story by Claire Miller
After a year and a half of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, school systems across the U.S. have returned to in-person learning.
But the lessons they learned about teaching students in virtual settings can still be applied today, particularly for students with learning disabilities.
College of Education & Human Development Assistant Professor Jonte Myers co-authored a paper in TEACHING Exceptional Children on how educators can teach mathematics content online while ensuring that students with learning disabilities are supported.
More specifically, Myers and his colleagues explain how teachers can support students by using two tools: Explicit instruction and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. Explicit instruction is a research-based method of teaching, and UDL is a set of guidelines to “optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.”
“By implementing online explicit instruction in mathematics for students with learning disabilities within a UDL framework, teachers can focus less on individual student accommodations and create accessibility for a broader range of students,” they wrote.
Teachers are encouraged to consider explicit instruction’s five components when designing online lessons:
- Breaking up the lesson into manageable parts
- Modeling how to solve the mathematics problem by sharing slides or video models to demonstrate
- Giving students the opportunity to solve the problem, slowly taking away the cues and prompts for how to solve it as they go
- Offering immediate feedback to students verbally, via a chat window, using online sticky notes or other means of commentary
- Giving students opportunities to practice solving the problem on their own
To ensure lessons meet UDL guidelines, teachers can determine their students’ technology preferences, visualize the information they’re teaching in different ways, and offer multiple methods for students to show what they’ve learned.
Educators who can adapt their virtual learning sessions to fit these guidelines give students with learning disabilities the instructional support they need to succeed.
“Special education teachers being knowledgeable and prepared to implement explicit instruction in mathematics in virtual learning environments is essential,” they wrote.