improving the academic achievement of students with disabilities.

    PDF (4p, 122 KB)

  • Phonological Awareness (Go for it)

    Gary A. Troia, University of Washington
    Alert Issue 10, Summer 2004

    Phonological awareness is an explicit understanding that spoken language comprises discrete units ranging from entire words and syllables to smaller intrasyllabic units of onsets, rimes, and phonemes. Phonemic awareness is the deepest level of phonological awareness and the most crucial to success in reading and spelling. Evidence indicates that deliberate, systematic instruction in phonological awareness profits many students with and without disabilities.

    PDF (4p, 121 KB)

  • Social Skills Instruction (Use caution)

    James Leffert, Gary N. Siperstein, University of Massachusetts-Boston
    Alert Issue 9, Fall 2003

    Social skills instruction refers to the systematic application of instructional procedures to teach social skills. Educators sometimes use other terms, such as "violence prevention" and "character education", to refer to instructional programs that include the teaching of social skills. At present, there is wide variability in the implementation of social skills instruction, making it hard to describe a typical instructional program. Review of research on social skills instruction has found limited success.

    PDF (4p, 233 KB)

  • Class-wide Peer Tutoring (Go for it)

    Larry Maheady, Gregory Harper, Barbara Mallette, SUNY Fredonia
    Alert Issue 8, Spring 2003

    Class-wide peer tutoring refers to a class of instructional strategies in which students are taught by peers who are trained and supervised by classroom teachers (Greenwood, Maheady, & Delquadri, 2002). The oldest and most widely researched class-wide peer tutoring (CWPT) approach was developed and refined at the Juniper Gardens Children's Project in Kansas City, over the past 20 years. CWPT has been shown to be superior to conventional forms of teacher-led instruction in improving pupils' academic outcomes in many content areas.

    PDF (4p, 103 KB)

  • Reading Recovery (Use caution)

    Authors: Carolyn Denton and Patricia Mathes, Center for Academic and Reading Skills, University of Texas Health Science Center Houston.
    Alert Issue 7, Summer 2002

    Reading Recovery is an early literacy intervention that provides one-to-one tutoring to children who perform at the lowest levels in their class after one year of school reading instruction (Pinnell, 1989). From the available research, it is evident that Reading Recovery works well for some students, but not all. There are also questions about how successful Reading Recovery students maintain their gains.

    PDF (4p, 207 KB)

  • Co-Teaching 2018 UPDATE (Use caution)

    Authors: Sarah Cothren Cook & Kimberly McDuffie-Landrum
    Alert Issue 6, Winter 2018

    In this Alert update, Sarah Cothren Cook and Kimberly McDuffie-Landrum build on the 2001 analysis of co-teaching by Naomi Zigmond and Kathleen Magiera.  Co-Teaching is a special education service delivery model in which a general educator and a special educator share responsibility for planning, delivering, and evaluating instruction for a diverse group of students. Although questions on its effectiveness remain, Cook and McDuffie-Landrum note an increased level of confidence in the strategy based on additional studies conducted since the original analysis.  However, due to a lack of methodological rigor and varied results, uncertainties regarding the effectiveness of this strategy for students with LD persist.

    Click here to see the original 2001 Co-Teaching Alert.

    PDF (4p, 1.27 MB)

  • Mnemonic Instruction (Go for it)

    Author: Rick Brigham & Michelle Brigham, University of Virginia
    Alert Issue 5, Summer 2001

    Mnemonic instruction combines presentation of unfamiliar information with explicit strategies for recall. Most mnemonic strategies rely on both verbal and imagery components to support recall. Research suggests large gains from mnemonic instruction on criterion-referenced tests, but evidence of gains on norm-referenced tests is less clear.

    PDF (4p, 98.7 KB)

  • High-Stakes Assessment (Use caution)

    Author: Martha Thurlow, University of Minnesota
    Alert Issue 4, Spring 2001

    IDEA 97 requires that all students with disabilities participate in regular state and district assessments, unless their IEP indicates that they are unable to participate. Most students with LD are able to participate, given appropriate testing accommodations. Unfortunately, we still do not have uniform guidelines or empirical validation regarding appropriate testing accommodations.

    PDF (4p, 135 KB)

  • Formative Evaluation (Go for it)

    Authors: Christine Espin, Jongho Shin, & Todd Busch, University of Minnesota
    Alert Issue 3, Spring 2000

    Formative evaluation is the ongoing collection of information in order to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional implementations and to determine whether adaptations to the instruction are necessary. There are many specific approaches to formative evaluation, including Curriculum Based Assessment (CBA), Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), and Portfolio and Performance Assessment (PA). Of these approaches, CBA and PA provide useful information for teachers regarding how to change instruction to improve student outcomes. However, only CBM has a strong empirical database regarding its validity.

    PDF (4p, 230 KB)

  • Direct Instruction (Go for it)

    Author: Sara Tarver, University of Wisconsin
    Alert Issue 2, Summer 1999

    Direct Instruction (DI) is an approach to teacher-directed explicit instruction distinguished from other approaches by its emphasis on both instruction and curriculum design. The goal of DI is to accelerate student learning by maximizing efficiency in the design and delivery of instruction. Our review of the research on DI indicates that it is an effective instructional approach and can be reliably implemented for elementary students with LD. Questions remain regarding the long-term benefits of DI, as well as its efficacy at the secondary level.

    PDF (4p, 137 KB)

  • The Alert Series (Go for it)

    Alert Issue 1, Spring 1999

    This introduction to the Alert series summarizes the goal of the joint initiative and outlines the format used to examine practices.



    PDF (4p, 126 KB)