Support Student Inclusion by Supporting Teacher PD
March 14, 2019
The majority of students with disabilities spend most of the school day in general education environments—commonly called “inclusion.” If we want these students and their non-disabled peers to succeed academically and socially, we need to support all of their teachers with top quality professional development. General education teachers may or may not have had the pre-service and in-service education they need related to disabilities, inclusion models, accommodations, and specific issues like emotional and behavioral disorders. Even experienced special education teachers, who do have a strong background, can benefit from new learning on these and other critical topics.
Trends Worth Knowing About
According to the Education Week Research Center’s 2018 analysis of the main special education law, the IDEA and the Digest of Education Statistics, some notable trends should be driving professional development for teachers. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/12/05/special-education-a-growing-priority-in-teacher-training.html
These trends include:
- The autism disability category has seen the fastest and most significant increase in student population over the past decade. This category has increased 177%.
- Some other categories have decreased, like the orthopedic impairment category.
- 87 percent of students with speech and language impairments spend 80 percent or more of their school time in general education classrooms.
Steps Worth Taking
In order to support teachers who work with students with disabilities, here are some common sense suggestions:
- Pay attention to the statistics and demographic trends like those above and plan your professional development accordingly. For example, if the autism category is growing, special and general educators likely all need regularly updated PD.
- Focus on teaching strategies that support all students, with and without disabilities. Teachers often find that effective strategies like graphic organizers, partner checks, and note taking strategies are great for everyone.
- Focus on the partnership aspect of inclusion. Special education and general education teachers need effective communication skills, time to plan and share strategies, and opportunities to problem solve with a team of professionals.
- Look for resources that are practical and easy-to-understand. Teachers never have enough time! By sharing PD in on-going, shorter, but more frequent, chunks of information, teachers can process and remember the information. We have a related post on using chunking for new teachers that explains how and why this approach works. https://pdanywhere.com/blog/want-professional-development-for-new-teachers-that-really-works-chunk-it/
- We also believe that micro-credentials are a great fit for teachers who have good instincts and general skills but might benefit from instruction in critical areas.
- Support teachers with positive coaching experiences. Expecting general education teachers who have never taught students with disabilities before and/or have had little education and training to be immediate experts is unrealistic. Coaching on specific skills and specific issues is an effective way to make steady improvements.
Resources for This Post
Will, M. (2018). Special education a growing priority in teacher-training circles. Retrieved from the Internet on March 1, 2019. (Link is above)