What is Intervention in Education? Types and Examples

intervention in education

Some learners need additional support and it’s well-documented that targeted interventions make the most significant difference. But with more children than ever falling behind because of the COVID-19 school shutdowns, it’s increasingly difficult to personalise and deliver effective intervention in education without teachers burning out.

So, this guide acts as a shortcut. It lists types of interventions in education proven to help children make good progress, giving you an idea of where to start in your classroom.

What is Intervention in Education?

Interventions are any support outside of your core classroom practice, and they should be used to help pupils close gaps between their current and expected attainments. Interventions don’t have to be exclusively academic, however. Sometimes, children underperform because of behavioural or emotional challenges. Interventions could develop self-regulation skills in these situations, helping pupils engage more consistently and productively in lessons.

Although interventions should be given to learners who aren’t reaching their potential, don’t automatically assume that every child below age-related expectations needs extra support. Attainment is relative and interventions must be targeted at children you’re confident could make better progress.

You’ll need to summatively assess children in some way to find the pupils who need additional support. This data will also be critical to test the effectiveness of the intervention as it gives you a benchmark of where children were before the intervention started.

What Makes an Intervention Effective?

As educators, you have to be realistic about what you can deliver. It’s almost inevitable you’ll be working with limited resources and time, so pupil progress can’t be the only factor when weighing up the effectiveness of any learning intervention. It’s also got to be affordable and straightforward to manage.

The Education Endowment Fund (EEF) is an excellent resource for checking the effectiveness of educational interventions. You can find a list of interventions from the EEF, all of which have had their potential impact (i.e. the progress they can help a learner make) weighed against the cost of implementation.

For the examples of intervention strategies outlined below, we’ve followed the EEF’s guidance and presented five approaches proven to help children learn while costing very little. Each one is also straightforward to manage, with the potential to work as interventions in education. Delivering them this way helps reduce workload and make them easier to timetable.

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Examples of Effective Interventions

The five examples of interventions set out here are described in general terms. You will probably need to adapt them to your learning environment and target pupils. They’re also all learning interventions. That’s not to say they won’t impact behaviour – more confident learners generally make better choices – but they’re designed to help children progress academically.

Metacognition

Metacognition is the champion of interventions in the classroom. It’s free to implement, suitable for every subject and proven to help all learners, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The only drawback is that it can be challenging to grasp and apply in your pedagogy.

The quick (and impractical) description of metacognition is ‘thinking about thinking.’ While not strictly wrong, this definition doesn’t give you much to go on. You can find guidance on metacognition from the EEF. (It’s unsurprisingly the highest-ranked out of the intervention example strategies on its website.)

To start using metacognitive strategies now, begin by modelling your thinking. The aim is to give children a script to follow when working through a process.

Take formal addition, for example. When you’re modelling, it’s necessary to show pupils the process of regrouping. But you can make this more effective if you say aloud the questions you’d want your learners to ask themselves when working independently. For example, “What do I do when I have more than ten ones?” or, “Where should I put the digit to show I’ve carried over a ten?” You can do this in your everyday classroom practice and during any intervention.

Feedback

Another clear winner when comparing impact against cost is that feedback can be used for quick classroom interventions or formal sessions outside regular lessons. And feedback is typically more effective when delivered during or immediately after a task.

Delivering instant interventions during teaching time also helps keep your workload manageable. A NASUWT report, Effective Interventions: Promoting Learning, Tackling Workload, calls out ‘deep marking’ as a pointless strategy. It takes up too much of your time and offers learners little value.

Instead, always opt for quick verbal feedback given to pupils while they learn. Providing feedback this way prevents learners from embedding misconceptions and boosts their chances of succeeding at a task.

Collaborative Learning

A third intervention that works for whole-class teaching is collaborative learning, which encourages pupils to work together.

example of intervention strategies

Collaborative learning is best when it promotes discussion between pupils, so use this approach for those learners who struggle to explain their thinking. But think carefully about how you pair or group learners. Some children might dominate conversations and rob others of the opportunity to contribute. Supervision can help with this issue, but ultimately, learners should be able to collaborate without adult input.

Reading Interventions

Children only become successful and enthusiastic readers if they can follow what’s happening in a text, making reading comprehension an essential skill for all learners. Comprehension isn’t only necessary for reading assessments – learners need to be able to interpret and solve word problems in maths and the link between reading and writing ability is well documented.

You can broadly split reading interventions into two categories: developing fluency (actual reading ability) and training comprehension (interpreting and answering questions based on the text).

For fluency, you might read an appropriately challenging text aloud to a learner, allowing them to hear the correct pronunciation, pace and use of punctuation.

Comprehension can often be developed through the use of graphic organisers. Flowcharts, Venn diagrams or story maps help children follow and translate the events of a story.

Speaking and Listening

Oracy (the ability to express yourself fluently) is a sister skill to reading comprehension. It can often be developed alongside any reading interventions, which offer plenty of opportunities to develop speaking skills.

You can ask children structured questions or discuss new vocabulary in-depth. If you’ve got several learners in your reading intervention, it may be necessary to limit group size before adding speaking and listening skills to the mix. Research shows that 1:1 sessions have the most significant impact, as do more frequent sessions – the EEF’s research suggests three or more sessions weekly.

Developing Your Communication Skills

All of these intervention strategies examples depend on your ability to communicate effectively. You must express yourself clearly and build effective working relationships with colleagues and support staff. It’s impossible to deliver every intervention yourself.

Our online Communication Skills Training develops listening and speaking skills, helping you build closer working relationships and direct support staff effectively. It also covers presentation skills and the use of body language, improving your abilities to manage behaviour and deliver more effective whole-class teaching.

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Jonathan Goby
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