Becoming An Advocate For Exceptional Students

Program Standard 3

3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

3.3 Element – Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness in persisting to support students.

3.3 Example of Proficient – Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.


For EDSP 6644 (Educating Exceptional Students) I researched the increasingly popular Response to Intervention (RtI) model and how it relates to twice-exceptional students (see linked paper below). Twice-exceptional students are distinctive because of their combination of high intelligence and specific learning disabilities. These combined traits can often make it difficult for standardized measures to detect these learners. Oftentimes their intelligence can offset their specific learning disability resulting in average achievement even though they are capable of so much more. According to Crepeau-Hobson and Bianco (2011) “This masking can make the twice-exceptional students appear to have average abilities and achievement. Because of these issues, gifted students with [learning disabilities] are less likely to be identified for either exceptionality” (p. 103). If these students are not detected within systems like the RtI model, they will not get the supports and enrichments needed.

Although it is not a perfect screening process, the RtI model can be adjusted to provide a first step in detecting twice-exceptional students. McCallum, Mee Bell, Coles, Miller, Hopkins, and Hilton-Prillhart (2013) suggest, “Scrutiny of more than one academic area for screening purposes will decrease the potentially negative effects of masking” (p. 219). The researchers believe that if students’ scores are vastly different between subjects, those discrepancies might indicate that they are suffering from learning disabilities despite testing within the normal range. The students who have large inconsistencies in their test scores across subjects would then qualify for further screening. While this is not a perfect solution, it does help to fill a gap in the RtI model that would otherwise leave twice-exceptional students undetected. It is important for administrators to take suggestions like this one under consideration so that students can get the interventions that they need.

Even with adjustments to screening systems, it is essential that teachers always advocate for their students. After doing research, I have learned that perceptive teachers are crucial to the success of their students. This is especially true for students with special needs. In inclusive classrooms, these students often fail to receive proper supports. McKenzie (2010) asserts, “Insightful teachers have always been, and must remain, the conduits of advocacy on behalf of students with exceptionalities” (p. 166). This knowledge will drive my teaching and make me a more thoughtful and dedicated educator. It will push me to learn more about the needs of exceptional learners so I can create a truly inclusive classroom. It is important for teachers to not exclusively rely on standardized testing to detect the needs of all students. All teachers must be informed about special education issues so that they can differentiate their teaching and provide students with the support needed. Vigilant teachers must ensure that these students are receiving proper interventions, are building strong social relationships, and are developing a sense of self-efficacy. It is crucial for all students, but especially those with disabilities, to develop a sense of agency so that they can advocate for themselves and understand their own learning needs. Teachers are such an important part of their students’ lives so it is imperative for them to champion for the needs of each and every learner in their classroom.

Click To Read My Paper On Twice-Exceptional Students And The RtI Model

Crepeau-Hobson, F., & Bianco, M. (2011). Identification of Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities in a Response-to-Intervention era. Psychology In The Schools48(2), 102-109. doi:10.1002/pits.20528
McCallum, S.R., Mee Bell, S., Coles, J.T., Miller, K.C., Hopkins, M.B., & Hilton-Prillhart, A. (2013). A Model for Screening Twice-Exceptional Students (Gifted With Learning Disabilities) Within a Response to Intervention Paradigm. Gifted Child Quarterly, 57(4), 209-222. doi:10.1177/0016986213500070
McKenzie, R. G. (2010). The Insufficiency of Response to Intervention in Identifying Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Wiley-Blackwell)25(3), 161-168. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00312.x

Student Centered Learning Through Technology

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

1.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ interest and cultural heritage and displays this knowledge for groups of students.

The use of technology in education has always been a hotly debated subject. Some believed that children should worry more about gaining prescribed knowledge and that the use of technology is unnecessary in that pursuit. Certainly, students can learn literacy, math, science, social studies, and history without it but does that mean that they should have to? Opponents to the implementations of technology in schools argue that it distracts students from their studies because they are used to using it for entertainment (Evans, 2008, 308). If that is the case, then shouldn’t educators take it upon themselves to help students understand what a powerful learning tool it can be? Others argue that young students cannot handle the rigors of digital citizenship and should be taught a strong moral conduct before being allowed to go online at school (Evans, 2008, 307). However, students will be exposed the internet regardless and if it is done in school from an early age teachers can help students understand their role as a responsible member of a digital community. Finally, those who oppose early exposure to technology indicate that students should be exposed at a much older age so that they do not have to learn soon-to-be obsolete technology at a young age (Evans, 2008, 311). Contrarily, it would benefit students to be well equipped to adapt to new technologies, as they are quick and ever changing.

With the prevalence of technology in everyday life, it seems that a more pertinent question should be how should educators integrate it into the classroom. One objection to the use of technology that actually holds some credence is that it can be distracting for students. However, when introduced and used in a meaningful way it can transform learning. One tool that teachers can use when deciding when to integrate technology into the classroom is the SAMR Model for Technology Integration. At the bottom of this taxonomy is substitution where the use of technology would not result in any functional change. Next is augmentation where it would act as a substitution but would also provide functional improvement. One step up on the taxonomy is modification where the task at hand can be significantly redesigned. At the top is redefinition where the teacher is able to use technology to create a new meaningful experience for children that would have been inconceivable without it (Puentedura, 2014). Sometimes the use of technology can be justified even if it just provides a substitution but teachers need to be aware in those cases that it might not be the best option and could lead to distractions. If the technology can redefine learning then there is no question that it should be implemented into the classroom. Another benefit is that it has the potential to ignite student-centered learning and provide them with a stronger connection to the content. There are so many different ways that technology can be seamlessly integrated into a child’s education to transform and redefine his or her learning experience.

One way to redefine education through technology is through epistemic learning programs. David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt Squire, Richard Halverson, and James Gee argue that computer simulations can be a great learning tool and that they are “the most powerful when they are personally meaningful, experiential, social, and epistemological all at the same time” (Evans, 2008, p. 296). Although programs like these are not used in school yet, the authors believe that some video games can act as a framework for future developers. These researchers believe that if developers make learning programs that require the same level of higher reasoning and practical knowledge as certain epistemic video games do that it can help students develop important skills. They maintain that education should integrate learning not only through a mere transmission of facts to be memorized but also through the development of skills. They assert, “We learn by doing—not just by doing any old thing, but by doing something as part of a larger community of people who share common goals and ways of achieving those goals” (Evans, 2008, p. 299). Having students participate in communities within virtual realities can expose them to experience that they otherwise would not be able to achieve in school. For example, students can actually participate in societal issues like politics by participating in the process. Instead of passively learning about how different political systems function they can actively partake of a reality where they are exposed to it and can influence it. This kind of learning has the potential to transform learning and provide children with a more dynamic and student-centered education. This does not mean that technology should replace standard models of teaching but that it should be a meaningful part of the curriculum.

Evans, D. L. (Eds.).  (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Puentedura, R. (2014). SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle. Common Sense Graphite. Retrieved from

Course Reflection For Survey Of Instructional Strategies

Program Standard 4

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning. 

4.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

4.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s plans and practice reflect familiarity with a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches in the discipline.


In their book—Models of Teaching—Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) explored various methods of instruction and their uses in the classroom. They explored standard techniques like memorization and the use advance organizers as well as explicit and direct instruction. They also surveyed less conventional ones such as inquiry and inductive strategies along with nondirective teaching and group investigation approaches. While this book investigated many different types of classroom instruction, one thing it made clear was that the best teachers employ a wide range of tactics with their students.

The student led approaches offer learners the independence to explore topics important to them. With this method Students will be more engaged in learning because they have the flexibility to discover issues and subject matter that interests them. This strategy can be difficult to implement because it requires the standard classroom hierarchy to be dismantled, however, the benefits are well worth the effort. “The model creates an environment where students and teachers are partners in learning, sharing ideas openly, and communicate honestly with one another” (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 285). Student centric learning allows teachers to create a cooperative environment where inquiry based learning and group collaboration can flourish. These strategies create more connected students capable of working together and empathizing with one another. If done well, self-directed models engender in students not only the desire but also the capacity to become life-long learners.

While it is crucial to implement less conventional learning styles in the classroom, it is also important not to neglect the standard models of teaching that have created a solid groundwork of education. Explicit and direct instruction can be the best methods of conveying new information depending on the subject matter. It is essential that teachers develop the skills necessary to determine the best teaching strategy for conveying different kinds of information. When learning foundational skills it is often best for teachers to convey the information in a direct manner so that students will not be confused by the topics being discussed. Ultimately, students cannot explore subject matter independently without first understand a basic level of comprehension so explicit instruction is necessary in order to enable less structured learning. Joyce et al. (2015) explained, “Direct instruction plays a limited but important role in a comprehensive educational program” (p. 340). While explicit teaching may not always yield the best learning results in certain situations there are times when will be the most beneficial. The most effective teachers understand that different kinds of instructional strategies lend themselves more readily to different content areas. Those educators are able to produce the best learning results from their students by creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment.

Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching: Ninth Edition. New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from
 The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Collaborative vs. Cooperative Learning And Their Place In Democratic Education

Program Standard 2

2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.2 Element – Engaging Students in Learning

2.2 Example of Proficient – Most activities and assignments are appropriate to students, and almost all students are cognitively engaged in exploring content.


Democratic education can have a profound affect on students in terms of how they approach their peers and their learning. This educational method “aim[s] to develop ideal citizens who could live in and enhance society, who could fulfill themselves in and through it, and who would even be able to help and revise it” (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 248). Thus it is important for students to be able to work collectively towards common goals in the classroom. This style of teaching can help students develop many skills pertinent to life after school and will allow them to explore topics through divergent perspectives. When done effectively, democratic education has the potential to create more thoughtful, engaged, and tolerant students capable of considering viewpoints outside of their own. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) asserted, “It appears likely to nurture interpersonal warmth and trust, respect for negotiated rules and policies, independence in learning, and respect for the dignity of others” (p. 255). The positive effects of democratic education are apparent so the question is not whether to implement it in classrooms but how to.

Both collaborative and cooperative learning are engaging ways to get students thinking democratically and collectively. These terms are often used interchangeably but are in fact two distinct teaching approaches that teachers can employ during group work. Collaborative learning is the process of students working together to gain new insights and direct their own learning. Students have more individual efficacy which drives them to teach their peers new information by presenting their unique perspectives on a topic. Students generate their own goals and do their own research to find resources pertinent to their self-determined learning target. Often times multiple perspectives and outcomes are present at the end of the learning process (Roberts, 2004, p. 205). This collaboration allows students to set aside their own ideals and to see issues from perspectives outside their own. Contrarily, cooperative learning is recognized as group work directed by the teacher and not the students. The teacher provides students with resources and a learning target and students work together to come to a single consensus and produce one outcome (Roberts, 2004, p. 205). While this type of learning does not afford the same level of student efficacy as collaborative learning, it does provide students with vital cooperation skills that will help them succeed in life after school. Both of these styles of teaching have individual merit but they can also be used in conjunction in classrooms to help student learn a wide range of cooperative and collaborative skills.

Often teachers utilize a blend of the two styles to their benefit. They can provide students with the opportunity to explore in groups and pick their own learning outcome within a range of topics controlled by the teacher. Teachers can also direct learning by picking the subject matter for student to explore but still allow them freedom to research it independently. When teachers learn to seamlessly integrate both collaborative and cooperative learning, or elements from the two, the benefit to student achievement and engagement will be noticeable. Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone (2015) stressed, “By intentionally incorporating the elements of positive interdependence and individual accountability, teachers set the stage for students to be responsible for their own learning, the learning of those in their group, and the ability to demonstrate what they know, understand, and are able to do” (Chapter 3, para. 14). These methods of teaching can require more flexibility and planning from teachers but the benefit to students is well worth the effort.

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.) Denver, CO: McRel [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from
Roberts, T.S. (2004) Online Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. [Kindle DX version] Retrieved from

Using Advance Organizers To Promote Active Learning

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.3 Element – Engaging Students in Learning

1.3 Example of Proficient – The lesson has a clearly defined structure around which the activities are organized. Pacing of the lesson is generally appropriate.

When learning new subject matter it is easy for students to become overwhelmed and confused by the material. One efficient way of helping students understand the lesson is to begin with an advance organizer. This technique provides “introductory material presented ahead of the learning task and at a higher level of abstraction and inclusiveness than the learning task itself “(Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 204). Framing instruction this way allows students to not only understand the eventual outcomes of their learning but also connect the information to previously learned material. Four main types of advance organizers help student increase their learning: expository, narrative, skimming, and graphic (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, Chapter 4, para. 20). Expository advance organizers scaffold learning by creating a written or verbal framework for the information about to be presented. Narrative advance organizers spark students’ interest by framing the material in the format of a story or tale. Skimming advance organizers allow students to obtain a general overview of the material being presented so that they can begin to arrange the information in their mind. The most popular of the four is graphic advance organizers which allow students to see a visual representation of the content being taught (Dean et al., 2012, Chapter 4, para. 21-9). While this teaching strategy is framed around explicit instruction it is anything but passive.

Teachers who employ this tactic effectively in their classrooms actually enable students to become active learners who are aware of their own metacognitive processes. When used competently educators can encourage students to become life-long learners capable of employing the best inquiry practices. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) asserted, “Critical thinking and cognitive reorganization can be explained to the learners, who receive direct instruction in orderly thinking and in the notion of knowledge hierarchies. Ultimately, they can apply these techniques independently to new learning” (p. 210). This kind of instruction imbues students with the tools necessary to fully understand the learning process and become familiar with their own needs. This awareness becomes even more prominent when teachers use advance organizers in meaningful ways. Educators should try to utilize all the different varieties of them for the benefit of their students. This mixture will do two things for students. First it will allow students to be exposed to information in an array of distinct approaches which will improve information retention. The second thing that it will do for students is to allow them to explore their own unique learning style by being exposed to different types. It is important for students to be engaged in their learning and advance organizers can provide students with the efficacy to take control of their education.

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). Denver, CO: McRel [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from