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Article

Preparing to Teach in Inclusive Classrooms  

Umesh Sharma

This article presents a critical analysis of inclusive teacher education. The article argues that while teacher education programs have changed dramatically over the last few decades, there are still areas where more progress could be made. It also argues for a need to re-conceptualize the way we prepare teachers so that they can confidently include all learners. It presents a framework, largely influenced by the work of Shulman, which could be applied for the preparation of pre-service teachers to teach in inclusive classrooms.

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 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

Sociocultural Perspectives on Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment to Support Inclusive Education  

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.

Article

Students with Special Needs Who Are Gifted and Talented (Twice Exceptional)  

Nina Yssel, Kristie Speirs Neumeister, and Virginia Burney

Twice-exceptional (2e) students demonstrate both high ability and a disability. With their unique combination of advanced abilities and academic challenges, 2e learners do not fit neatly into a single category and often tend to get lost in the system. In spite of the fact that 2e students have been estimated to make up 2–9% of students with disabilities, they often remain unidentified due to the masking effect, in which one exceptionality masks the other, as well as their remarkable ability to compensate for areas of weakness. Once identified, programming presents challenges; for example, remediation may become the focus and the learner’s strengths ignored. In addition to providing enrichment and remediation, teachers have to consider the social-emotional needs of 2e students and how they learn. Problems with time management, organizational, and study skills not only result in frustration for students, parents, and teachers but also have a direct effect on 2e students’ academic performance. These students are characterized by a pattern of strengths and weaknesses, and programming should include support in their areas of need and validation of their strengths. When both exceptionalities are addressed successfully, 2e learners can reach their full potential.

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

Evidence-Based Practices in Special Schooling  

David Mitchell

Increasingly, around the world, educators are being expected to draw upon research-based evidence in planning, implementing, and evaluating their activities. Evidence-based strategies comprise clearly specified teaching methods and school-level factors that have been shown in controlled research to be effective in bringing about desired outcomes in a specified population of learners and under what conditions, in this case those with special educational needs/disabilities taught in special schooling, whether it be in separate schools or classrooms or in inclusive classrooms. Educators could, and should, be drawing upon the best available evidence as they plan, implement, and evaluate their teaching of such learners. Since around 2010 there has been a growing commitment to evidence-based education. This has been reflected in: 1. legislation: for example, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act in the United States, which encourages the use of specific programs and practices that have been rigorously evaluated and defines strong, moderate, and promising levels of evidence for programs and practices; 2. the creation of centers specializing in gathering and disseminating evidence-based education policies and practices, brokering connections between policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers; and 3. a growing body of research into effective strategies, both in general and with respect to learners with special educational needs. Even so, in most countries there is a significant gap between what researchers have found and the educational policies and practices implemented by professionals. Moreover, some scholars criticize the emphasis on evidence-based education, particularly what they perceive to be the prominence given to quantitative or positivist research in general and to randomized controlled trials in particular. In putting evidence-based strategies into action, a five-step model could be employed. This involves identifying local needs, selecting relevant interventions, planning for implementation, implementing, and examining and reflecting on the interventions.

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.