Research-based Tactics Used in Teaching Special Education

Motivation is an effective tool for teachers; it allows for creative methods to be used in order to attempt to jumpstart a child’s williness to learn. Observation, investigation and practice are necessary for teachers to successfully identify what triggers motivation (Curriculum Associates). Teachers need to recognize that learning includes specific tactics for improving students’ beliefs about their abilities and how and when to recognize them when they achieve them (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory).Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Those that understand this most effectively have discovered the value of tapping into individual students’ domains in hopes of improving their achievement levels. With special education, children need more guidance in order for more assured achievement. Ultimately, research-based tactics help guide future education in a gradually positive direction.

Curriculum Associates, a research-based publisher of supplemental curriculum materials, began offering a free online course for teachers teaching techniques in 2005 that would generate enthusiasm for learning with students. This tool for today’s classroom was developed by Joye Thorne, Ed.D., a retired special education administrator, teacher and education consultant. “Motivating Students to Learn,” the Curriculum Associates’ e-training course explains the theory behind motivation while outlining five areas that enhance motivation.
“There are as many different motivators as there are learners, and often the factors that stimulate students can change without notice, said Frank Ferguson, Curriculum Associates president. However, certain strategies increase the probability that motivation for learning will occur and this course shows teachers how to implement those strategies (Curriculum Associates).

One effective research-based tactic would be a class effort rubric. A class that
shares a common definition for effort will also share the understanding of effort and achievement. If students are in learning groups, on the same teams, or in study groups together, they will have a common language and a shared ideal regarding effort and achievement (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory). This allows for special education students to work toward a goal; it encourages them to continue learning, when in all actuality their learning disabilities and disorders often discourage them. This is a positive teaching tool for all classrooms; however with special education, this added enthusiasm works most effectively for
these students’ future success.
With Hellison’s Developmental Levels, a 5 level rubric is created. Effectiveness occurs within all classrooms mostly because the individual curriculum does not have a direct effect on implementation of the rubric. Teachers are allowed to determine how students perform compared to what the class curriculum expects from them. Each level is defined in detail and encourages varying success. Students are encouraged to work toward earning level 5. With varying levels, students are encouraged to work continuously to succeed. Level 1 explains that the student is often off-task, uses negative comments and acts out in a disruptive manner. By placing children within a competitive atmosphere, more children will choose to avoid acting at the “low end’ of the rubric.

With level 2, students are still allowed to act out, but are shown what a difference more effort makes on their status within the rubric. This level attempts to show progress without condoning even the appearance at a small level of the same behaviours. This rubric actively explains that minimal effort is shown to achieve this level. This should be enough to encourage the student to work harder to earn a higher level.

At level 3, students are described as demonstrating effort when prompted; in essence, that is saying that with the implementation of this tactic they work and only because of this tool. While they may stay on task and participate, the larger potential of effort has not yet been achieved. This level compliments more than it critizes, however students are included to work even harder.
When demonstrating consistent effort, respect and leadership, a child earns level 4 status. By presenting no disruptions and interruptions, they actively support and encourage their classmates to achieve their fullest potential as well. However, while this student may already be more than their original start; by creating a more difficult level within the rubric (level 5) to look to, students are being constantly challenged in a classroom setting.

Level 5 acknowledges that all level 4 characteristics exist; however motivation in a self-starter sense is the most active part of this level. The exercise has come full-circle at this point and students have learned the direct connection between motivation and effort and the importance of self starting themselves to achieve their highest academic potentials. Those at level 5 also set challenging goals for themselves and show a strong sense of commitment in achieving them.

By using a rubric, incentive could also be given to the students. For example, with group projects, if all children in a group actively participate, perhaps a small gift could be given to those students. This allows for group success – and allows children to want to succeed in a positive setting. In a full-class setting, if all students earn perhaps a 70% or better on a test (percentage can vary, but start slow, with just a passing grade), then ore incentives could be given. Maybe after the class successfully accomplishes this task a few times, then a larger incentive such as an ice cream party or a field day could be given.

Teachers can create their rubric using a word processing program by creating a table or a spreadsheet. They can also log online and use RubiStar ( and Rubric Builder ( The creation is the simple part; the real tasks involve defining the individual levels according to the curriculum of your classroom. You must keep in mind the needs of the children you teach. For example in a special education classroom, students need help working toward a goal. With this rubric, children are given incentive to work towards their educational future.

Ultimately this research-based tactic allows for a forward-thinking relationship between teachers and students. With this method, teachers can become more influential in a student’s educational future. Special education teaching has teachers involved in an active guidance position not just with the student’s educational issues but emotional and social as well. By implementing this tactic, the idea that teachers’ importance in recognizing that learning is based on improving students’ ideas toward motivation, allows teachers to learn even more from their students and their teaching experience. With this rubric, the learning process is expanded farther from the surface, but into a more hands-on experience that has a more positive effect on all that are involved.

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