Lake Superior State University
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School of Education (SOE)

Special Education - Learning Disabilities (SM)

Program Summary Narrative

Describes the philosophy, rationale, and objectives of the specialty program and explains how the program is consistent with the philosophy, rationale, and conceptual framework of the unit.

The Special Education Major - The special education program is only the third academic major housed within the School of Education. This program is a natural and appropriate extension of our existing programs in elementary education and early childhood education, and it embodies the same values and framework of our other education degrees. The University recently reframed our mission vision statements and the School of Education similarly revisited our statement in this context. Without changing our Conceptual Framework we were able to recast our own mission/vision in ways that both maintained our integral values and vision as well as explicated and enhanced our role and relationship within the broader university community.

Education Vision Statement The Lake Superior State University School of Education exists to help educators reach their full potential. As a community of learners we are bound by the shared values* that exemplify excellence in the training and professional development of educators. *Examples include the Professional Standards for Michigan Teachers (PSMT), the National Board Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Education Mission Statement:

The School of Educaton's mission is to serve LEARNERS through the ongoing development of professional educators and teacher candidates in a commitment to effective teaching (i.e., successful learner outcomes).

The following are the guiding principles and objectives of this service:

  1. To provide opportunities for the development of the skills and knowledge bases that effective educators possess that facilitate research, reflection, and response in a variety of teaching/learning contexts;
  2. To emphasize the importance of academic rigor in the content knowledge bases (i.e., subject-specific disciplines) that effective educators possess;
  3. To provide learning environments that support the effective educator’s construction of personal understanding and application of sound, research-based pedagogical knowledge bases;
  4. To be committed to the development of the professional dispositions and values of professional educators;
  5. To foster the development of and participation in learning communities within the community, university and school contexts.

The School of Education serves to fulfill LSSU’s principal mission of helping students develop their full potential by:

  • Emphasizing the importance of academic rigor in the subject–specific disciplines and pedagogical knowledge bases;
  • Meeting the challenge of developing students that possess the attributes of effective educators who positively affect the learning outcomes of students.
  • Putting our students on the path of a rewarding career in teaching and educational leadership.
  • Attracting an international student base in a growing learning community.

Special Education and the Conceptual Framework

Content knowledge: Teacher candidates in special education will need to become educational leaders in their community, a trait which begins with a solid knowledge of their academic foundation. We envision a new elementary education major based special education program which has a 32 semester credit learning disabilities major. We intend to require special education elementary majors to also complete an academic minor out of the following fields now approved at our institution: math, integrated science, social studies, French, English or Spanish. This is intended to provide a sufficient level of skills and competence in academic fields for professional level competence. As an additional endorsement the K-12 learning disabilities program will require 32 semester hours, in addition to any additional prerequisites not already completed by the teacher candidate. Due to the complexity of the subject each standard is repeated in a different context in multiple courses to insure an understanding and a through knowledge base for the Teacher Candidate.

Pedagogical knowledge: Candidates with special education majors need familiarity with both standard pedogagy, addressed through our 41 semester credit professional education sequence, and with the research based philosophies, theories and methodologies for effective instruction when working with students with learning disabilities. Students should understand the multidimensional nature of learning and learners, and the necessity of developing their own teaching approach along with a wide array of pedagogical instruments. Through experience with and the analysis of various instructional techniques and technologies, teaching materials and assessment tools, candidates in special education will be prepared to become exemplar professional educators.

Professionalism: Teachers provide invaluable service in society and function as models for future generations. Therefore, all teacher candidates must obtain a solid foundation of values and ethical principles. In addition, they must understand the importance of professional integrity and active self-reflection. Finally, they need to acquire the ability to provide constructive criticism and to respond well to criticism.

Learning communities: Schools and classroomsare venues for candidates to learn and grow as participatory members of their local community and the global society. The themes of caring, responsibility, cooperation, tolerance and respect are woven into the curriculum of the regular and special education programs. The candidate will demonstrate a deep understanding of the concept of life long learning and learning as a daily experience through interaction with members of diverse communities.

In keeping with the Conceptual Framework the School of Education summarizes its mission in the motto: EDUCATING TEACHERS FOR TOMORROW’S SCHOOLS
PERSONAL With respect and understanding for individual differences and shared heritages
NATURAL For whom learning is an ongoing lifelong process, and
SUPERIOR With high academic and professional standards

We believe that the act of teaching and learning involves a framework of research, reflection, and response. We see these elements as an evolving cyclical process, a pathway that learners and leaders of learning must employ to create powerful knowledge bases, develop as participatory members of a democratic society, and establish and maintain environments conducive to learning. The process of research, reflection, and response is focused upon four areas that we believe are the essential elements of expert teaching. These areas include: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, professional dispositions, and learning communities. At the center of the process of acquiring and applying the skills and knowledge of professional practice we place the learner.

We see the learner as inclusive of all stakeholders in schooling and education.

What is …

Research: Expert teachers understand the need to maintain a current perspective on the numerous facets of education. A professional educator strives to engage in the study of pedagogy, examination of the literature related to teaching and explore avenues for the transformation of theory to practice. The act of research is often precipitated by observed events in the classroom and school. When dilemmas arise, expert teachers ask questions and then seek answers through research.

Reflection: John Dewey stated “The active, persistent, careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it is reflective thought” (1933, p.9). Expert teacher are continuously reflecting upon their practice. Engaging in critique, they look at the elements of teaching as well as their whole practice within the contexts in which pedagogy is engaged. The act of reflection requires the teacher to question their behavior, their beliefs as determinants of practice, and carefully consider the responsibility of being a leader of learning.

Response: The act of engaging in pedagogy should be responsive. To implement change or modifications in one’s practice to better facilitate learning is a key element in the repertoire of an expert teacher. Response however is not change for the sake of change. Response is the act of planned change given careful research and reflection. The professional educator employs change in relationship to perceived need, then after review of literature and active research within the classroom, supported by careful reflection, the teacher implements the change. The expert teacher then monitors the response, actively engaging in continued research and reflection to better their pedagogical practice.

Content Knowledge: Teachers need to be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences, and be able to knowledgeable of the interdependence of the disciplines. They must be able to analyze and synthesize ideas, information, and data and make applications of knowledge in inquiry, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The professional educator must be an effective communicator, possessing the skills and abilities of listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

Pedagogical Knowledge: Professional educators must have the knowledge to effectively engage individuals in the learning process. In order to engage in teaching excellence they must posses a strong understanding of cognition, the multidimensional dimensions of learners and learning, and demonstrate the skills of research, reflection, and responsive pedagogy. Via an understanding of human growth and development, a variety of instructional techniques, assessments, materials and technologies, and an abundance of practical experience in classrooms, teacher candidates should be able to mature as exemplar professional educators.

Professional Dispositions: Teachers are stewards of society. They are the models and guides of future generations. In light of their influence in classrooms and schools, all teachers and teacher candidates must model the ethics, values and dispositions of professional educators. They should be able to engage in active reflection, self-critique and accept constructive criticism from others. The developing professional educator should invite and respect others' points of view and incorporate reasonable suggestions from peers and experts. Teachers and teacher candidates should be committed to life-long learning and the belief that all candidates can learn.

Learning Communities: Schools and classrooms are microcosms of society, and as such are the venues for candidates to learn and grow as participatory members of the community. The themes of caring, responsibility, democracy, and stewardship are woven into the fabric of curriculum as teachers and teacher candidates take on the role of facilitators of environments conducive to learning while modeling tolerance, dignity, participation and shared decision making.

· Describes the sequence of courses and/or experiences to develop an understanding of the structures, skills, core concepts, ideas, values, facts, methods of inquiry, and uses of technology.

The full professional education sequence required for all teacher education candidates is listed separately



EDSE 301 Introduction to Special Education (3.0) 3

EDSE 302 Communication and Community (3.0) 3

PSYC 301 Exceptional Child and Adolescent (3,0) 3

EDSE 320 Introduction to Learning Disabilities (4.0) 4

EDSE 401 Issues and Trends Impacting Learning Disabilities and Special Education (4.0) 4


Student Teaching Semester

EDSE 403 Assessment and Diagnosis(3.0)3

EDSE 404 Instruction and Technology for Learning Disabilities: Preschool thru Employment (4.0) 4

EDSE 480 Student Teaching Seminar: Learning Disabilities and Special Education (1,0) 1

EDSE 492 Internship/Supervised Student Teaching: Learning Disabilities (8.0)8

Candidates electing to complete the special education: Learning Disabilities major complete the 32 semester credit program summarized above. These courses provide the essential knowledge, information, training and experience to prepare a successful teacher for the learning disabled student. Due to the complexity of the subject each standard is repeated in a different context in multiple courses to insure an understanding and a through knowledge base. Lake Superior State University special education majors complete the same 32 semester hour program as the endorsement program candidate. A full semester of student teaching in classroom serving the needs of students with learning disabilities is the capstone experience. Early and ongoing field experiences in all EDSE classes (10-20 clock hours in directed activities covering all education levels is required.) Students complete personal reflective narratives for each experience and log evidence of their own learning, and of their effectiveness in promoting student learning through their instructional leadership, in their electronic portfolio.

Describes how candidates are prepared to utilize a variety of instructional approaches to address the various learning styles of students.

The special education teacher for students with learning disabilities has a full range of training and instruction designed to prepare them to assume leadership roles in the classroom, school and broader community. The focus on learning disabilities serves as a framework for all understanding of student learning styles, needs, adaptations and accommodations. Specific courses in the Learning Disabilities major are focused on this subject, including PSYC 301 Exceptional Child and Adolescent, EDSE301 Introduction to Special Education, EDSE320 Introduction to Learning Disabilities, EDSE403 Assessment & Diagnosis and EDSE404 Instruction and Technology.

All education teacher candidates are trained in instructional approaches to instruction through the professional education core. Student learning styles are a significant topic addressed in the professional education core sequence, especially in EDUC250 Student Diversity and Schools and EDUC301 Learning Theory and Teaching Practice. In EDUC301 candidates analyze various approaches to teaching and learning and the decisions which teachers make in applying theory to diverse classroom situations. Elementary education students continue their training in methodology courses specifically targeting each of the curricular areas, while secondary majors have methodology courses for their major, minor or both. The field work component of these courses acts as a cohesive tie between what we explore, study and experiment with in course readings and discussions and the real world of teaching.

Describes any differences that may exist between elementary or secondary preparation to teach in each major or minor area (e.g., instructional resources, field placements, instructional techniques), if applicable.

Special education will be a major for the elementary education curriculum, and an endorsement program for certified teachers at both the elementary and secondary level. The program requirements will not vary based on the level of the candidate

Describes how the program incorporates gender equity, multi-cultural, and global perspectives into the teaching of the subject area.

The teacher candidate selecting a major in special education: Learning Disabilities must have an understanding of "issues of race, class, culture, religion, gender, and orientation" Michigan Administrative rule R340.1781 (1)(b). This topic is critical on all levels for any teacher candidate therefore it is incorporated into PSYC 301 Exceptional Child and Adolescent, EDSE301 Introduction to Special Education, EDSE 302 Communication and Community, EDSE320 Introduction to Learning Disabilities, EDSE 401 Issues and Trends Impacting Learning Disabilities & Special Education, EDSE403 Assessment & Diagnosis and EDSE404 Instruction and Technology for Learning Disabilities Preschool to Employment. In addition the teacher candidate experiences diversity during EDSE 492 and Internship/Supervised Student Teaching: Learning Disabilities and writes on these topics and classroom experiences in EDSE 480 Student Teacher Seminar: Learning Disabilities & Special Education. Each class listed above identifies the issues of diversity relevant to the topic area and the ramifications affecting students, families and professionals.

In addition, candidates with the Learning Disabilities major are required to take EDU250 Student Diversity and Schools, a course designed to prepare all teacher candidates at Lake Superior State University to address issues of gender equity and multicultural perspectives in a classroom. Discussion of the multicultural perspectives in the preparation of teachers is initially covered in EDUC250 “Student Diversity in the Classroom”. The PRPE index page has the syllabus for this course, and others in the professional education sequence, it is directly from this link: Professional Education Courses. EDUC250 objectives include to "study ...the forms of diversity found among students and how these differences affect students' participation in school. History and philosophy of American schools are also studied as are the legal responsibilities and rights of teachers and school districts. Student study cooperative learning, questioning techniques, make school visits and plan and tutor elementary or secondary students as part of a 15-hour fieldwork component.”

In-class assignments and assigned readings include this example which addresses the stated course objective to “Explain the meaning of diversity in schools and describe ways that schools may respond to diversity”

Describes how the program prepares candidates to use multiple methods of assessment appropriate to this specialty area.

Special education: Learning Disabilities candidates complete a course specifically focused on the issues of assessment appropriate to students with learning disabilities and additional disabilities: EDSE403 Assessment & Diagnosis and EDSE 404 Instruction and Technology. Both of these classes compliment the student candidate learning. While the student learns to assess and then diagnosis disabilities through both formal and informal assessment the student also has the opportunity to implement the modifications through EDSE 404 Instruction and Technology to determine if the diagnosis and assessment are adequate and appropriate for the learner. In addition, some learners may benefit from technology support which the student candidate is made aware of how to access this need and what services are available. In these courses candidates learn to gather data from the relevant sources (home, school, work) and to then compile the data to best determine the way to modify the curriculum for successful learning. Candidates prepare and present a comparative examination of assessment procedures, issues and selection of appropriate assessment tools as well as modified lesson plans. Course assignments and examinations test candidate knowledge. Above all candidates learn to not work in isolation when assessing the needs of the student so that there will be greater success.

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