Leveraging Computer Software to Increase the Use of Content Enhancement

What is the problem?

A major barrier to planning eff ective instruction for students with disabilities is the amount of time required to think about and create a plan that incorporates principles of eff ective instructional design (e.g., focuses on big ideas, makes strategies conspicuous, primes background knowledge, provides scaff olding, involves judicious reviews, and provides organized and integrated sequences of units and lessons). Many teachers have informally reported using the commercial software program Inspiration to design lessons to help them achieve these goals. However, this software was not specifi cally designed for instructional planning and does not guide teachers through the process in an effi cient way. As a result, teachers are not able to incorporate devices for enhancing content at the rate needed to enable teachers to provide a suffi cient amounts of explicit instruction needed for students with disabilities.

What is GIST?

GIST is a computer software application that stores Content Enhancement Devices and other graphic organizers as templates that can be easily retrieved to guide course, unit, and lesson planning. Thetemplates can be linked to one another to create whole courses with appropriate links to the internet, media, and other computer applications. A planning CD has been designed to prompt teachers through the process of developing instructional plans that can be aligned with state standards and that lead to instruction that meets instructional design principles found to be eff ective with students with disabilities. Thesoftware allows teachers to easily change previously completed device plans, copy and save multiple versions of device plans, or create their own device plans and link them to already completed templates. Teachers can also share their plans with other teachers giving them a jump start on the planning process.

How is it implemented?

Once teachers have received professional development in a Content Enhancement Routine, they can purchase and download the software. Thebasic planning edition of the software comes with the Course Organizer, Unit Organizer, and Lesson Organizer devices from the Content Enhancement series. As teachers receive professional development in additional Content Enhancement Routines, additional templates are added to the software library of planning templates. Figure 2.1 shows a screen shot of a partially completed Course Organizer as it appears in the software. Additional templates for other Content Enhancement Devices can be used to help teachers plan how to accomplish other instructional goals such as introducing concepts, exploring topics, clarifying confusing details, surveying a text, planning high quality assignments. Thesoftware can then be used to link all the templates together for overall planning, storage and retrieval. Once the planning process is completed, the teacher can print and duplicate blank forms for students so that the devices can be completed through a coconstructed process following the guidelines in the Content Enhancement Guidebook.

What’s important to know about it?

Simply using GIST software to plan content enhancement devices does not increase the eff ectiveness of a teacher’s use of the Content Enhancement device in the classroom. Thesoftware will enable the teacher to quickly revise a previously completed template and store templates for later use. However, teachers must follow the guidelines provided in the guidebook and in their professional development sessions to eff ectively and effi ciently use the device as part of an eff ective Content Enhancement Routine.

What research backs it up?

The influence of GIST on the rate of Content Enhancement usage was tested over a two-year period with each year being a phase of research. During the first year, 145 high school teachers from across 6 school districts and the students in at least four of their classes participated in the study. During the fi rst three months of the fi rst year, all teachers were provided professional development in six Content Enhancement Teaching Routines. Theroutines included; (a) TheCourse Organizer Routine, (b) TheUnit Organizer Routine, (c) TheLesson Organizer, (d) TheConcept Mastery Routine, and the Concept Comparison Routine. A total of 843 students with disabilities participated in the study. Teachers were asked to keep all Content Enhancement devices created and used with students. Students were surveyed to determine their awareness of the use of diff erent Content Devices and their satisfaction with learning when the devices were used. By the end of the year, teachers had created and implemented a total of 1.8 Content Enhancement Devices per unit out of possible 6.0 devices per unit. On the end of year surveys, 42% of the students with disabilities indicated that they were aware of the use of the Content Enhancement Devices and believed they enhanced their learning.

In the second year of the study, 121 high school teachers and four of their classes from the previous year were available to participate in the study. Th ree of the districts were randomly assigned to be the experimental group and to receive GIST software to help them plan. A one-day workshop was conducted to orient teachers to the software. Theother three districts served as the control group and were asked to continue to implement the Content Enhancement Routines learned in the previous year. Th ese teachers were given a one-day workshop in which teachers were grouped for collaborative planning in the use of Content Enhancement devices. All schools and teachers were given equivalent amounts of support and follow-up. By the end of the year, teachers in the experimental group using GIST software to help them plan for the uses of the devices had created and implemented a total of 4.3 devices per unit out of a possible 6.0 devices. Thecontrol group has created and implemented a total of 2.4 devices per unit. On the student survey, 84% of the students with disabilities indicated that they were aware of the use of the devices and believed that they enhanced their learning, whereas only 56% of students with disabilities indicated an awareness and belief that the devices enhanced learning.

What additional information is available?

An online library of completed Content Enhancement devices in various secondary subject areas is available at

Who can provide additional information?

Staff at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning can provide information on professional development on the use of Content Enhancement Routines ( Additional information about the software used in this study and used in conjunction with Content Enhancement Routines can be found at

Source: The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. GIST was known as the Interactive Organizer over the course of this study.