Meeting All Students Needs
Today, American schools are witnessing an increased number of students in terms of racial, cultural and ethnic diversity - Meeting All Students Needs introduction. The classrooms are receiving a large number of students with different needs. The diverse composition of students in classroom has brought about many challenges and opportunities to teachers. Good teachers should be able to consider the individual requirements or needs of their students, formulate the necessary alterations, and tackle those needs. This is not easy to achieve and many teachers have realized that meeting the needs of a diverse class sounds easy on paper than it is practically is. Teachers needs help and support from parents, administrators, colleagues and the whole community in order to create a classroom that can meet all the diverse needs of the students in these classrooms.
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Teachers are the main disseminators of knowledge in the schools and society. They occupy the enviable position of being the main interpreters of knowledge for the next generation and future leaders. In order to make this knowledge viable, it requires pedagogical skills that are capable to serve the minorities and all other students equitably. McLaren (2003) observes that, most students are locked out during the dissemination of knowledge not because they are not in the teaching venue at the right time, but because their way of knowing is not incorporated into the teaching styles and strategies. (McLaren, 2003)
Problems Teachers Face
Teaching a diverse class is normally challenging for any teacher, as the teacher tries to carter for the various need of the diverse group. The general difficulties a teacher will encounter will be class management and disciplinary issues. However, the biggest difficulty that a teacher will face, is making a diverse class to be an all inclusive. Some specific problems that a teacher may encounter in a diverse classroom are;
Teacher- parent communication;
Understanding the home economy of students
Requirement for extra time to teacher the ESL students
Extreme diversity in academic needs of a student
Teachers lack of ability to communicate well with students concerning academic contents
Lack of communication between the teacher and student on social and personal issues which can hamper the student learning
lack of proper teaching materials and tools
How to Make a Classroom an All Inclusive One
Creating a classroom that is all inclusive is particularly difficulty for those teachers who are still new and who are still learning to tackle the daily challenges of the demanding profession. A teacher can not become an all inclusive teacher at once; instead the teacher will have to take time to learn how to meet the requirement of the various diverse groups of students in the classroom. A teacher should focus on all aspects of teaching to be able to benefit all the students and not only those with disabilities. For instance, some students do not have learning disabilities but have difficulties in classroom, will be able to benefit from instructional modifications and adaptations. (Salend, 1998) Mendieta (2004) also agrees with this, by stating that, a benefit that occurs with learning to carry out adjustments is that it can be used to assist all students. This will assist the teacher to emphasize the point that students learn differently and at the same time help the teacher to show that everyone requires extra assistance once at a time. (Mendieta, 2004)
In order for schools to meet the challenges of teaching a high number of students with diverse needs, teachers need to embrace a curriculum and instruction methods that connect and encourage all students. Research done on including students from diverse cultural backgrounds, students from families who do not speak English as their first language, and students with disabilities shows the significance of various interrelated teaching strategies; These strategies includes, but are not limited to:
Heterogeneous grouping of students
Developing appropriate practice
An all inclusive curriculum
Collecting and analyzing data
Promotion of multicultural environment
Proper teaching materials and environment
Collaboration with teachers and other professionals(Mendieta, 2004)
Many studies supports cooperative grouping as beneficial in teaching students with diverse needs. In this grouping students work in small groups on assignments which are structured in a manner that all students can share responsibilities in completing the assignment. Mendieta (2004) notes that cooperative grouping of students offers a multiple chance for students to take part in lively practice language and also content. The advantages of cooperative group learning to language minority students are;
Students of different levels of linguistic adeptness and content know-how work in together in a group which fosters shared learning.
Students get a lot of opportunities to use language authentically when working in groups
Students get a chance to practice with their English
There is a chance to incorporate ESL classes
Students get an opportunity to use their native language and their prior knowledge. (Mendieta, 2004)
However, this cooperative group faces a challenge of creating heterogeneous balance of language and academic standards while at the same time challenging all students to enhance their language and academic content. (Mendieta, 2004)
Developing Appropriate Practice
Developing proper practice encourages teachers to have a greater understanding of cultural diversity and be able to sensitive in tackling issues of culture. (Mercer & Mercer 1998) notes that, this type of aspect is good when each child is allowed to express share and amplify their personal differences within a classroom. He further observers that this is particularly important for language minority students since it offers them a chance to enrich their experiences. Developing proper approach also allows teacher to be able to adapt the different requirements of the various students in the class and also the teacher to be able to response appropriately to the diverse needs of the student. Mercer & Mercer (1998) note that, by teachers being able to identify and acknowledge the different cultural communications models, teachers can easily assist students in their classrooms and help them gain more confidence and become more comfortable
Collecting and Analyzing Data
Collecting data is important for ascertaining the effectiveness of the teacher. Thus, a teacher should collect get a feedback from all the students in the classroom, the feedback will show how effective the teacher is and the areas of improvement that needs to be improvement in order to meet the needs of each student in the classroom. Student’s feedback is very important for teachers because the feedback makes the teacher more aware of the areas in which he/she is weak when teaching. This can range from not being audible to not explaining teaching contents well. (Mercer & Mercer 1998)
Promotion of Multicultural Environment
Teachers need to promote and provide a multicultural environment that is helpful to all students in a classroom. Unfortunately, many teachers are not always certain about the culture that they need to highlight in a classroom. In addition some members of a dominant culture in the society don’t take themselves as “cultural” and at the same time the minority members’ cultural groups may feel overpowered and forced to acknowledge values which belongs to the majority culture. Teachers should be able to note important occasions on the calendar or on the bulletin board that are important to all students’ cultures permits students to review on their own impacts in relation to others who are around them. A classroom environment that recognizes different aspects of the diverse cultural elements that students come with in the classroom experience attests advantageous to all students. Bauer & Shea (1999) notes that, in such a supportive environment the students are able to know their own beliefs and values and at the same time, be able to learn those of their peers. (Bauer & Shea 1999)
An Inclusive Curriculum
This is another way of teaching students with diverse needs in a classroom. Inclusive curriculum put emphasize on strengthening abilities of students and at the same time taking into account the various needs of all students. An all inclusive curriculum should be based on the following characteristics;
Should be based on good theoretical philosophies of how children develop and learn
Should be formulated to attain lasting emotional, cognitive social and physical goals
Has to include achievable and realistic expectations which permit students with diverse capabilities to work at various levels on various activities
Build on what the students ready know
Should Support individual, linguistic and cultural diversity, offering a balance between the majority culture and the minority culture
Be flexible and should be able to adapt to individual student or groups (Bauer & Shea 1999)
Clearly, for a teacher to be able to meet the needs of all students in a classroom is a difficulty task that needs time and dedication. A lot of teaching techniques has to be used foe a teacher to reach this goal. For instance, the use of multi-level teaching is one teaching technique that can be used in meeting the challenges of diverse needs of students. Salend (1998) outlines the “collicott’s four step process” used in designing the multi-level instructional lessons;
Step 1; identifying underlying concepts
Teachers need to identify and analyze the purposes and materials for the lesson and establish the prospective contents and the difference in the level of the skill. (Salend, 1998)
Step II; considering the method of presentation
Teachers need to consider the various learning approaches, cognitive and level of participation of students as well as the different presentation methods that can applies when presenting a lesson. (Salend, 1998)
Step III; considering ways of student performance and practice
Teachers need to put into consideration the various ways in which students can practice and demonstrate mastery of their skills and also concepts. Teachers also should use ways for teaching their students to accept the different response methods for showing skill mastery and also understanding the concept. (Salend, 1998)
Step IV; considering methods of evaluation
Teachers should consider different ways in which they can assess the student’s performance. (Salend, 1998)
Thus, teachers need to come up with different strategies in teaching to be able to meet the different needs of each student. For example the teacher needs to incorporate various instructions methods when teaching a diverse class. At the same time the assessment tests need to be modified accordingly depending on the particular student the teacher is assessing. Collicott’s model is an important step in guiding teachers to be more responsive to the needs of different students.
Meeting the Students Needs
One of the biggest challenges being faced by teachers in schools is how to find ways and methods of meeting the distinctive needs of different students in a classroom. Different students have different talents and skills in various subjects, and each student has a different interests and methods of learning. The challenge in a classroom situation becomes bigger because the teacher is not only responsible for one student, but also for the entire classroom. Thus, it is not clear which method a teacher need to use, at times the method can even become controversial. (Pineda, 2002)
Believing In All Students
Teachers should have the same high expectations for all their students since each student has ability to achieve the set objectives in a classroom. Teacher should not contrite on a small “gifted” group of students at the expense of others it is important that students are challenged and encouraged by teachers and also their parents. Students need to know that they have a full potential to develop their talents. The most important aspect of ensuring that students success in their studies is for their teachers, parents , principles and other people to believe in the students.
In really essence when students come to school, some are well prepared than others, in such a case a teacher may not be able to realize the potential of the student well. Effective teachers and the school community have a responsibility of supporting such less prepared students. It is important that a teacher knows how being biased or having a stereotype can adversely affect a student. For example some teachers expect less from Hispanic or black students, or from the non- native English speakers. Such low expectation will emphasize the negative effect and may hinder the student’s abilities.
Teachers who are teaching ELS student need more training and special skills in order to effectively communicate with the students. This will ensure that a teacher is in more good position to effectively meet the needs of such students. It also important to use teacher with a lot of experience in teaching the ELS students because studies show that they are better prepared to meet the students needs than those who have no or little experience in teaching. ELS students have their own social and past schooling experiences which they need to share with their teachers so that they can enhance their learning activities. As Pineda (2002) notes in order for teachers to meet the needs of ELS students, the teachers should have ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with the students and at the same time engage the student’s families in learning activities of the student. More studies reveal that, students being taught by teachers who have specialized professional training and who speak the same language has the student revealed higher academic gains than those students who were taught by teachers who lack any special training. Thus, the following skills are important for any teacher teaching ELS students;
Ability to effectively communicate with students
Capability of engaging the family of the student
Skills of using language, forms, and how to teach it
A feeling of effectiveness when teaching ELS students (Pineda, 2002)
Proper teaching material and tools
Proper teaching material and tools in a diverse classroom is important in ensuring that the teacher meets the diverse requirements of the students. Mercer & Mercer (1998) points pout that, classroom arrangement affects the level of student’s interaction in a classroom. The teacher thus has a responsibility of structuring the classroom in a way that it allows all students to get involved in different classroom activities and group activities. All children in a classroom have environmental needs such as furniture, which should be proper in size and comfortable, well and easily accessible bathrooms and sinks. Teachers need to make sure that their classrooms provide these facilities in order to provide the students needs. (Bauer & Shea 1999)
Being a good teacher who can meet all the needs of different students is not an easy job. However, the first important step towards achieving that task is being conscious of the challenge. A teacher as a responsibility to ensure that all students in a classroom understand his/her lessons in class. It is upon the teacher to make the necessary adaptations and adjustments to be able to meet the diverse needs of the students in the class. Proper practices, an all inclusive curriculum, a multicultural approach and training of teachers are some of the methods that a teacher can implement to ensure that he/she meets the diverse requirements of students in a classroom. The support of the parents and the whole community is also important in ensuring that the teacher is able to meet the diverse requirements of the student. Parents have a strong responsibility in building the students talents and abilities and offering proper care. However, as America continuous to be more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity teachers will continue to be faced with a challenge meeting the needs of diverse students in a classroom setting and the biggest challenge remains in formulating proper ways of dealing with the issue.
Bauer, A. M & Shea, T. M (1999): Inclusion 101 – How to Teach All Learners. Baltimore; MD: Paul H; Brookes Publishing Co.
Mercer, C. D & Mercer, A. R (1998): Teaching Students with Learning Problems. 5th Edition; Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
McLaren, P. (2003): Life in schools: An introduction of critical pedagogy in the foundations of education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Mendieta, J. (2004): Connecting students and parents through literacy practices. Unpublished B.A. monograph;
Salend, S. J. (1998): Effective Mainstreaming – Creating Inclusive Classrooms (3rd Ed.); Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Pineda, C. (2002): Knowledge base for ESL/EFL educators: What does it mean? PROFILE Journal, 3, 9-14.