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Differentiating ELA Instruction for Students with Autism

Info: 7331 words (29 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Tags: EducationEnglish LanguageTeaching

Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Results

Introduction

The purpose of this study was to examine differentiating ELA instruction for students with autism in an inclusive middle school setting, comparing teacher understanding, implementation, and application of lesson delivery.  The following research questions served as the basis for this study:

  1. What data do ELA teachers have access to in order to determine appropriate differentiated instruction needed to meet the individualized needs of middle school students with autism in English language arts?
  2. How do ELA middle school teachers use data to individualize instruction to meet the readiness levels, learning profiles, and interest levels of students with autism during reading instruction?
  3. How do ELA middle school teachers differentiate the content, process, and product of a lesson to meet the needs of students with autism during reading instruction?

Teacher Description and Observation Instruction

The teacher participants in this study provided data through classroom observations as well as interviews.  A description of each teacher participant, the extent of the individualized instruction observed and an overall report of the classroom structure will be detail in this section.  In addition, descriptions of observed differentiated instructional practices observed in the classroom will be presented in combination with the analysis of teacher knowledge and overall understanding of differentiated instruction.

Each teacher participant was observed twice in a general education classroom.  Anecdotal notes as well as the Differentiated Classroom Observation Form (Appendix C) offered data on the teaching strategies and overall structure of the classroom.  All observations were conducted during the first semester of the school year.  The total number of participants observed for this study was six.  The participants were all 6th grade ELA general education teachers.

The observational ratings on the observation form were analyzed to ascertain if the individualization of the content, process, and products fell into the following categories:  Strong (more than five noticed examples), SOME (five or less examples), or NONE (no evidence was observed of differentiated content, process, or product).

Table 4 shows the ratings obtained by each team for each category.

To determine which teacher was the predominant respondent during the interviews, the transcriptions of the interviews were analyzed by highlighting the words of each speaker in a different color. Visual comparisons were made to determine which teacher had the most and longest responses.

Table 1

Rating Received in Readiness, Interest, Learning Profile, Content, Process, and Product on the

Classroom Observation Form of Differentiated Instruction.

___________________________________________________________________________

Teacher 1       Teacher 2        Teacher 3    Teacher 4      Teacher 5       Teacher 6 ___________________________________________________________________________

Content     Some        Some        Some         Some             None            Some

Process      None               Some               Some                None             Some            Some

Product     None               Some               Some                Some             Some            Some

Teacher 1

This 6th grade teacher is a third year teacher at the middle school setting.  She has been an ELA teacher for the last three years.  In addition, she has not taught any other subject nor grade prior to being hired three years ago.  Her highest degree attained is a bachelor’s degree in education.  When asked what her definition of differentiated instruction was, she replied “Differentiated instruction is meeting the different needs of all of her students.  Individualizing instruction is key for classroom success.”  Since she has not been in the teaching profession for very long, her experience with students with autism isn’t extensive.  The data that she uses to assess student readiness levels ranges from DRP (degrees of reading power), Lexile reading scores, and cold reads.    Primarily interest inventories and accelerated reader are used to assess student interest.  In addition, learning style quizzes are used to assess student learning profiles.  From a planning standpoint, she uses the aforementioned tools to mine data for her class plan.

Both of the observations occurred in the morning classes.  Small groups were arranged with a student count of 5 to 6 in each group.  Several special education students were pulled for systematic reading instruction.  The students who received this instruction do so as based on their IEP (individual education plan).  While these students were pulled, the remaining students were silent, individual reading.  This is referred to as SSRI- sustained silent reading instruction.  During this reading time, students were allowed to choose their own book.  The teacher monitored and conferenced with students individually during their reading time.  The teacher was rated as SOME in differentiation in content and NONE in the content and process areas for both observations.

Teacher 2

This 6th grade teacher is a sixth year teacher at the middle school setting.  She has previously taught 9th grade ELA for one year before making the transition to the middle school.  In total, she has taught five years in a middle school ELA classroom.  Her highest degree attained is a Bachelor’s degree in English.  She defines differentiated instruction as “Doing whatever is needed to meet the student needs.  Identifying students with a varying degree of learning levels, especially reading and comprehension levels, and addresses those lessons with individualization.”  She uses the following data to access student readiness levels:  state test scores, Case 21 tests, all formative and summative tests and assessments in class, DRP results, and behavior and academic plans on IEPs.  In addition, she uses a program called School Status to retrieve analytical data (test scores) as well as Lexile scores to form a baseline for each student.  Student interest was assessed by interest inventories which her students complete within the first week of school.  Student learning profiles were assessed using a combination of essays, kinetic, visual, and auditory work, as well as individual profile  measurements.  During both observations the Teacher showed SOME evidence of product, content, and process differentiation.  Her instructional style used the classroom space adequately, student paired groups, as well as visual and auditory means of communication.

In addition, the teacher seemed to have a good rapport with her students and the conversations were interactive.

.

Teacher 3

This 6th grade teacher has spent all of her 21 years in the middle school setting.  All 23 years have been in the 6th grade ELA classroom.  Her highest degree attained is a Bachelor of Science.  She defines differentiation instruction as

“Taking the needs of my students in consideration when I am planning and                implementing instruction.  This could range from making sure that they are seated               with the appropriate group of students to allowing a student to verbalize an answer               instead of writing it.  It may mean that I allow a student to sit in a scholar with wheels               to never moving a child’s seating location.”

She uses student work, such as tests, quizzes, and classroom work/participation, to assess readiness levels.  Interest inventories were used to gauge student interest.  In addition, students are allowed to choose books of their own choosing in as long as they are appropriate subject material suitable for their class.  Student learning profiles are determined by observation.  “I have had students with dyslexia who are more comfortable answering verbally, but they could also express themselves quite well.”  Some students read with a partner whole others preferred reading independently.

Both observations were conducted during the morning ELA class.  During the first ten minutes of each class, the teacher passed out cards with words on them.  The students had to match the words with their respective definitions.  The students were arranged into groups of four during this brief task.  They worked together during this assignment.  The students chose a group leader who provided the class with the group’s work.  The teacher reiterated the answers as the groups each took their turn.  The teacher then transitioned into the next assignment.  Each table had clipboards, two to a table.  Students matched into pairs of two for this exercise.  This assignment was based on the concept of fix up strategies, which is the realization of when comprehension has broken down and the awareness of how to fix the problem.  So, unless students are self-monitoring while they read, they cannot effectively comprehend the text. Self- monitoring involves ‘metacognitive awareness’, which is ‘knowing when what one is reading makes sense by monitoring and controlling one’s own comprehension’ (Harris & Hodges, 1995, p. 153).  Plot details were then explored in a question and answer style session.

As the students engaged in a question and answer with the teacher, all students seemed to be engaged.  The teacher’s words were translated onto a SMARTboard so that visual students could read.  This was seen as a reinforcer to what was being orally pronounced.  The teacher introduced multiple definitions to words, some ranging from complex to simple in nature.  The classroom lesson then shifted toward text structure and inference.  Scaffolding was used to help build up the particular story being examined.  Students were asked for comparisons and contrasts, with the teacher allowing from a range of student responses.  This allowed for a unique interpretation for each student answers.  Evidence from text was also used as students explored what they predicted the theme of the next chapter.  The teacher showed SOME differentiation both Content, Product, and Process for both observations.

Teacher 4

This 6th grade teacher has spent 18 years in the 6th grade ELA classroom.  All of her experience in teacher has been isolated to the 6th grade ELA classroom.  She defined differentiated instruction as “Working a system to a fine point where your kids, regardless of their level, can be reached through instruction.  I like to think of differentiation as a buffet, where all can be satisfied and not one food is served to all.”   During the first observation, she sat in front of the class reading a short story.  During the second observation, she led the class in writing instruction.  She had the students listen while she instructed them on the best way to set up a writing passage.  SOME evidence of differentiation was observed in the areas of content and product and NONE in the area of process.

Teacher 5

This 6th grade teacher has a total of 9 years in the classroom.  Her highest degree attained is a doctorate in education.  She defined differentiated instruction as “Meeting the needs of every student regardless of where they are academically or socially.”  She uses past standardized tests to gauge the student readiness levels of her students.  In addition, she also speaks to their previous ELA teachers to ascertain any pertinent facts about her students.  Writing assignments, short burst writing samples, and word association games are ways she assesses students interest.  Student learning profiles are mined from the data she gets from looking at their writings samples.   During the first observation, students were working on SSR (sustained silent reading) commonly referred to as individual or independent reading time.  The teacher, along with the special education teacher, both spent time with the special education students for systematic reading instruction.  They were using word clues to help decode words with multi sensory strategies.  The lesson transitioned into note taking from the board.  The teacher read the notes multiple times for the auditory learner.  The notes were also visible for all students to see.  The teacher then discussed the book currently being read by the students.  After some discussion about the plot and tone of the chapter, the teacher had the class break up into groups of four to discuss, using inference, what will be the theme of the next chapter looking only at the chapter heading.  Each student was encouraged to participate in the activity.  Teacher 5 was rated SOME in the areas of differentiation of process and product.  She was scored a rating of NONE or no evidence of differentiation for content.

Teacher 6

This 6th grade teacher has spent a total of 12 years in the middle school setting.  She teaches 6th grade and one 7th grade ELA class.  In her 12 years, she has taught all middle school grade ELA classes at one point.  Her highest attained degree is a Bachelor’s of science.  She did not attend college after high school, rather opting to enter the workforce.  She decided that she wanted to enter the teaching profession so she went back to school.  She defines differentiated instruction as “Finding different ways to teach the same objective.”  She uses Read 180, which is a scholastic  reading inventory, to measure student readiness levels.  She also observes their reading habits and patterns.  In addition, she uses Lexile reading scores as well as performance on state tests.  She is not a strong proponent of relying to closely on state scores as she feels that it is only a single measurement.  Interest inventories, observing social interactions, and observing academic writing allows her to assess student interest levels.  She  assesses their learning profiles by collecting data from profile questions as well as gauging their visual and auditory responses.
At the beginning of class, a small group of special education students were pulled.  These students worked on systematic reading instruction using a set of work clues to decode or illustrate words with multi sensory strategies.  Once the pulled students rejoined the classroom, the teacher reviewed vocabulary and talked about the meaning of each word.  She offered multiple definitions for each word, ranging from complex to simple definitions.  During the second observation, the students worked in group activities focusing on sentence structure writing and matching of words with their respective definitions.

The teacher was rated SOME in both content, process, and product.

Summary of Teacher Descriptions

Six teachers were observed twice during the fall semester.  Each observation session lasted at least 48 minutes.  The 6th grade ELA teachers represented the entire group of participants.  As shown in Table 5, three of the 6 teacher classrooms had students pulled to work in small groups focusing on multisensory reading instruction.  Teachers 1, 5, and 6 all had students pulled.  Teachers 2, 3, and 4 did not have students pulled.  In all observations, the general education teacher delivered the instructional materials.

Table 2

Summary of Team Descriptions for Observations 1 and 2

 

Group Pulled (for multi-sensory reading)    Instructional Delivery

Teacher 1       yes    Gen Ed

Teacher 2 no    Gen Ed

Teacher 3 no    Gen Ed

Teacher 4 no    Gen Ed

Teacher 5 yes    Gen Ed

Teacher 6 yes    Gen Ed

Teacher Definitions of Differentiated Instruction

When analyzing the data, the following key words were mined for:  student readiness, student interest, and student learning profile, content, process, and product.  These key words were often described more in detail when answering the second question “What is your definition of differentiation?” (Appendix D).  Teacher participant 1’s response was precise and straightforward.  She argued that “Students are inherently different.  There is no real way to group all of them together and teach one style effectively.  If you do that, then the majority may learn; however, the minority of students, those students with disabilities, will suffer.  In the end, you will lose those students due to a lack of planning and individualization.  Therefore, it is important to find ways to differentiate the content as well as process of the lesson.”

Teacher participant 2 echoed some of the same sentiment as teacher participant 1 when defining differentiated instruction.  She affirmed that it is the job of the teacher to understand and know their students.  “Work must be modified per the IEP (Individualization Education Plan) to allow for the alteration of work to meet the needs of students with disabilities.  Students must feel comfortable in the classroom and feel that the teacher has their best interests on the forefront.  Students understand and can sense when teachers are being fraudulent and disingenuous.  Teachers must give each student a chance of success in order for the teacher to be successful.  Once the material has been individualized for each student, if needed, then the teacher’s job is to help facilitate the learning process for each student in the classroom….regardless of learning style or level.

Teacher participant #3 defined differentiated instruction as “Taking the needs of my students in consideration when I am planning and implementing instruction.  This could range from making sure that they are seated               with the appropriate group of students to allowing a student to verbalize an answer instead of writing it.  It may mean that I allow a student to sit in a scholar with wheels to never moving a child’s seating location.”  She further argued that the best interest of each student can only be addressed by teachers who are willing to get out of their “comfort zone.”

Teacher participant #4 stressed the true definition of differentiated instruction is fluid and can be changed based on the situation of the student as well as the teacher.  She felt that having only one definition limits the broad effectiveness of individualization.  She used more of a three-pronged definition when speaking about differentiation.  “Differentiated instruction is about building up the relationship between the student and teacher.  This trust is what allows the student to see that the teacher cares about the process.  Individualizing the content and process of the lesson also creates the learning environment in which the student may learn.  Finally, the effort which the teacher makes toward creating lessons which pinpoint the inadequacies of each student ultimately drives the success of the differentiation.”

Teacher participant #5 defined differentiation instruction as “a holistic approach to understanding, reaching, and providing a bridge to those students who have special needs or any other condition which may impede the normal learning process.”  She stressed that the student must be placed in the least restrictive environment and be nurtured along the learning phases.  She also said that since learning styles and profiles were so vital to understanding “how students learn” that without that knowledge individualization would be futile and pointless.  Standardized learning profiles can be used to reach students who have difficulties processing the everyday language and traffic of the classroom.  Placement, i.e. seating arrangement is key in helping the student with special needs.  Spatial awareness is vital for any differential instruction to take place.  The teacher must be willing to evolve and change their preconceived notions of what the traditional student is as well as what is classified as the non-traditional student.

Teacher participant #6 defined differentiated instruction as “teaching the same material in different ways to reach the different learners.”  She stressed that the importance of knowing how to teach are just as important as the knowledge of material.  The student, she argued, “Is the single biggest challenge facing teachers today.  The student learner is becoming more complex, and the disabilities facing students are becoming more and broader due to new discoveries in autism research.”  This participant seemed to look at the need for the teacher to understand more than just the student’s disability.  Instead, the teacher focuses on the need to understand what the disability is and how to go about effectively supplanting strategies to create a level playing field.  She also stated, “The definition of differentiated instruction is a constantly changing paradigm.  The change of a student must create a change in the teacher.  The teacher must be able to mold and adapt as needed based on their current caseload of students.

All participants included the term readiness in their definition.  Teacher participants #5 and #6 both included interest while describing differentiated instruction.  Teacher #1, #2, and #3 did not.  All participants, except participant #1, included learning profile while defining differentiated instruction.  Teacher #6 was the most complete candidate to hit 5 of 6 marks when describing and defining differentiated instruction.  She mentioned having student interest inventories as evidence to understanding her students’ interests, used learning profiles to gauge the learning style of her students, and she also examined classroom work to create a framework to each student’s readiness.  Teachers #1, #3, #4, #5 and #6 mentioned that  the “process of instruction should be differentiated for different student‘s needs.” Teacher #3 indicated that all students do not show what they have learned the same way citing differentiation of product. Table 6 illustrates this data.

Table 3

Aspects of differentiated instruction included on teacher responses

 

Teacher #1       Teacher #2 Teacher#3    Teacher#4 Teacher #5     Teacher #6

Readiness X  X      X  X       X  X

Interest                   X  X

Learning

Profile    X      X  X       X  X

Content         X

Process X  X      X  X       X  X

Product         X

During the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school year, staff members participated in professional development workshops aimed at increasing the efficiency of classroom management as well as implementing differentiated instruction in the classroom.  Each teacher was questioned about what they had learned in the meetings, especially on the topic of differentiation.  Teacher #1 stressed that the main focus for her was to gain useful information about best teaching practices, including individualization of content for her students.

Teacher #2 elaborated and said the meetings were beneficial due to the content of collaborative team trainings.  She emphasized that she had learned a lot from the meetings and used some of the ideas gained from the professional development.  She stressed “I have used seating arraignments as well as multiple forms of communication, i.e. verbal, visual to convey the content of my lesson to the students.  When asked how these professional development meetings influenced her ideas of differentiated instruction for students with disabilities, she replied that they have in fact helped form a solid classroom approach for her.  She had been given some new ideas.  Both teacher #1 and teacher #2 agreed that the professional development was far superior to previous years.

Teacher #4 mentioned that the training was very beneficial to her planning in the classroom.  She illustrated the point the need to differentiate is the most vital part of planning.  She also expressed that this past year’s training was especially beneficial in that it focused on special education and inclusion principles.  She credits this training to helping her revamp for the school year.  “It provided a nice, refreshing outlook to start the school year off.  It also gave me new ideas which was a positive.”

Teacher #5 mentioned that she also benefitted from the training.  She liked the fact that the development wasn’t generically taught but rather it was led by someone with teaching experience.  “Often, we get these individuals who are here to sell books but actually have very little classroom experience.”  In addition to the value gained from the faculty education, she also mentioned that the bonding with other teachers was a plus.  “The professional development this year created a boost in morale because it was positive and well- meaning in nature.”

Teacher #6 enjoyed the training but she said she did not learn anything new.  She stressed “I have read, seen, and practiced all of these things mentioned in the faculty development on a daily basis.”  In short, she illustrated that she could see how some teachers could have definitely benefitted from the content; however, she in particular already was well-versed in the material.  She did mention that she also commented several times when questions arose about teachers using differentiated instruction in the classroom.  “I volunteered when asked to provide details about how I plan.  I was able to tell the faculty about my experiences, and what has helped and what has not.  Overall, I think I was able to provide some good answers to the questions being asked.”

Overall, the majority of teachers agreed that the training was focused on differentiated instruction and that the material was useful.  Teachers #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 all felt that it was practical information and they were going to use the information to implement in their classroom.  Teacher #6 was the lone dissenter.  She felt that the material was not new and that she already implemented it in the classroom prior to any professional development.  All in all, the teachers all provided their unique interpretation about the professional development meetings; however, the information was rather non-specific in nature.

Planning and Assessing Differentiated Instruction

The use of data to help make informative decisions on instruction in the classroom is essential to success.  Understanding how to use the data and where it is applicable is likewise vital.  According to Schmoker (2003)

The experts’ tendency to complicate the use and analysis of student achievement data often makes it difficult for educators to understand data or to use it effectively, writes the author.  Focusing data analysis on the need of teachers to answer two basic questions: “How many students are succeeding in the subjects I teach?” and “Within those subjects, what are the areas of strength and weakness? (pg. 2).

The use of multiple forms of data, such as pre-assessments, inventories, and formative assessments will allow the teacher to see each student more clearly in terms of individualization.  Planning, using these data instruments, for differentiated instruction is vital for students to achieve subject mastery.  During the research, teachers were interviewed and had the opportunity to provide feedback on what data they utilized while preparing lessons.  In addition, they were asked to describe the data used when determining student readiness, student interest, and individual student learning profile.  Teachers were also asked to provide and describe the data used to specially plan for students with disabilities in their classroom.

Among the data included mentioned by the teachers were previous score reports from standardized state tests, Case 21 test results,  previous report cards and progress reports, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), learning profile inventories, psychological inventories used to determine educational placement for special educational services, and other benchmark assessments.

Even though the question was asked pertaining to whether or not the data was any different used for traditional students as opposed to students with disabilities, most of trhe respondents did not really clarify as to the difference of data used.  In essence, the teachers, as a whole, seemed to use the same data for each student regardless of special needs or not.

Readiness

All teachers, #1-6, were reported to include the term student readiness into their differentiated instruction definition.  As table 4 shows, the teachers observed to see if and how they differentiated instruction.  In addition, the observations were also sued to see the flexibility of the individualization of the instruction and also how the spatial elements of the class were used, such as space, materials, and classroom time.

Teachers #1, #5, and #6 contained the pull-out groups.  These groups focused on multisensory reading and were reported a use in student readiness planning.  Teacher #1 and #5 commented that they work with the students during the pull out time to focus on what the student will be doing once they resume work with the rest of the class.  This helps, according to the teachers, to facilitate an environment among the students with disabilities of “ease and comfortableness.”   Teacher #2 used reading partners as a form of mixed readiness work groups.  This was done during both observational settings.  Teacher #3 demonstrated during the first observation a tendency to allow the students to work at their own individual pace.  This was used to help gauge student readiness.  This individual work was allowed during silent reading.  Teacher #4 showed little signs of gauging student readiness during the observations.  Teacher #6 used classroom materials and space for instruction.  This teachers used readiness materials which was not known until the interview sessions.  All teachers, when asked, used the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to assess test fluency, comprehension of reading as well as accuracy of reading.  The DRA is given on an annual basis, usually at the beginning of the school.  It is re-administered, at the end, to those students who originally scored marginal.

All teachers also cited the use of previous formative scores as a vital source of data they use to plan for student readiness.  This testing information is readily available in the student record folder as well as in an online database of student scores and performance.  This information is readily available to the general education teachers.  Teachers #1, #3, and #5 each mentioned this data source when questioned.  Teachers #2, #3, #4, and #5 referred to using the benchmark assessments as well as cumulative assessments, given every nine weeks, is used to help determine student readiness.  Teachers #4 and #6 referred to the use of formative assessments when determining the next steps of instruction and course of action for the student.  These assessments helped pinpoint the learning process of the student as well as level of mastery of a particular skill.  Using frequent stops and reviewing for reading mastery were mentioned by teacher #6 as being a useful step in helping disabled as well as non-disabled readers.  Each teacher was observed using formative assessment as they checked for understanding.  Teachers #1, #2, #5, and #6 mentioned that they used standardized tests to help gauge student reading comprehension.

Teachers #1 and #3 used conferences and discussion to determine student readiness levels.  In addition, teacher #3 referred to using student observation as well.  Each teacher had the used of “intervention” folders which are an initative within the disctric to track struggling readers.  As students progress and improve in their reading levels, this is likewise tracked and added to their folders.  Teachers #1, #3, and #5 all referred to these folders as a source of data.

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) were used by teachers #2, #3, and #4 to help determine student readiness levels.  In comparison, some teachers were more clear in how they used the data about student readiness levels for students with disabilities.  Teacher #2 used reading levels to pair students with reading buddies.  In addition, the DRA as used for each student.  They paired the highest reading level student with the highest lowest level student.  This was done until the entire class was paired.  Table 7 included the data used by teachers to plan instruction based on readiness level.

Table 4

Data Sources Used to Plan for Instruction Based on Student Readiness

Data Sources (per teacher)         #1          #2  #3       #4            #5    #6

Standards of Learning        X          X             X              X              X             X

Developmental Reading       X            X             X              X              X             X

Assessment

Cumulative Assessment           X             X              X              X

Formative Assessment                                                 X                                               X

Individual Educational Plans                      X              X              X

Student Observation                 X

Student Conferences                   X                              X

Special Education Testing                          X

Standardized Testing                                  X

Intervention Folder                                     X                                                X

Online Data Management          X                              X                                 X

System

Student Interest

Teachers #5 and #6 both used the term student interest when defining differentiated instruction.  Teacher #5 states that “Student interest playing a uge factor when determining what they like and to what extent they like it.”  Teacher #6 commented that “Finding out what students are engaged in helps to expose them to parallel interests, which in turn creates more learning opportunities.”  Teachers #2, #4, #5, and #6 gave their students a reading interest student survey at the beginning of the year.  This allowed them some data to help gauge the student interest.  Teachers #1, #3, #4, and #5 mined data from speaking directly with the students about books they chose to read.  Teachers #1 and #3 had classroom libraries which allowed them to control the flow of books and the topics which were available to choose from.  Teacher #3 said that “Casusal converstation, such as what students did this past weekend, what books interest them, and why do they like the books they like, helps create a picture of the student interest.”

Teachers #1, #2, and #3 gained data on student interest by examining the topics of what the students were writing about.  Teacher #1 pointed out that student interest in her class was examined by looking at the topics that the students wrote about in their writing journals.  Teachers #1, #2, #3, and #4 all expressed that by allowing students free reign to choose their own reading topics vastly allowed for student interest transparency.  In addition, since the students’ project was tied into their reading selections, the project was an extension of their interests.  Teacher #5 described a student project in which “the student had choose to do pictures of themselves, create a self description,  list their goals, and also include several favorite things.  The students all had aappointed day in which the students would do a brief show-and-tell to the class.

Team #1, #2, and #6 were allowed to choose their favorite character and place to detail a story.  Each story had the same details; however, the main character and the place of the story could be completely chose by the student.

The data used by the teachers to determine student interest is shown in Table 8.

Table 5

Data to determine student interest

(Teachers)  #1          #2          #3            #4           #5             #6

Interest Survey                 X                          X             X              X

Talking with students  X                 X             X             X

Reading same books  X                         X

From their writing  X            X          X

Class votes                  X

Student choice   X                         X             X

Learning Profile

Tomlinson (2001) states that “A student’s learning profile is the complete picture of his/her learning preferences, strengths, and challenges and is shaped by the categories of learning style, intelligence preference, culture, and gender” (p. 18).  According to Rose, Meyer, Strangman & Rappolt (2002), “The learning profile helps you better understand your students by identifying and noting their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. The idea is to highlight the particular student talents, weaknesses, or interests that could facilitate or hinder the effectiveness of your teaching” (p.107).  All teachers, excluding teacher #3, demonstrated the use of learning profile when defining differentiated instruction.  Each teacher, during the interviews, seemed to blend both learning profiles and learning styles together.  All teachers were observed using a combination of auditory and visual mode of instruction.  Teacher #2, #3, and #6 allowed each student to move and relocate into small groups.  This was observed during at least one observation.

Teachers #3 and #6 had the students create a log book to keep track of their performance.  Teacher #1 stressed that speaking to the students allowed her a chance to understand their learning profile.  Understanding the needs of her students guided her knowledge of their own unique learning profiles.  She also expressed that eligibility testing information could be used to help determine learning profiles.  Teacher #2 argued that observing her students led to a transparency in their learning profiles.  In addition, the students’ IEP  was a source of information.  Teachers #5 and #6 also used the information gleamed from the IEP to help.

Teacher #3 had the students complete a learning profile survey.  This was done at the beginning of the year.  The profile was kept in the student notebook.  In addition, the survey is reviewed periodically with the student.    Teachers #5 and #6 also used the student learning profile surveys.  In addition, teacher #6 used bench mark tests, such as the Case 21 assessment, as well as learning profile surveys.  “The benchmark test results allows for an understanding of the items missed and where the students’ weaknesses and strengths are located.”  Table 9 summarizes the data the Teams used to determine learning profile.

Table 6

Data used to determine Learning Profile

Data (teachers)  #1  # 2      #3         #4 # 5           #6

IEPs       X      X            X

Learning Style Survey                                          X     X            X

Benchmark Tests             X

Observation                                          X

Talk with students  X

Eligibility Testing  X

Many of the teachers used multiple data in a variety of ways to differentiate instruction.  In addition, some of the teachers’ used the data differently as their terminology of the data differed.  According to Crooks (2001), “Formative assessment, including diagnostic testing, is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.”  The observation of students was included as a method of formative assessment.  Based on what is observed by the teacher, the classroom instruction can be altered or adjusted to account for student readiness, student interest, or student learning profile.  Data mined from student input included surveys, student conversations with the teacher, student chosen writing assignments or tasks.  A reading comprehension assessment in the form of a standardized test was given to all students as the beginning of the year.  This was used as a diagnostic assessment.  These assessments are included in the educational and psychological testing data.

The data mined from the online data system was used for student readiness (see Table 5).  This data source was used as a separate source.  The data system contains the student’s Case 21 test scores, benchmark data as well as previous grades.  By including this data as a separate category, it allowed me to understand and account for how teachers were using this data, especially in the area of student readiness.  Understanding what parts of the online management system the teachers actually used helped to identify purpose of the data.

The interviews conducted with the teachers provided an insight about what data sources were being used by the teachers to different readiness, student interest, and learning profile. When viewing data mined for student interest and learning profile, the most common mentioned source was student input.  This input was in the form of teacher-student conversations.  Teacher #1 stated that “Being able to reach the students by mere conversation is vital to the process of learning about the student.  There is no better way to gleam information than by speaking and listening.”  Teacher #2 stressed that “It is far better to listen when conversing with students.  Too much talk by the teacher will lesson what the student is actually trying to convey and express.”  Teacher #3 remarked “Talking to the kids about books, reading interests, and overall general conversation has helped me create a relationship with each student.”  Teachers #4, #5, and #6 did not really offer any detailed interest in speaking one-on-one with the student.

Every teacher, with the exception of teacher #1, mentioned using a student survey to gain information about student interest or learning profile.  The majority of sources of data were used toward gaining information or clarity in the student readiness.  Student learning profile and student interest seemed to lack the same importance in comparison.  All teachers used the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to help determine student readiness.  Teacher #2 expressed that she used the portion of the assessment which contained the survey to gauge student interest.  Teachers #4, #5, and #6 all expressed that they used a survey for student interest; however, none of the three indicated that the survey was part of the DRA.

Teachers #1, #2, and #6 used pretests (formative assessment) as part of their planning in the classroom.  Teacher #4 used quizzes to help form an understanding of how to proceed in the instructional part of the classroom.  “If the student perform poorly on the quizzes, I will typically go back over what was missed and reteach it to the class.”  Teacher #3 used formative assessments to gauge student readiness yet the assessments were not fully described.  Teachers #3 and #5 used benchmark tests to help gather data for readiness and student learning profiles.  Teacher #2 and #4 also used these benchmarks for student readiness while Teacher #6 used this data for learning profile information.

Teacher #2 used the IEP to get data for both readiness as well as student learning profiles.  Teachers #3 and #4 used the IEP as a source of data to gauge student readiness.  Teachers #5 and #6 used it as a source for student learning profile.  Only Teacher #3

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