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IRIS in the Sunshine State: Use in College Courses and Sharing with Colleagues

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Dr. Mary Little, a special education faculty member at the University of Central Florida, conducts research on evidence-based instructional practices, interventions, and teacher efficacy. But it was in her role preparing future educators to increase their use of evidence-based practices that Dr. Little’s relationship with IRIS blossomed. Initially, she identified IRIS resources that aligned with her own course content. For Dr. Little, two of the most important features of IRIS resources were their consistent quality and their effortless accessibility. She noted that the wealth of information and materials available on the IRIS website was constantly growing, adding new, user-friendly resources about evidence-based practices for teachers, teacher educators, and school districts alike.

For 44 years, I’ve been very dedicated and committed to effective practices. I really believe that all children should have the very best teachers and educational practices so that they can be as successful as they can be.

Her commitment to the use of effective practices led to further infusion of IRIS resources throughout the UCF College of Education. A few years ago, she received a CEEDAR Center grant to work with faculty from other departments to select federally funded resources—such as those from IRIS—to complement their course content. This led to the development of a curriculum matrix that included courses in reading and literacy, mathematics, behavior interventions, inclusive practices, and more. The program makes use of IRIS Modules, Case Studies, and Activities, and the curriculum matrix prevented duplication of the same IRIS resources being used in more than one course.

Very recently, she shared her expertise with faculty from other Florida colleges and universities as they worked in teams to revise their courses to include content on inclusive and evidence-based practices within the structure of a multi-tiered system of support.

In the first of two interviews, Dr. Little explains the processes through which IRIS resources were identified for each of her courses and then shared college-wide. She then outlines how teams from colleges and universities across Florida replicated this process during a two-and-a-half-day meeting. In her second interview, Dr. Little shares how she uses resources from three federal centers—CEEDAR, IRIS, and the National Center on Intensive Intervention—in her own courses. (Sneak peak: The teachers featured in our IRIS Story “IRIS & the Next Generation: Supporting Classrooms” discuss how they learned to use IRIS materials in their own schools while they were students in Dr. Little’s courses.)


Dr. Mary Little
Dr. Mary Little
Professor, Exceptional Student Education
University of Central Florida

Years ago, when IRIS was just being introduced, it coincided with a time that we were asked to do some reforming with the content within our courses. On one of our professional development days, we had matrices developed with our course competencies and had the IRIS Modules and multiple computers available so we could then investigate the content of the modules related to the content within our courses in special education. We wanted to make sure that we had the content aligned, as well as developmentally what we were asking our students to do related to the course content. That was one of the first alignment opportunities that we’d used within special education with our curriculum review.

About two or three years ago, we received a CEEDAR grant, and it was focused on more inclusive programming throughout our college. So we used a similar procedure in two or three professional development sessions with our colleagues. We had program-leads from each of our programs—ed foundations, mathematics, social studies, science, reading, language, and special education—with their course competencies and the CEC competencies. We wanted to infuse some of the IRIS Modules throughout the college and relate it to the course competencies in a developmental series for our teacher candidates and across content areas so that we could make explicit connections for our candidates in all of our general education programs, as well as our special education programs.

Last summer, we were asked by the State Department of Florida and CEEDAR to share our experiences and some of the products that we had developed with other teams from universities and colleges in Florida to encourage all of us to enhance our programs, to include more information about students with disabilities, inclusive practices, evidence based practices, Universal Design for Learning, all within the MTSS structure. Faculty teams in reading and literacy and special education from many of our state colleges and universities were there for two and a half days. I presented about the IRIS Modules and then with our university team presented about what we did and the processes that we used as we reformed our courses. It has been a very developmental and growing process where we started use within our own programs, then within our own college, and then to share with the state of Florida.

Once we had developed curriculum maps, with competencies and IRIS Modules infused to address the specific CEC standards and Florida standards for our teacher candidates in special education, we also took a look at our CEEDAR innovation configuration approach. We were taking a look at behavior management. For example, what are the awareness kinds of activities that they need to know and be able to do? And then what are some of the skills and tasks that teachers—special education teachers specifically—are being asked to be able to do? And then what kind of applied performance tasks are we asking our teacher candidates and graduate students to be able to do? IRIS Modules are infused in our undergraduate courses, as well as our graduate. Most of our graduate students are already certified and working within the schools.

I believe that I use almost all of the different IRIS resources. The STAR Modules are incredible for content development, for both the undergraduate and graduate students. We use a lot of the case studies for the graduate students. For example, we have a special endorsement in the state of Florida for autism. We also have a special endorsement in intervention specialists. Graduate students experience many of the IRIS Modules in their coursework. They then build school-improvement plans for their schools or their professional development. Many of these folks are professional development leaders in their schools or in their districts. One of the assignments that they have to do is conduct professional development using any one of the IRIS Modules and provide us with feedback as to how it went. In a course that I teach in the intervention specialist work, I use materials and modules and resources from the National Center for Intensive Interventions, which are now so wonderfully aligned with the IRIS work and the IRIS Modules, as well as the high-quality practices. They investigate the school improvement plan and actually develop professional development modules for their teachers in their schools or their districts, based on the needs of their particular context using the vetted resources from our federal centers, IRIS and NCII.