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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | Differentiated Instruction | Special Populations

Beyond the Label: Teaching Strategies for all Learners

January 25th, 2022 | 4 min. read

Joshua Witherspoon

Joshua Witherspoon

After serving as a Texas FFA state officer in 2018, Josh Witherspoon joined the iCEV team as a part-time employee for 3 years before taking on the role of content development specialist in 2022. Witherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University, in which his experience and proficiency in writing, marketing and CTE allow him to effectively communicate the successes of CTE educators and students and the value iCEV has to offer.

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For some teachers,  the difficult part of teaching  isn’t  developing  content,  it’s  differentiation.  Fifty years ago, classrooms were organized in a teacher-centered manner focusing primarily on completing coursework. As  education has  evolved, teachers  now implement a variety of teaching strategies into each lesson, and those with special populations  students must  develop teaching strategies to ensure all student's educational needs are met.   

A common way to incorporate various learning strategies into the CTE classroom is through accommodations, modifications and extensions. In the article below, we explore the three differentiation strategies and provide examples of how to use them in the classroom.   

Accommodations, Modifications and Extensions   

Every  learner comes  into the classroom  with a unique skill  set,  learning style  and background when enrolling in a course.  When planning lessons, it is important for educators to consider the needs of all students to ensure  every student has impactful learning experiences.  To  meet the needs of all  students, educators  are tasked with differentiating or adapting learning experiences to  ensure success for all students.  Differentiations used for special populations students do not make what is being learned easier, but  rather  adapt  to how an individual student learns best. 

One way to differentiate learning experiences for students is through accommodation. Accommodations allow a student to take the same work their peers are completing and change how the task is completed. For  example,  if    writing out their answers on a test  challenges students, the accommodation could be  they  answer questions orally  or type it out on a computer. The goal of  accommodation  is not to make the content easier to understand,  but  rather to  make the  assignment  fit the student’s  needs.    

Modifications are another means of adapting course work to  meet the educational needs of students by changing  the standard or  what the student is being taught   The use of  an  appropriate modification  removes barriers to learning  and allows all students to  demonstrate  mastery  regardless of any hindering factors in their education.  For example, if  students  are  tasked with  learning  all 50 states and all 50 capitals  in the  U.S., have special populations  students  break the states into smaller chunks or learn fewer states.      

The third means of differentiating learning experiences for students is through extensions. Extensions can be used to challenge high achieving students who complete assignments with ease.  For example, if students are expected to develop a presentation over a specific crop, an example  of an extension for a student might be to  take notes on  other  students’  presentations and  identify  the  most popular  commodities.  The goal of  an  extension  is to  ensure all students are challenged to learn and push their academic capabilities.      

Accommodations,  modifications  and extensions  provide  support and allow special  populations students  to achieve the same  academic  success  as other students.  Differentiations,  like modifications and extensions,  benefit students across the educational landscape and add value to education by ensuring  access to impactful learning experiences for all.    

iCEV Teaching Strategies for Special Populations Guide 

Classrooms today are filled with students of every ability, creating even more demand for teachers to  provide  effective, well-designed lessons for each and every  student. To help ease  the  work load  for teachers,  we have created a re source  to help teachers develop strategies to  ensure  all students find success in CTE classes.    

iCEV’s  Teaching Strategies for Special Populations Guide  is full of resources including examples of modifications and accommodations  to  easily incorporate  in any classroom. The guide also includes  alternatives for common projects  and assignments , tips  for  customizing a  student license to meet the needs of  any  student,  group work as well as classroom management ideas.  iCEV  also now includes  accommodations, modifications and extensions in  our  new lesson plan  style  and  can be found on the  iCEV  platform.      

iCEV  understands the value  of incorporating all learning  styles  in CTE classes.  While teachers should follow their student’s 504 plan, we hope you  find  valuable differentiation strategies to help your special populations students excel  in this article.  Download your copy of  iCEV’s  Teaching Strategies for Special Populations Guide  today and stay tuned for more resources and updates from  iCEV.    

Download the Guide