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Online PD series

Everything you ever wanted to know about data but were afraid to ask: A journey for special educators

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5 online modules, IEP goal, objective, benchmark assessment, 10 PDP credits

I created this series on the role of evidence in special education during March 2020, a strange time: COVID-19 is preoccupying much of the world and all of the schools that I work with are closed. These events remind me of the importance of data and of using the language of evidence to guide our decisions.  And because schools are closed, but educators must continue to provide services to enable growth and minimize regression, we have an opportunity to not only use data to guide our work but enrich our understanding of some of the essential principles underlying data collection, analysis and use.  These issues motivate this primer, designed to help special educators enrich their understanding of data.


I designed this series as a primer, and with video -- as opposed to a book  -- because life is short, your time is precious, and as educators you have many other responsibilities. I have also used non-technical language, with many illustrations.  Yes, this is a bit like an animated series for adults. Yes, a picture is worth a 1000 words.  But also, pictures are often how we discuss our data.  Critically, pictures reveal patterns in our data.  


I am also deeply aware of the diversity of students in special education, accompanied by the diversity of professionals who contribute to their learning.  What this diversity means is that there are different approaches to instruction, and thus different approaches to assessment. And yet, underlying such diversity are, I believe, a common set of principles that ought to guide data collection, analysis, and use. Thus, most of the material in this primer should be of relevance to anyone working in special education.  That said, there are several places in this book where the discussion is more directly relevant to professionals working with students with specific disabilities; since many special educators find themselves in situations where they engage with the full diversity of disabilities, I hope these discussions will also be useful.


This video series is comprised of five separate modules, that I describe below. Although you can certainly jump around, the sequence suggested may help you build up understanding of the different facets of collecting and using evidence. The entire series, including the final assessment, should take you approximately 10 hours to complete. I include in this time both viewing and reflecting upon the material, as well as the final assignment which is to provide a fully developed IEP goal with its objectives and benchmarks, along with a complete description of the relevant methodologies. Upon submission, I will give you feedback on your written material along with the PDP credits for a total of 10 PDPs.

The cost of the series, including feedback on the final assignment and 10 PDP credits is:  $100/individual; discount for groups.



Module 1Introduction. I start by laying the groundwork for this series, framing the discussion in terms of the four fundamental questions surrounding evidence in special education:  Why collect? What to collect?  How to collect? How to use? For each question, I provide a broad overview of some of the challenges educators face in collecting and using evidence, include federal and state regulations, demands imposed by the IEP, balancing time with students and time for assessment, and collaborating with other professionals who have different expectations about the role of evidence. 

Module 2: The art of consistency. Here I review several essential methodological issues linked to collecting evidence: making sure learners are ready,  taking into account who is teaching or assessing, as well as when and where,  the critical importance of clearly and carefully defining terms, the potential for biases and errors, and techniques for developing high levels of consistency.

Module 3: The archaeology of patterns.  Here I discuss different ways of thinking about and using data, including: visualizing patterns of data, understanding averages, variance and percentages, assessing the limitations of different sample sizes for baselines and benchmarks, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and using data to guide instruction and interventions.

Module 4: In the beginning there are baselines.  Here I focus specifically on baseline data and how this kind of evidence links with benchmarks and other assessments of growth. I describe the factors that can influence how much one samples a skill or behavior before one should be satisfied with the effectiveness or informativeness of a baseline. And I discuss the issue of baselines in the context of different objectives including academic, social-emotional and motor.

Module 5. Objectives, benchmarks and sampling oh my.  Here we explore the nature of objectives and benchmarks, including: the necessity of including only one skill per objective; linking what an individual ought to do in the objective to relevant scales of measurement; spelling out benchmarks in terms of both target values and variability; using different statistics for benchmarks; understanding what constitutes attaining a benchmark; planning a sampling protocol to attain a benchmark by its associated date.

For questions about this online series, including group discounts, contact Dr. Marc Hauser at:

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