Lee Hoffmann, PhD
Debra-Lou Hoffmann, MA
Teachers struggle to help students with learning deficiencies. The help offered is usually academic, using traditional, abstract processing tools: letters and numbers. Improvement is often slow and tedious. What if the cause of learning deficiencies is a weakness in core, multi-modal processing skills located deeper in the brain, which need to be stimulated through non-abstract, non-academic tools? If a curriculum designed at this level were implemented, would the result be an intervention that takes less time, costs less money and offers more improvement than traditional academic methods?
Just such a multimodal curriculum (based on the previous twenty-three years of classroom research) was originally implemented in 1984 in a traditional classroom, funded by grants from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Its effectiveness was assessed using the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) of Reading Skills. The control group didn’t receive the intervention curriculum, and as expected, gained an average of nine months over a nine-month period. The experimental group, trained through multimodal exercises, gained 20 months in a five month period: a 220% gain in word recognition skills.
A 2007 study by a Resource Specialist teacher using the same multimodal intervention curriculum was conducted at a school in Chico, California. The study compared students’ current California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) scale scores with scores from the previous year. Students who were trained with the intervention curriculum gained a cumulative +16 points. The five other RSP classrooms in the district, none of which were trained with the intervention curriculum, lost a cumulative -2 points during the same period.
These studies, and many others, indicate that a carefully selected set of cognitive development materials and multi-modal training exercises offers more improvement in academic skills for the lowest performing students/clients than traditional academic programs. It doesn’t improve performance in all students/clients all of the time, because some students/clients have deeper problems. But it does consistently improve performance in at least 80%. Teachers and supervisors also report improvements in attention, memory, processing and behavior.
Our original thesis was based on the hypothesis that weak cognitive processing, not low intelligence, contributed to low academic performance, even in the gifted population. Conversely, strong cognitive, multimodal training supports improved academic achievement. We developed specific training exercises to target weak neural connections, delivered in 15-20 minute segments (times the 3 modalities, equaling an hour of training time per day) for 36 days: a seven-to-eight week program (some students/clients require more time).
The purpose of this intervention curriculum is to offer individuals, schools, families, businesses and academic institutions a faster, less expensive program for consistently low performers. Our intention is to improve the overall processing of students’ and clients' brains so they become lifelong independent learners who contribute to society.