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Article

Core Reflection Approach in Teacher Education  

Fred A.J. Korthagen and Ellen E. Nuijten

The core reflection approach aims to deepen teacher reflection and development. The approach takes teachers’ core qualities and ideals as the starting point for reflection, and links the professional and the personal in teacher development. Core reflection can also be applied to other professional groups, and to students in primary and secondary education. It is based on a model of levels of reflection, briefly named the onion model, which includes the following levels: environment, behavior, competencies, beliefs, identity, mission, and “the core,” which refers to personal strengths. The onion model helps to differentiate between behavior-oriented reflection and a deeper kind of reflection, in which attention is given to three goals: (1) building on strengths and ideals (called “the inner potential”) of the person, (2) helping the person deal with inner obstacles limiting the actualization of the inner potential, and (3) preparing the person for using their potential and dealing with obstacles autonomously. In order to reach these goals, people can be coached using specific principles, which are partly based on positive psychology: 1. Focusing on personal strengths; 2. Giving balanced attention to cognition, emotion, and motivation (thinking, feeling, and wanting); and 3. Giving attention to inner obstacles. These principles are brought together in a phase model for core reflection, with five phases: (1) describing a concrete situation; (2) reflection on the ideal, and on a core quality or qualities; (3) reflection on an obstacle; (4) using the inner potential; and (5) trying a new approach. Core reflection is being used around the world, both in teacher education programs and in schools. Several research studies into the processes and outcomes of core reflection have shown that it leads to in-depth professional development and improved behavior, in both the short and the long term. However, more research is needed, for example research in which long-term outcomes of the core reflection approach are compared to those of other approaches.

Article

Creative Writers as Arts Educators  

Teresa Cremin and Debra Myhill

In the field of writing in education two strong, even common-sense, views exist, drawing largely on everyday logic rather than evidenced justification: first, that to teach writing effectively teachers must be writers themselves and second, that professional writers, those who are writers themselves, have a valuable role to play in supporting young writers. But rarely have these views been brought together to explore what teachers can learn about being a writer from those who are writers. Nor are these perspectives unquestioned. The positioning of teachers as writers within and beyond the classroom has been the subject of intense academic and practitioner debate for decades. For years professional writers have visited schools to talk about their work and have run workshops and led residencies. However relatively few peer-reviewed studies exist into the value of their engagement in education, and those that do, in a manner similar to the studies examining teachers as writers, tend to rely upon self-reports without observational evidence to triangulate the perspectives offered. Furthermore, the evidence base with regard to the impact on student outcomes of teachers’ positioning themselves as writers in the classroom is scant. Nor is there a body of evidence documenting the impact of professional writers on student outcomes.Historically, these two foci - teachers as writers and professional writers in education - have been researched separately; in this article we draw them together. Predominantly professional writers in education work directly with students as visiting artists, and have been positioned and positioned themselves as offering enrichment opportunities to students. They have not therefore been able to make a sustained impact on the teaching of writing. Moreover, while writers’ published texts are read, studied, and analyzed in school (as examples for young people to emulate), their compositional processes receive little attention, and the craft knowledge on which writers draw is rarely foregrounded. In addition, writing is often viewed as the most marginalized creative art, in part due to its inclusion within English, which itself has been sidelined in the arts debate. Notwithstanding these challenges, research and development studies have begun to create new opportunities for collaboration, with teachers and professional writers sharing their expertise as pedagogues and as writers in order to support students’ development as creative writers. In such work the challenges, constraints, and consequences of students and teachers identifying themselves as writers in school has been evidenced. In addition, research has sought to document the practices of professional writers, analyzing for example their reading histories, composing practices, and craft knowledge in order to feedforward new insights into classroom practice. It is thus gradually becoming recognized that professional writers’ knowledge and understanding of the art and craft of writing deserves increased practitioner attention for their educative possibilities; they have the potential to support teachers’ understanding of being a writer and of how they teach writing. This in turn may impact upon students’ own identities as writers, their understanding of what it means to be a writer, and their attitudes to and outcomes in writing.

Article

Critical Racial Literacy in Educational and Familial Settings  

Gloria Swindler Boutte

Racial literacy includes understanding of the ways in which race and racism influences the social, economic, political, and educational experiences of individuals and groups. It includes being able to engage in competent and comfortable discussions about race and racism. Critical racial literacy focuses on understanding how systemic racism works. Systemic racism is embedded in institutions such as education, employment, housing, health services, religion, media, government and laws, and the legal systems. Critical racial literacy involves praxis (reflection and action) in order to interrupt racism in educational and familial contexts. An important premise of critical racial literacy is that racism can be intentional or unintentional. Racism is complex and occurs on different levels including individual, institutional, and societal and cultural forms. Educators who engage in critical racial literacy reject colorblind and race-neutral approaches. Likewise, reflecting on one’s racial identity is an important part of the process of becoming racially literate. In school settings, critical racial literacy can be used to detect and dismantle five types of racial violence in schools (physical, symbolic, linguistic, curricular or instructional, and systemic) as well as ways to interrupt them. A key focus is on developing racial literacy among educators and students at all levels from preschool through college. Critical racial literacy is important in families. Even young children can be engaged in the teaching and learning process about race and racism. African American and other families of color often have to teach children about racism because it is likely that children will encounter it in schools and society in general. A key part of racial literacy that families of color stress is how to straddle two cultures—their own and mainstream culture.

Article

Data Use in Recent School Reforms  

Sølvi Mausethagen, Tine S. Prøitz, and Guri Skedsmo

Typically involving the use of test scores, grades, and other forms of assessment in various educational contexts, the concept of data use has developed in parallel with the introduction of new managerial approaches to school governance, including performance management and accountability measures. This use of data for governance purposes is one way in which national authorities coordinate activities across administrative levels to improve education quality and effectiveness. Policymakers’ and researchers’ frequent use of the concepts of data and data use also usually parallels this development. However, based on systematic research mapping, the present findings identify differing ideas about data use in national and local contexts, including the role that data play and should play in school reform. Such differences relate to variations in school systems, teachers’ status, school governance traditions, curricular traditions, and research traditions. Moreover, characteristic of the literature on data use is an emphasis on the organization and development of effective data use practices. This is somewhat paradoxical, as both earlier and more recent studies emphasize the need for a stronger focus on the actual practices of the involved actors if data are to be of value in school development processes. Three important needs are important when considering data use in policy, research, and practice: the need for greater awareness of the epistemic aspects of data use; the need for context sensitivity, as data use is often presented as a universal concept across national and local contexts; and the need for researchers to communicate with other related fields to improve theory and practice.

Article

Democracy and Education in Libya  

Abdelbasit Gadour

Looking back at the so-called Arab Spring, one sees people across these countries where the uprisings took place (e.g., Libya) still enduring political repression and change, a growth in threats of terror, and conflicts between tribes and militias, all of which have led to constant violence and a struggle for power. Events in Libya in 2019 suggest that there is an urgent need for education about democracy—a culture of creating a positive environment among people, increasing their awareness of their community, and helping them make decisions and achieve their goals. The qualities a democratic education set out to develop such a positive environment, and undoubtedly schools should be the place where all of this should begin. However, the supreme leader of Libya (Al-Qaddafi) used education in mainstream schools as a propaganda tool for his dictatorship; perhaps this is why the role of schools in Libya has been far removed from cultivating the practices necessary to maintain democratic values. Hence, the idea of democracy was not fostered from within its mainstream school system. A strong need exists to move away from schools that reproduce authoritarianism and toward schools that consciously encourage the notions of democratic skills, values, and behaviors within the classroom and the school as a whole. At present, mainstream schools in Libya are still predominantly organized along authoritarian, hierarchical, and bureaucratic lines; consequently, they continue teaching obedience and submission rather than encouraging freedom of thought and responsibility. The traditional methods of teaching, which focus on rote learning to pass exams instead of fostering creative and independent thinking, are still heavily used. Thus, teachers have a moral responsibility to use education to advocate for democracy, empowering students to learn about democratic values and prepare them to participate in democracy and become better citizens.

Article

Diversity and Inclusion and Special Education  

Chris Forlin and Dianne Chambers

Special education has undergone continued transformation since societies began to provide an increasing number of specialized, segregated facilities for children with like needs during the 20th century. Since then, there has been a worldwide movement against a segregated approach and toward greater inclusion of students with disabilities into regular schools. The provision of a dual special education and regular school system, nevertheless, remains in existence, even though there has been a strong emphasis on a more inclusive approach since the latter half of the 20th century. As regular schools become more inclusive and teachers more capable of providing appropriate modifications for most students with learning needs, simultaneously there has been an increase in the number of students whose needs are so severe that schools have not been able to accommodate them. While these children and youth have special needs, they are invariably not related to an identified disability but fall more into a category of diversity. In particular, students who are excluded from schools due to severe infringements, those who are disenfranchised from school and refuse to attend, and those with severe emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues are not being serviced by the existing dual system. For these students neither existing special schools that cater to students with disabilities nor regular inclusive schools provide an appropriate education. The provision of a complementary and alternatively focused education to cater to the specific needs of these marginalized students seems to be developing to ensure sustainability of education and to prepare these new groups of students for inclusion into society upon leaving school. This tripartite approach highlights a new era in the movement toward a sustainable, inclusive education system that caters to the needs of all students and specifically those with the most challenging and diverse requirements.

Article

Dual Certification Programs  

Linda Blanton and Marleen Pugach

Dual certification refers to a teaching license both for general primary and/or secondary education and special needs education simultaneously. This term is unique to the United States, where licensure policy has traditionally offered options for teacher candidates to earn an initial stand-alone license in either general or special needs education, and contrasts with initial teacher education policy patterns outside the United States, where teachers are not typically permitted to earn an initial license for special needs education alone. Various forms of dual certification have existed in the United States for many decades, but until recently they were not the norm. Contemporary teacher educators and policymakers in the United States have adopted and encouraged dual certification as a way of supporting the preparation of teachers for effective inclusive teaching. As a result, dual certification is viewed as a means of restructuring and expanding the entirety of the preservice, initial teacher education curriculum to become highly responsive both to the increasing diversity of students and to the wider range and more complex needs of students who struggle in school, among them students with special needs. Because dual certification addresses the vital question of how best to prepare initial teachers for inclusive teaching, its fundamental, underlying concerns transcend specific national structural or policy issues regarding licensure. Instead, dual certification reflects a focus on the content of initial teacher preparation writ large regarding what kinds of redesigned, reconceptualized clinical, course, and curricular experiences might be most effective in preparing teachers for high-quality inclusive teaching practice. Dual certification calls into question the nature of teacher expertise, challenging basic beliefs about where the responsibility of general education teachers ends and where that of special needs education teachers begins. In this way, dual certification can be viewed as a specific national policy vehicle that addresses common international concerns for developing appropriate preservice curricula that are responsive to the demands of inclusive educational practice. Implementing dual certification is not without its challenges, however, as reflected in some of the early and ongoing attempts at implementation. Therefore, it is critical both to anticipate potential pitfalls as well as to identify potential solutions that are appropriate to the fundamental purposes of preparing teachers for inclusive practice.

Article

Educational Psychology in Sub-Saharan Africa  

Irma Eloff

Educational psychology in Africa has a rich and colorful history. In sub-Saharan Africa educational psychology, as both a profession and a scientific field, is particularly vibrant. The emergence of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa shows how the science and the profession has pirouetted in ways that could support mental health and learning in African contexts in innovative ways. While emanating within Western cultures, educational psychology has been adapted and, perhaps, been deeply enriched in the African context. After the initial establishment of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa, three broad eras of theoretical development are evident: (a) the era of ecosystems and community, (b) the era of inclusion, and (c) the era of strength-based and positive approaches. During the era of ecosystems and community, emergent theories challenged the dominance of the individualist paradigms in educational psychology and provided broadened conceptualizations of the factors that impact mental health and effective learning. The role of communities was also given prominence. During the era of inclusion, the medical model was challenged as the primary foundation for legitimizing educational psychological assessments and interventions. Educational psychologists moved toward rights-based approaches that championed the rights of vulnerable populations and the creation of inclusive learning environments. The inclusion of children with disabilities influenced policy development in multiple sub-Saharan countries and expanded the dialogues on how best to support learning for all children. During the era of strength-based and positive approaches, theoretical and pragmatic approaches that forefront strengths, capacities, and possibilities started to develop. This era signified yet another departure from previous hegemonic paradigms in that educational psychology moved beyond the individual level, toward more systemic approaches, but then also used approaches that focused more on strengths and the mobilization of resources within these systems to address challenges and to optimize educational psychological support. These eras in the development of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa created optimal opportunities to respond to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of SDGs, educational psychology responds primarily to Global Goal 3 (health and well-being) and Global Goal 4 (quality education). At the same time it supports the Global Goals of no poverty (1), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8), reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities and communities (11), and building partnerships for the goals (17).

Article

Education and Activism  

Lori Beckett and Amanda Nuttall

The case story of a local struggle in the north of England by research-active teachers to raise their collective voice and advocate for more realistic policies and practices in urban schools is one which premises teacher activism. A school–university partnership initiative exemplifies how teachers, school heads, school leaders, and academic partners can work together to address disadvantaged students’ lives, learning needs, and schooling experiences. The practitioners’ participation in an intensive, research-informed project to build teachers’ knowledge about poverty effects on teaching and learning was successful in the yield of teacher inquiry projects which were published. However, teachers’ efforts to combat student disaffection and under-achievement were deprecated with a lack of system support to the point where democratic impulse and social justice goals were weakened. It would be a misnomer to describe these teachers’ professional intellectual and inquiry work as activist, but they did engage in transformative practices. This led to the production of new knowledge and teachers working collectively toward school—and community—improvement, but it was not enough to effect policy advocacy. Professional knowledge building as a foundation of teacher activism is foregrounded in the matter of trust in teachers. To agitate for change and action in a vernacular neoliberal climate means to fight for teachers’ and academics’ voices to be heard.

Article

Effective Co-Teaching Practices Within the Inclusive Classroom  

Kathleen Magiera

Co-teaching can be defined with a multitude of formats in a variety of educational settings. Its underlying concept is that at least two professionals collaborate during their instruction and strengthen their delivery, resulting in improved student outcomes. Partnerships that can be deemed as co-teaching could include pairing various combinations of university instructors, teachers of English-language learners, special education service providers, and student teachers but the following review of co-teaching targets the special education service model. In the preschool through high school setting, the continuing trend toward greater inclusion of students with disabilities means that all teachers are faced with teaching their content to increasingly diverse students. A popular service used to accomplish inclusive practices from preschool to high school is co-teaching. Co-teaching is a service by which students with disabilities and their teachers collaborate together for the purpose of providing students with and without disabilities access to the general education curriculum with specially designed instruction. Co-teaching usually occurs for a designated portion of the instructional day. By carefully planning together, co-teaching pairs provide more intense instruction to the entire class based on the general education content and the learning goals for students with disabilities. While instructing together, both teachers often form smaller instructional groups for more individualized lessons. The co-teachers use their assessment data to inform future instruction within the inclusive classroom. By implementing the effective co-teaching practices of shared planning, instructing, and assessing, teachers become equal partners for the benefit of all students.

Article

Effective Practices for Collaborating With Families and Caregivers of Children and Young Adults With Disabilities  

Shridevi Rao, Nadya Pancsofar, and Sarah Monaco

A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.

Article

Embedding Sustainability in Teacher Education in Australia  

Lisa D. Ryan and Jo-Anne L. Ferreira

The role of education in addressing environmental and sustainability concerns has been recognized since the 1960s, with contemporary education for sustainable development (ESD) approaches seeking to prepare students to be active citizens with the knowledge, skills, and capacities to successfully address sustainability challenges. Given the focus on education as a key strategy, there have also been numerous international initiatives seeking to reorient teacher education for sustainability (TEfS), including providing curriculum resources for teacher educators, upskilling teacher educators, building communities of practice, and developing ESD competency frameworks. Despite these efforts, few teacher education institutions embed such work, resulting in limited skills and capabilities among teacher educators to teach active citizenship for sustainability. Barriers to effective TEfS include compartmentalization of disciplines and the prioritization of other curriculum areas such as numeracy and literacy, and this has compounded the problem. A case study of a decade-long project, Embedding Teacher Education for Sustainability in Australia, demonstrates how systems approaches to change that build common visions, identifying and working with all stakeholders within a system, can lead to positive TEfS outcomes. There are key lessons to be learned from this project, which might inform a future model for embedding sustainability in teacher education in other countries. Using a systems approach to change that recognizes key drivers of teacher education, such as governmental policy and teacher accreditation, and that advocates for the inclusion of ESD into teacher standards should be a key priority action if ESD is to be successfully embedded within teacher education.

Article

Environmental Education Teacher Training  

Miguel Ángel Arias Ortega

The way environmental education has been presented as a viable response to the emergence of national, regional, and global environmental problems since the 1970s is reviewed; as well as some environmental education presuppositions, approaches, and aims with which a field of knowledge and educational practices have been constituted and provided to the individual, to help re-evaluate and redefine the established forms of relationship and exchange with society and nature. Also, the concepts of education and environmental education are examined as they are considered the starting point for undertaking teacher education processes and the potential to generate a new environmental culture in society. At the same time, certain inconsistencies in this process are observed, along with the analysis of some distinctive features (knowledge, attitudes, abilities, and skills) a teacher who is trained in the field of environmental education must possess. General reflections on environmental education teacher training and its processes which are meant to increase debate and discussion on the subject are included, together with the description of some educational experiences developed in different areas and levels that aim to innovate in the reflection and practice of environmental education. Finally, some clues are given to help the design and development of training proposals for environmental education teachers with a greater social, scientific, critical, and humanistic projection.

Article

Epistemology and Teacher Education  

Matthew Smith

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article. For teachers to effectively engage in given pedagogical practices, they need to have beliefs that support these approaches to teaching. These are not philosophical beliefs per se; rather, they are the individual understandings that teachers hold about the nature of knowledge and knowing, which underpin and guide their actions and which are referred to as personal epistemologies. A wide range of paradigms for understanding and studying personal epistemologies is evident in the research literature in this field, but these different perspective and approaches—while varied in outlook and conclusion—point to how important it is that initial teacher education courses allow for the development of sophisticated personal epistemologies through explicit teaching that enables students to think ontologically and epistemologically, and that teacher educators initiate and sustain reflective and discursive practices throughout their courses to promote the best possible outcomes for the children that student teachers will go on to teach in their subsequent careers.

Article

Ethnographic Inquiry in Teacher Education  

José Ignacio Rivas-Flores

Teaching’s purpose is to build a society’s knowledge and skills through a group of students using a curricular proposal within a social and institutional framework. It therefore takes place in institutions specifically created for this purpose, which, as such, represents a culturally constructed environment that is in line with the conditions of the society in which this process unfolds. Thus professional cultures have been historically constructed according to the working conditions, the teaching experiences transmitted from generation to generation, and the evolution of the educational systems. In addition, institutional cultures are developed according to the particular history of each school. Student cultures also form as social groups within these institutions. This represents a complex system that goes beyond mere instruction by curriculum. Preparing the professionals who will go on to work in these institutions requires an understanding of these cultural frameworks and the competence to be able to act on them. Ethnographic research promotes an understanding of educational reality from a critical reflective perspective, and this is only possible if researchers themselves participate in those frameworks. Ethnography can be understood as a shared construction of places for reflection, aimed at comprehending the cultural, social, and political phenomena that involve participants in the processes of change and transformation. Teacher preparation must, therefore, be established with an ethnographic approach, which reconstructs the school experience from a critical reflective perspective. In this way, the conditions for developing a professional identity based on the reconstruction of this experience are created. The theories, in this case, offer the opportunity to pursue this critical dialogue, breaking away from the prescriptive role that they adopt from a positivist perspective. Ethnography contributes to the tasks through three basic dimensions. First, teacher preparation throughout is an object of educational inquiry: there are many research studies of an ethnographic nature that report teacher training methods in an attempt to understand the processes taking place. Second, ethnographies are a tool for preparing future teachers: in this case, this refers to a curricular use of ethnography aimed at future teachers’ understanding of the educational processes through research. Third is a way of understanding learning—in other words, ethnographic attitude as a learning strategy and the use of ethnographic inquiry strategies and tools as means of learning about educational processes. This last case generally entails staying and acting in schools, and it is what most clearly links research and teaching in a shared process.

Article

Ethnography Across Borders  

Marta Sánchez

Ethnography is about cultural representation, which implies a gaze and set of questions and assumptions about who is being represented, by whom, and what for. In this sense, ethnography always is conducted across borders where borders imply a set of differences to confront and understand, even while the ethnographer is expected to effectively overcome these through embedded practice in the field. If the enterprise of conducting these studies is always marked by border crossing, then what are the different ways in which border crossings happen in knowledge production through ethnography? How does the definition of “border” change the way ethnographic studies are performed? Potential shifts in the meaning of “borders” heightens the importance of interrogating cultural representation, the social locations that ethnographers occupy, see, and speak from, and how perspectives on cultural representation and actual representations will differ. These dynamics build up when, as here, ethnography across borders implies the presence of the nation-state, either as palimpsest or direct actor in the relations and daily lives of the community-participant in the ethnography. Borders are necessarily evoked—geopolitical, social, cultural, national, regional, global, and personal ones, such as gender, race, class, and ethnicity. Ethnography across borders emerges in this instance as a methodology and a stance to deconstruct the ways in which ethnographers and ethnographies are radically situated in their own histories, and how radical contextualization of those histories is required to understand across borders and uncover the limits of cultural representation, language, and ethnography as a tool to understand the lives of people, their histories, and communities.

Article

Ethnography and the Study of Los Saberes Docentes (Teaching Knowledge) in Latin American Countries  

Ruth Mercado and Epifanio Espinosa

A specific comparative framework that incorporates an interpretive process dedicated to developing a more complex understanding of teaching knowledge incorporates the specific local contexts in which studies on teaching knowledge are conducted. Research on teaching knowledge within the region grew and diversified from the 1980s and 1990s. There are two key thematic contributions of this body of research: the nature of teaching knowledge and pedagogical approaches to teaching specific curricular content focusing on early literacy. Points of comparison between the different contributions of studies addressing teaching knowledge can be found. Additionally, institutional and social inequalities are manifested in schools and education in Latin American countries. Teaching knowledge, which teachers produce in and adapt to different social spaces (in other words, through practice), is crucial for fostering the development and learning of the students who attend school under the challenging conditions of the schools in these countries.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Learners With Mild to Moderate Disabilities  

Rebekka J. Jez

With the rise in inclusive practices, information on evidence-based practices for teaching learners with mild to moderate disabilities is an important topic. Many professional and government organizations are working to disseminate this information to educators; however, the process can be thwarted by time, resources, training, and implementation of practices. By using multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) such as response to intervention (RtI) or positive behavior interventions and support (PBIS), schools can assess for, identify, and implement supports for all learners. If a learner continues to encounter challenges, even with high-quality teaching and strategies, then a more intensive intervention may be needed. One schoolwide change would be to use universal design for learning (UDL) to ensure strategies and supports are provided to all learners. Additionally, students may benefit from assistive technology. Teachers can learn about free and commercial evidence-based educational practices to create a safe environment, implement positive behavioral supports, and provide systematic, explicit instruction in academic areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social sciences.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Learners with Multiple Disabilities  

Vera Munde and Peter Zentel

Designing education for learners with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) is a special challenge for both professionals and researchers. Learners with PIMD experience a combination of significant intellectual and other disabilities, such as motor and sensory impairments. Heterogeneity in terms of combination and severity of disabilities is a common characteristic of this group. In the past, learners in this target group were described as not being able to learn due to the complexity of their disabilities. Recent studies do provide evidence that learners with PIMD are in fact able to learn, however, evidence-based practice for designing education for this group of learners is still scarce. One reason could be the difficulties associated with conducting intervention studies such as randomized controlled trials or controlled clinical trials with this target group. Most studies are designed as single-case studies. Hence, only a small number of studies have investigated topics such as communication, assessment, and teaching curricula to generate knowledge about the education of these learners. The most important conclusion of these studies is that all teaching activities need to be designed according to the strengths and needs of each individual learner with PIMD.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices for Working with Learners with Speech and Language Disabilities  

Juan Bornman

Communication is about working together to create shared meaning. It usually requires at least two people (one acting as the sender, and one or more acting as the receiver), uses a particular code (which may involve either conventional or unconventional signals), may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms, and may occur through speech or other modes. In the classroom context, spoken language is typically the preferred mode of communication and the primary medium through which teaching and learning takes place. For learners with speech and langue disabilities, this is problematic. Communication does not develop in a vacuum. Cognitive and social routes are both important and therefore evidence-based practices (EBP) that impact on both need to be considered. In an attempt to delineate evidence-based strategies from assumptions or commonly accepted practices that have become “teaching folklore,” three aspects should be considered: (a) the best available research evidence that should be integrated with (b) professional expertise (using for example observation, tests, peer assessment, and practical performance) as well as (c) the learner’s and his/her family’s values. EBP thus recognizes that teaching and learning is individualized and ever-changing and therefore will involve uncertainties. Being aware of EBP enriches service delivery (in this case teaching practice) and enables teachers to support their learners to achieve high-quality educational outcomes. Research has shown that high expectations from teachers have a significant influence on the development of academic skills for children with speech and language disability. Teachers should therefore be empowered to understand how they can set up the environment in such a way that responsive, enjoyable interaction opportunities can be created that will enable learners to develop a sense power and control which are important building block for learning. They also need to understand the important role that they play in shaping behavior through the provision of consistent feedback on all communication behaviors and that communication entails both input (comprehension) and output (expression). Four teaching approaches that have some evidence base for learners with significant speech and language disabilities include: a) communication passports: this is a means through which idiosyncratic communication attempts can be captured and shared enabling everyone in the learner’s environment to provide consistent feedback on all communication attempts; b) visual schedules: a variety of symbols (ranging from objects symbols to graphic symbols) can be used to represent people, activities, or events to support communication. Visual schedules signal what is about to happen next and assists learners to predict the sequence of events, to make choices, and to manage challenging behavior; c) partner training: as communication involves more than one person, communication partner (in this case teachers) training is required in order to ensure responsivity; d) aided language stimulation: this classroom-based strategy attempts to provide a strong language comprehension foundation by combining spoken language with pointing to symbols, thereby providing learners with visual supplementation.