There are many ways to combine STEM and special education that allow you to reach students with different needs.
Educators who teach special needs students are trained to use specific techniques to reach those students. While these teachers require particular certifications and confront different classroom issues than those who teach the general student population, recent trends in pedagogy can benefit STEM and special education pupils. Dig deeper into education options for approaching lessons in STEM and special education.
1. Project-based Special Education
One of the most creative unconventional approaches to STEM and special education is project-based learning. Through this method, teachers serve as guides while students attempt to solve problems and reach conclusions while following their own paths. As students use their knowledge, apply it to the assigned project, and make new discoveries, they will acquire the necessary skills to progress. Project-based learning allows students to fortify critical thinking skills, become deeply engaged in a project, and cultivate team-building techniques. Project-based learning is especially helpful for students in special education programs because it allows students to find their own entry point instead of trying to replicate a set of procedures to get the answer. When students are placed in mixed-ability groups, each student will be able to contribute his or her strengths to the project while relying on the combined strengths of others to reach the goal.
2. Adding Education to Inquiry
Through utilizing inquiry-based learning in STEM and special education, teachers cultivate student interest in examining facts, evidence, and data to reach a conclusion. As STEM Jobs has revealed, successful inquiry-based learning requires “a challenge, active student investigations, making generalizations, and reflections,” according to UNESCO. This approach requires independent critical thinking and the use of data and its applications to reach a conclusion. This learning approach may be appealing to students in special education programs because they are not given many chances to explore a concept and come up with their own conclusions about it. For many students, this technique is much more engaging than having something explained to them and being expected to memorize it.
3. Learning from Experience
When teaching STEM and special education, incorporating practices that tap into a student’s sense of self is extremely helpful. By implementing experiential learning techniques in a STEM and special education classroom, teachers allow students to use foundations from previous learning experiences and build upon this knowledge. Through organizing students into groups, teachers can also promote team-building practices that resemble experiences found in the real world. Once students complete projects or tasks, they will reflect upon the work performed and examine their own processes, thereby cementing the lessons learned. This is an opportunity for students who are constantly playing catch-up to do something they often don’t have time to do – explore a concept and reflect upon their learning.
4. Flipping the Script
One of the most unique approaches to teaching is implementing a flipped classroom. Within this setting, teachers assign lessons to students for at-home study — rather than in the classroom — while assignments that would traditionally be reserved for homework are implemented during class. Many of the techniques employed in a flipped classroom resemble those used in experiential learning environments. During this practice, teachers provide clarification to students who struggle with concepts learned at home and advise students who grasp the curriculum on how to deepen their understanding. The flipped classroom model gives teachers the opportunity to spend more time with students to reinforce what they learned at home or find a different way to explain it. Supporting students in class while they complete typical homework assignments can boost the confidence of students in special education programs and help them feel less overwhelmed.
Teachers of special-education students are focused on providing a secure, nurturing classroom environment. By introducing student-centered tactics that allow children to focus on projects using techniques that are more adaptable to individual needs, but also leave room for group work, teachers can effectively blend STEM and special education lessons. For more information on using student-centered learning activities in your classroom, download our free project-based learning guide.