DBI-TLC: Findings from a Descriptive Analysis

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Old classroom

Teachers are often unprepared to provide individualized intensive intervention (Lemons, Al Otaiba, Conway, & Mellado De La Cruz, 2016). Data-based instruction (DBI) is a systematic approach to assessment and intervention that relies on evidence-based instruction (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Stecker, 2010). DBI, coupled with high-quality professional development and on-going coaching can result in improved outcomes for teachers and has promising outcomes for students (Lembke et al., 2018). 

As a follow up to a larger pilot study (Lembke et al., 2018), this descriptive case study examined the effects of a professional development model, DBI-TLC, specifically:

  • How does the weekly administration of a curriculum based measure (CBM) in writing influence students’ growth in correct words written over time? 
  • Does the use of daily text message prompts result in teachers recording intervention dosage?

This study took place in a mid-sized, Midwestern, school district. Participants were students in the 1st through 4th grades (n = 13) who were receiving special education services through the school district and were identified by special education teachers as struggling writers. Teachers in this study (n = 4) were certified special educators and had a range of 3 to 18 years of special education teaching experience (M = 11.4).

A sentence-level CBM was administered weekly to all students, regardless of whether or not students were receiving writing instruction for sentence-level skills. Although the majority (n = 9) of students were instructed at the word-level, all student participants increased their correct word sequences from pre- to post-test on the sentence-level measure.

All teachers in this study were asked to track daily dosage of writing instruction and intervention for the duration of this study (22 weeks). To support this dosage tracking, teachers were sent daily text message prompts via the Remind application. While most teachers struggled to consistently report dosage (M = 4.67 weeks), one teacher was able to record dosage for every student in her class, every week. This allowed us to analyze the number of instructional minutes received at the student level and compare that to achievement within the teacher’s class. The student who received the fewest word-level instructional minutes in this class was the only student whose word-level CBM score decreased between pre- and post-test. Furthermore, this was the only student across all teachers to decrease in performance.

Given the limited number of participating students, future research should explore the influence of a sentence-level CBM on student performance during, and in the absence of, targeted sentence-level writing intervention. Additionally, work is needed to identify methods that accurately and efficiently record intervention dosage data and are considered socially valid to teachers or other interventionists.


Fuchs, D, Fuchs, L. S., & Stecker, P. M. (2010). The “blurring” of special education in a new continuum of general education placements and services. Exceptional Children, 76(3), 301–323. 

Lemons, C. J., Al Otaiba, S., Conway, S. J., & Mellado De La Cruz, V. (2016). Improving professional development to enhance reading outcomes for students in special education. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 154, 87–104. https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20177

Lembke, E. S., McMaster, K. L., Smith, R. A., Allen, A., Brandes, D., & Wagner, K. (2018). Professional development for data-based instruction in early writing: Tools, learning, and collaborative support. Teacher Education and Special Education, 41(2), 106–120. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888406417730112