A few days ago, administrators at Merrimack College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning asked me if I would arrange for the professional development of faculty members on how to teach neurodivers students in college classrooms. Specifically, they asked me to share teaching techniques with students diagnosed with learning differences, disabilities, and challenges. As a professor of special education, I was excited to offer some tools, strategies and resources that I found valuable in creating courses that were inclusive and accessible to all students.
The percentage of persons with disabilities in both community colleges and higher education institutions, including four-year colleges and universities, is increasing rapidly. According to the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, about 20 percent of all undergraduate students and 12 percent of undergraduate students have a disability. Faculty members will benefit from a number of recommendations on how to quickly, without a few hours of extra preparation, maintain high quality classroom and other course accommodation.
By preparing a course for students of all types with different skills, you can avoid spending countless hours on different parts of your course for each personalized accommodation plan. And, of course, a lot of the time, accommodation and good teaching practices go together. Here is a snapshot of some of the strategies for developing such an incredibly accessible course.
A one-page supplementary guide to the syllabus. For most colleges and universities, a syllabus is relatively non-negotiable, but it can often run 20 pages or more. With the institutional requirements of the content of different accrediting organizations, it can be quite challenging to keep it short. However, students may not be able to process, understand, and organize all the information provided, including language-based disabilities and executive performance challenges — and thus miss key date, course requirements, and other required course information.
One strategy to ensure that all students understand and understand the curriculum is to supplement it with a one-page “syllabus breakdown” that includes important set dates, policies and requirements, as well as some assessment details. It is essential that you keep this supplement on one side of the page. A one-page curriculum breakdown is helpful for all students and promotes accessibility for all types of students. Students can view this one-page supplementary guide on a desk, in an agenda book, or in their dorm room for quick information.
A post agenda. Many of our neurodivers students — such as students with autism, mental retardation, or attention deficit disorder উপ may benefit from the posted class agenda. A posted schedule creates predictions that will ease anxiety and help avoid confusion. People find comfort in knowing what’s next and it encourages mindful learning with less anxiety. Often, trainers present an agenda at the beginning of a PowerPoint, which is helpful. But whether presented in such a way or written on the blackboard or whiteboard with the naked eye, posting such an agenda for the whole class reduces the stress of the students as well as enhances the memory and predictability.
The purpose of a clear daily learning. Posting a clear daily learning objective will help students determine if they understand the content knowledge taught that day. When students realize that they have succeeded in learning the purpose, they usually have an aha moment and the information is more easily retained. Posting a clear daily learning objective will help students with specific learning disabilities to self-assess their understanding and take responsibility for their learning. It will also help you as an instructor to focus on the core content you want to provide
A daily constructive reflection or departure ticket. At the end of each class, a quick constructive reflection can be helpful for understanding if different students in the class understand different teaching topics. The question should measure the student’s understanding of the purpose of the day’s clear learning. This should not be a test or high-stress assignment but a measure that you can use as a planning tool as an instructor.
Reflecting students will guide you through the next class by identifying any gaps in their understanding. If you see this kind of gap or confusion among the people in the class, review the topic or review it before presenting the next topic at the beginning of the following class. This kind of daily constructive reflection helps ensure that students do not fall behind to the point of frustration or failure. Often, if one student does not understand, others will not. Reflections allow students to ask clear questions that you can address at the beginning of the next class. You can upload a reflection to a daily journal of the course learning management system in a Q&A via Google Forms or through the polling software.
Evaluation varies. Our job as instructors is to make sure that our students master the content we teach. When our students understand and apply what they have learned, we know we have done our job well. Yet sometimes assessments do not paint an accurate picture of our students’ understanding, especially those with disabilities.
For example, my daughter learned the water cycle when she was in fifth grade. He could draw each stage in great detail. He could tell everyone every step of the process. She went to school ready for her assessment, but she got 57 percent in the assessment, which was multiple choice. Although he understood and mastered the knowledge of the subject, he failed the test, which did not accurately measure his understanding. The following assessment was labeled part of an atom, and he scored a 100 percent. If every test was a multiple-choice test, I know he would have failed in science that year. Having a variety of assessment types has kept him from doing well in science.
Many times students understand the content but the test stands in the way of success. Gives a good overall measure of understanding using different assessments. Assessment diversity enhances success and accessibility for all students while maintaining high standards.
A strategically designed education management system. Common accommodations for college students include offering class notes before lessons and providing hard copies of all articles in augmented print, just to name a few. A strategically designed and developed LMS, such as a blackboard or canvas, can reduce the time it takes to respond to each student’s personalized request before class.
Create a daily module for each class 24 hours in advance and provide class PowerPoint, articles, and other materials for all students to access independently. This allows students to print the materials themselves and enlarge the print before class, for example. Also, when you use a whiteboard or other presentation tool, take a picture of the notes and upload it to the daily module. Once you have spent time designing LMS to accommodate all students, you can copy the modules each semester and update them as needed.
In conclusion, the accommodation I recommend does not alter the content you teach — and the rigor of the class and your expectations of the students may be high. Rather, they promote accessibility for different students within the diverse landscape of higher education by increasing accessibility and creating an inclusive accessible course for all of them.
As the landscape of higher education is changing and diversifying সুযোগ giving all students the opportunity to attend, participate, and thrive — we should continue to strive to be more inclusive and accessible to students of different abilities. Minor adjustments in our practice can ensure that we are providing tools to promote success and equity for everyone.