What’s Happening with Active Learning in Texas?

Authors: Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen, VI Education Specialists, TSBVI Outreach Programs

Keywords: Active Learning, Education Service Center, Penrickton Center, Perkins School for the Blind, Lilliworks, Functional Scheme Assessment, Lilli Nielsen, online learning, Coaching, Tech Loan, Texas Sensory Support Network,

Abstract: The authors provide an update on the expanding knowledge and use of Active Learning, a technique designed to provide education for students who are functioning within the developmental range of 0-48 months.

Active Learning Coaching

Training and coaching in Active Learning is available through most of the twenty Regional Education Service Centers (ESCs) in Texas. This coaching project is facilitated by the Texas Sensory Support Network (TxSSN), and each ESC tailors training based on their regional needs.

The steps that provide the foundation for an Active Learning Coach include:

  • Complete the seven asynchronous online Active Learning Modules created by the Outreach Program of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin, TX, the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, and the Penrickton Center for Blind Children in Taylor, MI.
  • Complete online training in coaching.
  • Complete “Coaching in Active Learning Training” provided by the TxSSN and TSBVI Outreach.
  • Train teams and identify individuals who want to pursue Active Learning in greater depth.
  • Engage in coaching cycles with teams over time and document progress.
  • Provide data about the impact of using the coaching cycles to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Active Learning Case Studies: Student Centered Planning

This school year, TSBVI is hosting a series of live, on-line webinars that will address planning and implementation of the Active Learning approach. Each episode will feature one “real-life” focus student currently served by a working Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). Using video and planning documents of the student, participants will work together to design instruction that incorporates Active Learning strategies.

Each session will require one TVI and his/her team to volunteer and share information about their student via the Active Learning Planning Sheet as well as short videos of that student. This hands-on approach will provide the group with a great opportunity to collaborate and learn together.

The Active Learning Study Groups are scheduled on Thursdays, every other month: 10/28/2021, 12/16/2021, 2/24/2022, and 4/21/2022. Interested parties are not required to participate in all four meetings but this is highly encouraged. Drop-ins are welcome! These webinars will not be recorded. Please sign up for the Active Learning Study Groups and other TSBVI webinar offerings.

Active Learning E-Learning Modules

TSBVI Outreach, in conjunction with the Perkins School for the Blind and the Penrickton Center for Blind Children, has completed a set of Active Learning E-Learning courses that anyone can take for free! These courses offer a guided, self-paced tour through the “Active Learning Space” website and will help familiarize learners with the basics of the approach. Over 20 credit hours (CEUs & ACVREP) can be awarded through completion of the modules. To receive credit, participants must sign up through the learning management system, Bridge, as well as through TSBVI’s training registration system, ESCWorks. Please carefully review the TSBVI E-Learning Course listing directions, then scroll down to sign up for each module, described below:

Active Learning Functional Scheme (3 CEU’s)

The Functional Scheme is the assessment tool used to determine the best educational program for a learner based on their level of development across a wide range of skill areas. The Functional Scheme can also serve for taking ongoing data and monitoring student progress. This course includes information on how to complete the Functional Scheme, how to use the results to determine an overall level of skills, and how to use it for documenting child progress and for annual reassessment.

Principles of Active Learning (12 CEU’s)

This course covers the foundational concepts and guiding ideas behind Active Learning, as identified by its creator, Dr. Lilli Nielsen. Active Learning is an effective approach for learners with complex needs which emphasizes child-centered and child-led instruction and active participation on the part of the child. The Principles of Active Learning course contains eight content areas.

Program Planning for Active Learning (1.5 CEU’s)

This section provides guidance for development of an IEP for students who are using an Active Learning approach. The Program Planning for Active Learning course contains nine content areas.

Implementing Active Learning (1.5 CEU’s)

The course provides an introduction to the FIELA Curriculum and how it can be used to develop programming. There is information on classroom organization, daily and weekly schedules, and examples of how to develop activities and environments to address both the general curriculum and the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments (ECC), as well as specific motor skills.

Active Learning: Documenting Progress (1 CEU)

This course will show how to document skills acquisition for students, including IEP goals, daily data, and creation of student portfolios.

Equipment for Active Learning (1.75 CEU’s)

This course covers the various pieces of equipment associated with Active Learning as well as what kinds of skills are targeted. It offers advice on the use of authorized equipment and also provides directions and examples of equipment that can be made by teachers and/or parents.

Materials for Active Learning (1 CEU)

This course helps practitioners select the materials to use in Active Learning environments that best match the learner’s skills and preferences in order to maximize student engagement.

Active Learning Equipment Available for Loan

The TSBVI Tech Loan Program provides Active Learning equipment on loan to local education agencies. These materials can be borrowed by any district in Texas for up to 3 months, free of charge. This is a great way to determine whether a particular piece of equipment is appropriate for a student prior to purchase. Available items include:

  • Bead chain holder
  • Essef board
  • Essef board stand
  • Grid holder
  • HOPSA dress size 1
  • HOPSA dress size 2
  • HOPSA dress size 3
  • HOPSA dress crossbar and link
  • HOPSA dress block and tackle
  • Small Little Room
  • Full Little Room
  • SPG Board
  • Support Bench
  • Tipping Board
A student sits up in an adult-sized Little Room. Objects hang down on long elastic so the student can play with them at chest level.

A twelve-year-old student sits up in the adult-size Little Room. This configuration will work through adulthood.


For more information about these items, visit Active Learning Space and click on the “Materials” tab, and then on “Things You Can Buy.” To make a tech loan request for an available item, download an application and fax it to TSBVI Outreach, Attn: Tech Loan at 512-206-9320. Note that you will also need to provide a tech evaluation that demonstrates student needs. The Functional Scheme Assessment works very well for this!

You can also find information on purchasing Active Learning materials from LilliWorks, the only authorized dealer of these items in the United States. For more information, contact Sara Kitchen at [email protected]

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