21st Century Education for Special Needs Students: A Teacher's View and an Instructional Approach

21st Century Education for Special Needs Students: A Teacher's View and an Instructional Approach

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3069-6.ch010
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Education is a human right—including students who have conditions requiring special education services. The purpose of this chapter is to promote inclusive education for students with learning disabilities due to diagnoses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and more. A literature review includes a discussion pertaining to the elements of appropriate teaching methods compatible with developing 21st-century competencies for general education and special education students within the same classroom setting. Relative to employing strategies of differentiation and scaffolding while increasing cognition through experience-based lessons, this chapter provides examples from the author's classroom instructional plans. The content through action (CTA) method is presented as an ideal approach conducive to integrating 21st-century competencies through experiential lessons to teach the required content to students of various abilities. The chapter ends with recommendations on creating systemic change through building a support system at an organizational level.
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Background: Literature Review

India is one of the countries situated in the global south which did not meet the EFA goals. Due to religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, fully including special needs students in a general education setting has faced challenges. Mukherjee (2017) illustrated the background concerning the issues of exclusion and inclusion in a context such as India. According to the author, exclusionary practices were caused by the creation of nation-states in the colonial era on the ethnic and cultural lines creating an issue of majority culture imposing its values on the minority groups. Children from certain castes, tribes, gender, religion, and socio-economic class were excluded from their right to educational equity. The idea of inclusion as a global construct, influenced by the countries with developed economies such as the United States of America, has been associated with social justice, equity, and human rights. Inclusion is a complex issue in a country like India where a vast variety of subgroups could make educational equity difficult to monitor.

In the context of Indian diversity, Tagore’s philosophy of education provided direction and inspiration to promote education for all. Tagore built an experiment school at Shantiniketen where progressive vision included the practice of democratic ideals, environmental sustainability, and inclusive learning for all (Pridmore, 2009). Implementing a model of human-centered teaching, embedded with diverse learning methods, Tagore encouraged students to experience education rather than to acquire information.

At Shantiniketen, arts played a role of making curriculum come to life through experiential learning. Tagore believed education led an individual to self-determination and freedom; freedom of mind, heart, and will (Lesar, 2015). The core beliefs of Tagore, concerning experiential learning, related to the theory of Constructivism. The theory of Constructivism is relevant to teaching the learning-disabled students in the inclusive setting of mainstream classrooms where experiential learning can lead to cognitive development (Dewey & Jackson, 1990).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Content Through Action (CTA): A constructivist-based teaching method where experiential learning develops the standards-based content knowledge across disciplines. CTA method engages students in learning the 21st-century competencies of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.

Special Education: An American public-school instructional model where special needs students with Individual Educational Plans (IEP) are supported by resource specialists, instructional aides, speech therapist, psychologist, occupational therapist, and adaptive physical education teacher.

Special Needs: Students with an Individual Educational Plans (IEP) based on the identified conditions or disabilities are classified as special needs students.

General Education: An American public-school classroom instructional model where students are enrolled regardless of diverse backgrounds. Teachers deliver core curriculum to students without any individualized plans for learning.

Diversity: In the context of a classroom, the term diversity is used for a class of students who belong to various racial, ethnic, linguistic, economic, and religious backgrounds along with the differences in academic levels of achievement.

Experiential Learning: A unit of study where experiencing a universal idea through problem-solving drives learning.

Inclusive Classroom: A classroom model, where special education students are enrolled in the least restrictive environment of a mainstream general education classroom, is inclusive.

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