How Embedded Instruction Can Help With Distance Learning

Distance learning often seems inaccessible and inefficient for our kids, but we can help make improvements with some creativity, collaboration, and flexibility. Embedded instruction is one creative teaching method that parents and educators can use together to ensure students meet their IEP goals during distance learning (and when kids return to the classroom, too!).

In an article from the TIES Center’s distance learning series, researcher Jessica Bowman, Ph.D., of TIES Center and the National Center on Education Outcomes explains how families can help their children practice academic skills in non-academic settings at home. Moreover, she tells us that parents can talk to teachers about adjusting assignments to encourage lessons through embedded instruction. Read on for some highlights and strategies for making embedded instruction work for your kiddo.  

A young boy in a striped T-shirt playing with LEGOS
A young boy in a striped T-shirt playing with LEGOS
  • Embedded instruction is a way for students to work on their IEP goals “in the context of daily routines and activities.” This means practicing lesson objectives through activities like watching TV, finishing up chores around the house, texting with a friend, preparing food, and more.
  • At first glance, embedded instruction might seem most appropriate for goals related to life skills and occupational therapy, but academic goals can also become part of embedded instruction at home — especially with distance learning. Dr. Bowman says that core content subjects like math and reading are particularly applicable outside of worksheets and online assignments.
  • To begin developing ideas for embedded instruction, Dr. Bowman recommends having collaborative conversations with your child’s teacher and IEP team to figure out where your child needs extra help or is falling behind. Those goals should then be prioritized for lessons via embedded instruction, and as a team, you can imagine at-home scenarios where those skills can be utilized.
  • Dr. Bowman provides a few examples of embedded instruction that have helped students work on specific IEP goals:
    • A student who needs to practice typing on a keyboard can be prompted to log onto a computer, text or email a friend, and create printed decorations for the house (such as a “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Birthday” sign).
    • A student who needs practice identifying two-dimensional shapes can work on this goal by vacuuming around the perimeter of a room; building structures from LEGOS, blocks, or other toys; and planting flowers in the yard.
  • Embedded instruction is meant to be paired with related in-class activities. Using the example of a student learning about two-dimensional shapes, Dr. Bowman mentions that the student can “have video chats [with their teacher] describing those LEGO structures, including their area, perimeter, and how many of each type of block could fit into different sizes,” instead of completing worksheets or virtual assignments.

Do any of Dr. Bowman’s suggestions spark ideas for you? Could some of your child’s IEP goals  be practiced at home through embedded instruction?

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