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Present Challenges and Future Directions for the Field of Learning Disabilities* Margo A. Mastropieri * Paper presented at the 14 th Annual World Congress.

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Presentation on theme: "Present Challenges and Future Directions for the Field of Learning Disabilities* Margo A. Mastropieri * Paper presented at the 14 th Annual World Congress."— Presentation transcript:

1 Present Challenges and Future Directions for the Field of Learning Disabilities* Margo A. Mastropieri * Paper presented at the 14 th Annual World Congress on LD, Burlington, MA, October 28, 2005

2 Challenges Are Great High Stakes Testing Demands Difficulty level Tests vary Standards vary RTI Issues Learning Issues Instructional Issues

3 Testing Issues High Stakes Tests Represent a single measure of performance Selected at the state level Administered annually Test-taking Skills Less well developed in students with LD




7 Released 3 rd Grade Reading Virginia High Stakes Test Items 3 pages with text and questions 486 words 14 words per sentence 1.29 syllables per word Readability: Grade Level Scores 6 th grade with Fry 5 th grade with Flesch-Kincaid

8 Difficulties with Test-Taking Skills Understanding and interpreting novel formats Focusing attention appropriately Select first answer they see Using elimination strategies Using time wisely Error avoidance Deductive reasoning strategies Using separate answer sheets Passage independence

9 Test-Taking Skills: Passage Independence

10 Students with LD Less likely to employ an appropriate strategy Less likely to employ an appropriate strategy effectively More likely to be confident in their answers, but less likely to be correct More likely (52% vs 24%) to choose a "decoy": blind o blink o nibble o leaned

11 Students with LD For incorrect answers: 89% didn't refer to passage 40% had not read all distractors

12 Virginia High Stakes 2004 Data: Grade 3

13 Virginia High Stakes 2004 Data: Grade 8

14 Virginia High Stakes 2004 Data: End of Course

15 Standards Issues How are the cut-off scores for passing set? Failure to pass a test may mean.. Failure to be promoted to next grade level Failure to graduate from high school with a standard diploma Decision to drop out of school based on failure of high stakes tests

16 Federal and State Standards Variability among States

17 Gov. Jeb Bush says that Gulfport Elementary School did so well academically last year it is a due for a state bonus check of roughly $40,000. President George W. Bush says Gulfport Elementary School has performed so poorly that its parents must be allowed, less than a week before school begins, to pull their children out.

18 Regents Math A Exam required for graduation Last year 61% passed This year 37% passed Result State will loosen testing requirements!

19 Response To Intervention (RTI) Issues What is RTI? What are good models of RTI How many Tiers will be required? I, II, III, and IV?

20 Operationalize the Tiers Tier I, II, III and maybe IV Describe how the classroom looks What is the teacher doing? What are the students doing? How many teachers are in a room with a specified number of students per grade level per curriculum area K-12? What do the instructional methods and materials look like? What do the “tests” look like? What is the record keeping system? Who monitors the system? Who has the ultimate decision making power in this system?

21 How will the roles of teachers and diagnosticians change given the significant demands for implementing RtI? Unclear presently what the actual demands of RTI will look like Where are the models besides a few selected sites? Unclear roles teachers will have Deliver scientifically based instruction, administering CBM, interpreting data, placing students into tiers and teaching in small groups with different instructional methods and materials and CBM, etc. Major shift in general education teachers role

22 Who is responsible to ensure procedures are implemented with fidelity – special education or general education? Unclear General or Special Educators? Diagnosticians?

23 How will issues of consistency of decision- making be assured from school to school, district to district, and state to state? Unclear – no clear answers provided Standards issues remain across K-12 Current federal and state variability

24 Learning and Instructional Challenges Pace Content coverage Abstractions represented Learning from texts Demand for broad shallow verbally based knowledge Inclusion and access to the general ed curriculum No longer an IEP Class size and make-up issues N = 30, 12 have IEPs, 7 at risk

25 Textbooks and Access to the General Ed Curriculum Increase in difficulty with grade level Discrepancy between reading level of students and readability of textbooks (Kinder, Bursuck & Epstein, 1992) Breadth vs Depth of Coverage Unfriendly nature of textbooks (Armbruster & Anderson,1988) Introduction of large number of vocabulary words (Yager, 1983)

26 Readability, Comprehensibility and Density Issues In most polymers, like polyethylene and cellulose, the monomers are all identical. In other cases, such as proteins, different monomers may be combined. Although the amino acid monomers that make up proteins appear to be very different, each one has an amino functional group and an organic acid functional group, so the monomers all link in the same way, forming a "backbone" of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms. A polymer with three amino acids is called a tripeptide. (Tocci & Viehland, 1996, p. 257)

27 Previous page equals 15% of the space of one page of an 848-page book Reading level for passage: 15th grade Students take annual state wide SOL on text and content covered in class in May

28 What Do We Have to Do? Deliver vast amount of content very rapidly Unclear whether all standards will be met Use what has research documented as best practices for students with LD

29 Samples of Ways to Address Challenges Peer Mediation Strategy Use Text comprehension Mnemonic strategies Peer Mediation + Strategy Use Enhance Concreteness in Verbal and Conceptual Learning

30 Peer Tutoring + Comprehension Strategies in World History (LDRP, 2003) Extension of previous research in peer tutoring and reading comprehension to content area learning with high school students with disabilities. Purpose: Compare peer tutoring versus teacher- directed study in high school world history with students with disabilities

31 Partner Reading* 1 st reader (admiral) reads 1-3 paragraphs while second reader (general) listens and helps with difficult words Switch roles – turn to the beginning of section and 2 nd reader begins reading Answer summarization questions using strategy sheets _______ * Modeled after Fuchs and Fuchs PALS

32 Comprehension Strategy Read the paragraph - ask and answer: Who or what is it about? What is happening to them? Use those answers to write a summary sentence tells what the whole paragraph is about Use self-monitoring card

33 Paragraph Summarization Sheets Name:______ Date: __________ Paragraph No. _____ Who or what is this paragraph about? ______________ What is happening to the who or what? _____________ Summary Sentence ____________________________ Who or what is this paragraph about? ______________ What is happening to the who or what? _____________ Summary Sentence ____________________________

34 Graphic Display of Content Test Performance

35 Year-End Final Exam: Items Covered and Not Covered During Study

36 US History Study Design Crossover design with four inclusive 7 th grade classes Plus parent component involving in-service, technology and home activities Sample N= 81 students and their parents/guardians 15 with mild disabilities

37 Parent Component Training sessions held in evenings to teach parents how to access and use study materials on Blackboard site Materials sent home for those without pc and internet access Pre and Post testing Blackboard use Anecdotal record keeping of material use at home

38 Blackboard Training Evening sessions in pc lab Pre and post testing Blackboard access and use History training materials and use

39 Rules for Tutoring: At school and home 1. Talk only to your partner about the peer-tutoring program. 2. Talk in a quiet voice. 3. Cooperate with your partner. 4. Do your BEST.

40 Identifying Mistakes  Your child says the wrong answer.  Your child gives a partially correct answer.  Your child adds unnecessary information.  Your child waits longer than 3 seconds to give an answer. (count: 1- one thousand, 2 - one thousand, 3 – one thousand)

41 Correcting Mistakes  If your child misses an answer say, “You missed that one. Can you try again?”  If your child answers correctly, say, ‘Good.’ Ask the question again.  If your child does not know an answer, wait 3 seconds, then say, “The answer is “_____.”  Ask the question again.  Then say, “Good.”

42 Parent Home Tutoring Checklist Get out own tutoring fact sheets and record keeping sheet. Get with your child. Write date and time on your record sheet. Begin asking and answering the questions with your child (if child is alone, have him/her cover one side of the sheet and ask and answer questions independently). Put all tutoring materials away.

43 Date Blackboard Section Visited Purpose for Information Retrieved Comments Announcements Staff Information Information Assignments Labs/Strategy Sh. Student Tools Labs/Assessment Personal Info To get materials for student use To get materials to work w/ student Announcements Staff Information Information Assignments Labs/Strategy Sh. Student Tools Labs/Assessment Personal Info To get materials for student use To get materials to work w/ student Announcements Staff Information Information Assignments Labs/Strategy Sh. Student Tools Labs/Assessment Personal Info To get materials for student use To get materials to work w/ student

44 Parent Recording Sheet DateBlackboard Section Visited Purpose for Information Retrieved Comments Announcements Staff Information Information Assignments Labs/Strategy Sheets Student Tools Labs/Assessment Personal Info To get materials for student use To get materials to work w/ student

45 Tutoring Sheets Name the Railroads and the railroad towns. Railroads: Union pacific and Central Pacific Towns: Promontory Point, Utah; Omaha, Nebraska; Sacramento, California

46 Tutoring Sheets Name the cattle towns and trails. Towns: Abilene, Kansas; Cheyenne, Wyoming Trails: Chisholm Trail; Goodnight-Loving Trail

47 Write the card you practiced in this column (Example: Tanks) Write date you practiced this item with your partner (Feb. 14; Feb. 18) Place date you covered the information, but still need more practice (Feb. 18) Please check and date when mastered the content (Feb.14 )

48 Parent Training Results Pretest vs posttest Evaluation of blackboard usage Evaluation of access of study materials t(21) = 25.228, p =.000

49 Parent Evaluation of Training 1 = low; 5= high; Mean (SD) Effectiveness of training4.68 (.48) Effectiveness of trainers4.73 (.46) Training informative4.59 (.59) Sufficient time for training4.45 (.74) Helpfulness of handouts4.68 (.48)


51 Teacher Feedback Materials engaged all students Materials very student centered. Students needed directions once, and they were off and running. Had to quiet students down but only lower voices. They were always on task. Students even developed their own games out of it.

52 What are General Techniques for Improving Memory? Increase Attention. Promote External Memory. Enhance Meaningfulness. Use Pictures. Minimize Interference. Promote Active Manipulation. Promote Active Reasoning. Increase the Amount of Practice.

53 What Are Effective Mnemonic Strategies? Strategies that make Unfamiliar Information more: Concrete Meaningful Familiar Memorable

54 Mnemonic strategies First described by the ancient Greeks (see Yates, The Art of Memory, 1956) Discussed by William James, Principles of Psychology (1890) First treatment in experimental psychology, Atkinson (1975), for teaching Russian vocabulary to college students. Employed in late 1970s with k-12 students (Pressley, Levin, & Delaney, 1982) Employed with students with LD, 1983- present Over 40 experiments, >1200 students

55 How Effective Are Mnemonic Strategies ? (Forness, 2001) Mnc = Mnemonic RC = Reading comp. strategies DI = Direct Instruction SM = Stimulant medication PrT = Peer tutoring Diet = Diet restrictions PT = Perceptual training

56 Most Effective Techniques Mnemonic strategies Keyword method Pegword method Letter strategies, such as acrostics and acronyms Other verbal elaborations

57 The Keyword Method Best for Unfamiliar Vocabulary Steps in using the keyword method: Recode unfamiliar word to an acoustically similar but familiar word or keyword. Relate the the keyword in an interactive picture with the to-be- remembered information Retrieve the new definition by thinking of the keyword and what was happening in the interactive picture

58 Ranid (rain) frog

59 Pegword method Can keyword method be combined with the pegword method for remembering numbers?

60 Materials Content: hardness levels of North American minerals, according to the Mohs scale. Mnemonic pictures included keyword representation of mineral name, pegword for hardness level.

61 Pegwords One is bun Two is shoe Three is tree Four is door Five is hive Six is sticks Seven is heaven Eight is gate Nine is vine Ten is hen

62 Crocoite (crocodile)2 (shoe)



65 Multiple Attributes Can students with LD learn multiple attributes -- e.g., hardness, color, common use -- with mnemonics? Example: WOLFRAMITE: A black wolf at a door lit by light bulbs Black = mineral color Door = hardness level #4 Light Bulbs = common use (from tungsten filaments)

66 Three conditions Mnemonic instruction Direct instruction Free study

67 Results

68 Curriculum Applications of Mnemonic Instruction Can mnemonic strategies be applied to a chapter from a content area textbook?

69 Content Area: World War I Allied Powers Central Powers William Jennings Bryan Lusitania Zimmerman note Trench warfare Eddie Rickenbacher George M. Cohan

70 Reconstructive Elaborations Mimetic: Representational picture for concrete, familiar information (trench) Symbolic: Symbolic picture for abstract, familiar information (foreign policy) Acoustic: Keyword strategy for unfamiliar information (Zimmerman) Letter strategies for list information

71 World War I test: What countries were in the Allied Powers? What countries were in the Central Powers? Who was William Jennings Bryan? What was the Lusitania? What was the Zimmerman note? What was trench warfare like? Who was Eddie Rickenbacher? Who was George M. Cohan?

72 Participants, Procedure 30 8 th – 10 th graders with LD Mean reading GE = 5.2 Students stratified by grade level and assigned at random to mnemonic or control condition.


74 Long-Term Applications Can mnemonic strategies be applied to units of curriculum in classroom instruction over time?

75 Participants Four classrooms of students with learning disabilities in an inner-city school Each classroom had a different configuration of mnemonic and traditional pictures to support classroom learning over 4 units: M-T-M-T T-M-T-M T-T-T-M M-M-M-T

76 Procedure Each unit lasted two weeks. Teachers employed relevant pictures as overhead transparencies throughout the unit. After 8 weeks of instruction, individual tests of content knowledge were given: World War I 20s 30s World War II




80 Research questions 1. Can the model of reconstructive elaborations be used with life science content? 2. Can students with LD create their own mnemonic strategies?

81 Participants, design Students with LD student in two self- contained classes Each classroom had a different configuration over 2 units: 1. Mnemonic-Traditional 2. Traditional-Mnemonic Third week: all mnemonic 4 th week: generalization

82 Procedure Each unit lasted one week. Teachers employed relevant pictures as overhead transparencies throughout the unit. After 2 weeks of instruction, individual tests of content knowledge were given: Invertebrate animals Vertebrate animals

83 Questions What are characteristics of earthworms? What are characteristics of birds? What are characteristics of trichina? What are the five classes of vertebrates? What are parasites and hosts? What is radial symmetry?


85 Generalization phase Earth history: Third week of training, both classes taught mnemonically

86 Questions Name the three parts of the earth. What is the core? What is the mantle? What is the crust?


88 Week 3 76.3% answered correctly

89 Generalization Training Week 4

90 However For generalization week, 52.5% of content covered answered correctly 33% to 39% as much content covered as previous weeks. Additional time spent creating strategies.

91 IT FITS Strategy* Identify the term Tell the definition of the term Find a keyword Imagine the definition doing something with the keyword Think about the definition doing something with the keyword Study what you imagined until you know the definition *King-Sears, M.E., Mercer, C.D., & Sindelar, P.T. (1992). Toward independence with keyword mnemonics: A strategy for science vocabulary instruction. Remedial and Special Education, 13, 22-33.

92 Effectiveness of Mnemonic Instruction in Science (13 experiments, N = 525)

93 Concrete & Meaningful Tasks Point out importance and worth Select relevant, concrete tasks Hands-on materials Illustrations Active involvement Relate to students’ personal experiences

94 Approaches to Science Instruction Textbook high language demands high literacy demands excessive vocabulary abstract content high factual learning demands factual recall on tests Activities-oriented reduced language reduced literacy reduced vocabulary hands-on experiences & “enactments” minimal testing performance-based testing

95 Activities versus Text-based Science Ecosystem Unit (Science Education) 4 th grade classes Textbook adopted by district STC Ecosystems unit Inclusive classes with adaptations

96 Student Data by Classroom ActivitiesComparison M (SD)M (SD) Age 120.7 (5.5)121.4 (6.0) IQ 109.8 (16.0) 112.2(14.1) Rdg 75.3 (17.8) 75.1 (20.9) Math 76.8 (20.3) 81.0 (19.3) Lang 76.3 (19.6) 74.4 (20.1) Males 48% 44%


98 PASS Variables Prioritize objectives Adapt (instruction, materials, & environment) SCREAM structure clarity redundancy enthusiasm appropriate pace maximize engagement Systematic Evaluation

99 Problem Solving Very structured and guided instruction Build ecosystem and observe plant, animal growth & interactions with environment Predict effects of acid rain, too much salt, too much fertilizer on your eco-column PORC = predict, observe, record, compare Minimal insight required for success Disability specific adaptations made

100 Disability-Specific Adaptations Vocabulary check-sheets Modified worksheets Communication boards Teacher and peer assistance with reading tasks Special matching of peers in small groups Testing adaptations - oral and transcribed

101 Textbook vs Activities Science


103 Enthusiastic Science Teaching

104 Coached Elaborations:Direct Teaching (No Explanation) Condition Experimenter: The anteater has long claws on its front feet. What does the anteater have? Student: Long claws on its front feet. Experimenter: Long claws on its front feet. Good.

105 Coached Elaborations: Provided Explanation Condition E: The anteater has long claws on its front feet, to help it dig for ants. What does the anteater have? S: Long claws on its front feet. E: The anteater has long claws on its front feet. Good. And why does it have this? S: To help it dig for ants. E: To help it dig for ants. Good.

106 Coached Elaborations: Coached Elaboration Condition E: The anteater has long claws on its front feet. Why does it make sense that the anteater has long claws on its front feet? S: I don't know. E: Well, let's think. What does the anteater eat? S: Ants? E: Ants, good. And where do ants live? S: In holes in the ground. E: In holes in the ground. So why does it make sense that the anteater has long claws on its front feet? S: Oh. To help it dig for ants. E: To help it dig for ants. Good.

107 Results (Sullivan, Mastropieri, & Scruggs, 1993)

108 Summary of Results: Coached Elaborations Students in the CE conditions remembered facts (e.g., long claws) best Students in the CE conditions remembered explanations (e.g., to dig for ants) best Transfer and independent learning effects were smaller

109 Differentiated Science Curriculum Enhancements Random assignment of 13 inclusive 8 th grade science classes to: Control Group: traditional instruction Experimental Group: traditional instruction + differentiated curriculum enhancements Intervention Delivered by teachers over 12 weeks

110 Sample 13.7 = Mean age N = 213 (37 LD, 7 SED, 35 ELL) Ethnic diversity 44% Caucasian 27% Black 17.4% Latino 5.2% Multi-racial 4.4% Asian

111 Differentiated Curriculum Enhancement Activities Scientific Investigation Unit and linked to high stakes tests Eight major activities developed Each activity developed into multiple levels of increasing difficulty Start with differentiating the content using scaffolding/prompting Level 1 for maximum support with content Level 2 for reduced support with content Level 3 for independent learning with minimal, if any supports

112 Scientific Process Skills Observing, Classifying Predicting Comparing Contrasting Charting, Graphing, Recording Data

113 Development Rules for Level 1 Identification level Must be able to identify answers from a multiple choice or matching format Must contain prompts to help ensure success

114 Development Rules for Level 2 Production with prompts level Start at beginning production responses Include prompts to ensure success

115 Development Rules for Level 3 Independent production level Production format Remove prompts

116 Experimental Design Level 1-3 Level 1: students match independent and dependent variables. Level 2: identify independent, dependent variables, and hypothesis given a scenario. Level 3: students produce independent, dependent variables, and hypothesis given a scenario. These games provide practice for the SOL Grade 6: hypotheses are stated in ways that identify the independent and dependent variables, SOL Grade 7: variables defined, dependent variables, independent variables, and constants identified, and SOL Grade 8: independent and dependent variables, constants, and repeated trials are identified.


118 Sample Scenario Scenario: A student's science fair project was to examine the effects of different amounts of fertilizer on plant growth. Three identical plants were grown with three different amounts of fertilizer (low, medium and high). At the end of the experiment the plant given the highest amount of fertilizer was the tallest. Independent variable- Amount of Fertilizer Dependent variable- Plant Growth Hypothesis- If you give a plant a high amount of fertilizer, then the plant will grow taller.

119 Data Sources Pre and Posttests Content High Stakes Tests Student Reports Teacher Feedback

120 Results Students in Differentiated science curriculum outperformed comparison students on: Science content tests Virginia High Stakes Tests

121 Chemistry 10 th Grade Chemistry Study Students with and without disabilities in inclusive classes Peer Tutoring Format involving Strategies including mnemonics, elaborations What else is important? Applications Differentiated format Use embedded strategies when required Skip strategies when not required

122 Tutoring Condition Materials Rules and Procedures for Tutoring Folders containing strategy sheets What is … A strategy to help you remember What else is important about. ? What is an example of --- ? Student recording sheets

123 What is the Periodic Table? A tabular arrangement of all known elements, organized by properties. If your partner is correct, go to  If your partner doesn’t know the answer, review the strategy. Strategy: Think of the word "table" (chart) for periodic table, and think of the table of all the elements. Then ask: What is the strategy to remember periodic table? Then ask again: What is the periodic table?  Then ask: What else is important about periodic table? [Answers include: Properties are arranged by periods (rows) and groups (columns).] Then ask: What are other characteristics of periodic table? [Answers include: Increase across periods, Mass, Electron affinity, Ionization energy; Decrease across periods: Size; Increase across groups (top to bottom), Reactivity, Atomic radius; Decrease across groups (top to bottom), Electron, affinity, Electron negativity, ionization] Then ask: What are the components of the periodic table? [Answers include: alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition elements, metalloids, noble gases, lanthanides, actinides]

124 Chemistry Test Results

125 Challenges with Implementations Can we raise scores enough? Support for teachers and administrators Resources and training issues Time for teachers and for freeing teachers Sustainability of practices Providing ongoing positive and positive critical feedback Demonstrating student growth Fidelity of Implementation

126 Summary Tension exists between demands of high stakes testing and teaching students with LD RTI may present challenges A variety of evidence-based techniques have improved performance Extend interaction and practice with text Use strategies with peer tutors Enhance meaningfulness and concreteness Use activities to enhance meaningfulness Differentiate activities to support multiple learner levels

127 Great Challenges can lead to Great Opportunities for Students with LD Improved accountability Improved access to general ed. Curriculum Potential for achieving beyond expectations Entire school has stake in success of students with LD Future research can provide further guidance for practice

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