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Presented by Julia Hood 3/11/09. Special Education and Related Services: What Have We Learned From Meta-Analysis? By Steven R. Forness University of California, Los Angeles Neuropsychiatric Hospital.

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Presented by Julia Hood


Special Education and Related Services: What Have We Learned From Meta-Analysis?By Steven R. FornessUniversity of California, Los Angeles Neuropsychiatric Hospital

Training School Psychologists to be Experts in Evidence Based Practices for Tertiary Students with Serious Emotional Disturbance/Behavior Disorders

US Office of Education 84.325K


special education
Special Education
  • Criticism of the effectiveness of special education
  • Research efforts in Special Education have also been criticized
  • Past research efforts of narrative report are insufficient and inadequate
  • Lack of evidence for effective interventions based on:
    • Certain types of problems
    • Certain types of children
    • In comparison to other interventions
special education1
Special Education
  • Meta-analysis is being used more frequently as a means to synthesize research in the area of interventions and special education
special education2
Special Education
  • Current meta-analysis is an update to a previous synthesis in order to make the research more current
  • 24 separate meta-analyses across 20 intervention topics
  • Compared mean effect sizes (ES)
    • Difficulty because no directly comparable studies
    • Studies had different purposes, research samples, and outcome measures
  • Therefore, only tentative conclusions can be drawn as to relative effectiveness and need for further investigation
single participant studies
Single-Participant Studies
  • Inclusion of single-subject studies is a controversial topic
  • When included, Percentage of Non-overlapping Data (PND) is commonly used as the metric
    • Data points obtained during intervention phases that do not overlap with any data points from baseline or reversal phases are divided by the total number of intervention phase data points
    • Criteria for effectiveness are:
      • 90-100 Powerful intervention
      • 70-90 Favorable
      • 50-70 Questionable
      • Under 50 Unfavorable
special education mega analysis
Special Education “Mega-Analysis”
  • When all of the mean ES’s from all of the meta-analyses were combined, there was an overall ES of .55 for special education
    • This was partially weighted for the interventions that had more than one meta-analysis
  • This would imply that there is a substantial benefit to special education
    • There are dangers to combining studies that are this diverse
special education or related
“special”, “education”, or “related”
  • Must look at the intervention and the emphasis of “special”, “education”, or “related”
  • “Special” is an intervention that involves a unique and different method that would not typically be used in general education
    • Usually designed solely for use in special education
    • Goal of enhancing hypothetical and unobservable constructs that are presumed to cause learning deficits
special education or related1
“special”, “education”, or “related”
  • “Education” is the category of interventions that emphasize education by adapting and modifying instruction
    • Origins in general education and modified for special education to accommodate the needs of students
    • Direct approach of adapting instruction to enhance the academic learning of special education students
special education or related2
“special”, “education”, or “related”
  • “related” services are dependent on other professionals aside from the teacher
    • Consultation from other professionals (school psychologists, behavior analysts)
    • Actual delivery of the intervention by another individual
special education3
Special “Education”
  • Mneumonic Strategies 1.62
  • Reading Comprehension Strategies 0.94
  • Direct Instruction 0.84
  • Formative Evaluation 0.70
  • Computer-assisted Instruction 0.66
  • Peer Tutoring 0.58
  • Word Recognition Strategies 0.57
  • Mean 0.84
special education4
“Special” Education
  • Psycholinguistic Training 0.39
  • Social Skills Training 0.20
  • Modality Instruction 0.14
  • Perceptual Training 0.08
  • Mean 0.20
related services
“Related” Services
  • Behavior Modification 0.93
  • Cognitive Behavior Modification 0.74
  • Psychotherapy 0.71
  • Stimulant Medication 0.62
  • Psychotropic Medication 0.30
  • Diet Restrictions -0.12
  • Mean 0.53
  • Best practice
    • Combine interventions with medium to high ES’s
    • Look at how the combination of certain interventions will produce varying ES’s
    • Monitor students’ progress
    • Teacher cognitive-behavioral self-management
    • Possibility of stimulant medications (particularly ADHD)
  • Professionals following these guidelines should expect better outcomes
considerations about practice
Considerations About Practice
  • Some versions of certain interventions can have different effect (positive or negative)
  • Some children will benefit more from some interventions than other children would
  • Many of the studies included are now over 10 years old
    • New research has been done and should be considered
final thought
Final Thought
  • Overall, special education cannot be considered ineffective based on the results of this “mega-analysis”