Engaging the Reluctant Teacher: 7 Reasons Why Instructors May Resist Implementing Classroom RTI Interventions

The willingness of teachers to implement interventions is essential in any school to the success of the RTI model. Yet general-education teachers may not always see themselves as ‘interventionists’ and indeed may even resist the expectation that they will provide individualized interventions as a routine part of their classroom practice (Walker, 2004).

 It should be considered, however, that teachers’ reluctance to accept elements of RTI may be based on very good reasons. For example, if a school has not adequately defined for teachers exactly what their new RTI responsibilities are or has failed to provide appropriate training in how to serve as a classroom interventionist, it is small wonder that teachers might be hesitant to abandon their current practices and to fully embrace RTI.

Schools cannot effectively address reasons for resistance to RTI among their teaching staff unless they first identify them. Below are some common reasons that teachers might be reluctant to accept their role as RTI intervention ‘first responders’:

  1. Lack of Skills. Teachers lack the skills necessary to successfully implement academic or behavioral interventions in their content-area classrooms (Fisher, 2007; Kamil et al., 2008).

  2. Not My Job. Teachers define their job as providing content-area instruction. They do not believe that providing classwide or individual academic and behavioral interventions falls within their job description (Kamil et al., 2008).

  3. No Time. Teachers do not believe that they have sufficient time available in classroom instruction to implement academic or behavioral interventions (Kamil et al., 2008; Walker, 2004).

  4. No Payoff. Teachers lack confidence that there will be an adequate instructional pay-off if they put classwide or individual academic or behavioral interventions into place in their content-area classroom (Kamil et al., 2008).

  5. Loss of Classroom Control. Teachers worry that if they depart from their standard instructional practices to adopt new classwide or individual academic or behavior intervention strategies, they may lose behavioral control of the classroom (Kamil et al., 2008).

  6. ‘Undeserving Students’. Teachers are unwilling to invest the required effort to provide academic or behavioral interventions for unmotivated students (Walker, 2004) because they would rather put that time into providing additional attention to well-behaved, motivated students who are ‘more deserving’.

  7. The Magic of Special Education. Content-area teachers regard special education services as ‘magic’ (Martens, 1993). According to this view, interventions provided to struggling students in the general-education classroom alone will be inadequate, and only special education services have the power to truly benefit those students.

A school can effectively use this listing of common reasons for teacher reluctance by first identifying the most likely sources of faculty reluctance to RTI in that particular building. The school can then take appropriate steps to reduce that reluctance.  In one building, for example, it might be discovered that teachers harbor the erroneous belief that RTI in general education cannot adequately assist struggling learners and that students with even modest academic delays should be referred to special education (Reason 7: The Magic of Special Education). To demystify the power of special education, this school could provide training to all teachers that presents the academic and behavior management strategies that skilled special educators use and demonstrates how those same strategies can be used effectively in general-education classrooms. 


  • Fisher, D. (2007). Creating a schoolwide vocabulary initiative in an urban high school. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 12, 337-351.
  • Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A practice guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc.
  • Martens, B. K. (1993). A case against magical thinking in school-based intervention. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 4(2), 185-189.
  • Walker, H. M. (2004). Use of evidence-based interventions in schools: Where we've been, where we are, and where we need to go. School Psychology Review, 33, 398-407.