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Embracing Multiple Means of Representation within Your Intro to Special Ed Course

Author: Samantha Goldman;

Preparing for the fall semester means rethinking and revamping course designs. One easy way is to look at the assigned readings for your course. Yes, the textbook that has been attached to the Intro to special ed course for decades is one way to provide students with a context for course discussions, activities, and assignments. But, we live in an age of endless podcasts, audiobooks, videos, blogs, first-hand accounts, and more. Some students are engaged with reading a textbook, and it works for them. But, just as we teach in these Intro to special ed courses, all learners do not learn the same way. Thus, it is important to model these methods in our own courses. In this blog, we will share ideas, tips, and recommendations to embrace multiple means of representation within your course readings. 

Offer Choice of Materials

The never-ending always updating and easily accessible materials available online make it so that the same (or similar) material can be presented to students in different ways. Take this example of assigned course “readings” (which in my course I refer to as “read/watch/listen/do”). Students are getting a foundational understanding of the material in a way that works best for them. And, they are encouraged to personalize their learning to bring their own voice into their experiences

First, learn about the timeline of special education. Pick one from below:

  1. Watch this video on the timeline of Special Education
  2. Read about the timeline

Next, learn about IDEA. Pick one from below:

  1. Watch this video on the tenets of Special Education
  2. Read about the 6 principles of IDEA

Finally, research one additional court case that relates to special education. Be prepared to discuss it during class.

Make It Relatable

There are a few different ways to make the material engaging for learners, beyond offering choice. First, consider the video you are choosing. Think about the Substitute Augment Modify Redefine (SAMR) Model, which is typically applied to edtech. The same thing can be applied to the resources we provide students. Are the videos and other media simply the textbook presented in a different form or are they adding more to it? This reference from The Cult of Pedagogy provides great resources on Backwards Design. But, the audio is basically the same as the writing. You could also pull in Shelley Moore’s video “Show Me the Purpose”. Find resources that enhance your course, and add to your pre-service teacher’s experiences!

Give Them Options to Direct Their Learning

Pop culture is becoming more inclusive. Consider ads from companies like Target, which are showcasing individuals with disabilities in their ads. Even more, individuals with disabilities are increasingly starring or co-starring in television shows, movies, and books. Give students the opportunity to develop background knowledge by having them watch an episode of a television show/ movie/ read a book that has a character with a disability. Some discussion questions could be (1) What are some of the strengths of the character? (2) What are some of their challenges? (3) What supports do they use or could they benefit from? Below is a list, though it is not extensive. I cannot wait to see what my students come up with!

Join the Conversation

How do you bring multiple means of representation into your courses? What other resources do you use? What questions do you have about ways to bring multiple sources into your courses? Join the conversation in our community and share your thoughts!