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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Opportunities to Respond - Topic 26

What is it?

Teachers deliver academic information and experiences to students with the goal of improving student knowledge and outcomes. To verify knowledge, teachers make academic requests, or in other words provide students opportunities to respond (OTR), which prompts active student responding to academic material (Heward, 2009). When students actively engage to opportunities to respond, teachers can evaluate learning, correct errors, and modify instruction. Without prompting, students tend to passively engage with academic content which hinders a teacher’s ability to confirm student knowledge.

Why is it important?

Providing students many distinct OTR sets the stage for improving student outcomes (Greenwood et al., 1984). In secondary classroom settings, directly posing questions to individual students allows teachers to assess knowledge and provide immediate error correction. Teachers who can incorporate situations when multiple students can actively interact with information simultaneously (e.g., group discussions, choral responding) increases OTR exponentially (Heward, 2009). Student output can occur in both silent (i.e., written or gestural) and vocal, verbal forms. In response, students that are given more OTR stay more engaged in instruction, demonstrate improved academic outcomes and provide teachers more situations to provide praise (Partin et al., 2010). The combination of OTR, active academic responses, and teacher praise provides a backbone for the educational process.


Greenwood, C. R., Delquadri, J.C., & Hall, R.V. (1984). Opportunity to respond and student

Academic performance. In W.L. Heward, T.E., D.S. Hill, J. Trap-Porter (Eds.), Focus on

Behavior analysis in education (pp. 58-88). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Heward, W. L. (2009) Exceptional children: An introduction to special education (9th ed.).

Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Partin, T.C., Robertson, R. E., Maggin, D. M., Oliver, R. M. & Wehby, J. H. (2010). Using teacher

praise and opportunities to respond to promote appropriate student behavior. Preventing

School Failure, 54, 172-178.

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