EDU-6235: Characteristics & Development of Diverse Learners
As we educators are expected to: examine education, investigate best teaching practices, and work to ensure all learners, of all abilities, receive an equal and fair education, participating in this course has been an excellent experience. Participating in the course has undoubtedly increased my understandings and knowledge in the areas specified above. Course activities included, but not necessarily limited to: readings, class participation, independent and group projects, summarizing peer reviewed journal articles, and writing reflections. Following, I will discuss in further detail how these studies advanced my learning related to characteristics and development of diverse learners.
The self-study project that required using at least five developmental theories to examine my development brought greater awareness to how human development constructs ones’ learning. As I worked to identify the developmental theories and how they influenced my development, it helped me understand that favorable and unfavorable experiences significantly played a role in my learning and in others. I used these understandings of: typical and atypical development patterns, patterns of growth, and cultural effects, to better understand students’ behaviors, performances, and why they think the way they do. A renewed perspective prompted me to reexamine how I currently serve the needs of some of my students I Case Manage as a Special Educator. It has been valuable towards considering a more inclusive educational environment despite their levels and social and cognitive abilities.
The student-facilitated seminar which involved collaborating with two of my fellow classmates to present on the Emotional Disturbance (E.D.) disability required using research based information and then creating an engaging presentation, encouraging further learning in this area. Exercises such as: reading additional E.D. disability information, seeking others with expertise in this area (such as our school psychologist as well as my niece, a school psychologist in another VT. district) to gain deeper insights, and discussing and discerning with my two classmates, the most relevant information to present challenged me to identify the most salient information. Through the process, my understandings and knowledge about the characteristics of the E.D. disability and the complexities related to providing an inclusive learning environment for E.D. students was highlighted. In result, it became more apparent how misunderstood E.D. students are as well as the ongoing manpower and time demanded related to serving E.D. students (e.g. counselor, teachers, D.C.F. workers, parole officers, behavioral specialist, etc.). E.D. students pose some of the greatest difficulties with inclusion due to these aspects mentioned above as well as other concerns and/or issues (e.g. physical & psychological distractions, safety, etc.), compromising classmates’ learning environment.
Weekly, summarizing peer-reviewed articles, fostered reading and responding to various learning disability topics. Most of the articles were engaging, prompting me to “think outside of the box”. Similarly, participating in lively class discussions demanded an open mind. I celebrate these types of learning opportunities. Through this forum, I gained insights and clarifications, which contributed to deepening my understandings and increasing my knowledge related to characteristics and development of diverse learners.
I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from each class assignment; although, developing a lesson plan to meet the Universal Design by Learning (UDL) principles was the most meaningful assignment. My initial thought was that the assignment would be fairly easy to accomplish. However, as I developed my figurative language lesson plan, it became evident of how much time and effort was needed to thoroughly complete a UDL. My diligent efforts brought a greater appreciation of the requirements needed to develop and implement UDL with integrity. Teaching each student in accordance to his or her skills and abilities, while attending to their strengths and weaknesses, to enhance and ensure students learn is only sensible! Yet, with restraints such as teacher planning time and accessible technology, implementing UDL with the fidelity intended, may be unrealistic for some teachers.
At times, I have observed teachers lesson moving quicker than students need, dismissing elements of good teaching practice. Yet, I wonder if time restraints influence this type of instruction. Addressing these issues will help to support establishing UDL in the classroom. Through such supports, promoting an inclusive environment for all learners will become more of a reality rather than just a pursuit.
The extensive course work was challenging, stimulating, engaging and enriching. Through maintaining an eager to learn attitude while completing each course expectation with attention to detail, I became more knowledgeable about diverse learners and inclusive environments. These accomplishments will further my ability to best serve the students I currently work with and future ones. I’m excited about imparting my understandings of how a characteristics’ approach may promote inclusive environments with my colleagues. Instructing students’ with diverse: ages, gender, race, culture, levels, and abilities has become the norm and therefore better understanding the developmental theories and their influence on ones’ learning is imperative towards enhancing and ensuring a more inclusive learning environment for all students.
This class has given me a sense of empowerment and therefore I feel more prepared to promote an inclusive learning environment. The coursework has been immensely relevant to my high school Special Education position. Learning how a characteristic approach can promote an inclusive learning environment has been well-spent time, efforts, and money.