Joseph B. Fisher, Ph.D.


      Associate Professor
      Department of Special Education, Foundations and Technology
      College of Education
      Grand Valley State University
      SIM Professional Development Specialist
      University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning

My Background and Interests
Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I am the youngest of five children. For my 2nd oldest brother, learning to read was very difficult. This fact became clear to my parents and his teachers when he was in 2nd grade. The only remedy the school had to offer was to hold him back. At this time, special education services did not widely exist in schools, especially for students with learning disabilities. Needless to say, retention did not improve my brother’s reading difficulties, and by the time he was 8-years old, he despised school. For years, my parents searched for help, but help was hard to find. Luckily, when he was about to start junior high school, a military academy near our home began a special program for students with reading problems. At this school, my brother met other kids just like him, and he had teachers who understood his difficulties and could provide the specialized instruction that he needed. Finally, he learned to read. In addition, he learned to march – it was a military academy after all! Now, forty years later, my brother is a college graduate and owner of his own successful business.

For me, these family stories have contained a clear message – teachers who have the right knowledge and skills have the power to significantly improve the lives of struggling students. This message is why I chose to become a teacher and researcher in special education.

The Story Behind the Concept Mastery Routine CD
In the early 1990s, I attended a conference where Dr. Janis Bulgren presented research on the Concept Mastery Routine. During this presentation, I fell in love! That is, I fell in love with the idea of Content Enhancement Routines. At the time, I was a middle-school special education teacher, and I was engaged in a lot of co-teaching; however, I never felt that I had the right tools to make co-teaching work. Routines like the Concept Mastery Routine were just what I needed. Shortly after attending that conference, I left my teaching position and became a doctoral student at the University of Kansas and I became a doctoral fellow at the Center for Research on Learning.

While working at the center, I learned that teachers across the country felt the same way that I had. They too desired access to instructional tools to improve inclusive teaching. This realization set me on course to study how to translate the research on Content Enhancement Routines into classroom practice on a broad scale.

At that time, interactive technologies like the Internet were in their infancy. Though still primitive, these technologies clearly had the potential for providing teachers easy access to high-quality, affordable professional development. This clear potential caused me to ask, “Can interactive technologies help to translate research into practice?”

With the support of Dr. Bulgren and the guidance of Dr. Jean Schumaker and Dr. Don Deshler, this question was explored and led to the development and field-tests of the Concept Mastery Professional Development CD. A series of four field-tests showed that both preservice and inservice teachers could learn to use the Concept Mastery Routine very well if they worked through the computerized program. These studies became the foundation for later work by Jean and others on the Concept Comparison Routine, the Concept Anchoring Routine, and the Question Exploration Routine Professional Development CDs.

My thoughts About Content Enhancement Instruction
As a special education teacher, the Content Enhancement Routines were just what I needed. When my school moved to co-teaching, I was initially uncomfortable in my new role. Tools like the Concept Mastery Routine allowed me to see how I could maximize my talents and improve the learning outcomes not only for students with disabilities but also all students in the classroom. Not only did the students appreciate my use of these tools, my co-teaching partners did as well.

Feedback on the Concept Mastery Routine CD
In the series of studies conducted on the CD, teachers have consistently reported finding the contents of CD to be enjoyable, engaging, understandable, and applicable. Likewise, professional developers and university professors have also commented positively on how use of the CD has improved their instruction with preservice and inservice teachers.

My Contact Information
lease contact me at Grand Valley State University ( or 616-331-6650).