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TEACHING FOR UNDERSTANDING WITH STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: NEW DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH ON ACCESS TO THE GENERAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM.



Abstract. Research on students with disabilities has only recently begun to investigate the challenges that teachers face when they include these students in standards-based curricula and instruction focused on goals of understanding in complex domains. This article presents the mission and conceptual framework For the concept in aesthetics and art criticism, see .

A conceptual framework is used in research to outline possible courses of action or to present a preferred approach to a system analysis project.
 of the REACH Institute, which is engaged in a five-year program of research on teaching for understanding with students with disabilities. The institute is investigating the premise that students with disabilities will improve their understanding when they engage in instruction that reflects a rigorous application of four research-based principles of teaching for understanding: instruction designed around authentic tasks, opportunities to develop cognitive strategies, learning that is socially mediated me·di·ate  
v. me·di·at·ed, me·di·at·ing, me·di·ates

v.tr.
1. To resolve or settle (differences) by working with all the conflicting parties:
, and engagement in constructive conversations. In addition to discussing these principles, this overview describes several common features of the institute research strands in social studies, language arts language arts
pl.n.
The subjects, including reading, spelling, and composition, aimed at developing reading and writing skills, usually taught in elementary and secondary school.
, science, and mathematics, together with emerging themes in the research findings. This overview frames the four articles that follow, each of which describes research on teaching for understanding in a major content area.

A NEW RESEARCH PROGRAM

The call for research on teaching for understanding in classrooms that include students with disabilities reflects a convergence of the inclusion movement with the national movement to support all students in achieving higher standards. Increasing numbers of students with mild disabilities primarily receive their education, with necessary special education support, in general education classrooms alongside students without special education designations (McLeskey, Henry, & Axelrod, 1999). This movement reflects a long history of legislative support for a national commitment to educating students with disabilities in the "least restrictive environment As part of the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the least restrictive environment is identified as one of the six principles that govern the education of students with disabilities. " in the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and, most recently, to providing these students with access to the general education curriculum in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
This article or section is currently being developed or reviewed.
Some statements may be disputed, incorrect, , biased or otherwise objectionable.
 of 1997.

At the same time, national reforms have created a shift in the kind of content learning that is taking place in general education classrooms. Curricula that previously focused heavily on basic skills and information now also encompass important concepts and investigative skills in each content area. In history, for example, students are required to understand how to construct a timeline of significant historical developments and to understand patterns of change and continuity in those events. Mathematics curricula include goals such as understanding that scale drawings can be used to proportionally represent much larger shapes, and understanding the relationship between the number of sides of a polygon polygon, closed plane figure bounded by straight line segments as sides. A polygon is convex if any two points inside the polygon can be connected by a line segment that does not intersect any side. If a side is intersected, the polygon is called concave.  and the measure of the interior angles. In language arts, curricula focus students on understanding how the structures of a story and an argument differ and how to support an interpretation with evidence and reasoning based on text. In science, students engage in understanding how displacement displacement, in psychology: see defense mechanism.


Same as offset. See base/displacement.
 causes objects to sink or float and how to conduct a series of observations. One key aspect of the reform curricula is a shift from broad coverage of content to understanding selected concepts and ways of investigating that are particular to a given discipline (Kendall & Marzano, 1996).

Students with disabilities need to access these rigorous curricula so that they can participate fully in learning, work, and life in our society. Yet teaching for understanding in classrooms that include students with disabilities creates a double challenge for teachers. One is that teaching for understanding is in itself demanding. Many teachers grew up on rote learning rote learning
n.
Learning or memorization by repetition, often without an understanding of the reasoning or relationships involved in the material that is learned.
 of facts from textbooks. As a result, they too often engage students in reproducing information rather than in generating solutions from their interactions with ideas, materials, and each other. A second challenge is that students with disabilities bring a wide range of learning difficulties to learning opportunities focused on understanding goals. Indeed, recent results for students with disabilities who are included in the general education classroom are mixed, although the classrooms studied were not necessarily engaged in instruction centered on understanding goals (Klinger, Vaughn, Hughes, Schumm, & Elbaum, 1998; Zigmond, Jenkins, Fuchs, Deno, Fuchs, Baker, Jenkins, & Couthino, 1995).(1)

Research on students with disabilities has only recently begun to investigate the kinds of instruction that can provide students with high-incidence disabilities access and support to achieve understanding outcomes in the general education classroom. The REACH Institute is responding to this need through a five-year program of research on fostering understanding in students with disabilities.(2)

The institute is building on existing research in special education to investigate with teachers in classrooms how to support students with disabilities, grades four through eight, in building content understanding in mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts. Four strands of research explore the following premise: Students with disabilities will improve their understanding in complex domains when they engage in instruction that reflects research-based principles of teaching for understanding. These principles include instruction designed around authentic tasks, opportunities to build cognitive strategies, learning that is socially mediated, and engagement in constructive conversations. As students with disabilities engage in instruction based on these principles, their additional learning needs will become visible and teachers can respond through further domain-specific instructional support practices.

One way to test this premise is to follow the outcomes of students with disabilities in classrooms that truly reflect principles of good instruction focused on understanding within specific content domains. The four REACH research strands explore this premise around different understanding outcomes, in different parts of the country, and with students with disabilities in a variety of general education and tutorial An instructional book or program that takes the user through a prescribed sequence of steps in order to learn a product. Contrast with documentation, which, although instructional, tends to group features and functions by category. See tutorials in this publication.  settings. We work in close collaboration with teachers to bring their knowledge and experience into the instructional design Instructional design is the practice of arranging media (communication technology) and content to help learners and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively. The process consists broadly of determining the current state of learner understanding, defining the end goal of  and assessment process and to ensure that instruction rigorously focuses on understanding goals.

In this set of articles, the REACH investigators share our work in progress, with the intention of stimulating dialogue among our colleagues in the special education research community. This overview discusses the conceptual framework that guides our work, common features of our studies, and cross-cutting themes in the articles that follow.

THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

What Does It Mean to Understand?

The institute is guided by several premises about what it means to understand and a set of research-based principles for teaching for understanding with students with disabilities. What does it means to understand something? How do students develop understanding? These two questions have been the focus of extensive research in disabilities, cognitive science cognitive science

Interdisciplinary study that attempts to explain the cognitive processes of humans and some higher animals in terms of the manipulation of symbols using computational rules.
, and curriculum (Bransford, Sherwood, Hasselbring, Kinzer, & Williams, 1990; Bruner, 1986; Carnine, 1991; Gardner, 1991; Perkins, 1999).

These inquiries into human learning formulate several premises about understanding. First, domains of knowledge have different organizing properties; as a result, we acquire understanding differently in each content domain. Domain-specific understanding can be represented in terms of several kinds of goals: understanding the substance of a content area (systems of ideas and concepts), understanding the ways of knowing that are specific to a discipline (investigative methods), and understanding purposes of knowledge (Boix-Mansilla, 1995). In the area of substantive knowledge, some ideas are presumed to be more important than others.

Second, understanding is highly integrated with essential skills, information, and "habits of mind" that together support students who collaborate in learning rigorous content (Cuoco, Goldenberg, & Mark, 1996). This snapshot (1) A saved copy of memory including the contents of all memory bytes, hardware registers and status indicators. It is periodically taken in order to restore the system in the event of failure.

(2) A saved copy of a file before it is updated.
 of a REACH science classroom shows this interdependence in·ter·de·pen·dent  
adj.
Mutually dependent: "Today, the mission of one institution can be accomplished only by recognizing that it lives in an interdependent world with conflicts and overlapping interests" 
 of skills, knowledge, and understanding:
   In a seventh-grade science lesson, students are working in small groups on
   understanding the idea of displacement. Each group has a 12-inch-high
   cylinder of water that holds a diver enclosed in a capsule. In their
   notebooks, students are charting what happens to the diver as they allow
   different quantities of air into the cylinder. Students draw the position
   of the diver at different points, discuss their results with each other,
   and talk about their findings to the class as a whole as they work to
   understand why objects sink and float.


Students are using and developing skills of observing, note taking, charting, graphing, and comparing sets of data to build their understanding of the relative densities of air and water and the idea of displacement.

Third, concepts are by nature complex and cannot be understood through one learning experience. As Perkins puts it in Blythe (1998), "While certainly there are breakthroughs and epiphanies as we develop understanding, virtually no one reaches a point where he or she understands everything that there is to understand about a particular topic ... there are always more and more applications and connections to be explored" (p. 13). One implication is that students require opportunities to cycle back to concepts many times to build and extend their understanding.

Finally, deep understanding is the ability to use one's knowledge beyond the context in which it was acquired (Blythe, 1998). Knowledge acquires this quality of transferability when tasks are situated in learning opportunities that require that knowledge in action (Cognition cognition

Act or process of knowing. Cognition includes every mental process that may be described as an experience of knowing (including perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, and reasoning), as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing.
 and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1990). The students in the science class are most likely to apply their understanding of displacement in new ways if they have acquired the concept through doing the science investigation rather than simply reading about an investigation.

How Do We Develop Understanding?

Social and cognitive research on learning and research in the content areas converge con·verge  
v. con·verged, con·verg·ing, con·verg·es

v.intr.
1.
a. To tend toward or approach an intersecting point: lines that converge.

b.
 toward several principles of instruction that support the development of deep understanding in learners. Recent research in special education investigates interventions designed around one or more of these principles and yields positive results. The full spectrum of general and special education studies together suggests that instructional opportunities that rigorously integrate these four principles will result in better understanding on the part of students with disabilities.

Authentic tasks. "Authenticity" includes three characteristics that support content understanding. First, learning experiences engage students in constructing knowledge. Understanding builds as students integrate prior knowledge with new information through intellectually generative gen·er·a·tive
adj.
1. Having the ability to originate, produce, or procreate.

2. Of or relating to the production of offspring.



generative

pertaining to reproduction.
 activities such as questioning, information gathering, organizing, interpreting, and synthesizing that information. Next, tasks explore ideas and ways of knowing that have been identified as important in a content area. Because practitioners in the major content areas use many sources of information in addition to print--maps, charts, graphs, timelines, films, photographs, interviews, oral histories, and visual, kinesthetic kin·es·the·sia  
n.
The sense that detects bodily position, weight, or movement of the muscles, tendons, and joints.



[Greek k
, and auditory auditory /au·di·to·ry/ (aw´di-tor?e)
1. aural or otic; pertaining to the ear.

2. pertaining to hearing.


au·di·to·ry
adj.
 observations--authentic tasks bring alternative modalities Modalities
The factors and circumstances that cause a patient's symptoms to improve or worsen, including weather, time of day, effects of food, and similar factors.
 into the learning process. Finally, learning experiences help explain problems and issues that have relevance and value beyond school. By the middle grades, students with disabilities have usually experienced debilitating de·bil·i·tat·ing
adj.
Causing a loss of strength or energy.


Debilitating
Weakening, or reducing the strength of.

Mentioned in: Stress Reduction
 failure in school and need tasks that are meaningful to their lives beyond school (Newmann & Wehlage, 1995).

The "anchored" instructional environments that Bransford and colleagues have developed reflect these three qualities of authenticity (Bransford et al., 1990). Their Jasper series uses a videotape videotape

Magnetic tape used to record visual images and sound, or the recording itself. There are two types of videotape recorders, the transverse (or quad) and the helical.
 narrative of real-world problems (i.e., finding the best way to save a wounded eagle) as well as graphic organizers Graphic organizers are visual representations of knowledge, concepts or ideas. They are known to help
  • relieve learner boredom
  • enhance recall
  • provide motivation
  • create interest
  • clarify information
  • assist in organizing thoughts
 to help students access and organize the information they need in order to solve mathematical and reasoning problems. Other studies of students with mild disabilities in mathematics verify the value of providing alternative representations of complex mathematical ideas (Woodward, Baxter, & Robinson, 1999). Content knowledge, attitudes, and discourse about controversial issues in social studies were greater for students with learning disabilities who participated in project-based inquiry than for students learning in traditional curriculum contexts (Ferretti & Okolo, 1996).

Cognitive strategies. Domain-specific learning strategies provide students cognitive tools for building an understanding of important ideas and ways of knowing in that content area (Palincsar & Collins, in press; Voss, Wiley, & Carretero, 1995). These strategies direct the cognitive processing of information in ways that are specific to particular domains. Reciprocal teaching Reciprocal Teaching is a remedial reading instructional technique which applies a problem-solving heuristic to the process of reading comprehension, thereby promoting thinking while reading (Alfassi, 2004).  is a classic example of a domain-specific cognitive strategy that develops understanding. Palincsar and Brown's (1984) study demonstrated that diverse groups of students, including those with disabilities, could build an understanding of texts through internalizing questioning strategies that directly relate to the cognitive processes Cognitive processes
Thought processes (i.e., reasoning, perception, judgment, memory).

Mentioned in: Psychosocial Disorders
 involved in interpreting a literary text. Students in the middle grades can develop the autonomy they need to be able to direct their own learning as they acquire strategies for accessing the conceptual demands of a task and for monitoring and regulating their own learning (Rosebery, Warren, & Conant, 1992). When understanding is the goal of instruction, middle school students need strategies to help them not only with lower-order tasks, such as correcting spelling and punctuation punctuation [Lat.,=point], the use of special signs in writing to clarify how words are used; the term also refers to the signs themselves. In every language, besides the sounds of the words that are strung together there are other features, such as tone, accent, and , but also with higher-order tasks such as rereading a science report to check for specificity and coherence coherence, constant phase difference in two or more Waves over time. Two waves are said to be in phase if their crests and troughs meet at the same place at the same time, and the waves are out of phase if the crests of one meet the troughs of another. , developing a historical timeline, organizing a persuasive essay, or identifying the elements of a word problem.

Cognitive strategies for understanding can be acquired through direct or explicit instruction, or be embedded Inserted into. See embedded system.  within instruction and taught as part of a broader focus on "ways of knowing" within a particular discipline. The REACH Institute is guided by the view that it is important to achieve a balance between instruction that explicitly teaches strategies and instruction that enculturates students into particular ways of thinking and knowing that are discipline-specific and draw on domain-specific knowledge and information to guide the reasoning process. Confusions between theories of knowing and theories of pedagogy have led to the misconception mis·con·cep·tion  
n.
A mistaken thought, idea, or notion; a misunderstanding: had many misconceptions about the new tax program.
 that proponents of understanding as a constructive process think that explicit instruction in .cognitive strategies has no place in teaching for understanding. To the contrary, explicit instruction plays a strong role in the development of cognitive tools that enable students to work toward understanding (Pressley et al., 1992). Building on general cognitive research, special education research has identified both strategies to help students with disabilities be more successful learners and explicit approaches to teach strategies that support writing (MacArthur, Schwartz, Graham, Molloy, & Harris, 1996; Wong, 1997), mathematics, (Montague, 1997), and reading (Malone & Mastropieri, 1992).

At the same time, cognitive strategy instruction can constrain con·strain  
tr.v. con·strained, con·strain·ing, con·strains
1. To compel by physical, moral, or circumstantial force; oblige: felt constrained to object. See Synonyms at force.

2.
 domain-specific reasoning in unintentional ways. For example, teaching strategies as a precursor precursor /pre·cur·sor/ (pre´kur-ser) something that precedes. In biological processes, a substance from which another, usually more active or mature, substance is formed. In clinical medicine, a sign or symptom that heralds another.  to engaging in content learning may detract de·tract  
v. de·tract·ed, de·tract·ing, de·tracts

v.tr.
1. To draw or take away; divert: They could detract little from so solid an argument.

2.
 students from building upon their intuitive understandings Intuitive understanding is comprehension without any necessary contemplation or explanation.

When designing products it is useful to think as the "naïve user", someone who will use the product but has no knowledge of how to use it.
 or from mapping their own initial understanding of the nature of a problem. Strategy-based operations in mathematics, such as means-ends analysis, may place an additional load on working memory and provide little opportunity for schema acquisition, that is, learning to categorize cat·e·go·rize  
tr.v. cat·e·go·rized, cat·e·go·riz·ing, cat·e·go·riz·es
To put into a category or categories; classify.



cat
 problems and then apply particular rules (Sweller, 1988).

Social mediation mediation, in law, type of intervention in which the disputing parties accept the offer of a third party to recommend a solution for their controversy. Mediation has long been a part of international law, frequently involving the use of an international commission, . Social interaction plays an essential role in construction and invention of knowledge (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996; Palincsar & Rupert-Herrenkohl, 1999; Rogoff, 1997). A range of "others" can be involved in social mediation, although typically educational researchers have focused mainly on teachers and peers. In socially mediated instruction, a goal of teacher planning is to identify and/or structure ways in which students can serve as intellectual partners to one another. Such a partnership has a different overall goal than does peer tutoring A peer tutor is anyone who is of a similar status as the person being tutored. In an undergraduate institution this would usually be other undergraduates, as distinct from the graduate students who may be teaching the writing classes.  work, which is designed to provide an opportunity for modeling or imitation imitation, in music, a device of counterpoint wherein a phrase or motive is employed successively in more than one voice. The imitation may be exact, the same intervals being repeated at the same or different pitches, or it may be free, in which case numerous types  and to assist a student in completing a task (Fuchs, Fuchs, Norris, Hamlett, & Karns, 1995).

REACH studies take into account several implications for the design, implementation, and evaluation of instruction that situates peers as intellectual partners. First, there needs to be shared ownership of the activity. Second, learners are encouraged to make their thinking visible to one another through talk, visual representations, materials, or (particularly in literacy) dramatic enactments. In addition, students need structured occasions in which they collaboratively build knowledge by searching for connections among diverse pieces of information and by negotiating the meaning of their results. Third, students need to work on problems that are rich enough to invite a variety of perspectives.

In the REACH social studies classroom, students work together in a variety of groupings to analyze historically significant events that can be understood from humanistic hu·man·ist  
n.
1. A believer in the principles of humanism.

2. One who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans.

3.
a. A classical scholar.

b. A student of the liberal arts.
, social, and economic perspectives. In science, students examine data collected across groups to determine the relationships among the data and how the data advance or fail to advance particular explanations for the phenomena they seek to explain. Students bring historical, social, and personal perspectives to negotiating interpretations of literature in the language arts classroom. The final authority for coming to consensus (or not) regarding the meaning of a literary or historical text or the solution to a problem rests with the group, and not solely with the adult member in the classroom.

Finally, and this relates to the fourth principle that follows, in order for socially mediated teaching and learning to be effective, the participants must experience a form of enculturation enculturation
the process by which a person adapts to and assimilates the culture in which he lives.
See also: Society

Noun 1. enculturation
 into new ways of engaging in discourse in the classroom.

Constructive conversation. Conversations build understanding as students participate in talk that makes their thinking visible and encourages them to connect, compare, contrast, and negotiate different understandings. This happens best when students are in situations where they express their questions and ideas and can assimilate as·sim·i·late
v.
1. To consume and incorporate nutrients into the body after digestion.

2. To transform food into living tissue by the process of anabolism.
 others' perspectives into their thinking. Through their own conversations with students and the ones they encourage among students, teachers help students practice and internalize internalize

To send a customer order from a brokerage firm to the firm's own specialist or market maker. Internalizing an order allows a broker to share in the profit (spread between the bid and ask) of executing the order.
 ways of thinking that support understanding. An extensive line of research has identified the characteristics of instructional conversations that build understanding, including opportunities for students to initiate the conversation and pose their own questions, the responsivity of the teacher to the content of students' comments, the opportunity for extended discourse on one topic, and the consistent focus on a theme (Goldenberg, 1992-1993).

Some studies in special education have focused on the effect of constructive conversation on the learning of students with disabilities. For example, Woodward and Baxter (1996) identify questioning strategies in teachers' conversations with young adolescent students with disabilities as a way to build students' conceptual understanding in mathematics. Echevarria (1995) successfully embedded dialogue within strategy instruction within a curriculum focused on conceptual understanding of concepts for Hispanic students with disabilities. Palincsar, Magnusson, Marano, Ford, and Brown (1998) described the role that conversation can play in enabling students to synthesize To create a whole or complete unit from parts or components. See synthesis.  evidence from science experiments.

Integrating the Principles

Intervention studies intervention studies,
n.pl the epidemiologic investigations designed to test a hypothesized cause and effect relation by modifying the supposed causal factor(s) in the study population.
 that have integrated one or more of these four principles in instruction focused on understanding goals show promising results for young adolescent students with disabilities (Englert et al., 1995; Woodward, Baxter, & Sheel, 1997). Yet, on the whole, little research has asked how students with disabilities fare when all four principles are integrated into the design of instructional materials and the instructional process. Further, many existing studies are conducted in separate classrooms for students with disabilities or resource rooms rather than inclusive general education settings, or they are conducted in short-term instructional contexts created for the purpose of research and are not sustained in the participating schools. Another classroom snapshot, this time from a REACH mathematics tutoring session, highlights instruction that intentionally in·ten·tion·al  
adj.
1. Done deliberately; intended: an intentional slight. See Synonyms at voluntary.

2. Having to do with intention.
 integrates the four principles of "good teaching for understanding" previously outlined.
   In a tutorial session, three fifth-grade students, including one with
   learning disabilities and one with mild emotional problems, are working
   with a tutor on a word problem that has caused them difficulty in their
   regular mathematics classroom. The problem is about the relationship
   between Sarah's age and her father's age. They sit around a small table
   that is nearly covered by a large white board that lists down the side a
   set of commonly used domain-specific strategies (e.g., guess and check,
   make a table, make a simpler problem first). This list cues them to
   strategies they have been using in the classroom and with their tutor. The
   pad gives them a big space as "scratch paper" for collaboratively working
   through the problem. The tutor facilitates the conversation by asking the
   students how they will go about solving the problem. Students discuss each
   idea, checking and sketching on the pad when it helps them visualize or
   describe their thinking. They compare different ideas about how to get to
   the solution. Later the tutor and the students' classroom teacher will use
   this documentation to reflect on the effectiveness of the students'
   strategies and their understanding of the concepts of ratio and proportion.


Through this window into the tutoring process in REACH classrooms, we see students working on authentic tasks that examine important concepts and ways of thinking in mathematics that are relevant to mathematical thinking beyond this exercise. They are using cognitive strategies that assist ways of thinking in mathematics that are fragile but growing parts of their repertoire. They are working as a small learning community to construct solutions together, using discourse about their ideas and solutions as a medium for that negotiation.

In summary, several decades of research from different lines of inquiry support the premise that instruction that encompasses authentic tasks, cognitive strategies, social mediation, and constructive conversation forms the basis of teaching for understanding with students with disabilities. In adopting and designing instruction for classrooms with students with disabilities, we are taking these principles into account together with what we know about the difficulties students with disabilities will encounter as they engage in authentic tasks, strategic learning, socially mediated learning, and constructive conversations in each domain. Additional support practices will build on these designs and this foundation, as we learn with teachers how students with disabilities perform in this instructional milieu mi·lieu
n. pl. mi·lieus or mi·lieux
1. The totality of one's surroundings; an environment.

2. The social setting of a mental patient.



milieu

[Fr.] surroundings, environment.
. The resulting knowledge will include how students with disabilities perform within such instructional environments and what additional needs arise for them. The knowledge will also include which teacher practices further support good instruction for building understanding in students with disabilities in this instructional context, and finally, what support teachers themselves need in order to embed em·bed   also im·bed
v. em·bed·ded, em·bed·ding, em·beds

v.tr.
1. To fix firmly in a surrounding mass: embed a post in concrete; fossils embedded in shale.
 these principles and practices in instruction for students with disabilities.

COMMON FEATURES OF THE REACH RESEARCH STRANDS

The four content area research strands share several features. First, we work in close collaboration with classroom teachers and special education teachers. These partnerships ensure that the resulting instructional approaches reflect teachers' insights and perspectives and are rigorous with regard to appropriate ways to teach for understanding. Second, all of us are working with regular classrooms that include students with mild disabilities. Students with disabilities in our research sites are school identified within districts and states having widely varied identification policies. As a result, the specific characteristics of the students with disabilities in our studies vary.

Third, we use an iterative it·er·a·tive  
adj.
1. Characterized by or involving repetition, recurrence, reiteration, or repetitiousness.

2. Grammar Frequentative.

Noun 1.
 research approach. The drawbacks of conducting classic experiments in real school settings, particularly in the study of complex interventions, have been well discussed and documented (Gersten, Baker, & Lloyd, 2000; Morocco Morocco, country, Africa
Morocco (mərŏk`ō), officially Kingdom of Morocco, kingdom (2005 est. pop. 32,726,000), 171,834 sq mi (445,050 sq km), NW Africa.
 & Clark-Chiarelli, 1998). Where complex interventions are under investigation, knowledge of how different parts of the intervention interact with one another and with other features of the setting becomes central. Researchers need to understand in detail how a complex instructional approach is implemented in the classroom and whether and how it engages students with disabilities in achieving understanding outcomes (Morocco & Zorfass, 1996).

These goals are not easily attained through classical experiments. REACH research is designed in phases or cycles to enable researchers to use the results of one cycle to improve the instructional design and professional support in the next cycle. This approach has been characterized char·ac·ter·ize  
tr.v. character·ized, character·iz·ing, character·iz·es
1. To describe the qualities or peculiarities of: characterized the warden as ruthless.

2.
 as formative formative /for·ma·tive/ (for´mah-tiv) concerned in the origination and development of an organism, part, or tissue.  experiments (Newmann, 1990). All the REACH studies use intensive observation and multiple-student outcome measures to follow student outcomes and identify enhancement practices that can accelerate students' learning. REACH studies integrate a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative methodologies for documenting and assessing implementation, professional development support, and student learning outcomes. Some of our studies reflect additional specific features of design experiments (Brown, 1992). For example, Palincsar and Magnusson (this issue) have developed case studies of individual students with disabilities within a well-implemented science unit in order to identify unmet un·met  
adj.
Not satisfied or fulfilled: unmet demands. 
 needs of students with disabilities in one unit that could be systematically met through specific teacher practices in the next unit.

Differing methodologies across research strands serve the same purpose: to capture in detail what is actually happening in the classroom and identify specific aspects of the context and instruction that support or impede im·pede  
tr.v. im·ped·ed, im·ped·ing, im·pedes
To retard or obstruct the progress of. See Synonyms at hinder1.



[Latin imped
 students with disabilities in achieving understanding goals. To document the classroom implementation and teaching/learning process, the mathematics and science groups use videotape as well as direct observation, the social studies group uses extensive direct observation of teacher-student interactions, and the literacy group uses a content analysis of student journals as well as direct observation.

Fourth, we use a shared instructional unit as the "research site." Research teams study teaching for understanding within instructional units that all participating teachers carry out concurrently. Units are designed with consideration given to district standards, curriculum topics, and even recommended texts in order to align our research programs with district goals and maximize the sustainability of the work past the life of the institute. The research team designs or adapts the unit with varying levels of collaboration with teachers to reflect the strongest possible integration of authentic tasks, domain-specific cognitive strategies, socially mediated learning, and constructive conversations about texts and student work. A unit cycle, including the design/planning, teaching, documentation, and evaluation of the unit, generally takes place over a semester se·mes·ter  
n.
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.



[German, from Latin (cursus) s
, with design work on new units beginning during the summers.

Figure 1 portrays the common structure underlying REACH instructional units. The structure includes overarching o·ver·arch·ing  
adj.
1. Forming an arch overhead or above: overarching branches.

2. Extending over or throughout: "I am not sure whether the missing ingredient . . .
 understanding goals, a unit topic, unit goals (information, skills, concepts), instructional activities and individual support practices, ongoing assessment, and culminating assessments. All parts of the unit reflect the principle. The units are designed around understanding goals related to the substance of the content area and the ways of knowing appropriate to that domain. In addition, both the social studies and science strands focus on goals of understanding the purpose of the content area through interviews with students about their perceptions of what historians or scientists do. This unit-by-unit design supports the iterative research approach and is also an "authentic" approach for middle schools, which tend to organize instruction around units and are likely to sustain new instructional approaches that can fit within a unit structure.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THEMES IN EARLY FINDINGS

Several themes resonate res·o·nate  
v. res·o·nat·ed, res·o·nat·ing, res·o·nates

v.intr.
1. To exhibit or produce resonance or resonant effects.

2.
 across the descriptions of interim results in the articles that follow. One is that students with disabilities deepen deep·en  
tr. & intr.v. deep·ened, deep·en·ing, deep·ens
To make or become deep or deeper.


deepen
Verb

to make or become deeper or more intense

Verb 1.
 their understanding when they participate in well-implemented instruction based on the principles of good teaching for understanding. The studies show gains for students with disabilities that are comparable to the gains of normally achieving peers. Each of the studies identifies challenging conceptual areas where students with disabilities, along with their normally achieving peers, elaborate their understanding after an instructional unit.

A second theme is that students may benefit from more explicit instruction about ways of investigating in a domain. In both social studies and language arts, where ways of engaging in historical and literary analysis are embedded in learning activities, the researchers find that students with disabilities need a more explicit understanding of the interpretative in·ter·pre·ta·tive  
adj.
Variant of interpretive.



in·terpre·ta
 processes they are using. The implication is that more explicit instruction follows and builds on learning experiences that embed domain-specific interpretative processes.

Third, implementing rigorous teaching for understanding requires energetic and ongoing professional development support for teachers. Even teachers experienced with reform curricula find that, separate from any special challenges associated with students with disabilities, ongoing support is critical. Embedding 1. (mathematics) embedding - One instance of some mathematical object contained with in another instance, e.g. a group which is a subgroup.
2. (theory) embedding - (domain theory) A complete partial order F in [X -> Y] is an embedding if
 the research within cycles of designing, teaching, and evaluating shared instructional units appears to be a highly promising context for engaging teachers themselves in "constructive conversations" about teaching students with disabilities.

Lastly, one of the most promising teacher practices for achieving the goals of understanding in students with disabilities is the use of assessments that reveal the quality and details of students' understanding. Interviewing students, engaging them in tutorial problem solving problem solving

Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error.
, and providing journal prompts are all instructionally sound practices that enable students with disabilities to rehearse re·hearse  
v. re·hearsed, re·hears·ing, re·hears·es

v.tr.
1.
a. To practice (a part in a play, for example) in preparation for a public performance.

b.
 thinking processes needed for successful classroom work. Those practices also reveal students' thinking to teachers and guide teachers in fine-tuning their instructional support. While interviewing, journals, and assessment tutorials can all potentially be applied in any content area, effective use of these tools for assessment requires the teacher to have strong domain-specific content knowledge. Teachers cannot "hear" or "read" students' level of understanding in interviews or journal responses without a detailed understanding of the system of ideas and concepts under study. These themes frame the articles that follow.

NOTES

(1) An introductory article can refer to only a small number of the many research and theoretical writings that contribute to the work of the REACH Institute. Readers are invited to write to the author for a more extensive bibliography bibliography. The listing of books is of ancient origin. Lists of clay tablets have been found at Nineveh and elsewhere; the library at Alexandria had subject lists of its books.  of relevant work, at Education Development Center, Inc., 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458.

(2) The REACH Institute is funded for a five-year period by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP OSEP Office of Special Education Programs
OSEP Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel (National Research Council)
OSEP Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness
OSEP Operations Standardization Evaluation Program
). Institute partners include the University of Michigan (body, education) University of Michigan - A large cosmopolitan university in the Midwest USA. Over 50000 students are enrolled at the University of Michigan's three campuses. The students come from 50 states and over 100 foreign countries. , the University of Puget Sound The University of Puget Sound (often called UPS or just Puget Sound) is a private liberal arts college located in the North End of Tacoma, Washington, in the United States. , the University of Delaware [3] The student body at the University of Delaware is largely an undergraduate population. Delaware students have a great deal of access to work and internship opportunities. , and Education Development Center. Grace Zamora Duran serves as the OSEP program officer.

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CATHERINE COBB Cobb   , Tyrus Raymond Known as "Ty." 1886-1961.

American baseball player and manager who was the first player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (1936).
 MOROCCO, Ed.D., is a senior scientist, Education Development Center, Inc., Newton, MA.
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Author:Morocco, Catherine Cobb
Publication:Learning Disability Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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