What is Specially Designed Instruction?


Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA) is working with the Iowa Department of Education to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. A learning framework entitled, “Specially Designed Instruction, or SDI, has been developed by the Department of Education to support AEA and local school teams in this work.

The process begins with a school team working to fully understand a student’s strengths and needs. For example, if a student is struggling in the area of math, the team works together to understand the student’s strengths in math. They also learn what skills require more instruction. Understanding student strengths, even in areas that are difficult, has proven to be an important part of understanding the best place to begin instruction.

Once the team knows a student’s learning needs, they can design a learning plan. This plan focuses on the instruction of skills while supporting the student within their normal classes. This plan comes to life when general and special education teachers work together to design instruction. Imagine a special education teacher targeting basic math facts. Then the classroom teacher teaches larger math problems in the elementary classroom. The general education teacher uses the same strategies and makes connections for the student and other students needing support. General and special education teachers working together helps many students in a classroom be successful.

As the learning plan is put in place, teams continue to collaborate. Changes are always considered if learning continues to be difficult. This might be another style of instruction or the use of different materials.  School teams celebrate with students and families when students make progress on learning goals.

The components of SDI provide students with disabilities with high-quality instruction. Teams can use this process to support any student who needs additional instruction to be successful, not just those receiving special education services. When Central Rivers AEA and our local school districts team together, it can have a big impact on student outcomes. Reach out to your school district or Central Rivers AEA representative to learn more!

Kortney OwenKortney Owen is a Special Education Consultant for Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at kortneyowen@centralriversaea.org. To learn more about Central Rivers AEA, please visit www.centralriversaea.org.