Do different kinds of teaching methods work better for different kinds of learners?
It is important to remember that good teaching brings about the desired student learning. The majority of students in your classroom will respond in positive ways and demonstrate academic growth when instruction is appropriately designed to meet their learning needs.
Some students who have particular disabilities, as well as other students in your classroom, may need specialized methods to optimize their learning. For students identified with special needs, these specific strategies will be detailed in the student's Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Most general education teachers will be familiar with the strategies listed in the IEP. As a teacher, you are also aware that there are no "silver bullet" strategies that will magically work for students who have a particular disability. From your experience with children, you probably already recognize that not all strategies work equally well with all students and that not all students learn at the same rate or struggle with the same learning issues. When you work with any group of heterogeneous learners, managing the diverse needs of individuals along with the broader needs of the group can be challenging but also rewarding.
- Review your lesson plans for a week that you feel is representative of your teaching. Tally the number of different teaching strategies that you employed during the week. Did you use a range of strategies? Were the strategies appropriate for your learning objectives? Did your classroom assessments indicate that all students learned?
- Pick a student in your classroom who has difficulty learning. Review the types of learning experiences that child experienced during the previous week and the child's responses to those experiences. Were some types of experiences more effective with that student than others? If so, what implications might this have for future instruction for this child?
- Pick a student who experiences difficulty learning in your classroom. Interview that student about their learning to inquire about what the student feels is helpful, and not helpful, to his or her learning.
Meet with the special education teacher who is responsible for the student about whom you have a question or concern. This teacher is called the student's "case manager." The case manager can explain in more detail the student's learning strengths and areas of need. The two of you can also discuss the most appropriate types of lessons and the strategies that will help the student learn best. A partnership with the case manager can be an important resource for supporting a student who has disabilities in your classroom.
Resources and Links
- New Horizons is an international network with a focus on positive change in education that supports an expanded vision of learning, communicates relevant research in learning, and promotes lifelong learning for all to develop the fullest human capabilities. The site has links to a wide variety of topics.
- LD Online is a website on learning disabilities and ADHD for teachers, parents, and children.
- The IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University offers a variety of resources (modules, case studies, activities, and information briefs). There are Learning Strategies Case Studies and Modules in reading and mathematics. The site also has modules on making accommodations for students who are blind or visually impaired.
- The Access Center is a national technical assistance center that supports states and local districts in their move to help students who have disabilities effectively learn the general education curriculum. Resources are listed by content as well as by strategy. The Access Center also has a series of professional development modules that cover topics in Language Arts, Teaching and Learning, and Math.
- The Special Connections website is housed at the University of Kansas. The site addresses four main areas: Instruction, Assessment, Behavior Plans, and Collaboration. Best practices are identified within each of these four areas and nationally recognized experts created materials for a module about that topic. Teacher tools for implementing specific practices, case study materials, and references and resources related to each practice are provided in each module.
- The Internet4Classrooms (I4C) website includes links to information for PK-12 teachers on learning styles, instructional theory, differentiated instruction, universal design for learning, and sample units and lessons.
- The website of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (NCCTQ) contains a practice guide, "Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning," that contains seven research-based recommendations for organizing instruction and study to improve student learning.