Students with identified learning needs, and many who are in need of specific support even without diagnosed needs, are helped by interventionists both in and out of the classroom. It used to be the norm that a math coach or English coach would pull the student out of the classroom in order to provide specialized help. This usually came at the expense of subjects that the student was often good at including specials such as music and art – subjects that might allow the student with learning differences to shine. The reaction to this dilemma, as it was in the inclusion movement, was to shift to a push-in model. The interventionist went to the class and worked with the student within the classroom situation. So it’s a good question. Should you push-in to help the student or pull the student out?

The honest answer? There is no clear answer. It depends on a lot of other contexts:

  • How significant is the learning need that will be addressed?
  • Can a pullout be done without affecting other areas of learning?
  • Can a push-in be effective without disrupting other students?
  • What resources are available for either pullout or push-in?
  • Is there space in the classroom for another adult?
  • What is the purpose of the learning needs program?

The research is conflicted but interesting. First, we need to acknowledge that on blogs and in articles, practitioners are far more in favor of pulling the student out. They say things like – working with the student in the classroom depends on the student (some students can’t focus with the hubbub of the classroom around them); push-ins don’t work because the classroom is not a stable learning environment for these kinds of learners when faced with significant learning deficits. While it makes sense that the teacher wants to have control over their own teaching environment, administrators have unrealistic expectations when it comes to what the teacher can accomplish all in the name of inclusion.

But there is a different reason for considering push-in and it requires some longer-term thinking. The reason is that the student body is changing radically and the needs to be met by the interventionist are increasing continually. The reality, even in well-funded schools, is that there are never enough hands in a situation where the challenges are multiplying as the years go by. To pull students out of the classroom requires far more teachers than virtually any school can possibly hire. There’s just too much need.

We suggest that the prime advantage for pushing in is the impact it can have on the classroom teacher. Can we have the best of both worlds? If, on the one hand, we can pull out those students where that can have direct and significant impact, and on the other hand, push-in in order to expand the skills of the classroom teacher who is meeting more diverse needs than ever before, we might be able to have the best of both worlds. This requires a partnership between the interventionist and the classroom teacher that will allow for:

  • Modeling of teaching practices – whole class
  • Modeling coaching of individual students within the class setting (this can be even more effective, for example, in elementary classrooms with aides or parent helpers to participate in the training)
  • Just-in-time intervention during class
  • Aligning practices, disciplinary policy, and key classroom processes

Obviously, there is significant literature on the power of inclusion since we began to integrate children with learning needs into the regular classroom. There have also been many anecdotal horror stories where the resources didn’t match the hope. While the short-term interest of the student may be met with a pull-out preference, a longer-term ambition for all teachers to be trained and thus multiply the skills of the interventionist throughout the school might lead to a more nuanced approach. In this view, push-in becomes a graduated norm that has different looks depending on the need and the student/s ability to carry out small group work, targeted instruction, modeled instruction, partnering etc. The emphasis is towards pushing in so that the skills of the interventionist can be multiplied within the teaching staff. Removing the student for individual or small group work is kept only for cases where the skills of the classroom teacher are just overwhelmed.

This research study will be helpful to those considering this question!