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How to Plan for Community-Based Instruction

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At a Glance

Identifying and vetting potential locations for their educational value and alignment with students' IEP goals.

Consulting with stakeholders and making arrangements, ensuring safety and accessibility for all students.

Finalizing plans with a focus on educational outcomes, community engagement, and addressing any logistical concerns.

Welcome back to our Community-Based Instruction (CBI) series, where in part 1 we covered some of the basics of what such an activity entails, went over some of the types of CBI that are out there in part 2 , and talked about different approaches to establishing what skills and goals students can work toward in a CBI context in part 3. We are rounding out this series for now with one more post focusing on how to plan for a CBI outing. 

While every CBI outing is different and unique activities might require unique forms of preparation, this post will cover some of the broad steps you are likely to want to take regardless of where you and your students may be going. As you grow more experienced with CBIs some of these steps may start to feel pretty routine and straightforward but there are still several to go through, so let’s dive right in!

Identify locations of interest.

This is the loosest step of the whole process and is all about what you broadly think might be a cool or helpful place to visit as part of a CBI outing in your community. 

While you are vetting in the sense that you are only identifying place you think would be interesting, there will be an opportunity to narrow our options down soon so if you want a lot of options to choose from feel free to make a big list! 

Just remember that whatever options you might be considering will require some additional vetting going forward, so be prepared to start eliminating locations when they don’t meet a particular criteria.

Make sure your locations of interest can help you hit your core criteria and narrow down options.

Because CBI outings can require a bit more planning than a standard in school activity, it can be helpful to have methods of eliminating options that just aren’t going to work before you put too much time or effort into them. 

You may remember from part 1 some of our core criteria for a strong CBI outing, and these criteria happen to be a great way to eliminate unsuitable options without having to go through all the leg work of contacting people or physically visiting the location. 

At this stage you can use what you know about the location to determine whether it might be a good fit, and researching is the type of thing that can be saved for highly pertinent questions that you do not know the answer to for locations that otherwise check all the boxes.

1. Helps with practicing a skill that is used in a community setting.

Thinking about your students’ goals and the skills that will help them reach those goals is a great starting point as we mention in part 3 , and your knowledge of local community settings can help with a basic idea of what might be a good fit.

2. Takes place in that community setting.

Is this community setting readily accessible? Are the logistics of getting there within the normal resources of the school or would it take considerable extra effort? Unless you are highly invested in a specific space, locations that would be tricky to easily reach may be best to set aside to focus on more realistic options that will encounter less resistance.

3. Shares information about and offers opportunity to work on unique procedures related to receiving services in that location.

The first major consideration of this step is whether the location is generally accessible and you believe you will have space to offer instructions, decompress, and allow students to work on strategies without feeling like they are interrupting the whole process. 

If you don’t feel totally certain, it might be worth contacting the location a little bit earlier in the process to get a sense of whether they are willing and able to make sure there is space and time available.

4. Discusses but does not enforce behavior related to unique social norms in that location.

Similar to the last step, it is important to consider whether a location will rigidly enforce social norms in a way that offsets the benefits of discussing and learning about them. If a place seems like it might be a little too harsh then it’s worth considering other options! 

Please note that it’s of course important to consider whether employees might overly enforce social norms but it can also be helpful to consider if it’s the type of place where patrons might be more likely to say something negative as well.

5. Acts as a safe space where it is OK to make mistakes even though it is set in the community.

This step entails making sure the environment in question is conducive to learning the skills in question, ensuring reasonable accommodations can be made for students who need them, and that there are not any environmental factors that could potentially trigger sensory overload or present a safety hazard for a given student. 

Ensuring a safe environment is incredibly important for a successful CBI outing and it is something worth going over again later in the process to make sure you have not missed anything!

Consult with the people in charge of that space.

With the information you have already gathered about the type of skills you want to practice during your outing and any lingering questions or concerns you may have about the suitability of the space, now is a good time to contact the people in charge of that space, share what you are hoping to do and why, and get feedback from them on whether it will be possible, what such an outing might require on their end, and whether there will be any additional costs to you. 

At this stage we are not necessarily confirming that anything will be happening with certainty. Instead we just want a clear picture of how things will work in the event that you do move forward and identify any additional wrinkles that might have been missed when just considering your personal observations of the space.

Set a potential plan, share findings with any potential gatekeepers.

Armed with the location, what you hope to achieve from an educational standpoint, and a strong understanding of how things will work if the outing moves forward, now is the sweet spot where you have done enough work to be able to answer the important questions about your proposed outings but haven’t fully committed to it so it won’t be the end of the world if things get scuttled. 

It’s also a great time to clarify in your own mind exactly what you intend to do in that space and how you intend to do it all within a given time frame. It’s also a time to consider whether you will need additional assistance, what kind of transportation you expect to use, and whether students will need to bring anything with them as part of the trip. 

While gatekeepers can sometimes be a pain, it’s also an opportunity for another person to look over your proposal and ask questions from a slightly different perspective that you may not have considered. While we obviously do not want to get denied for a frivolous reason, having more eyes on a particular project or outing can be a great thing!

Do a final vetting for any details you may have missed, particularly safety.

As we said above, it is a great idea to revisit the potential for any safety or accommodation challenges multiple times throughout this process to ensure nothing is missed and to account for new information gathered along the way. 

Now that most of what you need is in place, it’s a great time to more carefully consider any small details that might stand out to you as potential challenges. This is also a great time to more carefully consider individuals with unique needs and whether or not they will need additional accommodations or support as part of this special outing. 

While hopefully you would already be aware of most of your student’s needs by this step, we are revisiting it again because it is so crucial and you do not want to be surprised by an unexpected problem that could have been prevented when you are in the middle of the outing!

Confirm with parents/caregivers and make official arrangements.

By this time you and the people at the location you are going to should have a strong idea of what the activity would look like and where and when it will take place, this is more about setting them in stone! 

By this stage you should be able to answer the questions parents might have for you about your CBI outing, and it is also the time where you can set firm details with the people in charge of the target location. Once parents are signed on and you are confirmed with the location, all that’s left is to carry out your plan on the day in question!


While every CBI outing is different and the unique details of one might necessitate additional steps in your planning, we hope that these steps have offered a broad idea of how a CBI outing might generally go from inception to completion and offered some helpful checkpoints to ensure that everything runs smoothly and safely. 

With part 4 we are wrapping up our CBI series for the time being but if you’d like to see us cover more on this topic, whether by focusing more on a particular detail or including something you think we’ve missed then we’d love to hear from you! 

Just drop us a line at and in the meantime we hope all of your CBI outings offer the fun and flexibility that make for great and unique learning opportunities!

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