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What is instructional intervention?

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a Glance

  • Instructional interventions help struggling students and measure their progress.

  • Interventions use a specific program or set of steps to target an academic need.

  • They’re often used to help kids who have trouble with reading or math.

When kids are struggling with subjects like reading or math, schools may provide what’s called an instructional intervention. This is more than a bit of “extra help.” It’s a specific program or set of steps to address an academic need. (It’s sometimes called an academic intervention.) 

Instructional interventions are set up in ways that help track progress. The interventions are:

  • Intentional: They’re aimed at a particular challenge.

  • Specific and formalized: They last a certain number of weeks or months, and progress is reviewed at set intervals.

  • Flexible: If a program isn’t helping, the school can add more instruction time each week. Or it can add more intense support, like moving from small-group to one-on-one help.

If students need more and more intense interventions, it can be an early sign of learning differences. It can also help schools determine who qualifies for special education.

Dive deeper

Examples of instructional interventions

Here are two examples of what an instructional intervention can look like:

  • General education student: Marcia is in first grade. She struggles with basic math skills. Her school schedules an hour of small group instruction each day to help her catch up. Every week, the teacher checks on her progress. 

  • Special education student: Jeff is in fifth grade and has dyslexia. He receives 30 minutes of specialized reading instruction three times a week. Every month, his reading progress is monitored.

Learn more about how to teach kids with dyslexia to read .

Combining interventions with accommodations

An accommodation is a change to the classroom environment that gives students equal access to learning. For example, a struggling reader may use text-to-speech (TTS) software. This tool reads text out loud. It might not improve reading skills. But it helps the student access the content in books.

Accommodations can be combined with interventions. For example, the student may use TTS software along with a specific program to improve reading skills.

Learn more about the difference between accommodations and interventions .

Next steps

People sometimes confuse interventions with teaching strategies. Interventions are formal. They are designed to be monitored.

Teaching strategies can be part of an intervention. But they can be informal, and they aren’t always tracked. For example, teachers may get kids to move around to help keep them engaged during an intervention.

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom