School Support for Diverse Learners

There are different kinds of support provided to diverse learners in the classroom. The type of supports may vary depending on the needs of the students, classroom approaches utilized by schools, school districts, and private schools –  and also the age/grade levels of students. Described here are the approaches and strategies your children are most likely to receive in an Alberta classroom.

Inclusive Education:

Inclusive setting/inclusion means specially designed instruction and support for students with special education needs in regular classrooms and neighbourhood schools.

Alberta Education’s Inclusive Education Policy: 

“To support children and students in attaining the goals as stated in the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, school authorities must ensure that all children and students, regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, general identify, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, family status or sexual orientation, or any other factor(s), have access to meaningful and relevant learning experiences that include appropriate instructional supports.”

For more information about Alberta’s Education’s policy on Inclusive Education, go to : https://www.alberta.ca/inclusive-education.aspx

Flexible and responsive supports include:

Universal supports – incorporated in the environment for all learners, such as flexible learning resources and technologies, differentiated instruction and positive behavior supports.

Targeted strategies or interventions – for learners who need more specialized learning opportunities or access to more specialized expertise

Specialized/Individualized supports – that directly relate to individuals’ learning needs.

Responsive and Flexible Learning Environments may include:

-Instruction and support in a grade-level classroom
-Individualized instruction in smaller groups
-A specialized classroom or setting
-One-on-one instruction
-A combination of all of the above

 Approaches to Support Diverse Learners

Provided are descriptions of some of the approaches that schools may use to support diverse learners in the classroom.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is based on three main principles:
1. Give learners different ways to learn information through multiple means of representation
2. Give learners different ways to demonstrate learning through multiple means of expression
3. Tap into learners’ motivation and interests through multiple means of engagement.”

Accommodations and supports are provided throughout the instruction so that all students are able to access learning through a variety of ways, and individuals with specific learning needs are not highlighted as the supports are available to all students.

Alberta Ed Resource: Alberta Education – Inclusive Education – Conversation Guide for the Video; Making Sense of Universal Design for Learning

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction can enhance teachers’ abilities to provide instruction that meets the different learning needs of all students in their classrooms.

A differentiated Instruction approach builds on teaching practices such as:
-Knowing who students are as learners
-Choosing multiple instruction strategies
-Offering students multiple options at each stage of the learning process
-Organizing flexible groupings
-Using ongoing classroom assessment to inform instruction

Alberta Ed Resource: Using Differentiated Instruction to Support ALL Learners

Response to Intervention (RtI)

“Response to intervention (RtI) uses a 3-tiered pyramid to identify strategies, supports and intervention that address students’ academic and social-emotional needs.”

Alberta schools are using RTI in flexible ways. For example, RTI pyramids may show how many students might require interventions at each level of intensity, how intense the support is at each level or where the support at each level might originate.”
2020:  Note that you may also hear the term, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS).

Alberta Ed Resource: Response to Intervention

Targeted Strategies or Interventions

As described in the Response to Intervention section, for those students who have demonstrated the need through ongoing assessment and are on an IPP, schools may provide more targeted strategies and comprensive instruction to students to improve the skills they are struggling with. The terms you may hear to describe this targeted instruction is  Remediation or Intervention.

It is very important that assessment informs the strategies and targeted intervention utilized, and that the instruction is provided using an evidenced-based program and qualified staff.

Families; for information about instruction your child may receive in specific subject areas, go to Academic Subjects.
Educators; for information about providing Remediation/Intervention, go to the Educators section.

Accommodations

An accommodation is a change or alteration to the regular way a student is expected to learn, complete assignments or participate in the classroom.

There are three types of accommodations:
1. Environmental accommodations: may be related to the resources and materials the student uses or to the layout and use of classroom space.
Examples: alternative seating, assistive technology and other adaptive devices, allowing use of manipulatives, using carrels or tables for students who need a quiet spot free from distractions.”
2. Instructional accommodations: are changes to the way information and concepts are presented or practiced to ensure that each student has the opportunities and support he or she needs to learn.  This may involve modifying teaching strategies or learning activities in a variety of ways. Examples: providing copies of notes, alternative reading materials, varying the amount of materials to be learned or practiced, breaking instruction into steps, demonstrating or modelling a sample of the required task.
3. Assessment accommodations: Some students require accommodations that allow classroom assessments to measure and communicate student growth and achievement clearly and realistically. Examples:  extra time, oral tests, reducing the number of questions, providing a reader or a scribe, administering the test in a separate room free from distractions.

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology for Learning (ATL), known commonly as Assistive Technology (AT), supports a student’s learning. It does not create an advantage for the student, but simply allows the student to access learning equitably like any other student.

Alberta Education provides the following definition of Assistive Technology for Learning (ATL):

‘Assistive Technology for Learning (ATL) is a subset of a broad range of technologies that enhance students’ learning. ATL is defined as the devices, media and services used by students to actively engage in learning and to achieve their individual learning goals.

Like other technologies, ATL ranges from simple tools to complex systems. It could be as simple as providing a pencil grip for writing or as complex as a computer with software for reading and learning. In practice, all technology can be described as assistive technology—it assists everyone in doing something better, easier or faster.’

On the Network website there is a section on Assistive Technology.

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