Empowerig Teachers to Use Successful Strategies

Article excerpt

Modeling Visual aids Simulation Explanation Group participation Problem identification Brainstorming Strategy selection

Do these teaching strategies sound familiar? How many times have you helped your students learn how to identify problems and select learning strategies, for example? Do you use visual aids?

This article focuses on a collaborative consultative approach used with all:26 of the elementary schoolteachers from kindergarten through sixth grade in three schools of mixed demographics in New Jersey. The approach encouraged teachers' creativity and innovation in selecting strategies they believed were feasible and capable of yielding successful results with individual: students.

Consultation and Preparation

At the beginning of the school year, we conducted three workshops at each of the elementary schools in the district. As a learning consultant employed by the schools, I conducted assessments, provided teacher consultation, and led the workshops (3 hours each).

Two weeks before the workshops, I distributed a checklist of 87 intervention strategies to each teacher. Many of these strategies were used in an established prereferral intervention project (Regan, 1987). This list was enhanced by effective special education teaching strate;es (for sample strategies, see Figure 1). I asked the teachers to place a check beside each strategy with which they were familiar and to rate its usefulness on a Likert scale from 1 to 5. I also asked them to pinpoint the strategies in which they desired initial training or review. This allowed me to custom tailor the workshops to the teachers' needs.

Workshop Activites

At the workshops, the teachers used the strategy list as a guide for identifying potential interventions for students who were experiencing difficulty in their classrooms. Teachers could add other strategies they had successfully implemented.

We used a problem-solving process to identify occasions to use various strategies back in the classroom. Teachers used case studies to explore strategies (see Figure 2). We also used modeling, visual aids, simulation, and explanation. For example, in demonstrating the cloze technique to aid in reading comprehension, I placed a story on the overhead projector-and every fifth word was deleted from the story. Through group participation, the teachers provided responses and discussed how using the cloze strategy would assist a child who was experiencing problems in reading comprehension. The culminating activity involved the use of cooperative groups to develop strategies for sample case studies that were provided.

The Clincher: Follow-Up

When teachers encountered students in their classrooms who were experiencing difficulty, they used what they had learned in the workshops: They made modifications and selected strategies that they felt would be beneficial to those students. The teachers used "Strategy Request Training Forms" to let me know when they needed assistance in problem identification, strategy selection, or implementation. I also sent out notices every 12 weeks to every general education teacher to determine whether he or she needed assistance with individual students. Teachers could also request individual sessions when they needed assistance. These meetings were collaborative; we discussed the nature of the problem and brainstormed strategies.

In the spring of the school year, each general education teacher participated in a 30- to 60-minute interview. During these sessions, the general educators shared the new strategies they had used during the year and rated their value on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the least effective and 5 being the most effective (see Table 1, page 22). In the interviews, we discussed the individual needs of the student who benefited from a particular strategy, and the teachers shared their confidence level in meeting the needs of these students.

The interviews revealed that 70 students were the recipients of specialized strategies. …