National Intervener Certification Eportfolio (NICE): Participatory Efforts to Recognize the Intervener Practice
Posted on March 13, 20164 Comments 14 Likes Like this post
Amy Parker , Ed.D. & COMS - NCDB Coordinator of Professional Development and Products
Background and Need
Technology tools are powerful equalizers, particularly in low incidence disability fields, where it can be challenging to explore multiple examples of a role in action or to document practitioner competencies that are not widely known. Interveners, who serve students who are deaf-blind, represent members of an emerging but vital practice in the United States (McCann, 2015). Although there are nationally recognized intervener knowledge and skills competencies published by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), there are few intervener training programs and even fewer means of validating the specific skill sets of practicing interveners (NCDB, 2012). In 2012, NCDB published recommendations to improve intervener services for the field which were based on a series of surveys, focus groups, interviews, and syntheses of written materials. In order to fully develop and sustain the practice of intervention for students who are deaf-blind, representatives from family organizations, state deaf-blind projects, interveners, teachers, and university faculty members broadly agreed upon the need to expand opportunities for interveners to validate their specific knowledge and skills through national or state certification/credentialing processes.
Beta-Test Design and Launch
The journey to develop an e-portfolio system began over a year ago when a small but dedicated group of state partners, each from state systems that recognize the intervener role, began partnering with NCDB and OSEP to design a process to document nationally accepted intervener competencies. Using an iterative and participatory product design, NCDB invited state partners to include practicing interveners to collaborate in a national beta test to develop and refine a digital e-portfolio certification system. The eight interveners that volunteered had been through comprehensive intervener training and were recognized as interveners by their employers within their school or community-based service settings. From the beginning, interveners and state partners obtained family or guardian consent to use images, videos or other practice-based artifacts within the password-protected e-portfolios. Additionally, two university project partners were recruited to assist with designing competency based scoring protocols that could be developed and tested with input from all partners. Central to the purpose of the product design was the notion that the validation of competencies would not be based on a review of intervener training programs, but upon the individual interveners’ abilities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills according to the CEC’s standards using artifacts or samples from their practice.
Eight Intervener Leaders served as e-portfolio beta testers
Beta-Test Phase I: April-July, 2015
In order to build a flexible e-portfolio system, NCDB began by selecting a respected, open-source platform called Mahara, which was designed by the New Zealand government as a way for individuals to represent career-based skills. The Mahara system was useful because it allowed for interveners and state partners to try out an e-portfolio system to gather and describe digital artifacts within the first phase of the beta test. As the interveners explored the 79 deaf-blind specific knowledge and skills competencies with their state mentors, they could begin to organize video samples, pictures, documents, certificates, supervisory reviews into an evolving e-portfolio framework, offering feedback on both the system and the process. Throughout this phase, our state partners and intervener leaders, as we came to call them, were instrumental in providing relevant feedback using a help-desk ticketing system, surveys and through regular dialogue within virtual, monthly group meetings. As a component of this phase, all interveners submitted completed e-portfolio samples, which were independently reviewed, using a draft scoring protocol, by two partners who were not from their home state. These reviews were used to evaluate the strength and clarity of the protocol.
One of the most important lessons learned was the challenge of getting inter-observer agreement (IOA) across 79 discreet, yet sometimes complex competencies. Competencies were written and validated through the CEC to be interrelated and broad in scope. Sometimes it proved a challenge for particular types of artifacts to demonstrate adequately the scope of the competency. It was also fascinating for our team to see that there was more agreement by reviewers on the demonstration of skills than on demonstration of knowledge. Particularly, video-based samples and described pictures were powerful artifacts for interveners in representing skills competencies.
Beta-Test Phase II: September, 2015- March, 2016
It is appropriate to use the word ecosystem for the e-portfolio development process because of the need for multiple elements to come together to effectively support players in the use of an online e-portfolio system. For example, the role of the state partners in being sounding boards for interveners cannot be overstated. Additionally, the interveners themselves developed ways of staying connected, using a private Facebook page and offering each other helpful tips for representing and exploring competencies in their practice. In this phase, the team of partners used feedback to improve not only the structure of the Mahara e-portfolio, but to also make decisions about the types of artifacts that were most effective in demonstrating competencies. Decisions were also made about how to cluster competencies around sets of selected artifacts and to describe them succinctly and effectively.
Within this phase, two rounds of portfolio reviews occurred, with iterative revisions made to the scoring protocol and to the e-portfolio system based upon each phase of reviews. After the first phase, the beta team, including the intervener leaders, agreed that the demonstration of competence should be given more consideration or weight than the text based artifact explanations. Significant discussion occurred about the role of the intervener as a highly skilled paraprofessional, who rarely will have teacher-level credentials. Each member of the beta test agreed that the e-portfolio process should not become a writing-based assessment tool, but should remain focused on how interveners provide tailored access, communication and social support to diverse individuals who are deaf-blind.
Members of the certification team include NCDB staff, Interveners, and State Deaf-Blind Project partners
Iterative and participatory processes are great methodologies for learning, particularly when the goal involves the successful design and integration of technology. Competent interveners are vital members of educational teams for many individuals who are deaf-blind. Finding ways to document complex practice-based skills, developed with support and encouragement from mentors, can be a challenge. An e-portfolio tool creates flexibility, allowing for skills to be documented in one location, reviewed by a mentor who is miles away, and submitted for independent scoring by trained reviewers on different coasts.
All of the feedback gathered via surveys, the help-desk and our ongoing dialogue with practicing interveners, state, and university partners about what could be clearer within the e-portfolio has led us to develop a more flexible e-portfolio platform. In this next phase of design, we are inviting specific partner states who have state-based recognition of the intervener role, to partner with us again, to have new interveners field test this refined e-portfolio platform and review protocol, something we’ve collectively named NICE.
This year of authentic dialogue and e-portfolio use has led us to discussions with national certification agencies about an October 1, 2016 launch of a national certification system using NICE with a national review board of professionals, familiar with the intervener model, using a field-tested scoring protocol with fidelity. In order to build a sustainable system for certification, dialogue with partners has resulted in building supportive training materials which may be used by interveners, mentors, intervener training programs, and reviewers to promote transparency and empowerment in engaging in this ecosystem. In the end, when we recognize that an intervener has met national standards to competently serve students who are deaf-blind, we are supporting the next phase of development in our field, creating a path for participation, recognition, and advancement to the benefit of students who are deaf-blind.
Cornell University Center for Teaching and Learning. (2016).
Teaching With Technology: e-Portfolios.
McCann, J. (2015). Interveners and Children Who Are
Deaf-Blind, Retrieved from
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness. (2012). Recommendations for improving intervener services. Retrieved from http://interveners.nationaldb.org.