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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

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.

Article

Students at the Center of Education Reform in Singapore  

A. Lin Goodwin and Ee Ling Low

In 2011, “student-centric, values-driven” was introduced by the Ministry of Education as the theme for educational reform and innovation in Singapore, with the goal of ensuring all children the opportunity to develop holistically and maximize their potential. To actualize this ambitious and encompassing vision, Singapore has developed the Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes. By instilling in students core values and competencies deemed crucial in the 21st century, the expectation is that they can each grow into a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor, and a concerned citizen. To achieve these desired outcomes of education, Singapore has been striving to ensure what has been termed “the 4 Everys”: every school a good school; every child an engaged learner; every teacher a caring educator; every parent a supportive partner. Since then, the priority of education in multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual Singapore has been diversity and multiple pathways to success, such that each individual child can reach his or her potential. Key to every good school is the quality of teachers and school leaders. Therefore, Singapore has developed a comprehensive and structured system in teacher/principal recruitment, deployment, preparation, and development. To make every school a good school, Singapore also invests heavily in education and resources schools for them to provide customized programs to satisfy the varied needs, interests, and talents of their students. To ensure that every child is an engaged learner, educational resources and extra learning support are provided to maximize educational opportunities. The curriculum is also constantly revamped to provide students with more opportunities for holistic development and support for their many capacities. For every teacher to emerge as a caring educator, teachers and school leaders are provided with a comprehensive and structured mentoring system to enable them to grow personally and professionally. To help every parent to be a supportive partner, efforts have been made to communicate with, engage, and educate parents via education materials, workshops, talks, and funds. In addition, there are close partnerships among schools, parents, and communities. Three principles guide Singapore’s education reforms: (a) maintaining a clear and progressive vision, (b) working both systemically and systematically, and (c) equitable leveling up. What binds the nation’s core principles of ensuring a progressive, long-haul vision of education is the unwavering belief that students sit at the center of all educational reform endeavors.