EDU 6330: Evaluating Characteristics of Diverse Learners Course Reflection

Sandy Murphy

Course Reflections

6/28/15

As I reflect on my course work, I am struck by how much learning occurred in a relatively short span of time. Each assigned task prompted deeper understandings and increased knowledge related to choosing, conducting, interpreting, and implementing assessments. Moreover, class opportunities to exchange thoughts and ask questions furthered my insights on how others perceive and address the complexities of assessing students with special needs. Undoubtedly, the class dynamics, the varied topics, and the courses’ pedagogical design all contributed to my positive and enriching learning experience.

In respect to the courses guiding question: How can evaluating academic characteristics promote success? I begin by asserting that in order to evaluate academic characteristics successfully one must recognize it is a process, which includes members that make up the student’s team. Although the Special Educator often facilitates and administers the standardized assessments related to the students’ disability in question, gaining accurate understandings of the student’s strengths and weaknesses also requires the input from the team for a more holistic representation of the student’s abilities and skills.

Furthermore, developing student goals and objectives from the information collected is another integral part of the process of promoting a student’s academic success. However, it goes beyond these initial steps; it requires educators using the students’ information to make appropriate instructional adjustments so students can access their learning at their defined level and pace. When Special Educators collaborate with teachers to enhance and ensure students’ learning is tailored to the students’ needs, an optimal learning environment is then created. These steps heighten the probability of evaluations being effective in promoting a student’s academic success.

Yet, the process of promoting students’ academic success goes beyond: thoroughly administering and carefully interpreting assessments, developing relevant goals and clear objectives, and tailoring class instruction to maximize the optimal learning environment. It requires including the parent or guardian and the student (if deemed intellectually, emotionally, and developmentally appropriate for student) in the process. Overlooking the importance of including the parent and student can be detrimental to the effectiveness of promoting student academic success.

Lastly, evaluating academic characteristics to promote student success is much more than the: testers expertise in administering and deciphering evaluations, facilitator coordinating and collaborating with team members, and educators creating an optimal learning environment. Paramount to this process is that it be conducted in a positive, constructive, and professional manner! These aspects resonate as fundamental to the process of evaluating academic characteristics of students to promote school success.

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Education Course Reflections

Sandy Murphy

EDU-6235: Characteristics & Development of Diverse Learners

Course Reflection

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.