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Effective Practices for Teaching All Learners in Secondary Classrooms  

Kate de Bruin

It is important to consider inclusive and effective teacher practices in secondary classrooms as distinct from other schooling levels and settings. Many years of inclusive education reforms have brought about increases in the numbers of students with disabilities who are educated in the regular school system. However, progress has been slower for secondary school students with disabilities, who remain more likely to be segregated from their peers and to receive a poorer-quality education, when compared to their primary school counterparts. This is because many barriers to student inclusion remain entrenched in the structure and organization of secondary schooling systems. These barriers often arise from seeing difficulties in learning and participating through a medical model and thus requiring diagnostic verification and specialist support, instead of seeing student difficulties in learning as arising from a social model of disability, in which student participation and progress are hampered by poor design or inflexibility in teaching practices and a lack of access to support. A large body of research exists to support the case for using a range of school-wide organization as well as classroom-based practices that effectively overcome these barriers, and provide high-quality and equitable academic and social supports to all students in the secondary school classroom. Those that foster collaboration and effective relationships between professionals and students, and that provide access to support on the basis of need rather than diagnosis, have been found to produce supportive environments in which diversity is valued, equity is maximized for all students, and social and academic outcomes are improved for all students.

Article

Bringing a Humanistic Approach to Special Education Curriculum  

Michelle Parker-Katz and Joseph Passi

Special education curriculum is often viewed as an effort to provide ways for students with disabilities to meet specific academic and socio-/behavioral goals and is also heavily influenced by compliance with multiple legislative policies. Critical paths forward are needed to reshape a special education curriculum by using a humanizing approach in which students’ lived experiences and relatedness to self and others is at the core of study. Intentional study of how students and their families draw upon, develop, and help shape local supports and services that are provided through schools, along with community and governmental agencies and organizations, would become a major part of the new curricular narrative. However, the field of special education has been in large part derived from an epistemology rooted in science, positivism, and the medical model. The dominance of these coalescing epistemologies in educational systems has produced a myriad of structures and processes that implicitly dictate the ways special educators instruct, gather data, and practice. Core among those is a view that disability is synonymous with deficit and abnormality. What emerges is an entrenched and often implicit view that the person with disabilities must be fixed. In adopting a humanistic approach in which we value relationships, the funds of knowledge families have helped develop in their children and the identities individuals shape, and the linkages of persons with multiple community networks, the groundwork could be laid for a new curricular narrative to form. In so doing, the field could get closer to the grounding principle of helping all students with disabilities to thrive. For it is in communities that people can thrive and choose to participate in numerous life opportunities. In such a way curriculum is integral to lived experience, to the fullness and richness of lived experiences—lived experiences that include the study of academic subject matter along with the development of social and emotional learning.

Article

Differentiated Instruction and Inclusive Schooling  

Diana Lawrence-Brown

Differentiated instruction encompasses a wide range of responsive pedagogies, including individualized types and levels of curricula, teaching methods, materials, and assessment strategies. It has at its roots the impetus for effective inclusive schooling, providing supports directly within general education classrooms for students with the full range of exceptionalities (both significant disabilities and giftedness) and other diverse educational characteristics such as cultural and linguistic background and socioeconomic status. To effectively include students with higher levels of need, comparable levels of supports follow the student from the special education setting to the general education classroom. This enriched level of support in the general education classroom benefits not only students with disabilities, but the class as a whole. The legal and ethical bases for inclusive schooling are connected with various civil rights movements (including race, disability, culture and language, gender); it can be viewed as a response to segregated schooling (and denial of schooling altogether). Schools frequently remove students when traditional educational programs fail, adding on separate programs rather than rectifying the existing system. Such special programs have been routinely promulgated without substantial evidence of their effectiveness over supportive general education classrooms (either for segregated students or for their unlabeled general education peers). Important aspects of differentiated instruction and inclusive schooling include multilevel instruction; authentic and culturally responsive curricula, methods, and assessment; universal design for learning; assistive and instructional technologies; positive behavioral supports; and a collaborative team approach to instructional decision-making and delivery. Differentiated instruction and effective inclusive schooling are vital for equitable access to educational opportunities, bringing more responsive curricula, methods, and perspectives to increasingly diverse classrooms and schools.