Skip to main content

Search NYU Steinhardt

Academic Interventions for Struggling Learners

"Academic Interventions for Struggling Learners" brief addresses the purpose of instructional support teams, elements of culturally responsive instruction and provide resources for response to interventions.

A photo of a child writing numbers on graph paper


In nearly every classroom, students come with a range of strengths and weakness, each of which provide unique challenges for even the most skilled teachers. Often times, the learning needs of struggling learners require additional academic support that is not offered to the average student through the general education curriculum. While they may be perceived as such, these struggling learners are not learning disabled, but rather, they require specialized interventions to help them to achieve at the same level and pace as their peers. The challenge thus lies in the ability of a teacher or team of educators to identify the best and most effective interventions to help those struggling learners prior to any referrals to special education.

The Purpose of the Instructional Support Teams and Early Interventions

Instructional Support Teams (IST) sometimes referred to as pre-referral intervention teams (PIT), Teaching Assistance Teams (TAT), or Instructional Consultation Teams (ICT) are problem-solving mechanisms to help teachers meet the educational needs of struggling learner within the classroom. Their purpose is to identify the instructional needs of teachers to help them create more effective learning environments and, if needed, identify additional supports necessary to address these needs. They utilize a multidisciplinary team of teachers to determine the research-based early interventions aligned with need and provide teachers additional support, resources, and guidance on teaching students with different learning needs and evaluating student growth. As such, instructional support teams provide teachers with valuable resources and support in their classrooms, helping to ensure that all students achieve success in the general education setting (Kovaleski, 1994). The basic conceptual framework of these support systems has remained relatively stable since the 1980s and includes similar features (Buck, et al.,2003).