Community-based instruction (CBI) is a strategy or instructional method that promotes the teaching and use of academic and functional skills in the student’s natural environment. The setting, as well as the tasks performed in these settings, should be relevant to the student, facilitate independence and be age appropriate. Instruction, materials and activities need to mirror age-appropriate activities used by non-disabled same age peers while being developmentally appropriate for the needs of the student.
CBI, a hands-on learning program located within the community, is a critical component of the education program for students with disabilities, primarily because, as adults, the community is where they will need to use the skills acquired during their school years. Trips to community locations occur concurrently with classroom instruction. Although students may initially learn and practice a skill in the classroom, they will eventually practice the skill by applying it in a home or community setting. For example, a student who learns math skills in the classroom may later practice those skills during a shopping expedition.
A critical component of CBI is the involvement of parents and other members of the community such as businesses, teachers and local establishments. The expectation is that students with disabilities will live, work, shop and play in integrated, natural environments in the community and that they will participate, independently or with accommodations and supports, in life’s activities across a variety of settings.
The core of any CBI program must be directly related to the areas that prepare students to function in their community: domestic, vocational, recreation and leisure; and accessing community resources. These areas, described as domains, are described more thoroughly below.
The domestic domain (self-management/home living/daily living) includes several areas, such as the following:
- Eating and food preparation
- Grooming and dressing
- Hygiene, health and safety
- Assisting and taking care of others
The vocational domain covers the following areas:
- Classroom/school jobs
- Non-paid work experiences within the community
- Paid work experiences
The recreation/leisure domain includes the following types of activities:
- School and extracurricular activities
- Activities to do alone
- Activities to do with family and friends
- Physical fitness activities
The community domain addresses many different areas that relate to the quality of life, including access to community resources, such as the following:
- Community safety
- Shopping (food, clothing, etc.)
- Dining out (fast food and restaurants)
- Community services (social security administration, medical, dental, legal services and libraries)
When determining what community skills are to be taught and where they should be taught, teachers and parents must consider several factors, such as age appropriateness of the skills and their relationship to activities of nondisabled peers. The student’s individual learning style is also an important factor to be considered.
The first goal of CBI is to teach students to function as independently as possible in as many community environments as possible to enhance their quality of life. Through CBI, students learn skills that are identified both on the individual educational plan (IEP) and in the curricula. The second goal is to provide students with expanded options regarding independent or supported living, employment and leisure time activities. Some of the benefits of implementing a CBI program are listed below:
- Achieves IEP goals
- Enhances curriculum
- Develops and exercises social and behavioral skills
- Builds self-esteem
- Provides opportunities for inclusive interactions
- Promotes familiarity with the community
- Develops work skills
- Promotes independent functioning and the development of functional skills
- Develops and exercises communication skills
- Enhances quality of life
Community-based instruction benefits students, parents and caregivers, educational staff and the community. Some of the benefits, many of which were identified by the Nevada Dual Sensory Impairment Project (n.d.), include:
- Students increase appropriate behaviors for work and community settings, independence and mobility and the ability to generalize skills and knowledge to new situations.
- Parents/Caregivers increase commitment, communication, cooperation, and participation in planning, programming and skills identification.
- Educational staff increase creativity, commitment, communication and motivation.
- Communities increase awareness of the potential of individuals with disabilities and school/private sector partnerships.
Benefits of Community-Based Instruction
This tip sheet from the Nevada Dual Sensory Impairment Project at the University of Nevada Reno describes the benefits of CBI for students, parents and caregivers, educational staff, and the community.
Community-Based Instruction: A Guidebook for Teachers
This book by Beakley, B.A., Yoder, S.L., & West, L.L. (2003) contains information on CBI expectations, procedures, classroom components, evaluation, generalization, and more. Published by the Council on Exceptional Children, Arlington, VA., it describes the planning and implementation process for CBI including sequencing, alignment with IEP goals, site identification, staff responsibilities, documentation, data collection and more.
Orientation & Mobility/Community-Based Instruction Infusion Scope and Sequence Chart
This chart by Karyl Moore lists the skills by age group that a students needs to function in the community. The chart may assist teachers in teaching age-appropriate community skills.
Providing Community-Based Instruction (General Practice)
This chart from the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) provides information on evidence-based CBI practices. Studies describe delivering instruction in a variety of community settings including stores, restaurants, automated teller machines, laundromats, recreational facilities, and job sites. Instructional practices include practicing strategies or skills in community settings with role play or with employees or community members after direct instruction and simulated practice in the classroom.
Teaching Employment Skills Using Community-Based Instruction (Specific Practice)
This page from NTACT provides information on an evidence-based program teaching students job-specific and related social/communication skills in the community; also provided is a link to an appropriate lesson plan in the NTACT Lesson Plan Library.
This technical assistance paper (TAP) from the Florida Department of Education identifies helpful guidelines for non-paid CBVE programs where students perform work assignments for various businesses in order to collect information on their interests, aptitudes, needs, learning styles, work habits, behaviors, personal and social skills, valued, attitudes, and stamina. The TAP also presents guidelines for compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor regulations.
Nevada Dual Sensory Impairment Project. (n.d.). Tips for home or school: Benefits of Community-Based Instruction. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Reno, Department of Educational Specialties. Retrieved from https://www.unr.edu/ndsip/ tipsheets/combasedinstruction.pdf