High-Quality Intensive Instruction: What All Students Need

By Sue Land, M.Ed.

February/March 2012

The debate continues on where best to serve students with learning disabilities (LD)—in general education settings with co-teaching and collaboration between general and special educators or in separate special education settings (McLeskey & Waldron, 2011).

According to Zigmond, Kloo, and Volonino (2009), the preferred model of service delivery for students with LD scappeared to be “full inclusion with co-teaching” (p. 196). However, in these classrooms, students with disabilities were found to be receiving “a good general education” but not “high-quality, intensive instruction” (McLeskey & Waldron, 2011, p. 51).  Given this reality, these researchers suggest that the debate focus on what constitutes high-quality instruction for students with disabilities rather than on where the students receive instruction.

McLeskey and Waldron (2011) found that the components of “high-quality, intensive instruction” provide 

  • small group instruction based on similar instructional needs,
  • well-structured and explicit instruction with clearly-defined skills or concepts,
  • appropriate delivery pace,
  • time for student mastery through practice, and
  • progress monitoring (p. 50).

This issue of Link Lines offers articles to assist you in providing high-quality instruction to your students with disabilities. Co-Teaching: Moving Beyond One Teaching, One Assisting describes a planning process that co-teachers can use to determine effective co-teaching approaches such as station teaching and parallel teaching. These approaches provide opportunities for small-group instruction based on student needs and give students more opportunities to respond and receive feedback. (For a description of co-teaching approaches download the Considerations Packet Co-Teaching.)

Writing Your Own Data-Driven Instructional Story provides teachers with a “teacher-friendly” process for effectively using student data to make instructional and grouping decisions by looking at trends rather than just individual student data.

Cross-Content Standards of Learning: Value-Added Collaboration, Practice, and Instruction assists teachers in designing instruction that focuses on a small group of clearly defined skills or concepts by identifying cross-content skills found in the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). Specialized instruction to target the cross-content area skills provides opportunities for student generalization and ensures mastery and automaticity of skills. To illustrate, an example is provided for the skill Compare and Contrast, through grade levels 3-12 in English, mathematics, history and social science, and science.

To ensure deep learning, independent practice directly tied to the skills being taught is critical. The article Featured Applications: Applications Across Math Reporting Categories identifies free math apps for iPod Touches, iPads, and iPhones that are fun and engaging and increase practice time for students. These apps are aligned with the SOL math strands of computation and estimation, algebra and geometry, number and number sense, and measurement.

As you look ahead to a long winter stretch of teaching, sharing student success stories will help you to stay motivated and inspired. Read How Technology Saved My Life, the third article in a series related to assistive technology that supports students with disabilities in their least restrictive environments. A college student with a learning disability shares his journey from elementary school to the present, focusing on how assistive technology supported him in achieving academic success.

At times, teaching can be a lonely profession and problems can seem insurmountable. Working with other teachers to solve problems can make a big difference in your outlook and student success. The final article, Making the Most of Your Team Meeting, will provide you with the tools to conduct productive meetings and solve problems.


 McLeskey, J., & Waldron, N. L. (2011). Educational programs for elementary students with learning disabilities: Can they be both effective and inclusive? Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 26(1), 48-57.

Zigmond, N., Kloo, A., & Volonino, V. (2009). What, where, how? Special education in the climate of full inclusion. Exceptionality, 17, 189-204.