The School Learning Environment–Asking the Right Questions When Deciding on Accommodations, Modifications, and Services

The School Learning Environment–Asking the Right Questions When Deciding on Accommodations, Modifications, and Services

imageEducation is not what it used to be. Children are not taught in the same way that we were as kids. If you were a fly on the wall in a classroom, today, you would likely not see the teacher standing up in front of the room lecturing. You would see something very different.

Working in the schools, I have received outside evaluations on children that make recommendations that do not necessarily fit today’s learning environment. While in the past, the recommendations would have been appropriate, very different recommendations could be made for this new way of learning.

Thus, as we make decisions about what a child with hearing loss needs, as far as accommodations, modifications and services, it is critical to understand the learning environment. The school team must consider how much time is spent in teacher directed learning, small group cooperative learning, and on individual tasks. When teacher directed learning is occurring, especially in the elementary years, often the children are now sitting on a carpet in the front of the room, rather than at their desks, allowing for the child with hearing loss to be seated closer to the teacher during learning. In some elementary classrooms, children are only at their desks when their are working individually. For these classrooms, the child’s desk placement is less important, and it might even be that a back corner desk is chosen, if it provides the quietest environment, away from the door, the heater and other noises. In high schools, today, teachers are often lecturing briefly to provide definitions and basic concepts (providing a PowerPoint with all of the information) and then sending the students off to work in groups on assignments which solidify the learning.

There are so many different ways that classroom learning occurs across the globe. While I spend a lot of time in classrooms, from Pre-K through high school, my experiences in my school district may be different from what is happening in your child’s classroom. Differences in classroom learning environments may be based on school district, public vs. private school, grade level, as well as an individual teacher’s style. Thus, these questions must be discussed yearly to ensure that optimal learning can occur. When sitting down with the school team to make a plan for your child, ask A LOT of questions. The better you understand the learning environment the richer the discussion can be. Here is a list of some of the questions you might ant to ask:

  • How many children are in a class?
  • Are there assistant teachers in the room?
  • How are desks/tables set up in the classroom?
  • How much time does the teacher “lecture” to the class?
  • During these “lectures”, where are the students sitting?
  • What types of activities are students doing when at their desks?
  • How much time is spent in cooperative groups?
  • When working in groups, how many children are typically in a group?
  • When working in groups, where are the children situated (on the rug in the front of the room, throughout the classroom, into the hallway)?
  • Are there Smart Boards in the classroom?
  • Is there a website/home access site to find teacher notes, PowerPoint presentations, homework assignments, etc…?
  • Are videos ever shown in the classroom?
  • Are student required to take notes during teacher lectures (especially middle/high school) or are notes provided in written format?

Each of these questions might spark conversation that provides insight into appropriate school services, accommodations and modifications and ultimately the best plan to maximize your child’s educational outcome.


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