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Steven W. Evans
The authors should be commended for emphasising teaching techniques and supports that foster independence. . . . [T]he book is a helpful resource for parents and teachers.
With this strategy-filled handbook, education professionals will learn what they can do to help students with mild disabilities - from high school to post-high school - develop academic skills in: organization test-taking study skills note taking reading writing math advanced thinking. First, educators will work one-on-one with students to evaluate each student's learning style and individual needs. Then, for each of the areas listed above, educators will get a chapter with step-by-step cognitive learning strategies, case studies, and charts that summarize the steps as mnemonic devices. An overarching five-step model (the Active Learner Approach) for effective instruction helps teachers introduce these strategies to students, model the steps of the strategies for them, give students guided and independent practice applying the strategies to assignments, and assist students in generalizing the strategies to other subjects and settings. With this easy-to-use guide, educators will be able to help students recognize their learning characteristics, apply strategies to meet the specific demands of their coursework independently, and reach their educational goals.
This book is an invaluable resource not only for special education teachers, but also for all middle school and high school teachers in inclusive classrooms.
Excerpted from chapter 1 of Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD, by Esther Minskoff, Ph.D., & David Allsopp, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2002 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE ACTIVE LEARNER APPROACH?
There are many manuals and guides available for teaching students with mild disabilities (defined in this text as students who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]). Most of these resources focus either on remedial methods for developing basic academic skills to be used in special education settings or on accommodations and modifications of the general curriculum to be used in inclusive settings. This manual is different in that it is designed to assist special educators who work with students with mild disabilities to become more effective learners so that they can better meet the increasingly rigorous academic expectations of inclusive settings. Our specialized approach, the Active Learner Approach, must be provided by special educators and focus on the inclusive setting to ensure that students are actively using effective learning strategies to meet the academic demands of the general education classroom.
Two pillars provide the foundation for the Active Learner Approach: 1) consideration of the unique learning characteristics of students with mild disabilities and 2) analysis of the educational expectations of students with mild disabilities in inclusive settings. Many students with mild disabilities possess characteristics that make them ineffective learners, including passive learning style, poor memory, and attention problems. The Active Learner Approach is designed to directly address these ineffective learning characteristics and replace them with more effective learning strategies. In addition, the Active Learner Approach focuses on the specific academic expectations of a student's educational placement (e.g., if students are reading a chapter about the Civil War and taking a multiple-choice test, then the Active Learner Approach will focus on this material and the skills needed for taking a multiple-choice test based on the chapter). For a complete discussion of these two pillars, see Chapter 2.
There is a critical need to use the Active Learner Approach because of changes in federal legislation involving educational practices for students with mild disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997, PL 105-17, mandate that a student's individualized education program (IEP) goals and objectives be related to the general education curriculum and that students with disabilities participate in all state and local assessments. Students with mild disabilities must meet the rigorous academic expectations of the general education curriculum if they are to be successful in school and in careers after school. These rigorous academic demands have evolved from two educational trends, one involving increasingly difficult requirements for general education diplomas and the other involving mastery of higher level academic content to pass high-stakes tests. These trends are described in Chapter 2.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF THE ACTIVE LEARNER APPROACH?
The Active Learner Approach includes three essential elements: individualized evaluation and intervention; cognitive learning strategy instruction; and systematic, explicit instruction. These three elements are derived from well established best practices in special education.
Individualized Evaluation and Intervention
There must be an in-depth assessment of a student's learning characteristics in relation to the specific demands of his academic courses. The evaluation seeks to ident
I. Tailoring Your Instruction for Academic Success
Appendix A: Active Learner Student Questionnaire
Appendix B:Active Learner Teacher Questionnaire
Appendix C:Active Learner Approach Questionnaire Items and Corresponding Strategies
Appendix D:Student-Teacher Agreement to Use the Active Learner Approach