New interventions could help improve student academics and behavior

Information could help thousands of parents and educators

Story Contact: Cailin Riley,

Original MU News Bureau release 

T. Chris Riley-Tillman
T. Chris Riley-Tillman

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Research has found that early educational experiences can have lifelong impacts on learning, behavior and health. Additionally, studies show that early intervention—identifying problems early and addressing struggles in the classroom and at home—can stop problems before they get worse. With the school year well underway, many teachers and parents are increasing efforts to find new ways to get students to focus in the classroom. In a new guidebook, faculty members from the University of Missouri offer research-backed, practical strategies to help students and parents identify and fix problems. The guide, in its third edition, helps to bridge the gap between research and practice, with support and advice for educators, parents, counselors and social workers working with children.

“This book has been invaluable for educators for nearly two decades. In fact, it’s often described as the ‘Betty Crocker Cookbook’ of interventions for kids with academic and reading issues,” said T. Chris Riley-Tillman, professor and chair of the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology and co-author of the text. “In this updated edition, we’ve added 20 new interventions based on current research in areas such as improving math skills, reading performance and homework completion.”

The text, authored by Riley-Tillman and Matthew Burns, associate dean for research in the College of Education and a professor of school psychology, presents guidelines and step-by-step procedures for 83 interventions that can be implemented easily. For example, the book offers an intervention to improve social behavior called “positive peer reporting,” where students earn points toward group rewards when they praise a classmate’s good social behavior. Studies have shown that this behavior leads to better social interactions among all students and reduces bullying.

Matt Burns
Matt Burns

“We wanted our book to focus on helping students academically while realizing you can’t separate academic performance from social behavior in the classroom,” Burns said. “Oftentimes, a student’s personal behavior affects academics and vice versa; our hope is that we’ve given teachers evidence-based methods to improve both areas at the same time.”

This book is one of myriad resources offered to educators and parents by the College of Education. Additional help can be found at MU’s Evidence Based Intervention Network, a nonprofit website that provides research-based interventions in an easy-to-search format.

Effective School Interventions:Evidence-Based Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes 3rd ed. was published by Guilford Press. More information can be found at