Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Numbered Heads Together as a Tier 1 Instructional Strategy in Multitiered Systems of Support

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Numbered Heads Together as a Tier 1 Instructional Strategy in Multitiered Systems of Support

Article excerpt


Federal mandates (Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004; No Child Left Behind Act, 2001) require teachers to accommodate students with more diverse academic and behavioral needs in inclusive general educational settings. To assist general educators in meeting this instructional challenge, multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) such as response to intervention (RtI) and positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) were established in schools nationwide. There is still a need, however, for classroom-based interventions with empirical support that are feasible to implement in whole-class settings and acceptable to teachers and students. Here, Numbered Heads Together (NHT), an alternative questioning strategy, is offered as a potentially effective Tier 1 intervention that can be used to improve student performance in general education classrooms. Extant research findings are described, procedures for using NHT in classroom settings are discussed, and future directions for research and practice are offered.

Keywords: Numbered Heads Together, teacher questioning, active student engagement, cooperative learning, multi-tiered systems of support


Since the enactment of No Child Left Behind (2001) and the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004), general educators have assumed greater instructional responsibility for students with disabilities. By law, they are expected to use evidence-based or scientifically based practices to improve student outcomes (Heward, 2010; Spencer, Detrich, & Slocum, 2012). Yet most general educators do not know which practices are evidence based, receive few opportunities to use them in teacher preparation or professional development programs, and get little assistance and support in monitoring their impact on student performance (Begeny & Martens, 2006; Bums & Ysseldyke, 2009; Gable, Tonelson, Sheth, Wilson, & Park, 2012; Maheady, Smith, & Jabot, 2013). As the number of students with disabilities attending inclusive settings has increased, general educators have openly expressed reservations about their ability to meet these students' needs (Brownell, Adams, Sindelar, Waldron, & Vanhover, 2006; Rosenzweig, 2009).

To address the mounting instructional challenges and concerns confronting general and special educators, multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) were developed (Harlacher, Sakelaris, & Kattelman, 2013). MTSS use evidence-based techniques that provide varying levels of intensity to increase the achievement of all students (Harlacher et al., 2013). Through varied tiers, differentiated instruction is provided to prevent academic and behavioral problems before reactive measures are put in place (Gamm et al., 2012). Two high-profile exemplars, response to intervention (RtI; Brown-Chidsey & Steege, 2005) and positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Program (OSEP Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, n.d.) fall under the umbrella of MTSS. Both systems were designed to improve student outcomes by providing educators with access to and training in evidence-based practices and progress-monitoring systems to document the impact of selected services. It is in this context that Numbered Heads Together (NHT), a cooperative learning structure (Kagan & Kagan, 2009), is offered as a possible Her 1 instructional practice.

NHT is an alternative teacher questioning strategy that actively engages all students simultaneously in collaborative, content-related discussions. All students write individual responses to each teacher question; share those responses in small, heterogeneous groups; and reach consensus. One member of each team is then selected randomly to provide the group's response. An emerging database of literature suggests that NHT is more effective than the voluntary hand-raising practices that have dominated American education for decades (Haydon, Maheady, & Hunter, 2010; Hunter & Haydon, 2013; Maheady, Mallette, Harper, & Sacca, 1991; Maheady, Michielli-Pendl, Harper, & Mallette, 2006; Maheady, Michielli-Pendl, Mallette, & Harper, 2002). …

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