What is data-based individualization?
Page 2: Data-Based Individualization
Educators often struggle with how to provide intensive intervention for students who, like Natalia, have severe or persistent learning difficulties. One solution to this issue is data-based individualization, or DBI, a research-based process for gradually individualizing and intensifying interventions through the systematic use of assessment data, validated interventions, and research-based adaptation strategies. More specifically, DBI:
- Uses data to help determine how and when students need additional support or intervention
- Is typically content-specific; a student might receive DBI in one content area (e.g., reading) or one content-area skill (e.g., comprehension) and not others. Other students might receive DBI in multiple content areas, depending on their individual needs.
- Is an ongoing process of making and evaluating instructional adaptations (e.g., smaller group size, increased instructional time)
DBI works well within the context of a multi-tiered approach. All MTSS use progress monitoring, individualization, and data-based decision making as part of their process. DBI should be implemented at the most intensive and individualized level of support within these systems, either tertiary intervention or special education.
For Your Information
Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds, PhD
American Institutes for Research
A lot of the original research that was done in this area was to train special educators to better use data to design individualized instructional programs. In that research, teachers were not necessarily doing this within the context of a tiered system like RTI, and so with that in mind it does suggest that this kind of an approach can work even if you don’t have a tiered system in place. However, we do find an MTSS system can be helpful in making sure that there are structures to allow for an appropriate number of kids to be identified for a DBI process, for teachers to be already oriented toward data, for there to be a progress-monitoring tool that the school is already using. So there are some implementation considerations that may be simpler when RTI or PBIS are already happening, but it is certainly not a requirement for a teacher to be able to use progress-monitoring data to inductively design more individualized programs for students.
The DBI process should be implemented when a student is not responding adequately to an evidence-based practice or program that is implemented with fidelity—that is, as intended by its developers—during secondary instruction. DBI consists of the five steps listed in the table below and depicted in the graphic. Notice that the graphic indicates how to proceed when a student is responsive or nonresponsive to the intervention.
|Step 1. Validated Intervention Program: Make the secondary intervention more intensive through quantitative changes to the instruction that a student receives.|
|Step 2. Progress Monitoring: Evaluate the student’s response to the intensified intervention by collecting progress monitoring data.|
|Step 3. Diagnostic Assessment: Collect and review data (e.g., progress monitoring data, student work samples, observations) to identify areas of difficulty and to make informed decisions about how to adapt the intervention.|
|Step 4. Intervention Adaptation: Adapt the intervention based on the student’s needs as determined by the diagnostic assessment.|
|Step 5. Progress Monitoring: Continue to collect progress monitoring data to evaluate the student’s response to the instructional adaptations.|
This graphic illustrates both the steps of data-based individualization, as well as they ways in which those steps interact. Step 1, “Validated Intervention Program,” is represented by an orange rectangle. This box connects via a vertical grey line to Step 2, “Progress Monitoring,” which is illustrated as a green oval. Both steps, in turn, are connected to a horizontal line with labeled circles at each of its ends. The circle on the left, “Nonresponsive,” has a red minus sign at its center, while the circle on the right, “Responsive,” has a red plus sign. A grey arrow connected to the “Nonresponsive” circle points toward Step 3 of the DBI process, “Diagnostic Academic Assessment/Functional Assessment,” which is represented as a green oval, similar to Step 2. The “Responsive” circle also has a grey arrow, this one pointing back up toward Step 2, “Progress Monitoring.”
Step 3 is connected via a vertical grey arrow to Step 4, “Intervention Adaptation,” represented as an orange rectangle. Another grey arrow connects Step 4 to Step 5, “Progress Monitoring,” another green oval. As above, these latter steps are connected to a horizontal line with labeled circles at each of its ends. The circle on the left, “Nonresponsive,” has a red minus sign at its center, while the circle on the right, “Responsive,” has a red plus sign. A large grey arrow connected to the “Nonresponsive” circle points back to Step 3, “Diagnostic Academic Assessment/Functional Assessment,” while the “Responsive” circle directs instructors back to Step 5, “Progress Monitoring.”
As illustrated in the graphic above, when they work with students with severe and persistent learning difficulties, teachers might need to implement DBI Steps 3, 4, and 5—diagnostic assessment, intervention adaptation, and progress monitoring—multiple times to reach the level of intensity and individualization required for the student to make adequate progress.
Listen as Chris Lemons, Senior Advisor to the National Center on Intensive Intervention, discusses this process of intensifying interventions (time: 3:08).
Narrator: What are intensive interventions and why are they important?
Chris Lemons: Intensive interventions are interventions that require professionals to make decisions using data to improve instruction for individual students that have not responded to standard protocol at Tier 1 and Tier 2. So, in a sense, you could think of intensive interventions as a process instead of a product. So what we’re talking about when we’re talking about intensive interventions are having teachers start with the standard protocol—some type of, say, reading program—implementing that program but collecting data and trying to determine what parts work and which parts do not work and then, using their professional judgment, the student’s response, and data to determine what changes need to be made to that instruction to make it effective for their student.
So, in a sense, intensive interventions could be a variety of different things. There are a variety of ways that you might intensify instruction: by decreasing group size, increasing the amount of time that a student spends in a certain intervention, or focusing on different academic skills. Maybe some academic precursors may be a way to intensify the intervention. So, in a sense, there are a variety of ways of doing it, but what we’re talking about when we’re talking about intensive interventions, it’s more of a process than something that comes out of a box.
And why are those things important? In a sense, over the last decade, we’ve done a pretty good job in schools of improving Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction, so we often, particularly in elementary in the area of reading, we have a lot of quality Tier 2 standard protocol interventions that are effective for many students. And over this period of time, we have reduced the number of students who continue to need additional, more-intensive instruction; however, there still remain a portion of students, particularly those with disabilities, that are non-responsive to quality Tier 1 and Tier 2 standard protocol instruction. So it’s this group of students that are in most need of intensive intervention or something more individualized, matching their needs, that is more responsive, that a professional is using data to make instruction. And the reason they need these is that using current standard protocol, the students are not benefitting, they are not meeting their academic goals. And unless we can train professionals to use data and kind of go through a problem-solving process of improving current standard protocol interventions to match the individual needs of individuals with disabilities then instruction will never be effective for that group of students. So if we’re truly going to meet the needs of all of the students in the school, we’re going to need something more intensive and additional for that group of students.
For Your Information
- DBI is a process. It is not an intervention, a program, or a strategy.
- Though DBI is most easily and most commonly implemented at the elementary level, it can be used with students at any grade level.
- Students with disabilities who have severe and persistent learning needs are good candidates for the DBI process. However, if a student is receiving special education services, instructional adaptations might require a multidisciplinary team meeting—a meeting of relevant individuals who collectively make decisions regarding the education of a student with disabilities and develop the student’s IEP.
For more information on DBI, visit the National Center on Intensive Intervention Website.
This module, part one of a series, focuses on the intervention aspects of DBI (i.e., Step 1 and Step 4) covered in more detail on the following pages. You can learn about the data components of DBI (i.e., Step 2, Step 3, and Step 5) by viewing the second IRIS Module in this series: