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IRIS on Their Minds: The University of North Georgia and IRIS Modules

IRIS on Their Minds: The University of North Georgia and IRIS Modules


I always felt that the modules were so worthwhile for students to use and started going through some on my own.

Jennifer Sears

An Assistant Professor of Education at the University of North Georgia (UNG), Jennifer Sears teaches a variety of courses that cover everything from introductory topics in special education to instructional methods to applied behavior analysis. She works with teacher candidates in the elementary, middle grades, and special education programs.

Jennifer got to know IRIS resources as a doctoral student at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Having been introduced to IRIS Modules in her courses, she started using them to complement her own instruction at UCF and then later at UNG in both in-person and online courses.

Jennifer also notes that her department used IRIS resources when they revised key assessments in the special education methods courses. Given information about a fictional student, UNG teacher candidates were asked to use information learned from the IRIS Center’s evidence-based practices module series to identify, select, and implement an effective evidence-based practice. They then had to subsequently evaluate the student’s outcomes. Jennifer notes that these revisions proved successful, allowing the candidates to gain a deeper understanding of the content. Oh, and they also reported that they enjoyed the modules!

In the video below, Jennifer talks about some of the ways she has used IRIS resources in her courses—both successfully and not so successfully—and also offers more information about how the UNG faculty went about revising those all-important key assessments (time: 4:16).

Transcript: Jennifer Sears

Hi, everyone. My name is Jennifer Sears, and I am an Assistant Professor at the University of North Georgia. I’ve been here for two years now, and I’m very excited to talk to you all today a little bit about IRIS. So I was first introduced to the IRIS Modules when I was a doctoral student at the University of Central Florida. Several of the professors at UCF used the IRIS Modules in their courses, so I got introduced to them and started using them in the different courses that I was teaching at UCF. But when I came up to the University of North Georgia, we were using some of them already, but I really dived into the IRIS Modules more specifically, especially for our teaching students with diverse needs as well as our ABA courses. So currently we’re using several of the IRIS modules throughout our courses. We’re using the introduction to disabilities modules. We’re using how to create a functional behavioral analysis. We’re using behavior intervention plans. We’re using classroom management. We use the evidence-based practices modules. We really use a really wide variety of the modules, but one of the things that we’ve done really specifically is when we revamped our teaching students with special needs course here at North Georgia.

Previously our key assessment, really was our students were not seeing the link between the key assessment and what they were doing in their practice, so we decided to change it up and do something a little different. So we actually took the evidence-based practices modules from IRIS and developed our own key assessment from there. So the students had to research and identify evidence-based practices then they had a case study student where they had to decide what would be the most appropriate practice for the students to do. Come up with an implementation plan, discuss why they chose that, do the research behind it. And we really use the IRIS Modules to lead us through that process. So we would do specific pieces of the modules in our classes, and then the students would go and actually do the research themselves outside of class. It was really successful for us. And by doing the IRIS Modules that way as a group within the class, we found the students are really enjoying them more. They’re able to get more out of it, and I’m learning a lot, too, of, you know, little pieces that I may not have known in the past.

[Tips for using IRIS Modules]

I had made my students go through a couple of modules, and they had to do these big long papers that went along with the modules, answering questions, coming up with evidence, doing all this information. And they absolutely hated it. They absolutely did not enjoy the modules at all because of the amount of work that I was making them do. So when I went and I changed it up this year, I broke up the modules. I allowed the students within groups to decide which area they’d like to research, so whether it was looking at practices in math, reading comprehension, and all these different strategies. So we picked six modules students could choose from. Then within their group, they did the module together, and then they presented it to their class. So our students were not just being introduced to one module, now they’re being introduced to six modules, which was really successful. Giving the students that choice was really helpful to them. So I absolutely suggest that people can do some of this work as well. I will tell you that through the pandemic, the IRIS team has been amazing. We have been able to do so much more online learning by using the IRIS Modules here at the University of North Georgia. Thank you for letting me talk today, and if anyone has any questions I’m happy to answer them. Have a great day.