Previous workshops discussed universal design and whole brain teaching techniques. This week we builton both workshops and discussed how we can successfully use these concepts to teach students with a diversity of learning abilities. Before the workshop I met with Christine O'Dell, the Learning Disability Specialist at the UC Davis Student Disability Center and she shared many teaching hints for working with students with a learning disability. I found it comforting that many of her suggestions are the same sort of things we consider important for helping all students learn. Like setting up a classroom in a way that facilitates communication. Setting clear deadlines. Providing feedback early and often. Using multiple, multi-sensory methods to deliver content. Being animated and even using comedy. Providing copies of power point slides. Using multiple assessment methods. Creating an interactive class climate. Being redundant and allowing students to both read and hear content. Christine stressed that is important to
post reading assignments early so students that need to order an alternate version of the textbook have time to do so.
The take home message for me was the importance of creating a class climate where all students feel comfortable approaching the instructor and sharing their needs. Putting a statement in your syllabuslike "Please see me to discuss any disability-related accommodations or any other special learning needs" can go a long way in helping students feel comfortable approaching you. Because once we are familiar with who is in our classroom we can adapt our teaching to their needs. Individual students are the best resource for what works for them. So starting a conversation is the first step in figuring out how to best help a student with a learning disability. I recommend the UC Berkeley Disabled Students Program website and its section for Faculty to anyone interested in reading more tips on how to teach students with learning disabilities. Or you could set up an appointment for a consultation with Christine O'Dell at the UCD Student Disability Center if you have a specific situation you would like to discuss.
Courtesy of Melody Schmid, GTC 2012