Site Visits & Training

One of our project goals was to raise instructor awareness of the potential for students with learning disabilities (LD) to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses. To accomplish that goal, we developed and delivered training for the instructors who participated in our project. We wanted to help instructors to understand why students with LD struggle in math, and we wanted to provide them with information about the best practices for teaching math to these students. We also wanted to educate instructors about the importance of learning self-advocacy and self-determination skills for students with LD. In order to be a successful learner, students must develop an understanding of how they learn best. Classroom teachers can foster that development by integrating routines and practices that support student self-reflection and self-understanding.

We visited each site at the beginning of the spring and fall 2008 semesters and delivered a two hour training that included information about the cognitive barriers to math learning for students with LD and the research based best practices for supporting students with LD in math learning. The instructors at each site were all experienced in teaching developmental math and had encountered many students who had struggled with learning basic algebra. They were dedicated to helping their students and were very receptive to our training. Many of them had previously experimented with some of the best practices, and they found the training gave them a framework that helped them understand why these practices are so helpful to struggling students. We introduced the concept of universal design for instruction (UDI) to the instructors, showing them how the best practices for teaching students with LD were beneficial to all students. At one site, the training led to a larger discussion within the math department about how to implement UDI across the department.

Training our partner instructors on the use of the learning resources was straightforward. They all found the UD Algebra web site to be simple and intuitive. Several instructors have used the learning resources as part of their classroom instruction. Feedback from instructors on the learning resources has been positive. Many of them have sent us their suggestions for improving the learning resources, and we have adopted many of their suggestions. Students completed evaluations of the learning resources, and their feedback has been positive, as well. In particular, students found the video clips to be extremely helpful. One student wrote, “I feel like I’m with a tutor.” The evaluations provided us with useful information about the learning resources, but it also gave students an opportunity for metacognitive reflection on how useful online resources such as these might support them in their future math learning.