Characteristics of Research Based Pedagogical Models Paper

Characteristics of Research Based Pedagogical Models Paper

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ENABLING CURRICULA: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A TEACHING OBSERVATION PROTOCOL TO ADDRESS STUDENTS’ DIVERSE LEARNING NEEDS by Sharon Hayden B.Sc. University of the West Indies, Mona M.Sc. University of the West Indies, Mona A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Department of Curriculum and Instruction In the Graduate School Southern Illinois University at Carbondale December, 2011 UMI Number: 3498141 All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent on the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. UMI 3498141 Copyright 2012 by ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code. ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, MI 48106 – 1346 DISSERTATION APPROVAL ENABLING CURRICULA: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A TEACHING OBSERVATION PROTOCOL TO ADDRESS STUDENTS’ DIVERSE LEARNING NEEDS By Sharon Hayden A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the field of Education Approved by: D. John McIntyre, Chair Grant R. Miller Joyce Killian Jackie L. Cox Matthew Therrell Graduate School Southern Illinois University Carbondale July 25, 2011 AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF Sharon Angella Hayden, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education, presented on July, 25th, 2011, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: ENABLING CURRICULA: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A TEACHING OBSERVATION PROTOCOL TO ADDRESS STUDENTS’ DIVERSE LEARNINNG NEEDS MAJOR PROFESSORS: Dr. Grant R. Miller and Dr. D. John McIntyre Diverse learning needs are students’ learning needs in areas such as language, learning styles, background, disabilities, technology skills, motivation, engagement, and access. Teacher candidates must be aware of and plan to meet these needs. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides guidelines that can increase the level of student engagement and variety in materials and activities incorporated in a lesson, and will improve the extent to which teacher candidates meet students’ diverse learning needs. This research incorporated design research and systematic observation methodologies and was informed by data from lesson observations collected with the proposed observation protocol. It also relied on data from a focus group discussion with cooperating teachers, email feedback from university supervisors, and document analysis of lesson plans and materials. Analysis of this data showed that teacher candidates’ perceptions about diverse learning needs were informed by the school’s curriculum, the subject area they taught, their experiences, and theories such as multiple intelligences. Their perceptions were modified during the study which also resulted in changes in the way they planned and taught their lessons. Participants found the proposed observation protocol to be both clear and useful. i It is proposed that teacher candidates, cooperating teachers, and university supervisors should be informed about the Universal Design for Learning. It is expected that the observation protocol will be incorporated into methodology courses, as well as in teacher candidate conferences with university supervisors. It is also expected that future research will incorporate university supervisors and cooperating teachers in the implementation of the observation protocol. Future research is also expected to explore the possibility of developing a subjectspecific observation protocol for use at the secondary level. ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The writing of this dissertation was part of an exciting intellectual journey that resulted from my passion for teaching, interest in the supervision of teacher candidates, and aspiration to improve the education system in my home country, Jamaica. I am grateful to my advisor Dr. Grant R. Miller for his advice and guidance. His patience and support were invaluable throughout my doctoral program. I would like to thank my committee members: Dr. Grant R. Miller, Dr. D. John McIntyre, Dr. Jackie L. Cox, Dr. Joyce Killian, and Dr. Matthew Therrell for their time, commitment, and helpful insights that helped to enhance my study. Without exception, the teacher candidates, university supervisors, and cooperating teachers who participated in this study were generous of themselves and their time. This study could not have been possible without them. Although they must remain anonymous publicly, I will always appreciate their critique and willingness to share their experiences in meeting the diverse needs of students. I want to thank my parents, my brothers Brenton, Jerome, and Orlando, my nephews, Hamish, Lamar, and Renaldeno, and my other relatives and friends for their love, prayers, encouragement, and support during my program of study. I left them in Jamaica and moved to Carbondale to pursue my goal of higher education. Since then, I have missed more of family life than I had envisioned. However, the sacrifice was worth it. Special thanks to my friend Wellington and his family who prayed for me and encouraged me throughout my studies. I hope this dissertation inspires all my family and friends to pursue their goals regardless of the challenges they encounter. With love and thanks, I dedicate this dissertation to my parents, Marjorie and Winston Hayden, and all those who have impacted my life. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………… ……………………i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………………………………………iii LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………………………………………….IX CHAPTERS CHAPTER 1- INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY Background………………………………………………………… …………………….1 Research Questions………………………………………………………………………….5 Significance of the Study………………………………………………………………….5 Definition of Terms………………………………………………………………………..7 Limitations of the Study……………………………………………………………………9 Personal Statement……………………………………………………………………….10 Summary…………………………………………………………………………………14 CHAPTER 2-LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………..15 Purpose of Supervision…………………………………………………………………. 17 Defining Diversity……………………………………………………………………….19 The importance of Planning for Diversity……………………………………………….21 Origins of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)……………………………………… 25 Guiding Principles of UDL………………………………………………………………26 What UDL is Not………………………………………………………………………………..27 Selected UDL Checkpoints with Research Evidence……………………………………29 Options that Customize the Display of Information…………………………………….30 iv Options that Provide or Activate Background Knowledge………………………………32 Options that Highlight Critical Features, Big Ideas, and Relationships…………………………………………………………………34 Options in the Media for Communication……………………………………………….35 Options that Enhance Capacity for Monitoring Progress………………………………..37 Options that Increase Individual Choice and Autonomy…………………………………37 Options that Enhance Relevance, Value, and Authenticity………………………………38 Options that Vary Levels of Challenge and Support…………………………………….40 Options that Foster Collaboration and Communication…………………………………41 Options that Develop Self-assessment and Reflection…………………………………..42 Research Questions………………………………………………………………………43 Theoretical Framework…………………………………………………………………..44 Summary…………………………………………………………………………………46 CHAPTER 3-RESEARCH METHOD AND IMPLEMENTATION Introduction………………………………………………………………………………47 Research Model………………………………………………………………………….48 Research Implementation (diagram and description)…………………………………… 54 Data Collection…………………………………………………………………………..57 Interviews…………………………………………………………………………………59 Observations……………………………………………………………………………..60 Document Analysis………………………………………………………………………62 Focus group Discussion………………………………………………………………….62 Open-ended Questions via Email…………………………………………………………62 v Instrument Development…………………………………………………………………62 Phase One…………………………………………………………………………64 Phase Two………………………………………………………………………..65 Phase Three…………………………………………………………. …………..65 Researcher as Instrument…………………………………………………………………66 Techniques for Data Analysis……………………………………………………………67 Verification………………………………………………………………………68 Measures to Ensure Confidentiality………………………………………………68 Generalizability…………………………………………………………………..70 How the Research Methods/Design Derives From/Informs My Research ………………70 Summary…………………………………………………………………………………72 CHAPTER 4- PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS Introduction………………………………………………………………………………74 Teacher Candidate Participants…………………………………………………………..77 Cooperating Teacher Participants………………………………………………………..79 University Supervisor Participants………………………………………………………79 Teacher Candidates’ Perspectives on the Diverse Learning needs of Students………….80 Learning Needs Teacher Candidates Indentified in Their Classrooms…….……………82 Changes in Teacher Candidates’ Perspectives on Diverse Learning Needs …………….84 Factors Contributing to Changes in Teacher Candidates’ Perspectives on Diverse Learning Needs in the Second Phase of the Study ……………………..86 Changes in Teacher Candidates’ Perspectives on Diverse Learning Needs in the Third Phase of the Study…………………………………………………….87 vi The Extent to Which Teacher Candidates’ Actions Matched Their Perspectives on Diverse Learning Needs……………………………………………………… 91 The Extent to Which Teacher Candidates Met the Expectations of Cooperating Teachers…………………………………………………………………………103 Impact of the Observation Protocol on Teacher Candidates’ Perceptions on Diverse Learning Needs of Students……………………………………………109 The Extent to Which Participants Found the Observation Protocol Clear and Meaningful………………………………………………………………………116 Summary………………………………………………………………………… …….136 CHAPTER 5- SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Summary ……………………………………………………………………………….139 Research Findings That Support the Value of an Observation Protocol Based on UDL…………………………………………………………………………………143 The Clarity and Meaningfulness of the Observation Protocol…………………………146 Potential of the Observation Protocol to Impact Supervision in the Future……………149 Summary of Conclusions………………………………………………………………150 Recommendations for Practice …………………………………………………………152 Recommendations for Future Research ………………………………………………..152 REFERENCES……………………………………………………………………………………….154 APPENDICES Appendix A: Initial Interview Protocol for Teacher Candidates……………………….161 Appendix B: Intermediate Interview Protocol for teacher Candidates……. …………..162 Appendix C: Final Observation Protocol for Teacher Candidates……………………..163 vii Appendix D: Initial Student Teaching Observation Protocol………………………….164 Appendix E: First Revision of the Observation Protocol………………………………166 Appendix F: Second Revision of the Observation Protocol…………… ………………168 Appendix G: Third Revision of the Observation Protocol……………………………..170 Appendix H: Fourth Revision of the Observation Protocol………….…………………172 Appendix I: Focus Group discussion Questions………………………………………..174 Appendix J: Open-ended Questions for University Supervisors……………………….175 VITA……………………………………………………………………………………………176 viii LIST OF TABLES Table 3.1: Research Design………………………………………………………………………56 Table 4.1: Presence of the Checkpoints in the First Lesson Observations …………………….113 Table 4.2: Presence of the Checkpoints in the Second Lesson Observations…………………………114 Table 4.3: Presence of the Checkpoints in the Third Lesson Observations ……………………115 Table 4.4: Relationships between the Observation Protocol and Hunter Lesson Design Model …………………………………………………………………………..134 Table 4.5: Supervisor Dislikes about the Observation Protocol…………….………………….135 Table 4.6: Areas of the Observation Protocol Supervisors Liked…………….………………..135 Table 4.7: Potential Benefits of the Observation Protocol Supervisors Identified…………….135 ix 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY Background This study examined supervision of teacher candidates and the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a lens through which lesson planning and instruction can be enhanced in meeting the diverse learning needs of students within the classroom. The study used the development, implementation, and evaluation of an observation protocol as a critical basis from which to examine the practicality and effectiveness of UDL guidelines. Universal Design for Learning promotes flexible lessons in which students are not simply learning the content knowledge of a subject, but are actively participating in it. The materials and activities utilized by teacher candidates must be able to attract the interest of all students and keep them engaged in critical thinking throughout the lesson. Thus, approaches that are teacher centered are inadequate in the current context where students with a variety of learning needs are present in the general classroom. There has been an ever-increasing diversity that is appearing in American classrooms. There are more students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds; various cultural backgrounds; English Language learners; students with special needs; students who are not reading on grade level; students with behavioral, attentional, and motivational problems; and students who have other individual learning needs. There has also been an increasing amount of legislation that all teachers, not just special educators, have to accommodate these learners. Therefore, cultural, educational, and legal changes have significantly altered the mix of students in regular classrooms (Rose & Meyer, 2002). At the same time, there is also increased emphasis on learning standards that places more responsibility on teachers to ensure that each of these students reaches the highest levels of 2 achievement. However, too few teachers are receiving guidance/coursework in addressing students’ diverse learning needs. Therefore, there is an urgent need to close this gap in teacher preparation. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) facilitates students with diverse learning needs and is a suitable guide for lesson planning and delivery in different subject areas. This study, therefore, focused on the development of an observation protocol through the lens of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). I also moved away from placing the focus on teacher candidates’ dispositions and a teacher centered approach, to a more student centered approach. The aim of the study was to improve teacher candidates’ planning and lesson implementation in an effort to meet the diverse learning needs of all students in their classrooms. Supervisors are expected to benefit from the results of this research as the data were analyzed to determine the extent to which they supported the need for an observation protocol for capturing the treatment of diverse learning needs, as well as the effectiveness of such an observation protocol. The observation protocol was intended for use during the supervision of lessons in K-8 classrooms. An Overview of the Universal Design for Learning Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is geared at attaining the goal of education in the 21st century. This goal goes beyond the simple mastery of knowledge and focuses on the mastery of learning. Hence, education should enable students to move from being novice learners into being expert learners. Such expert learners are “individuals who know how to learn, who want to learn, and who, in their own highly individual ways, are well prepared for a lifetime of learning” (CAST, 2008, p.3). This is particularly salient in the current context where diversity is the norm rather than the exception in the general classroom. Therefore, UDL is an approach that seeks to empower educators to meet the varied learning needs of students such as learning styles, 3 language, disabilities, background, engagement, technology skills, and access. The Universal Design for learning reflects some of the principles of sheltered instruction, however, UDL goes beyond merely facilitating the needs of English language learners, and seeks to meet the needs of students with a more diverse set of learning needs. There are three primary principles that guide UDL and provide structure for its guidelines: x Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation; which is the “what” of learning. x Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Expression; the “how” of learning and x Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement; the “why” of learning. (CAST, 2008, pp.3-4) The observation protocol focused on 10 Universal Design for Learning Checkpoints (see Appendices D, E, F, G, and H). These 10 checkpoints are the following: Options that Customize the Display of Information, Options that Provide or Activate Background Knowledge, Options that Highlight Critical Features, Big Ideas, and Relationships, Options in the Media for Communication, Options that Enhance Capacity for Monitoring Progress, Options that Increase Individual Choice and Autonomy, Options that Enhance Relevance, Value, and Authenticity, Options that Vary Levels of Challenge and Support, Options that Foster Collaboration and Communication, and Options that Develop Self-assessment and Reflection. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) focuses on the provision of multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression in an effort to create expert learners. Therefore, if teacher candidates are prepared to incorporate UDL into their lesson plans they will be able to 4 meet the needs of all students. Such incorporation of UDL in lesson planning and instruction warranted an observation protocol that rates teacher candidates accordingly. The one-size-fits-all approach to lesson planning and delivery has proven to be deficient because the classroom is not a homogeneous environment. Teachers sometimes did not take the alternatives into consideration when they set lesson objectives, select materials, select activities, or plan assessment (Rose & Meyer, 2002). This was largely due to the fact that traditional instructional media such as textbooks and handouts were for the most part inflexible and not adjustable to fit the individual needs of diverse learners in the general classroom (CAST, 2008; Rose & Meyer, 2002). Teacher candidates must be prepared to meet the diverse learning needs of the students whom they teach. In addition, it is important that the observation protocol used to evaluate their lesson plans and teaching reflect an effort to meet the needs of all students, not just those regarded as mainstream. The 10 checkpoints of the observation protocol can be observed in, and used to rate various aspects of the teacher candidates’ lesson plans and execution of their lessons. The checkpoints of the observation protocol will also be instrumental in the university supervisor’s provision of feedback and guidance to teacher candidates on their performance. Teacher candidates can also use the data from the forms to guide their future lessons. Thus, they will be prepared to deliberately design flexible lessons to meet the needs of all students, rather than making last-minute, or on-the-spot changes during a lesson. This shortfall could be addressed by the observation protocol which will be based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning aimed at taking the students from apprentices to expert learners. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be better applied across the general 5 curriculum, and was appropriate for this research that focuses on improving teacher candidates’ planning and instruction. Research Questions This study was focused on four questions: 1. What are teacher candidates’ perceptions about meeting the diverse learning needs of students? 2. To what extent do teacher candidates’ perceptions about their planning for the diverse learning needs correspond with the results of the data collected with the observation protocol and from the focus group discussion? 3. What happens to teacher candidates’ perceptions about diverse learning needs after the observation protocol has been used with them? 4. How clear and useful did participants find the observation protocol? Significance of the Study The observation protocol was developed from the guidelines of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This observation protocol was expected to eliminate the tendency to have inflexible lesson plans and provide a tool for feedback and analysis that supervisors can use to guide teacher candidates during the teaching practice exercise. The observation protocol was used in the pre-observation meeting with teacher candidates, during the classroom observation, and again at the post observation meeting. The research utilized the non-judgmental approach involved in design research. Systematic classroom observation was also used as a data collection strategy as I utilized the observation protocol in the lessons taught by teacher candidates. Therefore, the observation protocol enabled teacher candidates to undertake self evaluation and work with the supervisor to identify and work on concrete aspects of the lesson. In effect the 6 analysis of the data collected with the protocol was expected to improve teacher candidates’ planning and instruction. This was expected to improve interest, participation, and learning on the part of all learners. The study was also very important as teacher candidates are in a stage of transition which makes them unique in the teaching-learning process. They view the classroom through the eyes of a student on the one hand, and through the lens of an aspiring educator on the other (Nolan & Hoover, 2004). Thus, there is a critical need to provide them with proper guidance and opportunities to improve their skills. Such feedback is often provided by university supervisors and can be enhanced with the components of the protocol that focuses on specific Universal Design for Learning Checkpoints that remove the vagueness from the lesson evaluation. The study was also expected to reveal the aspects of the protocol that teacher candidates found useful, as well as the general effectiveness of the protocol. In addition, the study provided information about the changes in teacher candidates’ perceptions of diverse learning needs in the classroom and the extent to which this was manifested in their lesson planning and instruction. Therefore, the observation protocol served both as a data collection instrument and a source for corroborating the data gathered from the document analysis and interviews conducted with teacher candidates during the study. The data collected with the observation protocol were also corroborated with data from university supervisors’ email responses and the focus group discussion with cooperating teachers. 7 Definition of Terms Teacher Supervision: Supervision as defined by Nolan and Hoover (2004) is “an organizational function concerned with promoting teacher growth, which in turn leads to improvement in teacher performance and greater student learning” (p. 26). University Supervisor: These are individuals employed by the university to oversee a group of teacher candidates. They typically visit the teacher candidate at the school during field experiences, observe the teacher candidate teach a class, confer with both the teacher candidate and cooperating teacher, and provide the teacher candidate with formative and summative feedback (Rodgers & Jenkins, 2010). They will sometimes be referred to in this study as center coordinators or simply supervisors. Field Experiences: These are the experiences in which a teacher candidate works in a school classroom to get opportunities for professional growth. Field experiences also provide opportunities for knowledgeable others such as cooperating teachers and university supervisors to influence and shape beginning teachers (Rodgers & Jenkins, 2010). These experiences are also referred to in the study as student teaching where the teacher candidate in responsible for most of the planning and teaching for the duration of the teaching practice. Diverse Learning Needs: Diverse learning needs as used in this study refer to students’ learning needs in areas such as language, learning styles, background, disabilities, technology skills, motivation, engagement, and access. 8 UDL: “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach that addresses and redresses the primary barrier to making expert learners of all students: inflexible, one-size-fits-all curricula that raise unintentional barriers to learning” (CAST, 2008, p.3). Observation Protocol: The instrument used by university supervisors to record and rate teacher candidates’ planning and instruction during the observation of their lessons. Teacher Candidate: Teacher candidates are often referred to as preservice teachers. They are enrolled in course work at a college or university that is part of a teacher preparation program. They may be at any point of their preparation program and may be in their third year, fourth year, graduate students, or as students with a degree who are taking additional coursework. They have not yet obtained their teaching credential and so are called teacher candidates to reflect their uncredentialed status (Rodgers & Jenkins, 2010). Design Research: Design research is a methodology for the study of learning in context through the systematic design and study of instructional strategies and tools (Baumgartner et al., 2003). Systematic Observation: Systematic observation is a data collection strategy that involves the development and application of a particular set of rules for recording and classifying what takes place in the classroom (Croll, 1986). It is intended to produce rich formative data (Dudney, 2002). 9 Limitations of the Study The limitations of the study surrounded speed and accuracy in identifying the presence of the checkpoints in the initial lessons observed. The 10 checkpoints of the observation protocol were identified throughout all aspects of the lesson. They seemed plausible on paper, but it took some time before I attained the desired speed and accuracy in utilizing the protocol in an actual lesson. Another limitation was the number of participants, as there were only four teacher candidates from the Elementary Education program, three university supervisors, and three cooperating teachers involved in the study. This limits the potential to make generalizations from the study. My presence in the classroom during observations and the use of pre and post conferences may have influenced the teacher candidates’ perceptions and planning for diverse learning needs of students within the classroom. This may be attributed to the feedback that teacher candidates received from me based on the findings from the observation protocol. However, this in and of itself was not a negative, as the aim of the research was to use the observation protocol to guide teacher candidates’ planning and instruction. In addition, the design research model incorporated systematic classroom observation data collection strategies. This is suitable for educational research, but could have resulted in certain limitations for the study. One of the things that I avoided doing was to hastily accept what seemed as plausible support from the data for the observation protocol without first ensuring it was substantial. I also avoided making any hasty decisions and conclusions that may have led to inaccuracies in the final observation protocol that resulted from the research. 10 Personal Statement My previous experiences in the role of instructor of social studies content, social studies methods, and university supervisor have influenced my interest in the planning and lesson delivery to meet the needs of diverse learners. I served in the role of supervisor of teacher candidates in the Teacher Preparation Program at a university in Jamaica. During that time I identified deficiencies in the way the teacher candidates were being prepared to plan for the diverse learning needs within the classroom. Diversity in the Jamaican context includes socioeconomic background, learning style preferences, and the academic performance level of students. In most instances lesson planning ignored these diverse needs altogether or addressed them superficially. This approach was a major contributor to the poor performance of those students who are taught in the general classrooms in the schools that do not implement tracking. Another deleterious result is the high drop-out rate among such marginalized students whose education is forcefully discontinued at the end of the ninth or eleventh grade. My interest in how teacher candidates meet the diverse learning needs of students was further increased during an internship in supervising teacher candidates in the spring of 2009. I worked with a center coordinator to supervise teacher candidates in local schools. During that time I recognized that the lesson plans developed by teacher candidates made little or no provisions for the diverse learning needs that were observed in the classes. Some students did not seem to be motivated and were rarely engaged in the lesson. There were also those who did not complete their work in the time allotted which could be as a result of several factors including difficulty with the content and the type of materials and activities used in the lesson. It is a common misconception among teacher candidates that because they have more than one type of instructional material, or ask a variety of questions that that is sufficient in 11 facilitating diverse learning needs in the classroom. Teacher candidates often seek to defend the inadequacies in planning and instruction by noting that they provided visuals for students in addition to oral delivery of the content. However, this is just partially in-keeping with the multiple means of representation aspect of planning for diverse learning needs. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recommends that there should be provision of options in terms of multiple means of action and expression, as well as options for multiple means of engagement (CAST, 2008). This made me decide to engage in further research on the topic to find out why there were such shortcomings in teacher candidates’ lesson planning and instruction. I also observed that some students were taken out of the class before the teacher candidate began a lesson. On a few occasions I observed students who were not always in the previously observed lessons. I was later informed by the regular classroom teacher that these students were not “regular.” This sparked my curiosity and further probing revealed that they were students with diverse learning needs such as non-English speakers, some were classified as special education, and others had various special needs. This was novel to me, as in the Jamaican context special education students are not included in the general classroom. These students attend special education schools where they are taught by teachers who are trained in special education. Following this internship, I conducted a pilot project in fall 2009 that focused on how teacher candidates engaged in reflective practice. However, in an effort to better understand the issue, I extended the original research in a second pilot project in spring 2010 to find out how teacher candidates plan for the diverse learning needs in the classroom. This study was informed by data that are available in the literature and is intended to add to the body of knowledge that is already available on the teacher candidates’ perceptions of diverse learning needs of students. 12 The study will also add to the literature on how to improve the preparation of teacher candidates in meeting these learning needs in the K-8 classroom. I engaged in the development, implementation, and evaluation of an observation protocol for student teachers through the lens of the Universal design for Learning (UDL). This observation protocol is expected to be more effective in supervising teacher candidates, as well as provide them with feedback on what they are doing, and need to do to better meet the diverse learning needs of the students they teach. Thus, enhancing the guidance/mentoring provided by supervisors as they assist in the preparation of these teacher candidates to meet the realities of the contemporary classroom. I wanted to encourage teacher candidates to make deliberate efforts to provide adequately for students with needs related to language, learning styles, disabilities, background, and other diverse learning needs in the general classroom. Provisions should not be impromptu or superficial, but should be detailed and incorporated into the lesson plans from the beginning. Teachers should discontinue the practice of relying heavily on the textbook and traditional methods to guide their lessons which is a result of the direct instruction approach. This issue can be resolved if lessons are developed with the learning needs of the particular student group and classroom context in mind. Hence, my subscription to the individualized instruction posited by the authors of the Universal Design for Learning for students with diverse learning needs (CAST, 2008; Rose & Meyer, 2002). The incorporation of Universal Design for Learning Guidelines such as providing multiple means of representation of their ideas and multiply opportunities for students to engage in the lesson will improve teacher candidates’ capacity to meet the needs of all the students in the classroom. 13 As a consequence of such individualized instruction, students with diverse learning needs, whether derived from their socioeconomic status, performance level, physical disability, or any such factor, will benefit more in the general classroom. Students have tremendous untapped potential and teachers should utilize their previous knowledge and varying skills to enhance the teaching-learning environment within the classroom. Students will be able to assist other students’ learning through strategies such as peer-coaching. This and other strategies supported by the Universal Design for Learning are available to the teacher and will benefit all the students, rather than marginalizing those with diverse learning needs, as some of the current policies and strategies are doing. The ultimate goal for this research is that the observation protocol developed will be used in supervising teacher candidates to determine the extent to which their lesson planning and delivery meet the diverse needs of students. I am also interested in conducting future research to determine the extent to which it is possible or necessary to develop a subject-specific observation protocol for social studies. Teacher candidates are prepared to engage in reflective practice, therefore, they were able to use the feedback from the observation protocol and the experiences gained in their previous lessons to improve subsequent lessons. I intend to use the findings from this study as a basis for further research to inform my skills in the preparation of teacher candidates for the K-12 classroom. This study is an important stage in the process of my professional development and goal to become a curriculum specialist, education officer, and consultant within Jamaica’s Ministry of Education. I intend to utilize this research as a critical source of information in an effort to improve the quality of teacher preparation offered in my home country. 14 Summary This study examined teacher candidates’ perceptions of the diverse learning needs of students. I developed an observation protocol from the guidelines of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). I looked at how the checkpoints of the protocol and the feedback given by supervisors were used by teacher candidates to better meet the needs of all students. The observation protocol was expected to guide teacher candidates’ lesson planning so that they would have generated greater interest from students and improved students’ performance. Universal Design for Learning provides increased opportunity for students to participate and practice during a lesson. Universal Design for Learning is an approach that can be used to boost interest in all subject areas. At the same time, teacher candidates will be able to improve their planning and instruction, and supervisors will be able to have a more specific set of data from the use of the classroom observation instrument. Thus, the incorporation of the selected 10 Universal Design for Learning Checkpoints formed a critical part of the observation protocol. The checkpoints provided a basis on which better lessons and lesson analysis can be built in an effort to improve the student teaching experience for all concerned. 15 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction University supervisors can better assist teacher candidates in analyzing their lessons and improve the guidance they provide if the observation protocols they utilize during classroom visits are developed so as to record and rate teacher candidates in specific efforts they make so as to generate interest and get students involved in the lesson. Therefore, teacher candidates would benefit greatly if they are prepared to utilize the variety of learning materials, assignments, and presentation of lesson content embedded in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) checkpoints to create more flexible lessons for students. Diversity among learners in the classroom is an issue that has always impacted the level of effectiveness of lesson planning and implementation. However, in this time of greater diversity, increased emphasis on standards and accountability means that teachers are facing a bigger challenge to assist all students to achieve (Rose and Meyer, 2002). Therefore, every teaching situation involving two or more students contains a number of learner differences such as learning styles, background, and disabilities that the teacher must provide for. This is itself a challenge for teachers of social studies and other subjects. To achieve success the teacher must make a deliberate effort to know the students in the classroom and provide a wide a variety of materials and opportunities for participation and collaboration on the part of students. Students in a social studies lesson can be involved in role playing, watching videos, listening to guest speakers, utilizing real objects, analyzing pictures, and primary sources. This variety of activities will generate interest in the subject and give students the chance to actively participate in their own learning (Basham, Israel, Graden, Poth, & Winston, 2010; Rose & Meyer, 2002). Students 16 will also be able to collaborate with each other and monitor their own progress. All of this will be in keeping with the checkpoints being promoted in the observation protocol. Eventually these students will become more expert learners, as well as acquire skills that will benefit them as they engage in life-long learning. Recent research into how the brain learns has revealed new insights into learner differences and the effective use of technology. In light of this information, The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has capitalized on the opportunity resulting from the rapidly evolving communication technologies to create flexible methods and materials that can smooth the progress of diverse learners. Instilling such flexibility into methods and materials maximizes learning opportunities not only for students with identified disabilities, but for all students (Basham et al., 2010; Rose & Meyer, 2002). The principles of UDL developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) can serve to improve learning for students with diverse learning needs. CAST is internationally recognized for its innovative contributions to the development of educational products. It is also instrumental in the establishment of classroom practices and policies that enhance the planning and execution of lessons that are geared towards students with diverse learning needs. CAST is staffed with a wide variety of specialists in fields such as education research, curriculum development, clinical/school psychology, and technology (CAST, 2008). Success can be attained in classrooms where there is a high level of student engagement and variety in the materials and methods utilized by the teacher. Such multiple means of representation and opportunities for engagement in the lesson are promoted by the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Thus, teacher candidates need to be prepared to provide 17 options that provide multiple means of engagement to attract and retain their students’ interest in all subjects in the elementary classroom. Purpose of Supervision Student teaching is a journey of discovery that is supposed to develop teacher candidates’ planning and instruction. It involves them in a process of thinking, re-thinking, experimentation, observation, planning, and a lot of pondering (Oyler, 2006). Supervision provides on-the-spot creation of knowledge and practice. This can be used to improve the planning and performance of teacher candidates as they seek to improve the learning of students. University supervisors typically visit the teacher candidate at the school where the teaching practice is being done and observe the teacher candidate teach a class. After this observation and at other opportune times, the supervisor confers with the teacher candidate and cooperating teacher individually and together so as to provide formative and summative feedback to the teacher candidate. At the end of the conference the teacher candidate is given the original observation protocol used to record and rate the lesson and the supervisor retains a copy for the student’s file (Rodgers & Jenkins, 2010). This role also involves informing the cooperating teacher about the university’s expectations and protecting the integrity of the teacher preparation program by ensuring that standards are met. Thus the university supervisor plays developmental and advisory roles in the preparation of the teacher candidate for the classroom. A lot of what takes place during student teaching is filtered through the lens of the university supervisor (Rodgers & Jenkins, 2010). An observation protocol can be instrumental in providing feedback not only on the teacher candidates’ performance, but also on the behavior and performance of students. These behaviors are generally recorded either by videotape or a survey-type instrument. Research shows that Flanders was one of the first to develop a systematic way of observing teacher 18 behavior and classroom verbal interaction in the 1960s. Flanders’ system placed both direct and indirect teaching behaviors that the supervisor recorded during an observation on a continuum, rather than a scale. These behaviors are: expressing and accepting feelings; praising, acknowledging and using others’ ideas, asking questions; lecturing or otherwise engaging in monologue; directing; criticizing, even antagonizing (Acheson & Gall, 2003). This allows the supervisor to record information about the overt behavior in the classroom. Supervisors need to carefully choose the instrument that will be used for classroom observation, as the processes of classroom observation and provision of feedback may not be of much benefit unless the instrument used to record and evaluate teacher candidates’ performance is one that is suitable for the classrooms in which it is used. The problem here is not teacher evaluation itself but how it is conducted and used (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 2007). They argued that teacher evaluations through the use of a standardized instrument that lists traits of teachers that are assumed to be important are faulty. The focus seem to be more on the teacher candidate rather than the extent to which students are engaged in the lesson and how much they are taking away from it. Systematic classroom observation involves the university supervisor actually attending and remaining for the duration of a lesson that was a scheduled, and in some cases unscheduled visits. During the lesson the supervisor will record the occurrence of the targeted behavior on the observation protocol. The goal is to have objective feedback on the lesson. The supervisor should, therefore, utilize an instrument that should effectively capture different aspects of the lesson so as to provide data for analyzing (Acheson & Gall, 2003). The problem is that often these instruments are very general in nature and do not collect data on the provisions made to 19 meet the variety of learning needs present in the classroom. The observation protocol has specific checkpoints that go a bit further and seeks to remove the vagueness from the process. Another critical part of supervision is the meeting that the supervisor has with the teacher candidate after a lesson to examine what took place. There are sometimes instances where it was agreed beforehand that a particular lesson observation would be focused on a named aspect of the lesson, but in other instances it is focused on all aspects of the lesson. In the case of the current research, the focus was on the way teacher candidates’ dealt with the different learning needs within their classrooms. Therefore, teacher candidates knew beforehand what I was coming to observe in their lessons. After a visit by the supervisor/observer, teacher candidates are provided with the original observation protocol and a copy is kept on their files. It is this instrument that forms the basis of the lesson analysis as both supervisor and teacher candidate examine it together to see what it reveals. Supervisors are encouraged to allow teacher candidates to engage in self critique rather than take a dictatorial stance. Therefore, teacher candidates can identify the areas of strength and those that need to be worked on for future lessons. The supervisor should adopt a more nonjudgmental role and seek to guide teacher candidates into finding solutions rather than telling them what happened and how to address it (Acheson & Gall, 2003). Defining Diversity Students within the classroom have a variety of learning needs that are commonly referred to as diverse learning needs. These diverse learning needs are in areas such as language, learning styles, background, disabilities, technology skills, motivation, engagement, and access (Jobling & Moni, 2004; Lembke & Stormont, 2005; Weise, 2008). Rose and Meyer (2002) sought to add clarity to the issue of diversity by noting that cultural, educational, and legal 20 changes have significantly altered the mix of students in regular education classrooms. They pointed out that diversity is further compounded by the presence of students with specific needs such as limited vision, motor disabilities, emotional difficulties, speech difficulties, learning disabilities, and students classified as gifted. Students with diverse learning needs bring different and often unique requirements to instruction and the curriculum (Coyne, Kame’enui, & Carnine, 2007). According to Fiore and Cook (1994), this diversity is manifested in the K-12 classroom in the form of students who exhibit atypical learning characteristics or special instructional needs, students who have to learn English as a second language, those considered at risk due to socio-economic factors, and others whose measured cognitive abilities or academic performances are below average. These students for the most part are taught in the general classroom, but determining atypical behavior is sometimes difficult. Arguably what is considered as atypical in one context may be seen as regular in others, therefore is this flawed explanation of the term diversity is problematic. In light of this difficulty there is even greater need for flexible curricula that will redound to the benefit of all students in the general classroom. This requires teachers to prepare and teach lessons that are informed by research-based practices (Lembke & Stormont, 2005). The current trend is to have curricula that are designed to meet the needs of the broad middle. However, this is often done at the exclusion of those with different abilities, learning styles, backgrounds, and even preferences. These inflexible curricula fail to provide all students with fair and equal opportunities to learn in the general classroom (CAST, 2008). It is unfortunate that lesson planning and delivery are not effectively meeting diverse learning needs. 21 Rose and Meyer (2002) argued that the barriers to learning are not inherent in the capacities of learners, but result from learners’ interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods. In essence, it is not the students, but the curriculum that is problematic or disabled. Among the major challenges related to the focus of the study were the diversity challenge, a research challenge surrounding the question of what is good instruction/teaching, what are the effective ways to measure supervision/mentoring of teacher candidates, and students’ access to the materials and methods used in instruction. The Importance of Planning for Diversity The recent upsurge of interest, or at least discussion on diversity was influenced in part by national policies such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Dearman and Alber (2005) noted that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) stated that only 31% of U.S. fourth graders scored at or above the proficient level in reading on the 2003 assessment. This statistic triggered alarm bells across the nation and highlighted the urgency to meeting diverse learning needs within the classroom. It is necessary to plan directly for diverse learners rather than using the traditional approach that has general lesson plans. Such planning should be done within the specific context of the individual classroom, as contrary to the popular adage; one-size does not fit all. In light of the fact that the traditional observation forms do not target facilitating the needs of diverse learners, this research will explore the impact that the protocol will have in attempting to fill this gap. Cultural, educational, and legal challenges have changed the composition of students in the general classroom; however there is no corresponding change in terms of the approaches taken by teachers in lesson planning and delivery (Coyne et al.). In addition, increasing emphasis on learning standards have placed greater emphasis on teachers and those in administration to 22 ensure that each student attains the highest levels of achievement. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 was designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities by ensuring that everyone receives a “free appropriate public education (FAPE),” (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, para.1) despite their ability. The act and subsequent amendments rule out a separate educational agenda for students with disabilities and indicate that they must have access, participate, and show progress in the general classroom (Rose & Meyer, 2002). Another factor that has increased the level of accountability and challenge faced by teachers in the general classroom is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. This act dictates that all students in grades 3-8 must attain statewide progress objectives and reach proficiency regardless of poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and limited English proficiency to ensure that no group of students is left behind (para.7). Thus, the greater level of diversity and accountability have increased the challenge faced by teachers as they prepare for teaching students with diverse learning needs within the general classroom. Among the critical issues of NCLB and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) is the importance of making the general curriculum accessible to all students. Unfortunately, neither law specifically directs how schools are to create accessible curricula for all students. However, the legislation holds teachers, schools, school districts, and state departments of education accountable for ensuring that all students make progress toward the high standards set in assessed content areas. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) will enable the teacher to better meet the performance and accountability goals within this high stakes testing environment. 23 Teacher candidates are placed in general classrooms that have these challenges. The popular question is whether teachers are being prepared to meet the diverse learning needs of their students. Darling-Hammond and Sclan (1996) argued that most teacher education students have had little or no experience working with students with greatly diverse learning needs. They argued further that this is an area of teacher preparation that could make a difference in the effectiveness of new teachers, as well as their continuation in teaching. This calls for a direct attempt to ensure that they are prepared for the realities of the current general classrooms. Such preparation should be evident in the strategies and materials they use to teach, the activities students are expected to get involved in during the lesson, the assigned work, and how students are evaluated. Accredited institutions are supposed to have a conceptual framework that includes diversity; this diversity standard is intended to close the achievement gap among students from diverse groups (Gollnick, 2008). Some of the proficiencies the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) outlined for teacher candidates’ capacity related to diversity involves their understanding of diversity that includes English language learners and students with exceptionalities. NCATE also expects teacher candidates to be aware of the different learning styles of students and adapt instruction or services appropriately for all students (Gollnick, 2008). An observation protocol for supervision of teacher candidates should facilitate the supervisor’s recording or rating of teacher candidates in terms of deliberate provisions for getting all students involved in the lesson. An observation protocol developed through the lens of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) would enable the supervisor to rate the teacher candidate 24 in terms of provision of multiple means of representation of materials and content, multiple options for action and expression, and multiple means of engagement by students in the lesson. Another issue of concern is the search by teachers for universals among the students in their classes (Kouritzin, Piquemal, & Nakagawa, 2007). This is in terms of the learning strategies they employ, individual traits and characteristics, or variation in the learning styles of students. Such universality is uncommon and the fact that these students have unique characteristics is what makes it important that teachers plan for them. These students would not need special provision if they could readily fit into the mold that teachers and policy makers use to shape young minds. Consequently, a deliberate attempt must be made to address the diverse learning needs of the students within the K-8 classroom. These strategies must be inclusive rather than exclusionary as is typical of the present ones. Educators have very limited control over most of the factors that create differences among learners; however, they can assert a great deal of control over what takes place in the classroom. Coyne et al. (2007) noted that one of a teacher’s primary responsibilities is to teach students how to transform immense amounts of information into knowledge that can be used to develop problem solving skills needed in the classroom. They recommend that teachers be provided with effective strategies that will improve their instruction and ultimately assist students. Solutions that can be learned quickly and implemented in the short term are needed and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) holds this promise for the classroom. The Universal Design for Learning is an approach to lesson preparation and delivery that addresses the needs of all students in the classroom by proactively planning for instructional, environmental, technology, and other supports related to the lesson. Therefore, with the use of UDL guidelines 25 all students can effectively access the materials and engage in the lesson’s activities (Basham, Israel, Graden, Poth, & Winston, 2010). Mohr (1995) argues that the key to successful inclusion of students with learning differences in the general classroom is the teacher’s willingness to provide adaptations, adjustments, accommodations, and alternatives within their teaching. This is also are critical part of the guidelines provided by UDL. Therefore, it is possible to prepare teacher candidates through UDL to successfully prepare and deliver lessons to students with diverse learning needs such as learning styles, background, language, and motivation. This will be of benefit to the teacher candidates not only in their social studies lessons, but in the other subjects as they are elementary school majors. This is by no means a reinvention of the wheel; as such strategies do exist, but are for the most part underutilized. Universal Design for Learning’s framework provides a means of making various approaches to educational change more feasible by incorporating new insights on learning and new applications of technology (Rose & Meyer, 2002). It stands to reason that if the approaches to diversity are going to be changed, then there will be need for an observation protocol to reflect such changes as implemented by teacher candidates. Origins of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enables individual students to obtain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL makes a variety of rich supports available for learning, as well as reduces the barriers to the curriculum. At the same time, it enables the teacher to maintain high achievement standards for all students. The developers of UDL, CAST, are committed to improving how the needs of diversity within the classroom are met. It is a research-based set of principles that form a practical framework for using technology to maximize learning opportunities for every student (Rose & Meyer, 2002). 26 However, its salience is not restricted to digital technology, as its recommendations can be applied even in settings where there is limited availability of modern technology. It is expected that with this exposure to workable strategies informed by research, teachers will reevaluate how they teach, as well as how students learn. This will in effect improve how they plan and teach within the general classroom so as to meet the diverse learning needs of students. The flexibility that UDL will introduce into a lesson in terms of options for students is expected to open new doors to diverse learners (Rose & Meyer, 2002). Guiding Principles of UDL As mentioned in Chapter1, UDL is based on three primary principles: 1. Multiple means of representation: to give diverse learners options for acquiring information and knowledge, 2. Multiple means of action and expression: to provide learners options for demonstrating what they know, 3. Multiple means of engagement: to tap into learners’ interests, offer appropriate challenges, and motivation (CAST, 2008, pp.2-3). These principles are further explained by Rose & Meyer (2002): x Principle 1: to support recognition learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation. x Principle 2: to support strategic learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of expression and apprenticeship. x Principle 3: to support affective learning, provide multiple, flexible options for engagement (p.75). 27 Some of these principles and practices are not in-keeping with the traditional approaches to teaching as it will be necessary to make adjustments to present classroom practices. The principles of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) may not be readily accepted, or be immediately implemented, however during the time when we are awaiting widespread acceptance and implementation of UDL inspired curricula and lessons, it is prudent that strategies be developed that will expedite the process. One such strategy is the observation protocol for use by university supervisors and/ or cooperating teachers that was developed during this study. What UDL is not Another approach to understanding UDL is to clarify what it is not. Edyburn (2010) noted that statements like “universal design for learning is just good teaching” (p.38) are found in the literature. This portrayal of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is unfortunate as UDL is much more than that. Educational research illustrates that marginalized students such as students with disabilities, culturally and linguistically diverse students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and English language learners experience chronic school failure; hence the focus is on calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP) within the No Child Left Behind legislation. This pattern of performance is not evidence that existing instructional practices are effective for all students. UDL represents a 21st-century intervention (Edyburn, 2010) that can address these issues. “Good teaching” is a cliché that is often used in regard to developing effective practices. But this can be regarded as a difficult concept to accept as it is subject to wide interpretation. However, even with the absence of a clear conception of effective teaching it is still banded about in discussions regarding preparation and supervision of teacher candidates. Supervisors are 28 cautioned to avoid dictating to teacher candidates that there is a best technique for teaching; as there is no one best way to teach. In addition, the goal of supervisors should never be to make copies of themselves, but to mentor teacher candidates (Glickman, 1992). Acheson and Gall (2003) on the other hand, argue that though “effective” is often considered as an elusive concept, there is empirical evidence to suggest that there is consensus on the characteristics of a good teacher. The characteristics of good teaching that they identified are giving students respect, being patient, and easy to get along with; making the subject interesting and fun by involving students in activities and demonstrations; tells jokes and smiles a lot- a good sense of humor; and listens to students’ questions and make changes in class to help students learn. They also argue that the opposite of these are the characteristics of a bad teacher. Regardless of how well intentioned it appears to be, good teaching has never been able to address the full range of diversity present in a classroom. Therefore, ignoring its potential and making statements such as “Universal Design for Learning is just good teaching” further marginalizes students with diverse learning needs and simply maintain the status quo. There is the tendency to give students alternative materials, but these are usually add-ons and do not provide options in the ways to present core content, options for students to express themselves, and options for engaging students in the lesson. Another common practice is to rely on assistive technology such as digital reading, though this is useful; it is not a total solution. Therefore, there is need to find ways to define and measure implementation of Universal Design for Learning in order to discern when it is being implemented and when it is not (Edyburn, 2010). Incorporating the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines into lesson planning and instruction is especially salient at this time when schools are experiencing increasing levels of student diversity, increased emphasis on standards, and increased emphasis on accountability. 29 These circumstances are all challenging for the teacher who is expected to help all students achieve (Meyer, 2000). Furthermore, new insights into how the brain learns have highlighted learner differences and effective uses of technology. Universal Design for Learning capitalizes on the opportunity brought by rapidly evolving communication technologies to create flexible methods and materials that will facilitate not just students with diverse learning needs, but all students (Basham et al., 2010; Meyer, 2000). Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an essential component for improving student learning, compatible with other approaches to education reform (Meyer, 2000). This argument can be taken a step further as students are already familiar with, and use advanced technology such as iPods and sophisticated cellular phones on a daily basis. Therefore, there will be few obstacles if the lesson incorporates more technology. In addition, instructional materials do not have to be adjusted or presented electronically. A case in point is that critical features can be highlighted with call out boxes and the use of different colors on hard copies of the materials. Selected UDL Checkpoints with Research Evidence The observation protocol will focus on 10 checkpoints based on the principles of UDL. These checkpoints are supported by research evidence which substantiates the need for their inclusion in an observation protocol for use with teacher candidates in the general classroom. During the initial meeting with the participants the teacher candidates were familiarized with each of the 10 checkpoints and discuss how they can be incorporated into their lesson planning and implementation. The protocol will enable supervisors to identify and record the presence of the following checkpoints: 1. Options that customize the display of information 30 2. Options that provide or activate background knowledge 3. Options that highlight critical features, big ideas, and relationships 4. Options in the media for communication 5. Options that enhance capacity for monitoring progress 6. Options that increase individual choice and autonomy 7. Options that enhance relevance, value, and authenticity 8. Options that vary levels of challenge and support 9. Options that foster collaboration and communication 10. Options that develop self-assessment and reflection Checkpoint #1: Options that Customize the Display of Information The first checkpoint is a component of Principle 1 of the Universal Design for Learning; Provide Multiple Means of Representation. It is particularly important as one of the main forms of resource materials used within a lesson is text; whether it is printed or electronic. Unfortunately, some students are not able to readily master such materials due to a variety of reasons related to their learning styles, physical disability, or other issue. Such limitations result in low levels of participation, incompletion, and even poor performance on assigned tasks. Lessons can be enhanced if teachers are prepared in how to enable students to overcome barriers that prevent diverse learners from accessing lesson materials in the general classroom (Basham et al., 2010; CAST, 2008; Rose & Meyer, 2002). Strangman and Hall (2003) argue that students who have limited ability to see, decode, attend to, or comprehend printed text will not learn from it. The result is that these students are severely disadvantaged throughout their education. One of the recommendations made in the literature to ameliorate this problem, and customize the display of information is what Strangman and Hall (2003) referred to as text 31 transformation. It involves text modifications and innovative technology tools that alter or add to the features of printed text. Modifications can also be made to electronic text in terms of text-tospeech and hypertext. These modifications are not necessarily done with the use of advanced technology such as computers; therefore they can be as simple as rewording the text into simplified language, or enlarging the print on a photocopier. In addition, the teacher can present the same information, or alternative materials in the form of videos or other means. These different modalities also provide students with options that increase their chances of mastering the content being taught. Therefore, the supervisor will be able to record teacher candidates’ provision of options in the materials presented in a lesson through the use of the classroom observation protocol. The customization of the display of information can also be done by low-tech strategies such as highlighting specific words, letters or parts of speech digitally or on the hardcopy of text (Denby, 2002,) the addition of color to text serves to increase the chances of students storing the information in their long-term memory. Students will also be able to recall this information more readily than if all the text was in black and white. These strategies are not time consuming, are cost-effective, and are suitable for use by teacher candidates as they gain experience in the classroom. Another attractive characteristic of this adaptation of text is that it will benefit not only students who are classified as having special needs, but will also help those considered as regular students, as it removes the monotony and enhances students’ interest in the lesson. This is due to the fact that the advantages of such flexibility are generally considered selfevident. Some critics claim that these are not necessary. Kalyuga, Chandler, and Sweller (2000) noted that the benefits gained from this form of presenting materials are usually taken for granted 32 Nevertheless, these aspects of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are supported by constructivism and the general learner centered approach to teaching. These theories stipulate that students need to be treated as individuals, and that their particular learning styles and preferences must be brought to bear on the selection of materials and general preparation for a lesson. This customization of the display of information will be of particular benefit to students within the social studies as the subject often deals with abstract concepts and content knowledge that students complain are boring. Therefore, if they are designed in multiple ways, then they have the potential to capture and maintain students’ interest, and improve their participation and performance. Checkpoint # 2: Options that Provide or Activate Background Knowledge The second checkpoint of the observation protocol is part of Principle 1 of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. Students need to be provided with options for comprehension as they do not all learn the same things at the same pace, or in the same way. One of the major purposes of education is to teach students how to transform accessible information into knowledge that they can use (CAST, 2008). The developers of UDL argue that designers of curriculum have the responsibility to provide cognitive ramps that are necessary to ensure that all students have access to knowledge. For them, information (facts, concepts, principles, or ideas) is more accessible and open to assimilation as knowledge when it is presented in a way that activates, or provides pre-requisite knowledge. It stands to reason that students will be less likely to learn if they lack the background knowledge. This can be regarded as a differential barrier and creates further inequity in the general classroom (CAST, 2008). The developers of UDL noted that such barriers can be reduced when options are made available that supply or activate relevant previous knowledge, or 33 link to the pre-requisite knowledge elsewhere. Students enter the classroom from various backgrounds and with different experiences, so they will have knowledge of some topics to be studied, albeit to varying degrees. If this is factored into the planning and instruction then students will be able to meaningfully contribute to the lesson. Among the recommendations for establishing and or activating such background knowledge is the use of advance organizers such as concept maps and know, want to learn, and learned (KWL) charts. Bridging of this information gap can also be achieved through the use of relevant analogies and metaphors that will make the content knowledge meaningful to students; as they make connection with it and their daily lives and past knowledge. Marzano (2004) noted that the acquisition of background knowledge is linked to a student’s ability to process and store content knowledge, and the number and frequency of academic experiences that student has had (para.2). Due to the fact that there are diverse learners in the general classroom, they will each have varying levels of background knowledge, hence the need to maximize the incorporation of this knowledge into the lessons being taught. Research has been established to support the view that students will learn information that is tied to previously learned information (Deshler, Schumacher, Bulgren, Lenz, Jantzen, Adams,… Marquis, 2001). They recommended a strategy known as The Concept Anchoring Routine in which the teacher facilitates the activation of students’ previous knowledge in related lessons. This strategy involves linking the information from the lesson to students’ priorknowledge, and repetition and review of this information in the lesson. Deshler et al. (2001) argue that it is more difficult for students to learn abstract concepts without having the foundation on which to build. This is a plausible argument, as regardless of their academic 34 performance level, every student enters the classroom with some amount of valuable academic knowledge, some of which remains untapped. Universal Design for Learning does not simply offer a guideline for the teacher, but gives students the opportunity to become actively involved in the lesson, thus increasing the meaning of the content knowledge to them. The observation protocol will enable supervisors to identify the options that teacher candidates build into their lesson that provide or activate students’ background knowledge. This will enable supervisors to keep track of the progress made in this principle related to developing students’ comprehension. Supervisors can then provide guidance to teacher candidates in relation to how to better prepare and implement their lessons in order to benefit the diverse learners within the classroom. Checkpoint # 3: Options that Highlight Critical Features, Big Ideas, and Relationships The third checkpoint is related to options that highlight critical features, big ideas, and relationships. Students are often bombarded with a vast amount of content knowledge during a given lesson. As a result of the variation between their abilities in terms of identifying what is essential, teachers must make deliberate efforts to assist students to recognize the most important information in a lesson and to use their time efficiently. The developers of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) noted that when the teacher provides such explicit prompts it enables students to pay attention to the most important information, and at the same time avoid that which is least important (CAST, 2008). Hall (2002) describes big ideas as the keys that unlock content for the range of diverse learners. In addition to organizing the domains of information, these concepts and heuristics facilitate efficient acquisition of a broad based knowledge. Instruction involving such big ideas has the potential to increase the salience of the learning objectives for the lesson. This checkpoint 35 is related to the provision or activation of prior knowledge discussed in the second checkpoint on the protocol. It involves highlighting or emphasizing key elements in text, graphics, diagrams, and formulas (CAST, 2008). They also recommend the use of strategies such as graphic organizers and multiple examples and non-examples. Teachers must also reduce the background of extraneous features and mask those not relevant to the concepts being taught in a given lesson. This serves to reduce the amount of information students have to focus on, thus enabling them to be more focused on the tasks assigned. It involves deliberate efforts on the part of the teacher to direct students’ attention to critical features within learning materials. A key component of effective supervision is the provision of objective feedback to teacher candidates. This is the final phase in the supervision cycle when the teacher candidate and the supervisor meet to review the observational data (Acheson & Gall, 2003). The protocol will be instrumental to this end, as it collects evidence from the lesson that will present the teacher candidate with data related to how he or she addressed, or did not attempt to address the diverse learning needs of students. It will also provide the basis from which the supervisor can encourage the teacher candidate to reflect on the lesson and provide mentoring for improvement of their practice. This is in light of this fact that the goal of clinical supervision should be on formative, not summative evaluation (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 1998). Checkpoint # 4: Options in the Media for Communication The fourth checkpoint of the observation protocol is related to the Universal Design for Learning Principle of the provision of multiple means of action and expression. It will enable the supervisor to identify instances in which the teacher candidate provides options in the media for communication in a lesson. These alternative media reduce media-specific barriers to expression among students with a variety of special needs; as well as provide increased 36 opportunities for all students in the general classroom to capitalize on the technology available in contemporary society (CAST, 2008). This is particularly relevant in light of the fact that students use popular technology such as cell phones, computer games, and iPods on a daily basis. Here the teacher would simply be enabling them to transfer the skills they have to the classroom environment. Nevertheless, this provision of alternative modalities is not restricted to digital media, but involves any medium that the teacher utilizes for students to improve their competence in expressing themselves regardless of their level of academic performance, or learning needs (CAST, 2008). Schools are also equipped, albeit to different degrees, with technology that can be incorporated into the lesson so as to benefit diverse learners. This emergence and dispersion of technology has challenged the traditional use of a single medium in classroom communication (Riddle, 1995). Therefore, teachers need to know how to use traditional as well as modern technology such as Promethean boards and ELMO projectors as effective tools in promoting their students’ learning. Teachers need to utilize students’ strengths as well as their as weaknesses as part of the basis for instruction. This can be established by using personal media as points of departure for literacy development, as well as acquisition of content knowledge. Thus, this principle of Universal Design for Learning enables the learner to adapt multi-media to satisfy his or her own learning styles and needs as unique perspectives are added. In addition, as pointed out by Hibbing and Rankin-Erickson (2003), the single media format would not facilitate the level of description, insight, and individuality that students can convey when they have options for communication. 37 Checkpoint # 5: Options that Enhance Capacity for Monitoring Progress The fifth checkpoint on the protocol is based on the provision of options for executive functions as part of the UDL principle of multiple means of action and expression. It specifically seeks to identify a teacher candidate’s efforts to provide options that enhance students’ capacity for monitoring their progress. The developers of UDL pointed out that it is an important component of assisting learners with diverse needs. Among the things that teachers can do to assist students in developing the ability to monitor their own progress is the use of guided questions (CAST, 2008). These questions must be accompanied by corrective feedback that will enable the student to identify and take actions to improve the areas that they need to work on. The lesson observer will discuss this with teacher candidates in the initial meeting so as to ensure that they are aware of what needs to be done to assist students in monitoring their progress during the lesson. The presence of options for self regulation and monitoring of their progress enables students to be active participants in their own learning (Kitsantas, Steen, & Huie, 2009). This also serves to motivate students to learn as they take on more responsibility for their own learning. Due to the fact that students have different levels of self monitoring skills and experience, it is a part of the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that they are provided with the options to master these self-monitoring skills. Among the representations of progress suggested by CAST (2008) are before and after photographs, graphs, and charts that show students progress over time. Checkpoint # 6: Options that Increase Individual Choice and Autonomy The sixth checkpoint of the protocol is geared at identifying the options that increase individual choice and autonomy. As part of the Universal Design for Learning Principle that 38 deals with providing multiple means of engagement, it involves allowing students to have opportunities for personal control within the teaching-learning process has been proven to be successful in maintaining their interest in the acquisition of content knowledge. Such choices are considered necessary for students to develop self-determination, pride in accomplishment, and increase the extent to which they feel involved in their own learning (CAST, 2008). The importance of autonomy is substantiated by the argument that students’ beliefs in their efficacy to regulate their own learning and mastering academic activities determine their aspirations, level of motivation, and academic accomplishments (Bandura, 1993). It is recommended that the teacher in the general classroom environment provide students with as much discretion and autonomy as possible by providing certain choices (CAST, 2008). Some of the options that they recommend for attaining this are varying the level of perceived challenge, giving students options in the context and content used for practicing skills, providing options in the tools used for information gathering or production, and allowing them to choose the sequence or timing for completion of subcomponents in tasks. Students must also be allowed to participate in the creation of classroom activities and academic tasks. Fortunately for the teacher, most subjects lend themselves to this high level of student involvement. Therefore, within reason teachers can get students involved in setting their own personal academic and behavioral goals. Checkpoint # 7: Options that Enhance Relevance, Value, and Authenticity Closely related to the provision of individual choice and autonomy is the seventh checkpoint that is based on the provision of options that enhance relevance, value, and authenticity. Diverse learners in the general classroom bring unique characteristics and skills to the learning environment. These can be tapped into with limited interruptions in the flow of the 39 lesson and will serve to accentuate the level of interest that students have in the content being taught. Research has shown that teachers must activate students’ intrinsic motivation, as well as provide them with extrinsic motivation in order to get them interested and involved in the lesson (Lepper & Cordova, 1992; Ryan & Deci, 2000). Theories of motivation do not necessarily advise teachers about how to make classroom activities attractive to students, but they make the teacher aware of important factors that must be borne in mind when preparing and executing a lesson (Bergin, 1999). Students who are provided with options for engagement tend to be more highly motivated and more likely to actively participate in the lesson. They are also able to incorporate the skills that they perform daily without much thought into the classroom environment. These skills include the creation of imaginative characters, playing video games, texting, twittering, facebook, and other contemporary forms of communication that students frequently engage in. It is important that teachers tap into the resources that are present in their classrooms; this includes utilizing the skills that students possess, thus taking them from the known to the unknown. This will ultimately increase the salience of the lesson to students with diverse learning needs, some of whom would have otherwise remained unmotivated if such options were absent. Teachers are cautioned not to assume that all students will find the same activities or information equally relevant or important (CAST, 2008). To avoid the common error of creating a one-size-fits-all lesson they recommend that teachers recruit all students equally by including options in the kinds of activities and information that are available. To achieve this teachers are advised to provide tasks that allow for active student participation, exploration, and experimentation in the lesson. Teachers must encourage students to give their personal response to questions, evaluation, and self-regulation (CAST, 2008). The provision of a variety of activities and sources must also seek to incorporate students’ 40 background knowledge and experiences that will in effect increase the relevance and value of the lesson to them. In addition, CAST (2008) recommends that the information and sources be appropriate for the age and ability of the students. This is particularly important in classrooms with students who have a variety of learning needs, as they will be better able to participate and achieve their goals. With the advancement in technology that has evolved from the beginning of the 21st Century comes an urgent need to ensure that educators catch up with the current trends. Prensky (2005) argues that even as some schools and educators are stuck in the 20th Century; students have rushed ahead into the 21st Century. Prensky recommended that educators listen to the digital natives; a term they used in reference to the contemporary generation of students who are more often than not exposed to, and accustomed to using modern technology and the technological language that accompanies it. Educators, on the other hand, are learning this technological language as adults and, therefore, speak it with an accent. As a result educators need to adapt or discard traditional approaches to lesson instruction, so as to increase the relevance, value, and authenticity of learning materials and content knowledge (CAST, 2008). Checkpoint # 8: Options that Vary Levels of Challenge and Support The protocol will enable supervisors to detect teacher candidates’ attempts to provide multiple means of engagement through options that vary levels of challenge and support. This is the eighth checkpoint and was included in the observation protocol mainly because of its appeal as a strategy to be used for students with diverse learning needs. Because students have varying levels of academic performance; teachers need to plan so as to provide for the needs of all students. 41 The provision of a range of supports within the lesson allows students to find objectives that are optimally motivating; as some may prefer objectives that are high-risk rather than those that are safely attainable (CAST, 2008). An issue that teachers may be concerned about is that some tasks may be too easy for students and are, therefore, doing students a disservice. However, not all students will be doing the same things at the same pace, and to clarify; they are not all performing at the same levels. Therefore, having variety in the levels of challenge and support will serve to reduce the level of frustration that is often experienced by low performing students. In addition, it will not retard the progress of the more advanced ones, as students are given choices. This reinforces the need for teachers to know their students well, so that they can better provide the learning environment and options in resources and objectives that facilitate all students. Among the suggestions for incorporating this checkpoint into a lesson is that teachers vary the degrees of freedom for acceptable performance, as well as emphasize continuous, rather than terminal assessment (CAST, 2008). Checkpoint # 9: Options that Foster Collaboration and Communication The ninth checkpoint of the protocol is also aimed at detecting teacher candidates’ provision of multiple means of engagement. Supervisors will check to see the presence of options that foster collaboration and communication within the lesson. Peer tutoring, cooperative learning, and peer assessment have been promoted as beneficial not only to low performing, but also advanced students. The option of working collaboratively with other students can be regarded as an effective strategy for maintaining the interest and participation of students in long, as well as short-term activities and projects. 42 Teacher candidates can make student engagement in the lesson both meaningful and enjoyable by including activities that involve cooperative groups. Students in these groups should be assigned scaffolded roles and responsibilities (CAST, 2008). They can also be given prompts that will guide them into when and how to ask their peers or the teacher questions. Thus the teacher candidate will facilitate student learning, and not leave the development of questions and student involvement up to chance. This opportunity for one-on-one-support will also be beneficial for students who may have problems interacting with their peers (CAST, 2008). Students will be involved in mentoring each other and develop a sense of independence and self worth. Such a classroom environment will be one of collaboration and active engagement on the part of all learners, thus, fostering positive interdependence among students. Checkpoint # 10: Options that Develop Self-assessment and Reflection The final checkpoint on the observation protocol is aimed at identifying and recording teacher candidates’ effort at providing options that develop self-assessment and reflection. This is part of Universal Design for Learning’s third principle based on providing multiple means of engagement. Teachers are often criticized for not adequately preparing students with the problem-solving and self-reflection, and self-management skills that they will need as life-long learners. The direct incorporation of activities into the lesson can serve to ameliorate this problem. The developers of UDL argue that students who lack the skills to monitor their own learning and reflect on their progress will not be able to adequately access the content knowledge and skills that the teacher is trying to accomplish in a given lesson (CAST, 2008). Self regulation is critical for the effectiveness of goal setting and self-assessment (Butler, 2009). Therefore, teachers must build options into their lessons that will encourage the development of these skills. This is especially important in classrooms with a great variety of 43 learning needs as students possess varying levels of capacity for monitoring themselves. The teacher will have to be prepared to give students the level of instruction and modeling that they will need to learn how to do so successfully (CAST, 2008). Sometimes students are discouraged not because they are not making progress, but rather because they are not cognizant of the progress they are making. Therefore, they will be better able to track their progress if teachers provide them with scaffolds and models that will assist them in developing self-assessment and reflection skills (CAST, 2008). They recommend that activities should include ways by which students get feedback and have access to alternative scaffolds such as charts and feedback displays. These will support students in not only monitoring but in understanding their progress. Research Questions 1. What are teacher candidates’ perceptions about meeting the diverse learning needs of students? 2. To what extent do teacher candidates’ perceptions about their planning for the diverse learning needs correspond with the results of the data collected with the observation protocol and from the focus group discussion? 3. What happens to teacher candidates’ perceptions about diverse learning needs after the observation protocol has been used with them? 4. How clear and useful did participants find the observation protocol? 44 Theoretical Framework Learner Centered Ideology. McCombs and Miller (2007) described the “learner centered” approach as one in which professional development strategies must support diverse learner needs and perspectives. The learner centered approach provides time for teachers to re-create their practices and beliefs about students and instruction. It also means that both teachers and students must be actively involved in a collaborative process. Constructivism is a learner centered approach that places focus on the student in the human learning environment. This approach enables students to work individually and with their peers to construct knowledge (Bruce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2009). This is supported through the principles of the Universal Design for Learning, especially as it relates to autonomy and scaffolds. Schiro (2008) notes that constructivism is an underlying idea upon which learning theory is built. In the constructivist framework for learning the responsibility for learning resides primarily with the learner. The setting in which the learner operates is important. In addition, the learning tools and tasks to be utilized in a lesson must be taken into account in designing instruction (Shambaugh & Magliaro, 2006). The theory of behavioral learning posited by theorists such as Piaget, Watson, Thorndike, and Skinner studies observable human behavior. This theory also explains how humans learn in response to positive and negative interactions with people and things in the environment (Arends, 1988; Henniger, 2004). Shambaugh and Magliaro (2006) noted that behavioral learning theory provides an organized and systematic set of guidelines for instructional design and is based on individual learner’s needs and interests. Behavioral learning theory will also be used to 45 analyze the effectiveness of the adaptation strategies that teacher candidates utilize to meet the diverse learning needs of students. The Role of UDL in Evaluating Lessons for Students with Diverse Learning Needs. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) will be instrumental in my analysis of data and development of the observation protocol, as it focuses on strategies for accommodating students with diverse learning needs in the classroom. It is an approach to lesson planning and implementation that informs the teacher of how to make adjustments to lessons that will facilitate the special learning needs that may be present in the classroom. This strategy is by no means the only one as it regards availability of strategies, but it encompasses many of the tenets of the other strategies. UDL is suitable for adaptation in classrooms with students who have diverse learning needs. If other strategies for accommodating diverse learning needs that are present in special education and different subject areas emerge during the course of the research, and will be inc…
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