Always Address Relationships and Behavior in PD for Inclusion
July 23, 2019
In today’s schools, most students with disabilities are educated with their non-disabled peers, often in co-teaching or inclusion classrooms. All of their teachers deserve specific, relevant PD and support focused not just on academic achievement but also on social-emotional and behavioral initiatives.
Why Should PD focus on “non-academic” skills?
Social-emotional skills, positive behaviors, and interpersonal competencies are critical to success everywhere. Schools are one of the key settings in which social and emotional learning for all students takes place. This is especially true when students’ disabilities impact not just academic learning but behavior and social-emotional learning as well. Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities often include specific goals and objectives related to these areas. We also know that all students, regardless of disability status, do better academically in positive, supportive environments that allow for belonging, safety, and reduced disruptions.
What Skills for Teaching Social-Emotional-Behavioral Skills Do Teachers in Inclusion Settings Need?
There are some key strategies that school districts and administrators can use to support both general and special education teachers working in inclusionary environments. The first step is to identify the types of PD and support that teachers need. The University of Michigan’s research based “High-Leverage Practices” includes 19 practices that PD and training should address. (Teaching Works. The University of Michigan, 2019)
Most of the practices target academically focused instructional skills for teachers. However, the list also includes several practices that have a significant impact on student learning but could be considered relationship and behavior-related. The University of Michigan research validates the importance of these social-behavioral practices and sees them as integrated into an overall framework of practices that results in higher student achievement. As district teams work to create professional development systems for teachers, focusing on these practices is likely to have positive results for both students and teachers, so the message is “Start with these!”
- Implementing norms and routines for classroom discourse and work
- Implementing organizational routines
- Setting up and managing small group work
- Building respectful relationships with students
- Learning about students’ cultural, religious, family, intellectual, and personal experiences and resources for use in instruction
How Can Districts and Administrators Provide Teachers with Relevant Support?
Many districts are beginning to implement PD plans that include a variety of approaches. Here at PD Anywhere, we have provided information in other blog posts that explains which PD works and how districts can implement it, including this one: https://pdanywhere.com/blog/3-ways-to-provide-professional-development-that-teachers-will-love/
Effective PD strategies include:
- Providing on-going learning opportunities
- Providing support, not just training—especially through coaching
- Giving teachers choices in their learning
- “Chunking” learning so that teachers are not overwhelmed
- Focusing on team approaches so that teachers have peer input and peer support
It is also critical for districts to know their students and their students’ needs. Communicating with all teachers about disabilities, trends in identification for special education, characteristics of specific disabilities, and common-sense strategies can help teachers who may feel overwhelmed or in over their heads.
What are Some Quick and Easy Supports for Teachers?
PD Anywhere is focused on practical solutions that work. We believe that teachers need a balanced approach—one that includes the PD strategies mentioned above. However, we also believe that to ensure a basic level of knowledge and to get started, simple is sometimes best. We have written a 3-topic set of Inclusion Guides for Busy Teachers that is available on Amazon.com. The guides are attractive, “use now” materials for both special and general education teachers and support staff.
Brand new teachers or experienced teachers new to co-teaching and inclusion who may have little or no background with disabilities can find information on three important disabilities:
- High Functioning Autism
- Positive Behavior Supports & Interventions
- A Bonus Topic: Preventing Disruptions to Teaching and Learning
The set of guides provides an overview and definition of each disability, how it impacts students, and how to implement positive interventions. The strategies will help teachers meet academic goals but also have a strong emphasis on social-behavioral goals as well. Unless teachers receive support for behavioral issues, they may never get to use their academic instruction skills.
Resource for This Post
Teaching Works. The University of Michigan. High-Leverage Practices. Retrieved from the Internet on March 17, 2018. http://www.teachingworks.org/work-of-teaching/high-leverage-practices
Inclusion Guides for Busy Teachers
The Guides are available on Amazon.com
For more information, or to purchase 50 or more sets of the guides, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org