In the last few weeks, I have had a number of conversations about meeting the needs of diverse learners in the classroom. Sometimes, minor adjustments, in the form of adaptations, accommodations and modifications, can make a world of different in the level of student success. I thought it may be helpful to share what these adjustments can look like in the classroom to provide clarity to both teachers and parents.
Firstly, let me lay some ground work. When we are looking at ‘Special Education’ we are referring to the way that instruction is designed to meet the needs of exceptional students. This may require special materials, teaching techniques, equipment or even facilities. When we refer to exceptional students or learners we are referring to students that require special education and related services if they are going to reach their full potential.
Many of our classrooms in the Turks and Caicos Islands are Inclusive Classrooms. This means that there is a general education curriculum being taught where students with or without learning differences learn together. For this to happen with success, educators often must ask themselves, how can the content I am teaching be adapted so that it can be accessed by all my students?
Adaptations are changes in the way instruction and assessment are carried out to provide equal opportunity for students to achieve their learning outcomes. For exceptional learners, these adaptations can be essential for them to reach their potential. Adaptations can be either accommodations or modifications.
Accommodations change how the students access the curriculum. They don’t change what students are learning, but how the content is presented or how they are showing what is being taught to them.
Here are examples accommodations:
Modifications are a little different than accommodations. Accommodations don’t change the content or instructional level, whereas modifications do. Modifications take the individual students need into consideration and change what they are expected to learn.
Here are examples of modifications:
Inevitably when we discuss accommodations and modifications, the idea of fairness arises. It’s important to highlight that fair does not mean equal. Fair means giving students what they need. Modifications and accommodations do not give students an unfair advantage but are designed to create level the playing field…in other words to bring equity into the learning equation. When we focus on building equity into our education system and our learning environments, we create opportunities for all students to thrive.
Yolande Robinson, M.Ed.