Learning disability (LD) is a broad term to refer to disorders related to listening, speaking, reasoning, reading, writing, and mathematical calculation. Though the term LD is used to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities in some countries, the authors use it in this chapter to refer to “Specific Learning Disabilities.” Students with LDs will typically have average or above-average intelligence. Significant features are problems in language-processing skills and a mismatch between the student’s intellectual ability and his or her academic performance. Hyperactivity, attention deficits, and socio-emotional adversities have been associated with learning disability, but cannot explain it. Since people with LDs do not have physical manifestation of the condition, it often goes unnoticed during early childhood. The problems become evident only when the child enters school, where the academic and social demands they face are far greater than their individual learning ability. Comprehensive assessment of the core skills in the areas of reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics should be done using multiple measures, both standardized and nonstandardized. The assessment process may need inputs from a multidisciplinary team. Qualitative and quantitative data from the assessment is required in order to select suitable teaching strategies for students with LDs. There are several approaches for identification of an LD, but a discrepancy between intellectual ability and academic achievement as a key indicator seems to be widely followed; and the Response to Intervention (RTI) method is specifically popular in educational settings. The RTI is a research-based assessment and teaching method of ascertaining how a student responds to interventions in core curricular areas given in group and individual sessions. Use of RTI reflects a paradigmatic shift from the discrepancy model, which allowed the student to fail before interventions were made. While enabling the identification of students in need of services through individualized education program, RTI is an instructional model designed to improve the academic performance of all students in the class, with varying levels of instruction to suit their individual needs. The psychoeducational approach is also popular as a means of assessing LDs among educators because it allows linking of cognitive and psychological processes with the acquisition of core academic skills which in turn will help in providing comprehensive remediation. There are several effective intervention strategies for enhancing reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Some of the strategies are universal and some are specific to the targeted language. Intervention programs vary with reference to the age and grade, and use of information and technology. However, all programs depend on teachers’ abilities and on a supportive school environment. Teachers’ knowledge about nature and needs of students with learning disabilities, and their ability to use research-based teaching methods are crucial to ensure positive learning outcomes for such students. Appropriate curricular input at preservice training level, mentoring and support of newly inducted teachers, and ongoing professional development are key factors for building teacher competency. School management has an important role in creating the necessary infrastructure and resources for effective assessment, intervention, and evaluation of students. Administrators must support the use of appropriate and culture-fair assessment tools, research-based teaching strategies, documentation, and importantly, collaboration among the members of the educational and multidisciplinary teams. However, much of the literature comes from English-speaking countries. Since LDs are a language-based problem and there are multiple languages across the globe, there is a lot of scope for documenting evidence-based practices from non-English-speaking settings.
Rubina S. Lal and M. Thomas Kishore
Missy Morton and Annie Guerin
Sociocultural perspectives on curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment support teachers in developing and implementing inclusive pedagogies. Sociocultural assessment approaches disregard impairment as an identity in itself, privileging the strengths and knowledge evident in observed interactions. A sociocultural approach to assessment recognizes the dynamic interaction between teaching, learning, and assessment, spread across people, places, and time. Where traditional forms of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment focus on a decontextualized individual, a sociocultural perspective pays close attention to contexts. Teachers’ practices, expectations, and understandings of learning and diversity form a key part of the contexts. In culturally responsive paradigms, learning is recognized as sociocultural—being informed through interactions with others. All students are recognized and valued as people who gain experiences and knowledge across many contexts. Multiple perspectives are valued as shared understandings and constructions of learning are developed in response to observations and interactions in a community of learners—where students and teachers learn with and from each other. Teachers who recognize themselves as capable of teaching everyone in the class are more likely to recognize everyone as a learner, to think critically about their positioning and understanding of disability, and to plan teaching, learning, and assessment in inclusive ways of working.
The manner in which special educators and allied health personnel communicate and coordinate their combined services for children with complex conditions (such as autism and severe communication impairments) is considered to be an important factor in educational outcomes. For example, speech-language pathologists play a crucial role in supporting teachers by assessing a child’s communication potential, designing and then implementing collaborative communication intervention programs. However, clinicians trained to administer standardized expressive language assessments may be somewhat unsure where to start when asked to assess a child who presents with nonsymbolic communication skills. These highly specialized workplace situations are likely to evoke circumstances where professionals may need additional one-to-one guidance. The need for continuing professional development has long been recognized by the education sector when developing effective educational provision for children with special needs. To that end, tertiary institutions have a commitment to support the continuing education of their graduates once they begin their careers. Unfortunately, not everyone can invest the years that full-time or part-time postgraduate courses of study demand. Due to a reduction in postgraduate completion rates, universities have recently accepted that offering micro-credentialing (i.e., continuing professional development in small, intensive chunks) is now a part of their mandate. Blended learning is a viable model for such professional development because this approach provides access to an online community where collegial sharing and discussion can occur. It can also offer face-to-face sessions that may strengthen community building and instant access to a network of professionals for training and development, in an anytime and anywhere professional learning environment, resulting in the fostering of a collaborative professional community.
Stephen M. Ritchie
STEM education in schools has become the subject of energetic promotion by universities and policymakers. The mythical narrative of STEM in crisis has driven policy to promote STEM education throughout the world in order to meet the challenges of future workforce demands alongside an obsession with high-stakes testing for national and international comparisons as a proxy for education quality. Unidisciplinary emphases in the curriculum have failed to deliver on the goal to attract more students to pursue STEM courses and careers or to develop sophisticated STEM literacies. A radical shift in the curriculum toward integrated STEM education through multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary projects is required to meet future challenges. Project-based activities that engage students in solving real-world problems requiring multiple perspectives and skills that are authentically assessed by autonomous professional teachers are needed. Governments and non-government sponsors should support curriculum development with teachers, and their continuing professional development in this process. Integrating STEM with creative expression from the arts shows promise at engaging students and developing their STEM literacies. Research into the efficacy of such projects is necessary to inform authorities and teachers of possibilities for future developments. Foci for further research also are identified.
Margaret Kettle and Susy Macqueen
Language is fundamental to teaching and learning, yet is prone to invisibility in education systems. Drawing on work from applied linguistics that foregrounds language use in education, a “power” heuristic can be used to highlight linguistic privilege and its implications for students and their individual language repertoires. Language can be understood as a tool for performing particular interpersonal and ideational functions; its structure and uses are determined by context. For most students, experiences of language that is education-related reside in three core domains: the home and community, the school, and the nation state. Language expectations in these domains vary and position the linguistic repertoires of students differently. A key consideration is the student’s first language and its relationship to the expectations and privileged varieties of different institutions, for example, the local school and the national education department. By foregrounding linguistic privilege in education, the alignment, or misalignment, between students’ language resources and the prevailing language norms of educational institutions is made visible and open to change. Inherent in the level of alignment are issues of educational inclusion, access to powerful language forms and genres, and academic achievement. The concept of power affordances can be used to refer to the enabling potential of the relationship between language status, language affiliation and a student’s linguistic repertoire. Power affordances can operate as three broad potentials, capabilities or statuses: socioeconomic power, which resides in the language of global and state institutions ranging from government to schools and manifests in instruments such as national standardized tests; sociocognitive power, which enables the capacity to learn and recognizes the language intensity of knowledge; and identity power, which references social belonging and is strongly indexed to language. Conceptualizing language and its power affordances in education provides a useful framework for understanding the relationship between students’ language resources and the often implicit linguistic demands and practices of education systems. It also highlights the rich potential of applied linguistics in understanding education.
Wilma C. M. Resing, Julian G. Elliott, and Bart Vogelaar
Dynamic assessment and dynamic testing are aspects of an umbrella concept, denoting a variety of different assessment and testing forms that incorporate feedback, hints, or training in the assessment process, and aim to measure a child’s progress when solving cognitive tasks and in doing so provide an indication for his or her cognitive potential for learning. Psychological and psychoeducational assessment is often applied in educational settings. Most of the instruments used in such assessments have a static nature; instruction is mainly restricted to telling a child what he or she has to do, and the main focus is on the outcomes of testing. The principal characteristic of dynamic assessment and testing, on the contrary, is that children are explicitly provided with feedback, prompts, or training intended to enable them to show progress when solving cognitive tasks. Where in static assessment the test outcomes are considered to measure that which a child already knows and has acquired so far, dynamic assessment procedures focus both upon potential learning progression and, in some cases, the underlying cognitive processes. Dynamic measures are developed to assess developing or yet-to-develop abilities in a setting in which the assessor helps the child to solve the tasks and teaches the child how to solve these tasks more independently. Consequently, dynamic assessment measures are primarily focused on a child’s potential for learning, rather than on past learning experiences, and likely provide a better indication of a child’s level of cognitive functioning than conventional, static test scores do separately or in combination with other instruments. Dynamic assessment formats can be very different from each other, ranging from individually based forms of mediation, often called dynamic assessment, to active scaffolding and highly standardized procedures, offered to groups or individuals, often called dynamic testing. Dynamic assessment and testing can be applied in very different settings and be influenced by many factors. In an educational setting, outcomes of dynamic testing and assessment could, in principle, provide educational psychologists or teachers with information regarding learning outcomes during these forms of intervention.