Evaluating the Effectiveness of Intensive Interaction Teaching with Pupils with Profound and Complex Learning Disabilities

Watson, J. & Fisher, A. (1997) British Journal of Special Education, 24 (2), 80-87.

This research evaluated two teaching methods, including the use of Intensive Interaction, and was carried out in a Scottish school for pupils with very severe learning difficulties and multiple impairments. Six staff-pupil pairs were studied over nine months, with the study attempting to observe any changes in the pupils’ behaviour. The question under research was whether Intensive Interactionexperiences are especially facilitatory in comparison with other school experiences.

The Participants

The participants were pupils with very severe learning difficulties and often multiple impairments, aged between 10 and 19 years.

Research Study 1 – the Methods & Findings 

Intensive Interactionsessions were videotaped at six week intervals on up to six separate occasions for each staff-pupil pair (the same staff member worked with each pupil over the whole period). The use of the Pre-verbal Communication Schedule (PVCS) enabled the researchers to assess the pupils’ typical communicative behaviour during the classroom activities. From the PVCS assessments and the data from the videotapes, the authors claimed that there were some ‘striking’ examples of social or communicative behaviours evidenced during sessions of Intensive Interactionthat were not observed during ‘other classroom activities’.

Research Study 2 – the Methods & Findings

In this study the teacher used two distinct teaching methods, Intensive Interactionand teacher-directed group activities. During the teacher-directed group time the children took part in ‘music and movement activities, with specified goals planned and controlled by the teacher’. The researcher gathered evidence using recording sheets and video recording. From the analysis of their findings, the authors claimed that Intensive Interactionwas ‘a more rewarding social experience’ for the pupils, and one ‘in which they showed initiative and control’ over the nine-month period, and pupils tended to be ‘passive recipients’ of the teacher-directed group activities. During the Intensive Interactionsessions all the pupils ‘demonstrated higher levels of active participation and enjoyment’.

Some Discussion

The findings from both studies imply that Intensive Interactionnot only adds to the quality of life of the pupils, but also that they learn to apply new skills. In the Intensive Interactionsessions the pupils were found to show ‘greater levels of engagement and initiated communications more effectively than during other class activities where they played a more passive, responsive role’.

The authors therefore claim that ‘more emphasis should be placed on physical contact and handling, and on a more playful approach to the curriculum’. The authors also assert that ‘the importance of such experiences, which enable more meaningful involvement in their [the pupil’s] social world, cannot be overstated’.

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