Nicole M. Dimich works with elementary and secondary educators in presentations, trainings, and consultations that address today’s most critical issues all in the spirit of facilitating improved support of student learning.

The Secret Ingredient to Effective Interventions: Students’ Perceptions

When students know they are getting additional time and support for learning essential standards, sometimes referred to as intervention, do they see it as a punishment? Does it contribute to their perceptions of themselves as a “low” achiever? If so, we have a problem. Brookhart (2013) and Moss (2013) cite confidence as a key indicator of achievement. If students have confidence, they are more likely to persevere when they don’t immediately know how to do something. Confidence is the thing that will help students see possibility and hope (Moss & Brookhart, 2012). It’s this intrinsic state of being that will ensure interventions lead to high achievement.

Interventions must be framed for students as positive. Students must hear that they are going to this intervention or getting additional time and support because we, the adults in their lives, believe that with a little more time, they will achieve that essential learning. If students perceive they are going to an “intervention” or “with a certain group of students” or to “another room” as punishment or because they are too slow or not enough, these learners will inevitably continue to believe they are not as “smart” as others. In fact, even renaming the room to the “learning lab” won’t be enough if students still perceive that kids go there because they are not as smart or are falling behind. We, the educators in their lives, need to change this mindset. We need students to understand and perceive that intervention and needing additional time and support is an opportunity. This time is setting them up to thrive and achieve at high levels.

Four Steps to Fostering an Optimistic Student Mindset

  1. Frame intervention in terms of learning

    Verbally frame every intervention in terms of what students need to learn more about. Ensure learning targets and essential standards are written and posted on assessments. Convey to students in words and actions that the work they are doing is about learning, not just compliance or completing work. Every student should know what they are learning more about. Intervention should not be about just completing work; it needs to be about gaining skills.

  2. Accurately interpret assessment evidence

    Ensure that the assessment evidence that led to the intervention is thoroughly analyzed so that those facilitating or conducting the intervention with students understand the misconceptions leading to students needing this intervention. In the absence of interpreting the assessment evidence, students may get the wrong type of instructional intervention.

  3. Teach and facilitate self-assessment

    Ensure students are reflecting on their assessment evidence and are seeing that the intervention is helping them learn what they are strong in and also reveals what they get more time to work on. For students in the beginning stages of achieving this essential standard, they may need more support in making the connections between the assessment evidence and their learning. This must be built into the intervention process to ensure that students’ perceptions are framed around learning.

  4. Use assessment evidence to check the intervention effect

    Ensure that the assessment evidence used to determine the effectiveness of the intervention accurately gathers information on achievement (the essential standard) and student confidence (student perceptions). Check to see if students learned more during the intervention and also check to see if their confidence grew.

Self-Assessment Template

The following is one example of a structure to better facilitate these steps.





I can cite textual evidence.

Achievement Check: Complete the following table based on the texts we have been reading. In the first column, choose one of the themes provided. In the second column, find and write textual evidence that supports it. In the third column, explain why you think the textual evidence supports the theme.

  • Money can devastate the world.
  • Love triumphs over evil.
  • Words can hurt more than a broken bone.
  • Time heals all wounds.
Theme Textual evidence to support it (include the line number) Explain why you think the text evidence supports the theme.



Confidence Check: Check all that apply. This confidence check will be used before we learn about citing textual evidence. It will be used during our work on this learning goal. And, we will do a final check after we have spent time on this. This check is during our work on citing textual evidence.

Confidence Statement Before During After
  • I understand this so well I could teach others.
  • I get this and can tell you why.
  • I have questions about this that I need to ask.
  • I don’t know what this means.
  • I don’t know where to start.
  • I’m thoroughly confused.
  • I’m overwhelmed.

If a team is working in collaboration, the following template can be used both as a cover page for an assessment as well as an intervention planning template for a team. Notice that the learning goals are in a progression, so whether you use points or just descriptions of learning, there is a clear path to achieving the essential standards and beyond. Phase five refers to my Design in Five process where teacher determine how students will reflect and then respond to their assessment evidence.

Collaborative Team Planning and Analyzing (Phase 5, Vagle, 2015)

Scale Learning Goals/Descriptions Items Misconceptions Students Intervention Ideas
  • I can recognize or explain or justify how this concept appears in the real world.
  • I can construct problems involving dividing fractions by fractions.

Scenario (3 questions)

  • I can use the relationships between multiplication and division to explain how to divide fractions by fractions.
11 (explanation)
  • I can solve word problems involving divisions of fractions by fractions. (use visual models and equations to represent)



  • I can interpret quotients of fractions. This means…

7 (1–5)

  • I can compute quotients of fractions.




  • I can multiply fractions.
  • I can describe inverse operations. This means…
  • I can simplify a fraction.
  • I can turn a fraction into its reciprocal.
  • Minor errors: (List them)
  • Errors in reciprocal fractions
  • Errors in multiplication error
  • With help students achieve 2 or some of 3…


Andrade, H. L. (2013). Classroom assessment in the context of learning theory and research. In J. H. McMillan (Ed.), SAGE handbook of research on classroom assessment (pp. 17–34). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Brookhart, S. M. (2013). Classroom assessment in the context of motivation theory and research. In J. H. McMillan (Ed.), SAGE handbook of research on classroom assessment (pp. 35–54). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Moss, C. M. (2013). Research on classroom summative assessment. In J. H. McMillan (Ed.), SAGE handbook of research on classroom assessment (pp. 235–255). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Moss, C. M., & Brookhart, S. M. (2012). Learning targets: Helping students aim for understanding in today’s lesson. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Vagle, N. D. (2015).Design in five: Essential phases to engaging assessment practice. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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