Get To Know the IRIS Center: Tools for Districts, Schools, and Educators

By the IRIS Center

Credibility. Reliability. Trustworthiness. When it comes to professional development and ongoing learning for educators, these are the qualities sought after by school and district leaders. But in a marketplace where promises are always made but not always kept, how can you be sure the resources you provide to your teachers are really what they claim to be? With so much research being published and so many instructional and behavioral practices introduced, it is nearly impossible for busy educators to devote substantial portions of their time to perusing professional articles and journals. More, these articles and journals typically present their information in a way that is relevant to researchers but less so to classroom teachers, related service providers, administrators, and other educators. What to do?

This is where the IRIS Center (https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/) comes in. For 18 years, IRIS has created free online open educational resources (OERs) about the evidence-based behavioral and instructional practices most important to teachers in today’s classrooms. In that time, IRIS has become “a staple of teacher preparation programs throughout the United States and around the world” (Sayeski & Hamilton-Jones, 2019). Supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and located at Vanderbilt University’s celebrated Peabody College, the number one special education department in the United States, the IRIS Center creates resources about the instructional and behavioral topics most important to educators in today’s classrooms. Whether through the development of interactive learning modules, case study units, fundamental skills sheets, or a host of powerful online tools, the goal of IRIS is to improve the educational outcomes of all students, with a special emphasis on struggling learners and those with disabilities. IRIS resources cover everything from classroom and behavior management to Universal Design for Learning, high-quality individualized education programs (IEPs), school improvement/leadership, and so much more, and they do so in a way that is designed to be practical and approachable so that teachers can use what they learn in their own classrooms right now. Our resources are created to break the latest research and expertise into digestible “chunks” of information that address real-world classroom issues and give educators next-day tools and techniques they can integrate into their instruction immediately. And because of their inherent flexibility, IRIS resources are ideal for use in ongoing professional development, personalized learning, and performance improvement coaching and mentoring.

An evaluation by Test et al. (2015) cited our Website as among only a few to earn top ratings for levels of trust and quality of evidence. Further, Sayeski, Hamilton-Jones, and Oh (2015) studied the instructional effectiveness of our online resources and found strong effect sizes across all three modules studied and across all experimental conditions. In addition to these research findings, our 2018 consumer feedback data show exceptionally high ratings for the quality, relevance, and usefulness of our resources (average ratings of 4.4 or higher on a 5-point scale). Given these data, it is not surprising that use of our center’s resources in local and district-level professional development, as well as in college-course work, has continued to increase over the years. More, our center is consistently recommended in peer-reviewed professional journal articles as a trustworthy source of information about evidence-based practices.

We encourage you to see it all for yourself at our center’s Website (https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/) and to share what you find with your schools and districts. You’re welcome anytime at IRIS.

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