Diversity at Berkeley

While students at Berkeley may not be as ethnically diverse as at other schools, the students are very diverse in their cognitive levels and placement in special education and gifted and talented services. During my practicum and student-teaching experiences, I have worked with approximately 12 students with individualized education plans (IEPs), an English-language learner, approximately 16 students in the AVID program, and approximately 15 students identified as gifted and talented. Therefore, I have learned to adapt my instructional methods and styles to match the level of student I am teaching, so that all students may receive quality instruction regardless of cognitive ability or level.

Different Ability Levels

When discussing various ability levels of students, I strive to not place judgement values on what a student can or cannot do or compare students to one another. Each person is on an educational journey with the content, and I am a guide and leader for the content. Students, though, are at different places in their physical and cognitive development, and thus some need different accommodations than others to reach the expectations that I have established for them. For the students with IEPs, I have observed that organization is a large issue. Papers to turn in become lost in the myriad of other papers, and this reduces the chance of success for these students. Therefore, I tried to help these students in particular by making it clear to them which assignment is due and what is expected for the assignment. I also continued a routine that my cooperating teacher used by having the students complete a table of contents for their notebook, and this helped students with their organization. For those students identified as gifted and talented, I pushed them further to engage the content at a deeper level and to make connections with the content outside of those I presented. These students were capable of doing this, and in making them extend their thinking I hoped to create relevance with their lives and give them a reason to seriously pursue studies in the sciences.

Universal Design for Learning

Each student is different in how they learn, yet most students (and humans, for that matter) are similar in the ways they learn best. When planning lessons to account for individual differences, though, I kept in mind the principles from universal design for learning. This helped me plan lessons that worked not only for students with IEPs, but for students with all types of cognitive ability and skills. For further discussion, see the Planning for Teaching and Teaching Skills pages.

Professionals and Paraprofessionals

In addition to teach all types of students, I worked with other professionals and paraprofessionals in the building to help students succeed with their schoolwork. One paraprofessional worked directly with those students with IEPs, so I had to communicate on a daily basis regarding the work students would be completing for classwork or homework. I also checked to ensure that the IEPs were being met when I gave a presentation or the students performed another activity, which was a valuable part for me to learn what is allowed and what is not allowed. Another professional with whom I worked was a math specialist, and this person directed the response to intervention (RtI) that occasionally happened in the classroom in which I taught. This again was valuable, because I learned what students do in RtI and why they are placed in RtI and how it would be possible for me to assist students in this program.

Instructional Strategies Resource List for Students with Exceptionalities

As an assignment for the Students with Exceptionalities course, I compiled a source of practical strategies for adapting, enhancing, or modifying instruction for students with exceptional learning needs, specifically for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:
  • The National Institute of Mental Health's publication on ADHD may be found here. One interesting finding involves a multi-modal study for minimizing the affect of ADHD on the student, and this is found in the 'Treatment of ADHD' section. Another interesting part of the publication for teachers is found in 'The Family and the ADHD Child' section, which gives families ways to help the student be more successful in school.
  • A book on ADHD, entitled "ADHD in the Schools, Second Edition: Assessment and Intervention Strategies (The Guilford School Practitioner Series)." Links to buy this book on Amazon and on Borders.
  • An article by R. Barkley, G.J. DuPaul, and L. Pfiffner, entitled "Treatment of ADHD in School Settings" may be found through the following link: Treatment of ADHD in School Settings.pdf
  • An article by S. Zentall, entitled "Theory- and Evidence-Based Strategies for Children with Attentional Problems" may be found through the following link: Zentall Strategies for Children with Attentional Problems.pdf.
  • A webpage from Helpguide.org on ADD/ADHD in Schools may be found here.
  • United State Department of Education report on "Teaching Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Instructional Strategies and Practices" may be found here.