The importance in shaping a positive learning environment is rooted in special education – while these five initiatives are necessary for some, they are in fact good for all. My role as a teacher is to implement strategies and tools that enhance and support learning within the community of the classroom.
1. Implement Universal Design for Learning (ULD)
Universal Design is not simply a technique that is useful for students with exceptionalities. Rather, it ensures that the learning environment is accessible for all, regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.
The principles of universal design ensure that planning is flexible, supportive, and adjustable, and increases access to the curriculum by all students. My role as a teacher is to identify the curriculum expectations and instructional strategies in light of individual students, providing appropriate accommodations and modifications to support their learning.
2. Provide Differentiated Instruction and Assessment
In accordance with UDL, I am responsible to differentiate instruction and assessment on the basis of my students’ strengths, needs, and interests. In consideration of the curriculum expectations, I must plan achievable tasks through a variety of flexible strategies or cooperative learning approaches to meet the needs of students in ways that are adapted to their level of skill and understanding.
Differentiating instruction and assessment may include:
- using a variety of groupings
- providing accommodations
- providing modifications to the curriculum expectations
- explicit expectations and targets
- uninterrupted, focused instruction
- frequent monitoring and supportive and motivational feedback
3. Develop a Community of Learners
My role as a teacher in developing a community of learners is to ensure that all students feel included and appreciated, are respected for their different abilities, cultures, gender, interests and ambitions, are actively involved in their own learning, and have positive expectations for themselves and their peers.
One approach to achieving these learning goals is through TRIBES, a model in which these four agreements are honoured:
- attentive listening
- show appreciation and no put downs
- mutual respect
- the right to pass
A caring community sets the foundation on which students are then able to develop collaborative skills focused on helping each other work through tasks, set goals and solve problems, monitor and assess their own and other’s progress, and celebrate learning achievements in the classroom.
4. 4. Use Assistive Technology
Technology is to be used whenever necessary to facilitate students’ learning. In light of this, I am responsible to know of the assistive technologies available, be willing and flexible in its use, and provide opportunities for students to explore and create using a variety of tools.
5. 5. Rely on the Expertise of Others
In order to best serve my students, I must be willing to reach out to and accept the support of other classroom teachers, the principal, special education resource teacher(s), community agencies and professionals. Furthermore, I must recognize the expert role parents play in the lives of their children, and understand that in the creation of a positive learning environment for all, everyone has a place in the process!
What is your role in a child's education? I'd love to hear your perspective!