Teaching Diverse Learners Overview
Imagine the faces of all of your students across the range of readiness and understanding of a given standard that is targeted for both instruction and assessment. The range of understanding runs from advanced knowledge beyond the standard to missing prerequisite skills associated with the standard.
This range of photos offers a snapshot into a classroom where we see individuals who have varied needs, knowledge and abilities. What is our role as an educator, service provider, and family in preparing these learners for their futures?
English Language Learners
Ohio’s English Language Learners (ELL) represent a variety of home/native languages, cultural backgrounds and levels of English proficiency. They may be refugees, or U.S born, and they may have extensive formal school experiences or little/no prior schooling. Although ELLs have limited English proficiency, their native/home language skills and cultural experiences can be useful assets in their learning process.
When teachers are aware of the background, needs and strengths of their students, and have an understanding of strategies and resources under the UDL framework, they can work together to help their ELLs access Ohio’s revised standards.
Students with Disabilities
Students in Ohio can be identified with one of 13 different disability classifications. Low incidence disabilities are represented in several of these 13 classifications including blindness, low vision, deafness, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blindness, significant developmental delay, complex health issues, serious physical/orthopedic impairment, multiple disability and autism. Disabilities listed under low-incidence disabilities generally represent no more than 1% of the school-aged population at any given time. A significant amount of diversity, exists both within and between each of these disability categories.
Students with disabilities can achieve at high levels when provided with instructional supports and accommodations, and when educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent possible.
UDL enables teachers to plan instruction for a wide range of learners. For example, a teacher may customize the display of information for a student with a visual impairment, or allow a student with a specific disability to express knowledge through the use of multiple media.
Gifted and Talented
Ohio law establishes criteria for students to be identified as gifted in the areas of academic achievement, cognitive abilities, creative thinking and/or visual/performing arts. Gifted students may be served in the regular classroom through differentiation and/or in classes with other gifted students taught by a gifted intervention specialist. For gifted students, UDL helps to frame the differentiation that needs to take place in all academic settings in the area of the student's identification.
Least Restrictive Environment
LRE refers to the setting in which a child with a disability can receive an appropriate education designed to meet his or her educational needs, alongside peers without disabilities, to the maximum extent possible. LRE is one of several vital components in the development of a child's IEP and plays a critical role, influencing where a child spends his or her time at school, how services are provided and the relationships the child develops within the school and community.