In this chapter, you will learn how to academically support students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Research will be presented along with Anna’s perception about providing educational support for her daughter Sabrina, and a video example of Sabrina’s educational team discussing the instructional strategies they use with Sabrina in the general education classroom.
Today’s classrooms represent students of all ability levels. Such diversity has made many educators aware that not all students will be successful with the same educational activities. Students have different strengths, needs, interests, and educational backgrounds. Differentiated instruction has been identified as an effective teaching method that can address this issue for a variety of students (see Salend, 2001;Tomlinson 1995, 1999). This educational method is based on the premise that all learners are different, that learning requires a connection of a student’s own abilities and interests, and that lesson planning requires providing students with the type of instruction that can address their needs and the educational objectives simultaneously. Gartin, Murdick, Imbeau, and Perner (2002) defined differentiated instruction as, “the planning of curriculum and instruction using strategies that address student strengths, interests, skills, and readiness in flexible learning environments (p.12).”
The challenge of most inclusive environments is in meeting the needs of all learners according to their strengths, ability levels, and needs, without separating students homogeneously (according to their ability levels). Differentiated instruction is one method that allows teachers address this situation while maintaining the intent of inclusion. Teachers are able to create lesson plans based on educational objectives for the entire class, while modifying the delivery, product, or assessment for classroom learners. By providing instruction in this forum, classroom learners recognize that they are all learning the same material; however, it is presented in the way that meets their unique needs.
Sabrina’s team has many strong elements in place. They have built-in regular communication with all team members, they know and respect one another, they value ongoing professional development, and they care about every student’s success. Because of this, they are open to trying new things, problem solving with one another, and authentically involve parents. Parents are always welcome in the classroom. Their teaching strategies are transparent; you can see that Diane (general education teacher) easily explains her teaching methods and that everyone at the table supports the specific strategies within their own specialty. Everyone ‘owns’ Sabrina and her education. One thing that helps is there are a natural proportion of kids with disabilities at the school (meaning no clustering of kids with disabilities nor too many in any one classroom).
Please observe the following video example of Diane, Sabrina’s general education teacher, discussing how she includes Sabrina in the classroom lessons/activities with her peers.
Gartin, B.C. Murdick, N.L., Imbeau, M., and Perner, D.E. (2002). How to use
differentiated instruction with students with developmental disabilities in the general education classroom. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.
Salend, S.J. (2001). Creating inclusive classrooms: effective and reflective classrooms
(4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Tomlinson, C.A. (1995). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.