It is important for educational practices to be flexible and responsive to the strengths, needs and learning preferences of individual students. This helps create inclusive learning experiences that ensure all students are successful.
All children can learn and reach their full potential when they are given opportunities, effective teaching and appropriate resources. Decisions related to the placement of students are best made on an individual basis in a way that maximizes their opportunity to participate fully in the experience of schooling.
Student readiness is at the heart of assessment. Teachers need to know where students are with regard to mastery of concepts and skills associated with content standards. Diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments as well as contemporary computer-adaptive, standards-based assessments help pinpoint the degree to which students are ready to engage with spiraled or new content.
In terms of student interests, teachers need to know how to motivate and engage students and use these interests to bridge teaching and learning. With regard to student learning profiles, teachers need to know their students preferred and challenging learning styles.
Great teachers have instincts and they respond to those instincts whilst teaching and learning is taking place. A great teacher will not drone on in a lesson in which students clearly are not getting it (readiness) and/or that is clearly not engaging students (interests and/or learning profile). A great teacher will recognize via observation: Are students nodding in agreement, engaged, following along?
The first conversation between teachers handling a single class should involve figuring out what role each teacher in that classroom plays. While one teacher is doing one thing, the other must be doing something else.
This is also a crucial time when the inclusion teacher can restate the directions, assist with the modeling of the skill being taught, and allow the students to “take brain breaks to help the processing of information.” This is also a great time for teachers to provide one-on-one instruction as they circulate the classroom. When one teacher is passing out materials, the other teacher can begin providing directions or modeling the first step in the assignment – always keeping in mind that both the general education and the inclusion teacher play a vital role in providing classroom instruction.
There are also other strategies many teachers already use that aid in differentiating lessons for all students. These include use of anchor charts, highlighters and post-it notes, visuals to support vocabulary, short video clips, manipulatives, hands-on materials, hand movements and lower-level texts that are geared toward the topic being learned. Use of leveled texts to support the varied reading levels within the classroom is essential to the comprehension of the students.
Also, at a minimum, teachers should consider multi-modal approaches to teaching and learning so that students have opportunities to engage in mastering concepts and skills via reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, thinking, and working with hands-on materials.
Teachers exercising their instincts will—in-the-moment and on-the-fly—recognize that a student or a group of students just aren’t getting “it.” In those situations, the teacher will break out another approach or multiple approaches in order to get to student learning.