Monday, November 10, 2008

The Dialog on Dynamic Interventions Begins

Last week we initiated the dialog on dynamic interventions through a presentation at the Arizona Educational Research Organization (AERO). I wish to thank the organization for providing the opportunity to introduce the intervention initiative to members of the organization. Also there were useful questions from the audience that I would like to discuss. One point made in the presentation was that technology can play an important role in promoting the development and implementation of dynamic intervention systems integrating intervention research and intervention management. Technology is beneficial in two major ways: First, it makes it possible to do things that would be difficult to accomplish without technology. For example, online instructional monitoring tools make it possible to observe the responses of multiple students to questions in real time. Second, technology can reduce the work involved in designing and implementing an intervention. For example, online intervention planning tools can automatically evaluate benchmark testing data to identify groups of students at-risk for not meeting standards and to recommend objectives to be targeted for instruction in an intervention aimed at minimizing the risk of not meeting standards.

A number of important audience questions were raised concerning the use of technology in dynamic intervention systems. One question dealt with the issue of whether or not all interventions should be implemented online. The answer that I gave is that all interventions are not and should not be required to be implemented online. There are two reasons for this: First, not all districts have the necessary technology to support online interventions. Second, instruction does not and should not always occur on a machine. That said, technology can still be helpful. For example, online technology can be useful in documenting the occurrence of interventions that take place offline. Questionnaires and records of lesson plans and assignments can document implementation of an intervention. Data of this kind has been used effectively in many studies of intervention implementation.

Another audience question raised the possibility of automating experimental designs that could be implemented to assess intervention effects. There is no substitute for a skilled researcher when the task at hand is experimental design. Nonetheless, automated packaged designs could be useful in supporting the kinds of short experiments that we have proposed for use in dynamic intervention systems. We are currently working on the design and development of technology to automate experimental design.

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