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Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD


Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD

Authors: Esther Minskoff Ph.D., David H. Allsopp

ISBN: 978-1-55766-625-3
Pages: 352
Copyright: 2003
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With this strategy-filled handbook, education professionals will learn what they can do to help students with mild disabilities — from high school to post-high school — develop academic skills in

  • organization

  • test-taking

  • study skills

  • note taking

  • reading

  • writing

  • math

  • advanced thinking

First, educators will work one-on-one with students to evaluate each student's learning style and individual needs. Then, for each of the areas listed above, educators will get a chapter with step-by-step cognitive learning strategies, case studies, and charts that summarize the steps as mnemonic devices. An overarching five-step model (the Active Learner Approach) for effective instruction helps teachers introduce these strategies to students, model the steps of the strategies for them, give students guided and independent practice applying the strategies to assignments, and assist students in generalizing the strategies to other subjects and settings.

With this easy-to-use guide, educators will be able to help students recognize their learning characteristics, apply strategies to meet the specific demands of their coursework independently, and reach their educational goals.

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Reviews

Review: LD News
http://www.ncld.org/content/view/1439/480/
Review: New Horizons for Learning
Building on their extensive research and practice, [the authors] have written a powerful and practical guide for helping challenged adolescent learners. . . . This book is an invaluable resource not only for special education teachers, but also for all middle school and high school teachers in inclusive classrooms. This book is an invaluable resource not only for special education teachers, but also for all middle school and high school teachers in inclusive classrooms.
Review by: Steven Evans, Attention!
The authors should be commended for emphasising teaching techniques and supports that foster independence. . . . [T]he book is a helpful resource for parents and teachers.
Review: Child Language Teaching and Therapy
[This book is] a masterpiece of internal organization, making it very easy to use for reference and containing an overwhelming range of strategies to support pupils in developing the ability to be self-assessing, proactive, independent learners. . . . I shall continue to refer to it and use it as part of my 'teachers' toolbox.'
About the Authors
Preface
Achnowledgments

I. Tailoring Your Instruction for Academic Success

  1. An Overview of the Active Learner Approach


  2. Foundation for the Active Learner Approach


  3. Individualized Evaluation


  4. Cognitive Learning Strategies and Systematic, Explicit Instruction


  5. Implementing the Active Learner Approach
II. Strategies for Academic Success

  1. Organization


  2. Test Taking


  3. Study Skills


  4. Notetaking


  5. Reading


  6. Writing


  7. Mathematics


  8. Advanced Thinking
References

Appendix A: Active Learner Student Questionnaire

Appendix B:Active Learner Teacher Questionnaire

Appendix C:Active Learner Approach Questionnaire Items and Corresponding Strategies

Appendix D:Student-Teacher Agreement to Use the Active Learner Approach

Index

Excerpted from chapter 1 of Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD, by Esther Minskoff, Ph.D., & David Allsopp, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2002 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE ACTIVE LEARNER APPROACH?

There are many manuals and guides available for teaching students with mild disabilities (defined in this text as students who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]). Most of these resources focus either on remedial methods for developing basic academic skills to be used in special education settings or on accommodations and modifications of the general curriculum to be used in inclusive settings. This manual is different in that it is designed to assist special educators who work with students with mild disabilities to become more effective learners so that they can better meet the increasingly rigorous academic expectations of inclusive settings. Our specialized approach, the Active Learner Approach, must be provided by special educators and focus on the inclusive setting to ensure that students are actively using effective learning strategies to meet the academic demands of the general education classroom.

Two pillars provide the foundation for the Active Learner Approach: 1) consideration of the unique learning characteristics of students with mild disabilities and 2) analysis of the educational expectations of students with mild disabilities in inclusive settings. Many students with mild disabilities possess characteristics that make them ineffective learners, including passive learning style, poor memory, and attention problems. The Active Learner Approach is designed to directly address these ineffective learning characteristics and replace them with more effective learning strategies. In addition, the Active Learner Approach focuses on the specific academic expectations of a student's educational placement (e.g., if students are reading a chapter about the Civil War and taking a multiple-choice test, then the Active Learner Approach will focus on this material and the skills needed for taking a multiple-choice test based on the chapter). For a complete discussion of these two pillars, see Chapter 2.

There is a critical need to use the Active Learner Approach because of changes in federal legislation involving educational practices for students with mild disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997, PL 105-17, mandate that a student's individualized education program (IEP) goals and objectives be related to the general education curriculum and that students with disabilities participate in all state and local assessments. Students with mild disabilities must meet the rigorous academic expectations of the general education curriculum if they are to be successful in school and in careers after school. These rigorous academic demands have evolved from two educational trends, one involving increasingly difficult requirements for general education diplomas and the other involving mastery of higher level academic content to pass high-stakes tests. These trends are described in Chapter 2.

WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF THE ACTIVE LEARNER APPROACH?

The Active Learner Approach includes three essential elements: individualized evaluation and intervention; cognitive learning strategy instruction; and systematic, explicit instruction. These three elements are derived from well established best practices in special education.

Individualized Evaluation and Intervention

There must be an in-depth assessment of a student's learning characteristics in relation to the specific demands of his academic courses. The evaluation seeks to identify both a student's strengths and weaknesses. Then, intervention must be designed based on an analysis of the student's course demands and his strengths and weaknesses. Although individualized evaluation and intervention are based on the diagnostic/prescriptive approach (Lerner, 2000) — a key aspect of special education for students with learning disabilities since Sam Kirk started the field in the early 1960s (Minskoff, 1998) — many aspects of the Active Learner Approach are unique. For example, evaluation focuses on a student's learning characteristics in relationship to course-specific needs. With other approaches, evaluation focuses on formal standardized tests. Individualized evaluation is described in Chapter 3.

Cognitive Learning Strategy Instruction

Students are taught to use strategies to more effectively master the school content of their curriculum through cognitive learning strategies. The instruction focuses on the student; the teacher guides the student to master new skills to meet academic course demands. Instruction on cognitive learning strategies is a well-established best practice in special education (Deshler, Ellis, & Lenz, 1996). Some approaches to cognitive learning strategy instruction are general and teach the students strategies, but the students are left to discover how to apply them to the specific demands of their courses (e.g., a 2-week workshop on study skills). The approach taken with the Active Learner Approach involves course-specific strategy instruction. Students are first taught cognitive learning strategies and then taught to apply these to meet the demands of their classes. In addition, the strategy instruction is not time limited (e.g., to 2 weeks) but rather is intense and prolonged. Cognitive learning strategy instruction is fully described in Chapter 4.

Systematic, Explicit Instruction

The focus during systematic, explicit instruction is on the teacher. Students with mild disabilities are hard to teach and may not learn unless they are provided with explicit instruction. The systematic instruction involved in the Active Learner Approach involves one-to-one intervention in which the teacher models the skill, guides the practice of the skill, and, finally, monitors independent practice and application of the skill in conjunction with the general education teacher. Systematic instruction, often called direct instruction, is another well-established practice from the field of special education that has been found to be effective in assisting students with disabilities to learn (Carnine, 1999; Swanson, 1999). The role of systematic instruction in the Active Learner Approach is presented in Chapter 4.

WHO ARE THE TARGET POPULATIONS FOR THE ACTIVE LEARNER APPROACH?

The Active Learner Approach was designed for adolescents and adults with mild disabilities who are being required to master academic content at the middle school, secondary, and postsecondary levels. Most of these students have already mastered the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. They must now learn how to apply these skills to learn academic content effectively and independently. Special education teachers at the middle and secondary levels who teach in a resource setting and/or co-teach in the general education setting compose another target population. They should use the Active Learner Approach with their students and monitor student usage of the approach in general education classes. Too often, special educators who work at the middle and secondary levels are merely tutors who reteach content or administer accommodations. The Active Learner Approach is more challenging than a tutorial approach because it requires teachers to master the basic systematic, explicit instructional approach as well as be knowledgeable about a number of different cognitive learning strategies. Chapter 5 describes how to use the Active Learner Approach, and Chapters 6-13 present the cognitive learning strategies for the areas of organization, test taking, study skills, notetaking, reading, writing, math, and advanced thinking.

More students with mild disabilities are entering postsecondary education (Henderson, 1998), so personnel who work with these students must determine whether these students need instruction to become more effective learners. For those students who need this instruction, there must be personnel available who have training in special education. Such personnel may provide services through the Division for Disability Services or resources available to all students (e.g., the writing lab).

WHAT BASIC ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLIE THE ACTIVE LEARNER APPROACH?

One of the basic assumptions underlying the Active Learner Approach involves the division of labor between general and special educators. General educators have expertise in the specific academic subject matter that they teach. They have the expertise in the "what" of teaching. It is impossible for general or special educators to know how to teach all subject matter areas at all academic levels.

Special educators have expertise in modifying the subject matter to make it more learner friendly, and they have expertise in teaching students how to become better learners. They have expertise in the "how" of teaching. The purpose of this manual is to assist special educators to acquire this expertise. Another assumption underlying the Active Learner Approach is that the nature of special education varies at different instructional levels and for different students depending on their academic, learning, and attitudinal characteristics. The primary emphasis of special education at the elementary level should be on the remediation of academic learning problems. For students who have adequate cognitive and academic functioning for their school placement and who are motivated to succeed academically, the emphasis at the middle and secondary levels should move to an approach that develops independent learning strategies in the students. For students who have low cognitive and academic levels and/or are not motivated to succeed in school, a functional and/or remedial approach may be more appropriate. The third assumption is that students with mild disabilities can learn new knowledge and skills at any age, even at the secondary and postsecondary levels.

Many believe that an approach that advocates accommodations and avoidance of students' disabilities is the best approach, especially for older students. Such a compensatory approach does not prepare students to learn the rigorous academic content they need for school success. A remedial approach that seeks to develop new skills and knowledge to enable students with mild disabilities to meet rigorous academic demands will prepare them for school success. The research described in the next section supports this assumption. Even college students who were on academic probation and suspension were able to master the strategies of the Active Learner Approach and significantly improve their grades (Minskoff, Minskoff, & Allsopp, 2001). These findings support the conclusion that educators should never give up trying to teach new skills and knowledge to students with disabilities who are motivated to learn.

Excerpted from chapter 1 of Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD, by Esther Minskoff, Ph.D., & David Allsopp, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2002 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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