As a special education teacher it is important to understand the field of education as an evolving and changing discipline based on philosophies, evidence-based principles and theories, relevant laws and policies, diverse and historical points of view, and human issues influences that will continue to have an impact on the field of education and the treatment of individuals with exceptional needs both in school and society. These factors influence professional practices including assessment, instructional planning, implementation, and program evaluation.
Special education teachers should also understand how issues of human diversity can impact not only families, cultures, and schools, but the delivery of special education services. It is also important that they understand the relationship between organizations that relate to special education to the organizations and functions of the general school systems, and other agencies. The standards put forward by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) allow teachers to develop strategies in assessment, classroom management and lesson planning.
In order to be effective a special education teacher (all teachers actually,) should demonstrate respect for their students as unique human beings, everybody can learn but not everyone learns the same way. By understanding the similarities and differences in human development and the characteristics between individuals with and without exceptional learning needs a special education teacher can better modify and teach the curriculum to students with exceptional learning needs.
CEC standards states that educators understand how the experiences of individuals with exceptional learning needs can impact families, as well as the individual’s ability to learn, interact socially, and live as fulfilled contributing members of the community. Another important CEC standard to adhere to is to have a variety of evidence-based instructional strategies to individualize instruction for special education students.
It is important that you know how to select, adapt, and use these instructional strategies to promote challenging learning results in general and special curricula and to appropriately modify learning environments for special education students. They enhance the learning of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills of individuals who are learning disabled and increase their self-awareness, self-management, self-control, self-reliance, and self-esteem. These strategies allow work to become internalized by the students so that it can be recalled at a later time.
Individualized decision-making and instruction is at the center of CEC standards. In special education it is important to develop long-term individualized instructional plans anchored in both general and special curriculum. These individualized plans carefully selected into short-range goals and objectives taking into consideration an individual’s abilities and needs, the learning environment, and cultural and linguistic factors. Individualized instructional plans emphasize explicit modeling and efficient guided practice to assure acquisition and fluency through maintenance and generalization.
Understanding of these factors as well as the implications of an individual’s exceptional condition, guides the teacher’s selection, creation and modification of materials. Instructional plans are modified based on ongoing analysis of the individual’s learning progress. Teachers facilitate this instructional planning in a collaborative context including the special education student, their families, professional colleagues, and personnel from other agencies as appropriate.
Special education teachers need to also develop a variety of individualized transition plans, such as transitions from preschool to elementary school and from secondary settings to a variety of postsecondary work and learning contexts. Assessment is important to the decision-making and teaching of special education students. It is important to use multiple types of assessment information for a variety of educational decisions. The results of assessments help identify exceptional learning needs and to develop and implement individualized instructional programs, as well as to adjust instruction in response to ongoing learning progress.
It is important to understand the legal policies and ethical principles of measurement and assessment related to referral, eligibility, program planning, instruction, and placement students with special needs, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. According to CEC standards, teaches need to understand “measurement theory and practices for addressing issues of validity, reliability, norms, bias, and interpretation of assessment results”. Teachers also need to understand the appropriate use and limitations of various types of assessments.
Collaboration with families and other colleagues to assure non-biased, eaningful assessments and decision-making is vital. Formal and informal assessments of behavior, learning, achievement, and environments to design learning experiences that support the growth and development are essential. The assessment information is then used to identify supports and adaptations required for students to gain access the general curriculum and to participate in school and statewide assessment programs. As stated above, it is important to routinely and effectively collaborate with families, other educators, related service providers, and personnel from community agencies in culturally responsive ways.
This collaboration assures that the needs students are addressed throughout schooling. Moreover, teachers should embrace their special role as advocate students with special needs. Special education teachers promote and advocate the learning and well being of individuals with learning disabilities across a wide range of settings and a range of different learning experiences. That is because special educators are viewed as specialists by several people who actively seek their collaboration to effectively include and teach individuals that are learning disabled.
To their colleagues, special education teachers are a resource in understanding the laws and policies relevant to individuals with special needs. The CEC standards are there for the best interest of the child. If adhered to special education teachers will be able offer students the opportunity to succeed both socially and academically. Though many may believe that the label of special education means easier work the standards ensure that both general and learning disabled children receive education along the same lines.