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December 1, 1994
Vol. 52
No. 4

Secondary Classes Can Be Inclusive, Too

Only if teachers and students learn new strategies, develop new attitudes, and cooperate can the inclusion of all students in regular secondary classrooms benefit everyone.

Instructional Strategies
The challenge to meet the needs of an academically and behaviorally diverse class can be especially great in secondary schools. While elementary students are expected to master rudimentary skills in reading, writing, and math, secondary students are expected to independently use these skills in combination with more sophisticated strategies to learn large amounts of information. Because most secondary teachers work with more than 125 students daily, the amount of contact time between teachers and students is often limited. Further, requirements for graduation, college entrance, and vocational education all have a significant impact on the pressures that secondary teachers experience.
  1. Strategic learning. For students to learn large amounts of content, they need to know how to use various learning strategies in thinking about, completing, and evaluating school tasks and assignments. Unfortunately, many students with disabilities are passive learners without the necessary process skills. Thus, they need to learn to take stock of a classroom situation and then use the appropriate strategies. Students can learn to be strategic learners in courses designed for that purpose or in their regular classes (Deshler and Schumaker 1988).An example of an effective approach is the LINCS Strategy for vocabulary learning (Ellis 1992). LINCS cues students to List the critical elements of a concept, Imagine a picture, Note a reminding word, Construct a mnemonic story, and Self-test to enhance their memory of the concept. When teachers explicitly teach this strategy, students can increase their vocabulary by as much as 24 percentage points.
  2. Content enhancements. Many emotionally or cognitively challenged students have difficulty organizing, understanding, and remembering the information presented during group instruction. Our research has shown that students' performance improves markedly when teachers enhance their delivery of the information to highlight critical features of the content (Schumaker et al. 1991).
The Unit Organizer is one such procedure (Lenz et al. 1994). It allows the teacher to provide an overview of the entire unit on a one-page graphic organizer. Teachers and students use the Unit Organizer to chart, monitor, and review the direction of a unit. The consistent, explicit use of the Unit Organizer and the interactive routine that teachers use to involve students in thinking about the unit have raised the performance of low- and average-achieving students by as much as 15 percentage points on unit tests.
When students learn to be strategic learners and teachers use content enhancements, the instructional emphasis shifts from a “content” to a “process” orientation. Consequently, the secondary teacher not only teaches the content but also the strategies required to make learning the content meaningful and transferable. In short, teachers organize content into a learner-friendly form, consider which strategies students need, and teach students how to use them by providing a “learning apprenticeship” in their classrooms.

Critical Instructional Principles

Unless teachers value the goal of their students' acquiring various learning strategies, they are not likely to devote sufficient time to instruction in key strategies and processes. Similarly, if students do not value the goal of “learning how to learn,” they will not invest the effort required. Consequently, actively involving students in the goal-setting and assignment-selection process is critical.
Secondary teachers who see their role as “strategy-content” teachers as opposed to “content” teachers spend some of their time teaching students the key processes that are the basis for good learning experiences. As long as there is collaboration between the teachers, strategy and content instruction can be combined by having some teachers teach strategy while others teach content. Or, each subject-area teacher can teach the strategies that apply to the content being taught. For example, while presenting information on the defining characteristics of colonization, social studies teachers can prompt students to use a paraphrasing strategy to review the key points and a visual imagery strategy to form a mental picture of representative colonies. When teachers regularly integrate strategies, students see how they can use them to make learning easier and more productive.
  • daily and sustained instruction,
  • multiple opportunities for practice with the strategy,
  • individualized feedback,
  • requiring strategy mastery, and
  • programming generalization opportunities into instruction.

Responsible Inclusion

  • Students are integral members of the learning community and are not singled out for special treatment.
  • Students' achievements are commensurate with average or above-average classmates, and they do not receive passing grades as gifts.
  • Students do not depend on others for their success. They function independently or interdependently as members of the learning community.
  • Students do not negatively affect classroom instruction.
  • Students, parents, and teachers are satisfied with the outcomes of the learning situation.
Recent research (Zigmond and Thornton 1985) tells us that enrollment of students with disabilities in regular classes (and most students with disabilities are in regular classes for most of the school day) results in a high rate of failure and drop out among this population. If we are to enroll increased numbers of students with disabilities, we must make significant changes in instructional practice. Regular classroom teachers must receive appropriate training in the types of instructional strategies that work. Students with disabilities who are included in regular class settings must continue to achieve at levels at least equal to or higher than when they were not in the regular classroom. In addition, all students—low-, average-, and high- achieving—must benefit from the application of alternative educational practices in their classrooms.
Educators and researchers need to continue their search for improved ways to deliver, manage, and monitor instruction so that their classes of academically and behaviorally diverse students find learning to be a more exciting and rewarding experience.
References

Deshler, D. D., and J. B. Schumaker. (1988). “An Instructional Model for Teaching Students How to Learn.” In Alternative Educational Delivery Systems, edited by J. L. Graden, J. E. Zins, and M. L. Curtis, pp. 391–411. Washington, D.C.: National Association of School Psychologists.

Ellis, E. S. (1992). LINCS: A Starter Strategy for Vocabulary Learning. Lawrence, Kans.: Edge Enterprises.

Lenz, B. K., with J. Bogrin, J. Schumaker, D. Deshler, and D. Boudah. (1994). The Unit Organizer Routine. Lawrence, Kans.: Edge Enterprises.

Schumaker, J. B., D. D. Deshler, and P. C. McKnight. (1991). “Teaching Routines for Content Areas at the Secondary Level.” In Interventions for Achievement and Behavior Problems, edited by G. Stover, M. R. Shinn, and H. M. Walker, pp. 473–494. Washington, D.C.: National Association of School Psychologists.

Zigmond, N., and H. Thornton. (1985). “Follow-up of Post-Secondary Learning Disabled Students and Dropouts.” Learning Disabilities Research 1, 1: 50–55.

Jean B. Schumaker has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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