The IRIS Module & Materials Development Process

The method by which the IRIS Center creates resources and materials is a multi-stage process of topic selection, development, and refinement that relies on the input and expertise of a wide variety of sources. Because the Center’s work is informed continually by feedback, the result is an evolving set of materials based on the input, needs, and feedback of the Center’s consumers, constituents, and the federal government.

The figure below illustrates the plan for systematic development of IRIS Modules and materials. The individual components of this process are further described in the paragraphs below.

Input, Consumer Surveys, Focus Groups, Textbook Analyses, National Standards, Federal Policies, IRIS User Data


Consumer Surveys – Participants at IRIS-sponsored events are asked to rate several factors, including those related to IRIS Modules and materials, using a five-point Likert scale. In addition, participants are given open-ended questions about what they perceive to be the general strengths and weaknesses of resources and the event. An overall ranking will be tabulated using this information. The IRIS Center then uses this feedback and further suggestions from attendees to revise and improve IRIS products, outreach, and dissemination events.

Stakeholder Focus Groups – Focus group members reflect five stakeholder groups: faculty (GE and SE), PD providers, teachers (GE and SE), school leaders, and related

service providers. Selection criteria also include self-identification of key perspectives (e.g., rural, urban, low-income communities, charter schools, OSEP TA&D). These groups offer their perspectives on the initial preparation and ongoing professional development needs of educators who work with students with disabilities. The group members have been recruited via a notice on the Center’s listserv (which currently has over 9,500 members), thus ensuring enough familiarity with the IRIS products and services to prevent them from recommending resources that are already developed and available.

Textbook Analyses – Detailed analyses of textbooks are conducted to identify potential gaps between the current research base and the information readily available for college coursework. These analyses are implemented in such a way to include as wide a variety of authors, institutions, and instructional perspectives as possible. The results are then used to further inform the process through which the Center identifies topics for development.

National Standards – National standards—like the Common Core State Standards—likewise inform and guide the IRIS development process, since school districts eager to implement these standards often require resources and materials crucial to the attainment of that goal.

Federal Policies – Federal policy also informs and guides the systematic development of IRIS Modules and materials. When federal laws, regulations, and policies are enacted or modified, IRIS resources will reflect those changes.

IRIS Website User Data – This component consists of tracking the IRIS Website’s visitor data monthly and consolidating the information quarterly. In the past, the data have indicated that Modules and materials that address issues related to behavior management have consistently received a high number of visitors. The Center will continue to monitor these data to identify similar trends in interests by our consumers.

Topic and Expert Selection, Workgroups, Steering Committee,OSEP

Topic & Expert Selection

After the input phase, IRIS staff—with guidance and direction from our Steering Committee and workgroups—and in collaboration with OSEP, prioritize and select specific topics for product development. Additionally, these advisors help determine the type of materials to be developed for each topic (e.g., classroom management should become the focus of a STAR Legacy Module, a Case Study Unit, or both). Once topics have been selected, IRIS staff members collaborate with OSEP personnel to identify nationally recognized content experts to use as consultants. Expert consultants are asked to work with the IRIS staff in the development of content and for the supporting resources for the product.


Translate Research to Practice

IRIS resources are about evidence-based instructional and behavioral practices and interventions. To create those resources, we use the research-based content provided by researchers, practitioners, and others from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives in the selected topic area and translate that research into practice. When necessary, IRIS personnel supplement the content with additional research and resources.

Resource Development, Content Development, Revisions, Team Review Consultant Review, More Revisions, Expert Feedback, Even more revisions, Expert Panel,final  Revisions, OSEP Approval

Resource Development

Once all of the content is gathered, IRIS Module developers transform the subject matter into the appropriate format (e.g., STAR Legacy Module, Case Study Unit, Classroom Activity). The resource goes through several rounds of internal reviews; at the same time, our media production team creates graphics, illustrations, movies, audio clips, and page templates. The final internal review is the most intense, where every aspect of every page—phrasing, terminology graphics, and overall flow—is scrutinized by the entire development team including, when possible, an external faculty or doctoral student. The content is then sent to an external team member with expertise in both content and instructional design. Feedback from that review is used to revise the resource further before it is sent back to the original content expert to verify that the team translated her research appropriately. More edits are then be made; the resource is sent to a panel of five nationally recognized content experts. Those reviews are be used to refine the content once more before sending it to OSEP for final approval—where edits are often made again—before posting.

Build & Post

Upon final OSEP approval, the Module content and graphic elements

are organized, formatted, and optimized in the content management system (CMS). To meet 508 and WCAG 2.0 compliance standards for accessibility, alt tags are added to illustrations and photos, and descriptions re provided for detailed graphics (e.g., data charts); videos are formatted and closed-captioning is added; and audio interviews are compressed for optimal Internet use. Additionally, interactive games and activities are developed. Once the pages are built, IRIS staff performs a final review and revision before making the resource available to consumers on the IRIS Website, the Center’s primary tool for dissemination.

Consumer Feedback & Revision

Additional feedback is collected through field-testing and the Module Feedback Form. Modules are field-tested in college courses—each Module is used with at least 50 college students—whose feedback is considered from the novice perspective and any identified problems in the Module are addressed. Comments and ratings from the online Module Feedback Forms are reviewed every week; additional tweaks and improvements to the Modules are executed as a result.

In Summary

IRIS uses an array of strategies to develop the richest input of information possible, so that Modules and other materials address topics with the highest need and greatest demand. As work progresses, consumer and stakeholder feedback will be collected in an ongoing manner, guaranteeing the relevance of content and delivery. This meticulous, iterative process is one reason that the current Modules consistently receive such high ratings for quality, relevance, and usefulness and will continue to ensure similar excellence for future Modules.

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The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 37203 The IRIS Center is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Grant #H325E170001. The contents of this Website do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Sarah Allen.

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