Several months ago, the new NPR show Invisibilia did a broadcast about expectations. The main theme of the program was that the expectations others hold of an individual can effect the outcomes of that individual, either positively or negatively. If you’d like to know more about this idea please listen to the radio show, its great!
I wanted to incorporate the show’s theme into a blog post about special education math classes, but was unsure how until Alex Overwijk, a teacher from Ottawa, sent me the following comment about my post about scaffolding…
— Alex Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk) April 9, 2015
This led me to consider how the over-scaffolding of mathematical tasks and problems for special education students creates an atmosphere of lowered expectations. Both Alex and I agreed that students with disabilities need a certain amount of scaffolding to be successful. What we didn’t know was to what degree and when this scaffolding should be provided.
Thinking more deeply about this question, I believe the degree to which scaffolding is provided to students with disabilities is a very individual, personalized process. Great special ed teachers who understand their student’s learning pathways will be able to determine the appropriate level of scaffolding for them. But the timing of when scaffolding is provided can show students what a teacher’s expectations are for them in math class. If scaffolding is implemented too early in a lesson or unit, students may feel a sense of lowered expectations which according to Invisibilia would result in lowered outcomes as well. You can’t get much earlier in a lesson or unit than the pre-assessment, so let’s start there.