This is a fifth-grade class, made up of 21 children. The majority of the students are whites with two kids of African descent and five from mixed races, which means, the diversity of ethnicity is low, as compared to their learning needs. In the classroom, I have two English Language Learners, one gifted learner, and one student with dyslexia. The student with dyslexia has a problem with fluent reading, writing, and spelling especially difficult words. Both inside and outside the classroom, I use the inclusion model to ensure special education learners participate within the mainstream instructional setting. Nevertheless, with only four special needs students in a classroom where more than half the children have no learning disabilities, it is challenging balancing the time and ensuring the special needs students are attended to their needs.
Challenges within the Instructional Setting
Among the goals of Special Needs Education is to provide learners with disabilities the opportunity to participate in a learning environment that is least restrictive as they receive as much education as non-disabled students. While there are special needs schools exclusively for children with learning disabilities, Wilson & Blednick (2011), assert that special needs learners who study in an inclusive environment seem to achieve more in areas of academic and social interaction. Nevertheless, despite all the benefits that come along with such an instructional setting, teachers usually face various challenges teaching students with learning disabilities. Virtually, it is hard to serve the needs of every student in a regular class, and with four special needs students, the work becomes even more challenging for the teacher. Firstly, gifted learners present a unique challenge to the teacher, not because they are the first ones to complete an assignment, but because they may continually want to have more creative and exciting work, which may prove hard to the others. As Fredericks, (2010) notes, the student may need energizing activities that challenge him within the framework of a regular program. Due to their higher ability to comprehend issues faster, they are often independent learners who may find it hard fitting in a group discussion. Secondly, as Fredericks notes, teaching students with learning disabilities demand more of the teacher’s time and patience. The students may have difficulties in following complicated instructions and working in-group settings. The teacher may also face a case of low self-esteem in the student especially when the child has not embraced their condition. English Language Learners often have difficulties comprehending difficult English words, which makes learning slower. The teacher may be forced to use simple words for these learners to understand, which may not sit well with the gifted student.
Integrating Personal Curriculum Philosophy in the Design and Development of Curriculum
Every child is a unique individual with special needs who requires a secure, caring, and exciting environment to grow and mature intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially. As a teacher, it is my desire to ensure that every one of my students realizes their full potential in all areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports, and encourages them to express their ideas. The basic elements I believe are necessary for establishing such an environment are, firstly, the teacher is a guide, and secondly, children should be allowed to gradually develop their learning to foster intrinsic motivation and stimulate a passion for learning. It is my responsibility to ensure that every student’s learning needs are addressed while nurturing self-reliance and learning independence.
When the teacher acts as a guide, the first thing is to provide access to information and refrain from becoming the primary source of information. By doing this, the teacher provides the students with an opportunity to construct knowledge, an opportunity to discover, and practice skills. Providing learners with access to information and allowing adequate time and space to use available materials presents an opportunity for individual discovery and construction of knowledge. Equally important is developing a curriculum that addresses the student’s needs and interest in learning. Besides, when children feel safe and sure of what is expected of them, they gradually start to embrace their studies, which makes it easier for the teacher even when handling special needs learners.
Personal Philosophy in Meeting Special Learners Needs
Teaching special needs students’ presents instructors with distinctive and unique challenges. Before everything else, special needs children are not incapacitated or lacking the ability to learn, rather all they need are instructions tailored to their learning abilities (Fredericks, 2010). In my philosophy, I believe that every child is an individual with specific needs that should be addressed individually. When handling the students with learning disabilities, both the English Language learners and the child with dyslexia, the most important thing would be to give them more time than the rest of the students. As a teacher, I am responsible for my students’ future, and my availability is paramount. At the same time, I believe in letting my pupils develop into independent learners, by upholding my philosophy I will know when to sit back and allow the students struggle on their own. Nevertheless, where necessary, it is important to repeat instructions or offer additional information in a written or verbal form to help them utilize as much practice as possible. Similarly, as Fredericks (2010) asserts, students with learning disabilities should get lots of praise to boost their self-esteem and enable them to embrace learning. It is also important to encourage cooperative learning when possible. Thus, students with varying abilities should be put in groups to work together on specific projects towards a common goal. As it is, an atmosphere where learning communities are enhanced, it leads to a gradual development of individual needs allowing learners to become self-reliant. It is undoubtedly true that gifted students have the ability to handle independently various learning tasks. By embracing a philosophy that allows students to become self-sufficient, this will allow the gifted learner to design and follow through with their self-initiated projects and teacher assignments.
In modern day life, change is a dominant mantra and education is not immune to such tendencies. A few people would dispute that presently these changes are making an inevitable impact on educational theory and practice, more precisely curriculum ideologies. Ostensibly, curriculum ideologies are personal beliefs about what should be taught in schools, for what purpose, and goals. Curriculum ideologies are divided into four categories, and each reflects various epistemological beliefs about teaching, learning, schooling, childhood, development of knowledge, and general education. In light of this and based on the requirements of the special needs learners, the Child Study position aligns with the design and development of special needs curriculum. According to Marulcu & Akbiyik (2014), the ideology, which focuses on a child-oriented perspective to create a more exciting instructional setting where children can train themselves. The teacher presents meaningful information and experiences to the learners to enhance their learning experience.
Application of Curriculum Ideologies in Meeting Exceptional Learners Needs
In this ideology, the teacher conceives the child as containing individual capabilities for growth and must actualize these abilities (Marulcu & Akbiyik, 2014). Similarly, the learner is considered as the source of the curriculum, and their ends and means are deemed appropriate. This means that the teacher is like a pillar where they support the student in all their learning experiences and providing assistance where need be as they focus on making the learner into self-reliant. The requirements and interests of the student are highly significant and form the basis of what they learn. In this case, the ideology helps achieve the objective, which is to support and enhance the learning potential of the special needs students.
Fredericks, A. D. (2010). The teacher’s handbook: Strategies for success. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Marulcu, I., & Akbiyik, C. (2014). Curriculum Ideologies: Re-exploring Prospective Teachers’ Perspectives. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 4(51), pp. 200-206.
Wilson, G. L., & Blednick, J. (2011). Teaching in Tandem: Effective co-teaching in the inclusive classroom. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.
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