The following is a guest blog post from CEM partner Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s P21Blogazine
Driving Question: What promotes deeper learning by students with special needs?
My many years as a special education teacher, administrator, instructional coach, and now researcher have provided me with some best practices that I feel can be applied in multiple contexts. From the work our teachers have done to center their instruction and assessment on deeper learning, we have learned more powerful ways to individualize instruction not just to meet the goals of the IEPs, but to help students become active and engaged 21st century deeper learners. Academic work is at the center, but the Cs are essential in helping each student grow.
To be effective working with special education students in any school, I offer this assertion: We must use effective teaching strategies with all students. In that context, we must be masters of the curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that give each student the chance and challenge to succeed in the present and prepare for the future.
Using obsolete methods and ignoring the evidence on best practices simply will not do. Effective teachers pay close attention to how they are bringing critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and communication to each student by using methods, especially those including PBL, technology, and formative assessment, that foster their growth as a whole child about to become a full-time citizen.
To meet this challenge, the most effective teachers of students with diverse academic needs meet the following descriptions.
- They do not shy away from tough conversations: They focus on each student’s strengths, growth, persistence, and future goals and insist on full inclusion.
- They present material, academic or otherwise, using a variety of media: Once a teacher has identified what works best with a student, the teacher can utilize a particular medium more frequently.
- They call on many evidence-rich instructional strategies for students: They focus on breaking difficult tasks down into smaller components and plan time for special education students to reapply these smaller chunks in conjunction with other chunks to perform a larger objective. They never lose sight of the bigger objectives, never lose sight of how discreet skills are interconnected, and never ask for students to call on a skill they haven’t helped them to learn and perfect.
- They think creatively about how to use all the digital tools at their disposal including the mobile phones all students know how to use: All smartphones have built-in accessibility features. These can be used in a variety of ways to individualize instruction.
- They rely on the IEP process to empower the student: Well-read on disability theory, they avoid deficit planning (Harry & Klingner, 2007), become advocates for students, and problem solve what teaching tactics (such as smaller group size, smaller presentation audience) are adaptable without lowering expec- tations to think, problem solve, collaborate, and communicate.
No Special Treatment
The most effective teacher for children with special needs is the one that knows and relies on best practices for deeper learning in the framework of well-planned IEPs. There is no special treatment for these children that puts aside what research shows as effective practice just because special needs are evident. Every child deserves the opportunity and assistance not only to grasp important ideas, but to develop the 21st Century Skills that will lead to deeper understanding.
About the Author
Kiera Chase. Since starting her 15 year career as a special education teacher, Kiera has worked in a variety of different programmatic models and developed a strong commitment to educational equity and socially restorative practices. She is a frequent contributor to the P21Blogazine (www.p21.org)
This extract taken from Kiera’s full essay on effective teaching and children of inclusion in Connecting the Dots: Teacher Effectiveness and Deeper Professional Learning released earlier this month by Solution Tree Press, Bloomington, Indiana, as the third collection in its series on Deeper Learning. Excerpted with permission. All rights reserved.
For additional posts on this topic and other 21st Century Deeper Learning Themes, go to the P21Blogazine (http;www.p21.org/blog). You can also sign up for P21’s free RSS feed for the three times weekly posts in your mail.