TExES Special Education Supplemental Domain II: Learning and Development
The second domain of the TExES Special Education Supplemental exam consists of 50 questions. There are five competencies within this domain. Overarching concepts covered within these competencies include:
- Learning Environment
- The IEP
- Cultural Impacts
- Life Skills
- Teaching with Technology
- Classroom Management
- Transition Planning
Let’s explore a few specific concepts that are likely to be on the test.
Collaboration and Instruction
During an annual ARD, the committee determines goals for the student and where the instruction will take place. The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is required by law and requires that the student be with typical, grade-level peers as much as possible. If a student is in a general education classroom, the teacher is responsible for ensuring that the child meets their goals and makes progress in the curriculum. The special education teacher is responsible for modifying the curriculum if needed and providing alternate curriculum if the child is unable to participate on grade level.
A student who qualifies for an emotional disturbance for anxiety will be in the general education setting for the entire day. They may go to a separate classroom for tests, where they may work with a small group or other assistance to help alleviate their anxieties, but their instruction is given alongside grade-level peers. A child with an intellectual disability might need a resource classroom for language arts and math but receive co-teach services for science and social studies in the general ed classroom. This means that they have a special education teacher in a separate classroom that provides instruction for LA and math that is on their level. Then they are in a typical classroom for science and SS, but a special education teacher is also in the room and modifies the curriculum so that they may participate. Finally, if there is a student with multiple disabilities who has a physical disability and a severe mental disability, then they may receive life-skill special education services. All of their core academic classes revolve around developing independent skills needed for life. Math may involve learning to create a budget based on income, and science may involve learning basic first aid skills. These students may attend elective classes such as art, music, and health fitness with typical peers if they are able to function independently enough.
When developing lesson plans for students with disabilities, their unique needs and strengths must be considered. The IEP will state what objectives the child must master. These may be behavioral or academic and they will be worked into the curriculum. Each lesson must be planned to incorporate the skills needed to master the goal. They may need modifications or accommodations. Modifications are changes to the curriculum, whereas accommodations are changes to the method of learning. In other words, modifications change what is learned, accommodations change how it is learned.
For example, if a student has a goal of increasing their reading level by one year, then the teacher must try to incorporate various reading activities into the daily lessons. The materials the child reads should be at the appropriate level and related to the subject matter. If the student is in 4th grade but reads at a 2nd grade level, the material would be modified. If the child is in 4th grade and reads at a 4th grade level, then no modification is needed. The child might need an accommodation, such as large print words, less on a page, or a colored overlay to help with reading.
Teaching and Culture – Cultural Differences
There are a variety of cultural factors that may affect students in school:
- Eye contact – Some cultures see eye contact as a sign of respect, while others see it as disrespectful or challenging.
- Punctuality – Punctuality is valued differently by different cultures.
- Asking questions – Some cultures encourage students to ask questions, while others see a more passive attitude as preferable.
- Collective mindset – Some cultures value a collective mindset in which the success of all is valued above individual success. Other cultures are more individualistic and value the idea of getting ahead of others.
- Directness – People from some cultures are very direct with their thoughts or feelings, while those from other cultures may be more private and discreet.
- Body language – There are different gestures and poses that mean different things in various cultures.
- Views on teachers and schools – In some cultures, teachers are revered and highly respected, while in others they are seen as less capable or worthy of less respect.
A teacher should set expectations for all students that help them develop social skills. During a lesson, a teacher may incorporate social skill work by asking students to share ideas with a partner, work in a small group, or participate by raising their hand in whole-group instruction. Before asking them to share with a partner, the teacher would talk through how to share ideas and listen to the ideas of a partner. Before small-groups work, the teacher would review the expectations of each member. During whole-group instruction, the teacher would praise those who raise their hand and remind those who shout out to wait with a hand in the air.
Categories of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology is any device that is used to help a student overcome a disability. It can be as basic as a colored overlay that helps students with dyslexia track letters, or as advanced as a computer communication device. Some specific examples are:
- Academic and learning aids – pencil grips, colored overlays
- Aids for daily living – adaptive eating utensils, gait belt
- Assistive listening devices/Environmental aids – hearing aid, amplification device
- Augmentative communication aids – picture board/book, computer-based communication device
- Computer access aids – voice-to-text software, adaptive keyboard
- Environmental control aids – electronic control of lights, TV, computer
- Mobility aids – wheelchair, cane, crutches
- Recreational and leisure aids – beeping balls or bases, large print books, switch adapted toys
- Seating and positioning aids – seat cushions, prone standers, adaptive chairs
- Visual aids – large print books, closed captions, talking dictionaries/calculators
Behavior Management Techniques
There are a variety of ways to manage behavior in the classroom and in the school as a whole.
Specific behavior management techniques are as follows:
- Positive behavioral intervention and support – a program that is implemented school-wide and uses the same expectations and strategies to enforce positive behaviors. There are three parts to the system:
- Primary – School-wide rules and expectations, such as walking quietly in the hallways when class is in session. Teachers can reward students who are following the procedure.
- Secondary – Individual support for students that struggle with behaviors, including contracts, individual practice, or check-ins.
- Tertiary – Intensive support for children with significant behavior problems that may include a daily chart or rewards for positive behaviors.
- Reinforcement – There are two types of reinforcement, both of which increase the frequency of the correct behavior: positive and negative.
- Positive – Offering a reward for a desired behavior, such as giving stickers to students who raise their hand
- Negative – Removing a negative stimulus to influence a behavior, such as a teacher stopping their chastisement of a class when they become quieter.
- Proactive strategies are strategies that prevent negative behaviors from occurring, including teacher proximity, establishing routines, and effective cues for getting the classroom’s attention.
- Reductive strategies look to reduce the negative behaviors that occur regularly. The most common ones include removing the audience and ignoring the behavior. Removing the audience means the child’s behavior is addressed privately in the hallway where they are no longer getting attention from the group. Ignoring the behavior is usually paired with reinforcing the correct behavior from another student. The teacher might ignore a student who shouts out and then thank a child with their hand raised and call on them for the answer.
Skills for Transitioning
Transitions can be very small, such as changing from math to reading within the same classroom, or very large, such as graduating from high school and moving to college. While all students will manage transitions differently, they can be especially difficult for students with disabilities. Planning ahead and letting the child know what is coming can be very helpful.
For example, it a class is getting ready to move on from one subject to another, letting a child know that they have three minutes to find a stopping point helps them prepare for the transition. Setting a timer may be more helpful for a student that finds this difficult on a daily basis. For bigger transitions, such as moving from middle school to high school, advance planning can be helpful as well. Discussing what middle school will be like and what things they will miss and not miss from elementary can ease the transition. Visiting the middle school and allowing the student to have a “practice” day can also ease anxiety around the change.
One of the biggest transitions students face is graduation from high school and moving on to college or employment. For students who are looking for a job, there is a lot of preparation work that the special education team helps with. The student can spend time in community-based instruction where they undergo on-the-job training with a teacher or aide. Often, the students will rotate through four to five job sites where they have different responsibilities. Responsibilities, which are dependent upon each student’s abilities, may include stocking shelves, folding clothes, greeting customers, or bagging groceries. They may spend half of the school day at the same site for six to nine weeks and then move to the next site. This allows the student to explore where they would most enjoy working and what responsibilities they can handle. By preparing the student for independence, staff can help them to enjoy a more fulfilling life and provide for some of their own needs.
Communication While Transitioning
Students are required to be a part of the ARD process when they turn 14. They may participate before then if the committee agrees. The reason for this is that the committee begins long-term planning and the student should be a part of the decision-making process. There are many options that depend upon the child’s abilities and interests, and the student and parents need to feel as though they have a voice. Ensuring that the child is ready for the next phase of life is important, and the school and family must agree on what the next phase looks like. Open and frequent communication that increases as the child nears graduation is expected. Sometimes there are issues that arise, such as a lack of interest in the plans that have been made. A student that was interested in employment may decide to pursue college, or vice versa. A student that seemed ready for independent living may regress and need assistance in daily tasks. When issues arise, it is important to stay in communication with families and amend plans if needed.
And that’s some basic information about the second domain of the TExES Special Education Supplemental exam.