Language Intervention in the Classroom – What does the research say?

When I talk to SLPs about providing language intervention in the classroom, I usually hear comments from two different “camps” – the “teachers don’t want me there and I don’t know how to take data, so I’d rather not” camp and the “I do it a little but I don’t know where to go from here” camp.  Occasionally, I hear from someone who provides services in the classroom all the time and feels really comfortable doing it, but those SLPs are few and far between.  I’ve also found myself at more than one time this year in front of an audience of classroom teachers.  They are all very interested in what SLPs know and how they can support them; yet, few if any of them have ever been approached by their campus SLP to come into their classrooms.  To battle the hesitancy to get into the classroom, I often find myself sharing what the literature says about classroom-based interventions.

When I started to look at the research, I was somewhat surprised at just how long it had been taking place.  I found a number of studies from the early 1990s discussing the benefits of classroom-based interventions.  I also found several new reviews of  all of this data to help us make sense of just what works. In 2006, Laura Justice and Anita McGinty did a nice review of classroom-based vs. pull out interventions in EBP Briefs.  They looked at 3 studies, with a total of 91 children, in which classroom-based and pull out services were compared.  In two of the 3 studies, children in the classroom-based group made significantly greater gains than those in the pull out group.  In the third study, the students performed significantly better on measures of receptive language in the pull out setting, but did equally as well on measures of expressive language and total language scores.  Cirrin et. al. (2010) looked at 5 studies, and reported that classroom-based services are at least as effective as pull-out services, but the authors were frustrated with the limited number of studies to review.  Both McGinty and Justice (2006) and Cirrin et. al (2010) stated that classroom-based services may be more effective than pull-out services, and may result in greater generalization of skills to other natural settings.

There are also a number of individual studies to examine.  Throneburg et. al. (2000) found that collaborative classroom-based services were more effective than pull out services or classroom-based services in which the teacher was not involved.  Bland and Prelock (1995) found greater increases in language production via SALT transcription in classroom-based collaborative services vs. direct pull out services, and Farber and Klein (1999) found that students had higher scores in listening and writing, and higher abilities to understand vocabulary following classroom-based interventions.  Elbert and Prelock (1994) found that teachers who participated in a collaborative speech-language pathology program were more aware of the impact of the communication disorder on their student’s abilities and made more appropriate classroom adaptations.  Finally, Wilcox et al (1991) found that preschool-age children in the classroom intervention condition demonstrated greater generalization of new words learned to the home setting.

So what does that mean for us?

Consideration of classroom based intervention is an important one, given that the research shows that it may be a more effective service delivery  model.  Further, IDEA 2004 requires us to provide services in the Least Restrictive Environment.

Co-teaching with the classroom teacher not only may improve student performance, it may also help the classroom teacher better understand and support the student when we’re not there.

It all starts with one classroom.  Find that teacher that you like and likes you.  Start small.  Success will grow other opportunities.

Also, if you still want more, consider joining my free lunchtime Wednesday Webinar Series on Classroom Based Interventions for SLPs:


Bland, L., & Prelock, P. (1995). Effects of collaboration on language performance. Journal of Children’s Communication Development, 17(2), 31–38.

Cirrin, F., Schooling, T., Nelson, N., Diehl, S. Flynn, P., Staskowski, M., Torrey, T., Adamczyk, D. (2010). Evidence-Based Systematic Review: Effects of Different Service Delivery Models on Communication Outcomes for Elementary School–Age Children. Language Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 41(3), 233-264.

Farber, J.G., and Klein, E.R. (1999). Classroom-Based Assessment of Collaborative Intervention Program with Kindergarten and First-Grade Students. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 30, 83-91.

McGinty, A., & Justice, L. (2006). Classroom-based versus pullout interventions: A review of the experimental evidence. EBP Briefs, 1(1),3–25.

Throneburg, R., Calvert, L., Sturm, J., Paramboukas, A., & Paul, P. (2000). A comparison of service delivery models: Effects on curricular vocabulary skills in the school setting. American Journal of Speech- Language Pathology, 9(1), 10–20.

Wilcox, M., Kouri, T., & Caswell, S. (1991). Early language intervention: A comparison of classroom and individual treatment. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1(1), 49–62.

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