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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
How to Home
How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

The Mixed Ability Classroom
Sharon Longert

In mixed ability classrooms the transfer and application of principles is the greatest challenge for teachers. Many students with special needs and cultural differences are expected to function in the general education environment and take state assessments designed to measure students’ performance, i.e., their ability to transfer information and apply it. In “M2ECCA: A Framework for Inclusion in the Context of Standards-Based Reform” (Council for Exceptional Children, May/June 2005), the authors Voltz, Sims, Nelson & Rivens, pose a series of questions to assist teachers in implementing the components of inclusive instruction. The following questions will help guide teachers in creating a standards-based classroom:

Student strengths/interests/experiential base

  • How can teachers use these strengths, interests, experiences to facilitate instruction?

Cognitive style

  • How can the concepts be best presented to the students?
  • How can educators control the level of difficulty?
  • What kinds of guidance and support will the student need?

Instructional format and arrangement

  • What is best suited to the needs of the student and the goals of the lesson?
  • Compensatory strategies – What is useful to circumvent the area of disability?

Format and variety

  • Do the materials connect the strengths, needs, interests and experiences of the student?
  • Is cultural plurality evident in the materials used?
  • Has the teacher considered multiple learning modalities?
  • What adaptations may the student need?

Supplemental materials

  • What technological aids may facilitate the students’ mastery of the concept or skill?
  • Are compensatory material needed?

Classroom environment

  • What can be done to create a nurturing classroom environment for all students?
  • How do we value individual differences?
  • What proactive strategies do we employ to minimize behavior problems?

Physical arrangement

  • What seating arrangement can maximize chances for success?
  • What arrangement of equipment and materials can maximize student success?

Rules and routines

  • What classroom rules and routines will maximize student success?
  • What augmentation is necessary for a particular student?
  • What specific behavior-management plans need to be developed?

Knowledge of appropriate behaviors

  • Is the student aware of appropriate behaviors and responses?
  • What specific behaviors do the students need to learn?
  • Do the students need self-monitoring skills?

Student ability and prior knowledge

  • What do the students already know?
  • What can the students already do?
  • Where are the students relative to where the teacher is trying to go?

Critical concepts and big ideas

  • What are the most critical concepts the students need to learn?

Strategies for learning how to learn

  • Do the students know and use effective strategies and skills?

Tools and process skills

  • Do the students have requisite literacy and math skills?


Exchanging student information

  • How can general and special educators exchange information about students that they share?

Collaborative problem solving

  • How can general and special educators collaboratively problem solve about students that they share?
  • When can this problem solving take place?

Collaborative teaching

  • How can general and special educators work together in delivering instruction?
  • What model of co-teaching should they use?
  • What structures and resources need to be in place for the model to be a success?

For guiding instruction

  • Have the educators used informal assessments to collect information about the students to support success?

For student evaluation

  • Are the nature of assignments and assessment strategies varied?
  • Are assignments and assessments appropriate to the students’ learning profile?
  • Do the students need accommodations or modifications? How will the teachers deal with grading issues?

For accountability – standardized assessments

  • Do the students need any accommodations?
  • Are the modifications approved by the IEP team?
  • Does the IEP document these modifications?
  • Are the accommodations routinely used in teaching the students?

Teachers need to examine their role, responsibilities and contributions to the success of students with special needs and cultural differences. I hope these questions have brought into focus areas that need to be addressed if we are to prepare for successfully implementing instruction in the inclusive environment.

If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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