Conceptualizing RTI in 21st century secondary science classrooms: Video games' potenetial to provide tiered support and progress monitoring for students with learning disabilities

Jul 2, 2013, 13:18 PM
Marino, M. T., & Beecher, C. C. (2010). Conceptualizing RTI in 21st Century Secondary Science Classrooms: Video Games’ Potential to Provide Tiered Support and Progress Monitoring for Students with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(4), 299-311.


  • Students with learning disabilities often struggle in science classes due to the complex inquiry processes often required to grasp scientific information.
  • This study describes the effectiveness of using video games to enhance instruction at various RTI tiers and monitor the progress of students in high school science classes.
  • More specifically, this article describes how science games created by Filament Games can be used with students in RTI Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.



  • The authors of this article outline how a science video game can be used as an intervention tool.
  • First, they describe the general sequence of the video game and then specifically address the how the game can be used with students in all 3 RTI tiers.


Description of the Video Game
  • All students begin the game by receiving a tutorial of the game’s goals, the tools available, and how to play from a virtual scientist.
  • Next, students have to complete a series of tasks that help demonstrate their mastery of the features of the game.
  • The program records each student’s actions, which are documented in a database that is accessed by the teacher.
  • Each level of the game includes a performance-based assessment aligned with national science standards.
Tier1 Features
  • In classes utilizing the game, all students spend time during each class playing a video game relevant to class content rather than completing other paper-and-pencil tasks to reinforce concepts taught.
  • The games also include several universal design features, such as animations, tables, and simulations, and allow students to navigate the game in a manner that is suited to their unique learning needs.
Tier 2 Features
  • Game and classroom data may indicate that students need a higher level of support in order to grasp class content.
  • The assessments within the video games are performance-based and do not require any reading or writing; thus, if a student performs at the expected level on the game’s assessments but below the expected level on paper-and-pencil science assessments, the student may need additional intervention in the areas of reading and writing rather than science.
  • In contrast, if a student performs below expectations on the game assessments only, the team should look at the student’s game statistics to determine which tools students should be accessing most in the game and limiting their use of other tools (e.g., only allowing access to tutorials on the scientific method until a student has an adequate grasp of the process).
  • Students struggling in both areas may need remediation within the game and in the form of additional reading and writing instruction.
Tier 3 Features
  • Students who struggle at the Tier 2 level for an extended period of time should move to Tier 3.
  • At this level, it is likely that students will need intensive remedial reading and writing support.
  • Students in Tier 3 will participate in a version of the game that is limited to the use of universal design tools that give them additional support for learning critical content.
  • The level of avatar expert support in the game can also be modified to provide students with more frequent feedback and prompts.
  • STEM