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Adaptive Instruction for Teacher Education: Inclusive Approaches, Resources and Technology
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Finding Common Ground


You can download individual "Finding Common Ground" exercises
(see submenus on the right)

The type of exceptionality that a student has may give direction for teaching. For example,  knowing that the student has a Communication Exceptionality- Autism and has sensory sensitivities may help teachers in finding ways to assist the student. 

However, all too often it is difficult to decide, in teaching a regular class, as to what one needs to do when one is differentiating instruction and using the principles of universal design and adaptive technology.

The following 'Profile Model' was origanally designed by Evelyn Freedman and Cindy Zwicker Reston to address this issue. It is provided in a simplified format here.

Each of the following submenus on the right refers to this model and will assist you in finding common ground to use the various technologies for universal design and differentiating  instruction.

Remember that in Universal Design what is appropriate for one specific student may be appropriate for many or all students.

Differentiated Instruction focuses on the needs of one or a group of students and makes the class inclusive for students with specific learning needs.


Essentially, we need to divide information or factors related to learning into three 'groups'.


Physical Factors

There are really three main physical factors in class room learning.


1. Auditory: involves hearing as well as how the brain processes, understands and remembers what is heard.

2. Visual: involves seeing and how well the brain processes, understands  and rememberis what is seen.

3. Muscle Control: This can be either large muscle control or small muscle control (muscles in involved in writing and in speech).

Tactile and Kineasthetic are also factors that tend to be more significant in early childhood education but may also be factors used at all times in classes.






What can teachers do?

While specialists such as Speech and Language pathologists, Occupational Therapists, medical personnel may be able assist the student to improve these, teachers, in the course of teaching students who have weaknesses in any of the above areas really cannot improve these factors. (e.g. In the same way that as a teacher one would not attempt to improve the hearing of a student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing, the same applies to students who can hear but who have auditory processing difficulties).

In principle, therefore, one should always institute  accommodations for any of these factors, always using the student's strengths.

Human Developmental Factors

These are all factors that develop and change as a student grows and gets older.

They are:

1. Language: oral language, which develops first in babies and changes and becomes more complex as the child gets older.  It involves such factors as vocabulary, sentence structure, social use of language (pragmatics) and understanding of figurative language.

2. Cognition: the ability to think and form concepts, also involving memory and attention.

3. Affect or emotion

4. Socialization: Wanting to make social connections, e.g. all developmentally appropriate babies smile at parents after 6 weeks and want to interact with others.  This is about genetic programming for being social, not for social skills.

While most children develop these factors and reach developmental milestones at the same rate, some do not.

What can teachers do?

For Language delays, one can make accommodations to the oral language we use and at the same time institute teaching strategies to stimulate language and vocabulary development.

Developmental Language delays are most often associated with a weaknesses in auditory factors.

Developmental Language delays are most often associated with delays in Cognitive development, especially in the development of concepts.

Delays or different development for Affect and Socialization are best left to therapists.



Skills are all things that we have to teach and are all specific to the society in which the child lives. 

In an English-speaking society children learn to read an English code, and so on. While we all may have the ability to learn these skills, some students have difficulty learning these in the same way as their peers.

Reading includes learning to decode and make the sound-to-symbol connection.  Comprehension is the ability to understand what is read.  Note that although reading aloud involves speech, it is not spontaneous speech and therefore should not be confused with oral language development and production.

Writing and spelling involve learning to encode words (spelling) as well as learning to form letters (muscle control), learning the conventions of written language and organization of thoughts and ideas.

In Math, one must learn the number code as well as higher levels of arithmetic, algebra and geometric functions.

Each society also has its own set of social skills. As an example, in Canada it is socially appropriate to start a conversation about the weather, while in other warmer climates the weather is seldom a topic of conversation, especially with strangers.


What can teachers do?

1. Teach these skills using the student's strengths, e.g. teach reading to a student who has auditory processing difficulties using a visual method.

2. Make accommodations for the weak skill.

Now proceed to the submenus on the right to learn how to apply this information and 'pull it all together!'