Staff Development

Possible responses
Image of raised hands

Image of HowieHowie Tawks

A correct response to this scenario lies somewhere in the middle of the answer choices. Yes, Howie does have the right to an education. And no, Howie is not deliberately being belligerent and disruptive. Nonetheless, students with disabilities must be held responsible for interacting in an appropriate manner, just like everyone else.

Being the consummate professional you are, you would undoubtedly want to give Howie a fair chance to complete your course. You could ask him to meet with you and his DSPS Counselor. Together, you may be able to identify strategies to help modify in-class behavior.

For instance, you could perhaps work out a signal to let Howie know when his behavior needs to be put in check. Also, meeting with him privately for a few minutes after class and reviewing his days' performance could be valuable feedback for him.

Allowing Howie to take the class via email would be inappropriate, of course, since it's not an equal opportunity.

Image of May May Maeket

Answer C is a great Universal Learning Design response. Since speed is not an essential requirement of the course, you give all students as much time as they need to complete your tests. Allowing all of your students the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the material is the ideal.
If your schedule doesn't allow you this luxury, and you will need to rely on DSPS to provide testing accommodations, then your first response is to tell May to see the testing accommodations person in DSPS. She needs to verify that DSPS has authorized this accommodation. All students need to see a counselor before they can be granted accommodations.
It's unfortunate that May didn’t go to DSPS for accommodations right at the beginning of the semester.  However, a lack of organization is a common characteristic of students with learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder.  Instructors can help by distributing a schedule of test dates in the first week of class so their students know exactly what will be expected of them and can plan accordingly. In addition, instructors should add a statement on their syllabus telling students that if they will be seeking accommodations for your class that they should register with DSPS or come talk to you directly.
In response to Answer A: Students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as the rest of the class. That means they should be taking their tests as near to the same day, same time as the rest of the class, getting no more nor less time to study for the test. Being overly accommodating can send the message that you really don't expect much from May.
In response to Answer B: Having May move to another room will probably disrupt her train of thought or embarrass her at being singled out in front of her peers; furthermore, the chances of that room being conducive to testing are slim. Plus, now she is missing the lecture. This is not an equal opportunity.

Image of BruceBruce Truggles

First, did Bruce approach you early enough in the semester so that there is still time for him to earn a passing grade? Or does he already have so many low scores that you have no choice but to assign him a failing grade? This scenario speaks to why it can be helpful to incorporate Universal Design Strategies into your curriculum and your activities and procedures. (This discussion will begin soon.)

Students with disabilities need to be held to the same academic standards as everyone else.  But the ULD-savvy instructor recognizes that there is diversity in cognitive abilities amongst students, and there is more than one valid method of showing mastering of course content.

Being the consummate professional, you may recognize early on that Bruce's test scores don't seem to accurately reflect his knowledge. Remember, if Bruce is new to college, he is used to having his resource teachers in high school find ways to see that he passes a class. You meet with him and his counselor or Learning Disability Specialist and discuss his cognitive strengths. Together you decide on methods of learning, instruction, and evaluation that will best ensure his grades reflect Bruce's achievement rather than his disability.


Awesome Job!

By now, I hope that you are realizing that learning related disabilities do not present with a one size fits all solution. Everyone is different. You may also be getting concerned that every time a student with a disability enrolls in your class that you will have to bend over backwards to accommodate him/her. Not necessarily true.

Next: Universal Design

Professional Development

Howard Blumenfeld
Professional Development Coordinator


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Page last modified: February 25, 2014