Teaching Strategies: Easing the Pathway for Adult Learners with Disabilities to Develop Competence in the Classroom and Beyond

GOOD MORNING:  This is Laura DiGalbo and I am delighted to be spending the next two days in discussion with many of you around teaching strategies to assist our adult learners in achieving success in our classrooms and beyond.. I will be sharing information that I have developed  for presentaions here in Ct, nationally and internationally around how we can assess learning needs, develop strategies to meet those needs and  provide effective feedback to our adult ed students. In addition we will explore how instructor behavior influences learning ,the social and emotional factors involved in learning and finally universal design for learning.

                                I will be posting 4 content areas today and 3 tomorrow. In between there will be time for you to respond immediately with your thoughts and experiences.  And of course you can reflect and respond later. Both Rochelle Kenyon, LINCS SME, and I will be checking the thread throughout the next  few weeksand beyond. Your thoughts and insights are very important to both of us. So please share, comment , question as we go along or in the days to come. This "discussion presentation" format is a new one...I'm not sure how I will handle questions/comments throughout the days when I am posting content. So don't be dismayed if you don't have an immediate response from me.

                            One final thought here...you will realize that I am not the most efficient typist in the world...much better "in person". So do forgive the typos. I will try ot be vigilant.... All right I will post this message and go create the first content post. Stay tuned!!


Effective Utilization of Assessment to Craft Instruction

 One of the most common dilemmas faced by instructors in adult education is the awareness that  students may  struggle with learning, but we, and often they ,do not know why! Data and experience tells us that a large number of students in adult ed have struggled with learning through out their school experiences.  Many of our ABE, GED and External Diploma Students have had unsuccessful K-12 experiences hence their arrival on the doorstep of Adult Ed! This lack of success may be due to a number of factors. Unfortunately many of these students have never been formally tested nor are thye likely to be, due to the cost of fromal assessment. SO...what are we to do to identify their issues and provide effective teaching?

We begin by identifying the functional problems  the students are having with learning. How??  By engaging the student in an exploratory discussion of his /her learning. Interestingly many students report they never have been asked the following questions before;

  • How do you learn best?  Students always know the best way to teach them...we just need to ask.
  • What difficulites have you had learning?  Conversely they always know what doesn't work!
  • Do you have trouble seeing, hearing or concentrating?  If yes, to any of these charateristics, a formal medical assessment is warranted to rule out medical issues that should be treated before effective learning can take place. These assessments are often more readily obtained than educational ones due to health care exclusions for educational assessments
  • What did they like best in school?  Often very telling about comfort with environment and teaching style
  • What was your worst expereince?  Educational trauma can be revealed here which when not adressed can thwart learning.e.g. feeling humiliated by a past  experience in the classroom.

When we are working with "low level learners", those with limited iintellectual ability, limited educational experience, or those who are reluctnat to converse; the use of pictorials to enhance the conversation may be helpful. Also  giving options for responses may be helpful for them, as discussed by Deb Rosen in LINCS Community of Practice.

  • EAR= I can learn  by listening
  • MOUTH= I learn when I get to talk about the information
  • BOOK= I learn  by reading
  • PEN= I can learn when I write information
  • HAND= I can do best when I learn by doing

This type of discussion is excellent to have individually with all students at the beginnig of your relationship. By having it with everyone we are able to enhance our understanding of all the students and to be thoughtful about the educational process we will implent for them collectively and individually. Teachers report that it also serves as an excellent way to establish a relationship with the student early on in the school year and therefore promotes retention.

There are 4 Instructional Strategies that have proven to enhance learning for all students.

  • Structring the environment: Clariity of the visual field; We process most information though our eyes. Therefore if we want to focus students' attention on the subject matter at hand we need to clear away all extaneous obejcts in their visual pathway e.g. move objects not associated with the content of learning out of the line of the students vision. I do know that teachers beleive a visually exciting classroom is stimulating and they are correct...but sometimes too stimulating! Focus decorations etc on the content of learning. It orients the student to the subject matter and reinforces the intent of the lesson.
  • Pre and Post Process the lesson: Always begin class by telling the student what will be covered that seesion. It reduces anxiety and promotes attention when they know what to expect.
  • Use "Plain Language": When gving instruction use the most simple language that is a common denominator for the students. Of course we want to increase sophisitcation of vocabulary overtime. But when identifying how you want work completed or the process you want students to take in their leanring, simpler is better!
  • Chunk Content and Instruction: Their is a reason that the world divides information in to sets of threes ! We cognitvely process best that way. So when presenting new content, only three peices of information at one time. when giving directions, only three steps at a time. You will be amazed at how that helps student compliance and memery!

Well..that is it for this session. I'm taking a typing break and will post the next session focussed on reading in specific in jsut a bit!

Ms. Hidalgo,


Thank you for offering your knowledge and expertise to this discussion.  I teach in an ABLE/GED program.  We are privately funded and run on a shoestring (as I imagine many do.)  Initially, when I started 5 years ago, we had a staff member who was trained in PowerPath.  We were conducting some of the initial PowerPath assessments, which gave us some really good information.  However, that staff member is gone, and there is no money to train someone new in PowerPath.  Also, we didn't have a good system for incorporating this individual student information into our curriculum, so it sat in their files, but wasn't very well worked into their lessons.  I would really like us to rectify that from now on.  Your questionnaire and Instructional Strategies are very helpful.  Any other ideas for how to make incorporating this information a simple process for a small group of overextended instructors?


Thank you,

Sue Plummer

Ms. DiGalbo,


I want to apologize for botching your name in my earlier post.  I just realized my mistake.  I notice this tendency in my students, often.  They assign their own expectation of what the word is, without fully processing the actual word.  It's important and humbling to notice when we do it ourselves.

Sue P.

Hi Sue,

Your comments touched a chord with me.  Many of our group members will identify with "Running on a Shoestring" and "Overextended Instructors."   Teaching ABE and GED classes with students that have deficits because of their disabilities is quite a challenge.  Your voice is an important one in this and other discussions.

Thank you,

Rochelle Kenyon, SME 

Hi Sue : As Rochelle responded so many of us who provide adult ed are overwhelmed with the day to day classroom work and the multitude of issues presented by our students. For me the best thing about  engaging thestudent in the discusion around his/her learning needs is that the purpose of the discussion . Which is to decide together "right then" what you both can do to make learning easier. There doesn't need to be data collected, all that is needed is a willingnees  for you both together to thikn of the best way of presenting info, letting the student respond and crafting comfort in the classroom.

           For example:  the student says he always got lost when the teacher gave directions but didn't write them on the board. In addition he gets very frightened at having to speak up in class. Once he had a teacher who typed out direction bullets and passed them out at the beginning of class.  This info is often shared in just few moments of focused conversation. The teacher can now type and print out dirctions for the class for all students, give alternatives to measuringl earning such as "you may do a project, write a paper or do an oral report". These modifications are generic and will increase functioning for all students.

         Teachers here in Ct report that the 10 minutes they spend the first day of class in this type of discussion  not only helps them structure their teaching process fo rthe semster but also goes a really long way in cementin ga relationship with the students.

         I hope this perspctive  that "assessment " need not be a formal data driven process. In fact it is ofter nmost useful to students and teachers when if its not! Lauri

Reading: A Collaboration of Your Eyes,Ears and Brain


In 2011 the US DOE, in response to concern over the number of students who were reading a low levels published "myth busting" information on how  we develop reading skills. It appeared that the commonly held pratice of teaching reading skils sequentially didn't always work. Instead reading practice using complex texts with support proved most effective. This held true when the text was short, the student was coached to read and reread slowly. Peristance and stamina were reinforced and sequences of engaging questions were utilized to create dialogue around the learning process. which was  content rather than teacher driven explanation. Some of this process can be understood in the context of the neuorscience of reading

From a  neuroscience perspective, reading proficiency includes 3 factors;

  • visual recognition of symbols [letters, punctuation]
  • phonolgical processing [ability to connect sound with symbol]
  • context comprehension

These three requirements are established through neural pathways in the brain's white matter. Although all parts of the brain work together as a well oiled machine each of the lobes ,or parts, of the brain, has a special focus.

The left Temporal-Parietal lobe mediates language skills including sound integration. It is here that phonological processing takes place. And it is deficits in this area that we believe are exhibited in the diagnosis of dyslexia.

The back of the Corpus Callosum mediates the visual system including eye movement necessary for reading. Visual recognition begins here.

The Frontal Lobes,are  the "Executor" or boss of our brains and therefore  integrate all the information taken in by the other brain parts to develop an understanding of our world including text when we read.

 Symbols that come in through our eyes  travel to the Corpus Callosum to be recognized. We read aloud we associate sounds with those symbols, in order to recognize words which takes place in our Left Temporal-Parietal Lobe . Finally our Frontal Lobes take all those words and makes sense out of them to create context and understanding. All this is a split second!  It is fair to say that this three line explanation of the neuroscience of reading is a vast over simplification..but I'm sure you get the idea.

In order to help our brains work efficiently through this process it helps to deliver information in carefully sequenced steps presented systematically; this is Explicit Instruction.  Explicit Instruction is comprised of 4 steps;

  • Explanation; Teacher explains the purpose of the instruction and describes the concepts to be taught and process to be used. [This is the pre processing stategy mentioned in session 1.]
  • Modeling: Teacher demonstrates the way he /she will be teaching, using examples from the content to be taught. The student actually sees what is expected which reinforces compliance. We learn through our eyes best so showing while telling works really well!
  • Guided Practice: The teacher and student do the learning activities together. This "hand over hand' technique allows the teacher to reinforce learning in problem areas and it reduces student anxiety.
  • Application; the student uses the new concepts and procedures independently. Arguably this is where full learning is demonstrated.Unforunately many educational settings only measure memorization and recall. It is in independent application that we see incorporated mastery.

So what is invovled in Mastery, or what are the fundamentals necessary to be an efficient reader?

The four fundamentals are exhibited by the work of our Fronal Lobes through the cognitve skill sets of Organization, Retrieval, Differentiation and Manipulation

  • Organization: takes place when the student finds commonalities in the information being taught and can group that information by those commonalities. When we do this, in essence we find  a "drawer" in our brain where we put ideas or concepts that seem to go together.  Just like finding socks  in our sock drawer at home, we are able to quickly find peices of information  that seem similar when we file them together. This is why teachers who use devicess like Tier Words or Quad Charts are effective in helping students organize information.
  • Retrieval: filing away information effectively isn't enough if we can't find  where we have filed it and pull it out! We need practice!  The more times we are asked to got back and find "the drawer" open it and pull out the information. The more the neuropathway to find that information will be cemented and the more quickly we accomplish the task! Activites such as  Fill in the Blank and Sentence Completion activities are helpful here.
  • Differentiation: Retieval alone isn't helpful if we can't understand and use the information! We must be able to see the diffences in concepts and the nuances of context to be sure we are pulling up or retrieving the right information. Just as we must know the differnce between our workout socks and dress hose to be properly attired.We do this by  fine tuning the exact message conveyed by vocabulary in a comparative format. "Yes-No-Why" activities can be used here.
  • Manipulation: None of the first three fundamentals are enough if we can't use the information in a variety of contexts, particularly in life beyond the classroom. Here our Frontal Lobes do their most exquisite work.  To help them we can reniforce this work by giving students opportunites to to create "new thought" using the information taught ,for example in Read and Respond activites.

Finally Reading Comprehension is both the process and product of understanding.

The PROCESS is comprised of information integration between our brains, eyes and ears that we ,as teachers ,reinforce through activities in our classrooms.

The PRODUCT is the ability of the student to independently use the information and process absorbed in the classroom in ther lives as a whole.


Coming up next....a discussion of ways to work with the student who processes information slowly.


Hi to all of you who are following along and posting questions: I've just finished typing the second session..and am once again taking a typing break!

I have briefly revieed your questions[ which are great] as they come in. In order to give them their "do attention", I plan to  save them until I am cognitively fresher...after the 7 seesions are complete tomorrow afternoon. In fact some of the questions may be answered aswe go along.

 I hope tht is OK, and I promise to respond to everyone! If you have an urgent need you can call me at860 841-7212[ my business phone] otherwise know that you are in the cue for  response! Lauri

I taught a version of STAR for a couple of years.  Much of that program advocates leveled reading.  I'm intrigued by the notion of not dumbing down the text, but reducing its length.  Does the DOE study you referenced get mention in one of the links posted prior to the discussion?  I have not yet had time to read those, but would like to learn more.



In my writing class, I'm working through 1 newspaper article and 2 editorials that are all related to the same local issue; helping my students to pull out the relevant points and summarize each one.  Eventually, we'll move into comparing and contrasting.  They are related to a current issue, and I don't have a good handle on whether or not I should shorten them.  Some of the references are unfamiliar, and I find I am also having to help update their background knowledge on the different government structures  involved: city, county , federal, etc.  We spent the entire class just breaking down one article for summarization, yesterday, and I've asked them to try to write me a summary by next week's class.   They are enthusiastic students, and I see this as a multi-step project that will take some time to work through.  I want to challenge them appropriately with something they are interested in, but I worry I've overwhelmed them.  This raises the question, again, about the appropriate reading level of text to present to students.

Slow Processing,Delayed Learning...We Can Help


So many times in our Adult Ed classrooms we find students who don't seem to "be present" they don't volunteer to answer questions or engage in discussion, and when they do it appears to be a laborious process for them. Unfortunately these students can be percieved as unintersted or even intentionally difficult. Once again we are brought back to an underlying issue for many over students which  is that they had difficulty in K-12, were labeled as "poor performers " and ultimately dropped out of the educational experience either physically, emotionally or both. It is fair to say that a number [ perhaps large number] of them are slow porcessors or "inefficint thinkers"making learning in our fast pace environment difficult and intimidating. This session will address issues around efficient information processing, why some students may be poor processors and finally some strategies to help.

In order to learn we must: Absorb information, Assign Meaning to that information and Use it Independently. This is a theme carried over from Session 2.

Both Absorbing, or taking in information and Assigning Meaning to it are influenced by  how rapidly we think or our processing speed.

Using information however is influenced by opportunity.  By the time the student reaches adult education, school experience, both in terms of motivation to learn and the process of being taught define  the degree to which the student is able to take advantage of the the new learning environment. This translates into how well the student uses the learning environment [how well they learn].Lack of the ability to demonstrate learning is based on motivation [the desire to keep on trying] and teaching appropriate to the student's learning style.

Farily rapid cognitve  processsing is a requirement of taking in information. We use many avenues to garner information. 85% of us find recieving information through our eyes as the best  avenue. However as we age we are better off recieving new information kinestetically, or by doing tasks.

 Making sense of that information and using the information  is easier when we are familiar with it in some way. Usually familiarity is linked to past expereince and past use. It is much easier to scaffold new information by taking a task, item or situation that is already cemented than to introduce a totally foreign concept. It is certainly possible to learn the totally foreign concept but we it sure takes longer!

And as was mentioned in the last session using information is demonstration of learning, memorization is not. It takes longer to assess use of information but the learning is cemented. With memorization the learning is often time limited.

 What are some of the reasons people may be slow processors or inefficient thinkers?

  • Some disabilities by their very nature have symptoms which   intefere with any or all of the three pathways of learning .For example , if you have ever been very anxious or depressed ,even if only situationally, you know that your  ability to absorb, remember and use what is said to you is impaired. In addition issues of substance overuse can cause tissue based difficulties processing.  And the pain and or discomfort of a physical disability may cause distraction from learning.
  • Primary language issues may make it difficult to think rapidly in english. It only makes sense that when new information is presented  in an unfamiliar language the student will need extra time to process.
  • Lack of Opportunity: Here we are referring to teaching mehtods that did not take into account the student's learning style thus depriving him/her of the opportunity to learn.
  • Trauma: Current research tells us that enduring trauma, mental and physical, can cause actual tissue change in the brain. We know of this change from reports we receive in talking with some of our returning veterans and some of our ESL/ELL students who escaped atrocities in their countries when they speak of changes they see in themselves.
  • Poverty: Living in poverty carries with it experiences that can influence efficient thinking. These may include chronic lack of nutrtion, lack of opportunity for consistent school attendance, constant and overwhelming concern around getting needs met [it is hard to learn when you have no where to live]. Recently there has been interest in the concept  that living in constant fear e.g. neighborhood swhere death by gun fire is a constant issue, can cause cognitvie inefficiency.

It is the Fronal Lobes of our brains that struggle to sort through all those issues and try to learn at the same time. The executive functioning that occurs there is slowed or stopped when trying to deal with adding new stuff when old stuff is so prominent. Students have explained that it feels like struggling to see through dense fog. My head aches just thinking about it!

Here are the executive functioning problems that demonstrate  what we see as slow processing;

Taking in information: is slowed by;

 Inability to focus attention: too many competing interests in our heads or in the environment

Inability to sustain effort: difficulty pushing through a task when you don't want to,

Inability to delay gratification: only wanting to do activities that "feel good"

 Overstimulation of the neural pathways: teachers tend to talk too much and not allow enough time for students to catch up!

Manipulating Information is slowed by:

Generalization problems: difficulty finding commonalities in the information presented

Metacognition problems; never having developed effective learning strategies [more on this in tomorrow's sessions]

Using Information is slowed by:

Not being offered multiple ways of expression [more on this in tomorrow's seesions]

Never internalizing routine ways of addressing new information

Strategies that Create Efficient Thinking will be familiar to those of you who have been following the sessions thus far;

  • Pre processing content and process for each class. This strategy porvides structure for an already overwhelmed fronal lobe. It also reorients the student to the focus of the day and away from competing concerns from the world out side theclassroom.
  • Clearing the Visual Field: when students are surrounded by stimulae that reinforces the learning outcome they focus better [we all do] . No longer are extraneous items distracting from the goal at  hand ...no matter how interesting or pretty!
  • Chunking Information: give content and assignments in groups of no more than three. This give students the chance to find the similiarity among the itmes and file them effectively or act on them effectively in the case of directions.
  • Structured Choices: This is a new one; We all do best when involved in our learning. Whenever possible give students choices that you can tolerate, around how to learn e.g. what topic to deal with first [if banking is the class of the day; do they want to start with checkbook management, filling out deposit slips etc] how to engage [ individual work , group work, reports in writng, reports orally etc.]. When you give structured choices you get "buy in" to learn from the students.


I'm taking a short break...one more session for today about feedback strategies in just a bit!


Good afternoon-

It is enlightening to hear how executive functioning processes can create the "dense fog" effect for some slower learners.   In a way, I can relate...   Some of the challeges expressed in this session are seen quite frequently.  I believe the information on executive functioning provides teachers a better understanding in that certain individuals are trying not to purposely be "poor performers", they are dealing with the internal struggle of trying to decifer what information is truly important and what information is not, then to make sense of it all.   Also, the processing speed component is also a critical area that teachers need to consider when working with students with disabilities.  It is important to ask clarifying questions and ensure comprehension for students with learning challenges.  I like the suggested strategies that assist giving students a chance to become effective thinkers (thanks for sharing).  Teachers can always add tools to the tool belt and ultimately, we all want our students to "buy in" to their own learning so they can continue to grow and become life-long learners.




Feedback Strategies: Instructor and Student Behavior as Mediators for Learning

Well here we are at the last session for today and one that I find intriguing.

In 2005 the National Institute on Literacy identified 4 emotional factors that seemed to correlate with students' success in reading. These factors cross over to all content learning.Here they are:

  • Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic [moreon the distinction in tomorrow's sessions]
  • Engagement; "what's in it for me?"
  • Perception of being a "Learning Failure"
  • And most prominently; Past Experience with school settings, including individual teachers

How do we as educators mitigate for the potentially  negative effects these factors can have on learning?

The manner in which we deliver feedback

The techniques we use to support resilience in the learning process [the abilityto sustain effort and delay gratiication]

Our behavior in the classroom [modeling and boundaries]

Feedback Processes that Promote Learning

In order for feedback to be valued it should  be given as quickly as possbile after the event [behavioral or academic]. When we delay feedback we allow for misinterpretation of our intent. It also should be given frequently in order to cement the message especially if it is an  emotional subject for the student e.g.  math feedback and the student has always felt like a failure in math. Our inclination is to avoid gving the feedback every time because we don' t want the student to be upset. Yet it is the only way reinforce small gains and promote a shift in self esteem

Feedback should address both quality of work and appropriateness of work [substance and form]. Problems here usually play out when the student say she/she "doesn't know what you want".

Feedback is best received when clear expectations have been set in advance...that old pre processing again!

Ongoing evaluations give content to feedback as you all know...but did you know that giving the student the feedback multimodally works best. e.g. Meet with the student and give him/her  the content of your meeting in writing to take home. The biggest reason that students don't incorporate feedback you give orally  is that they don't remember it. And they don't remember it because they are so anxious when it is given. By having it in writing to reflect on at home when they are less anxious they will understand it much better.

Engage the student in feedback diaogue. It is ineffective to ask the student to repeat back your message, even if you ask for it in their own words. Rather engaging in a discussion of it to include their insights works well.


Instructor Behavior; What can we do to Enhance Learning

Allow student to choose their method of demonstrating learning eg. class presentation, written reports etc.

Talk with the student, or give a survey early on to identify the best way the student learns.  In most classe their will be one or two methods that work best. Most of you are doing them anyway. But the students really feel valued, often for the first time by a teacher, when you ask.

Structured Choices, appeared in session 3, is a big gain here and relates to the first comment in this section above. The caution with gving these choices is to remember that you are not giving absolute choice only options that youare comfortable with and are reflective of the learning that needs to be accomplished. Structured choices has to do with process not content!

We are very good at being respectful of cultural differences in the traditional sense. Don't forget that the cultures of disability, trauma and poverty as well. As an add on here, poor language usage may be either cultural, disability related or both. One way to explore that informally is to ask the student to speak or write in his/her native language. You are looking for fluidity NOT content. So  you don't need to speak or understand the language. But if the student is noticeably halting in either modality he/she may not have had education in their native language or they may have a disability.

Good eye contact with students is helpful, it models"adult american expectaions".....prolonged eye contact is frightening however!

Here comes my few wrods around professional boundaries. I spend a good deal of my private practic eworking with programs on establishing guidelines for faculty ahdstaff in this regard. Let me just say that the more clear you are about your role in the students' lives the better off they wiil be. We are educators, we care about our students'  success in our programs because we want them to be successful citizens. We are always in a power position with our students becaus weare the educators andt hey are the students. Friendly is essential...friendship is a slippery slope. Becausef riendship is reciprocal relationship.By virtue of our role in the lives  of ou rstudents we are in a power position and therfore there is not reciprocity. I understand that this is an emotional topicfor many of us. I bring it up here for your thoughtful consideration only.

FINALLY...the very most important behavior you have to share with your students is your presence in their lives and your HOPEFULNESS for them. It is the very best predictor of success for them! Hopefulness is not measured by your words but by your active  presence and your face. Research tells us that a hopeful face is not a smiley face,but rather your face "at  rest". It is said that we instinctively know if we  will like someone or if they like us, in less than a minute of meeting them. I find that to be true,do you?


Well that is it for today...I have continued to glance at your insights and questions. I look forward to delving into them  when my exceutive functioning is back on track! Right now I''m off this computer until 9:00 EST tomorrow "see" you then. Lauri








Hi all,

Today was an excellent first day for the guest discussion.  Thanks so much to Laura Digalbo for the tremendous amount of information she shared throughout the day. The topics included 1)  Effective Utilization of Assessment to Craft Instruction,  2)  Reading: A Collaboration of Your Eyes, Ears and Brain,  3)  Slow Processing,Delayed Learning...We Can Help,  4) Feedback Strategies: Instructor and Student Behavior as Mediators for Learning,  5) Feedback Processes that Promote Learning, and 6) Instructor Behavior; What can we do to Enhance Learning.

A special thank you to participants who either asked comments or made comments.  Those included   1)  Sue Plummer,  2)  Ted Oparnico,  3)  Pamela Shrestha,   4)  Marcies,  5)  Heather Erwin,  6)  Diane Long,  7)  Doc Plaisance,  and 8)  Debra Burdman.

Day 2 will begin tomorrow morning.  The enhanced agenda topics will include the following:


Session 1: Positive Behavior Support in the Classroom

  • Structuring the Classroom Environment form a Behavioral Perspective
  • Behavioral Interventions
  • Instructional interventions
  • Environmental Interventions
  • Stress

Session 2: Creating Social and Emotional Support to Expedite Learning

  • The Adult Brain
  • Social and emotional influences
  • How emotions influence Learning
  • Anxiety: A Real Show Stopper!
  • Strategies and Metacognition

Session 3:  Universal Design in Adult Education:  Substance or Hype

  • Why Universal Design is More Efficient
  • Focus of Universal Design
  • Changes to Teaching Process in 4 Key Areas
  • Teaching Students “How to be Learners”

I look forward to more of our group members participating tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 14th) by asking questions and making comments.

Please join us tomorrow morning within the same Discussion Strand as today.


Rochelle Kenyon, SME

Hi Daphne: I want to give a directr esponse to your question as it is such a good one. My bias as a professor and professional is that only the y ability to actually apply information taught demonstrates mastery. When we use a variety of tests in the classroom we are often only  testing recognition and recall...not mastery. It is certainly possible to test mastery in the classroom but by asking thestudent to apply the info in novel situations.

I find myself consistently confronted with anxiety when I tell mygrad  students that I am not interested in having them regurgitate what either or the texts or I have shared. Rather I want them to take the information and create their own thoguths...demnostrate their learnig by using the inforamtion. I  find it sad that so many very bright students have not had the opportunities to actually practice mastery. Instead they may have beennrewrded for remebering information or reaearching information...surely step in mastery but not the end goal!

So how do measure mastery through application of theinformation in novel situations. It does requireteachers to resist using standarizedtests forthe most part  [e.g. fill in the blank, sentence completion, matching etc but it is so worhthit for the student ...even if he /she may not think so at the time. Hope this is helpful. Lauri


I am reposting this message from Debra Burdman.  It was inside a different discussion strand.


Yesterday I gave an orientation to my combination ABE/GED classroom. One student self identified as ADHD. He was concerned about being able to "focus" in a classroom since he could not focus in high school. I tried to emphasize at least in my classroom much of the instruction is self paced with a lot of support. What else would you say to this student who has high academic skills, but not quite ready for the new GED.

Also the process of accomodations on the new GED seem a little confusing. How can we as teachers help them understand this process?


Thank you,

Debra Burdman

Ms. Burdman,

You are correct. There are many changes to the 2014 computer-based GED Test for all students as well as for students seeking an accommodation.  The steps for obtaining an accommodation are very different.  GED Testing Service (GEDTS)  must approve an accommodation even before a student can schedule to take the assessment at an approved testing center.  Look at http://gedtestingservice.com/testers/computer-accommodations for these steps.If a student is requesting an accommodation for the new test, he or she must:

-Completing the accommodation process (choosing the disability request form closest to the disability and having it completed and signed off by a medical professional and all appropriate persons),

- Clicking onto MyGED at http://ged.com and followowing the directions once the student logs in, and

-After approval, GEDTS will give the student a telephone number to call and schedule an accommodated test.

 If  the student decides he or she does not want an accommodation, the student should call 877-392-6433 to the the accommodation cancelled by GEDTS.  If an accommodation was approved in 2013, the student should email flgedhelp@fldoe.org and include his or her name, date of birth, and the approximate date of the 2013 approval. The Florida GED Test staff will work with GEDTS to get the accommodation transferred to 2014.

 Good resources:

GEDTS has developed a FAQ on the new test at http://www.gedtestingservice.com/testers/mygedfaqs

Official Florida GED Test staff website at http://ged.fldoe.org

GED Program Manager, Florida Department of Education 850-245-0449 or Toll-free 877-352-4331 (Florida residents only)


Pamela Shrestha

Division of Career and Adult Education

Florida Department of Education



Hi Pamela,

 Thanks for giving us good information about the 2014 GED Tests.  The new test has been a topic that group members have questioned before.  The process of accommodations on the GED Tests is an important one that I have wanted to arrange as a guest speaker event.

I appreciate your participation.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME


It used to be that quite a few accommodations that help persons with ADHD were allowed on the GED WITHOUT formal documentation.  These were things such as colored overlays (and there is a high correlation between visual stress syndrome and ADHD issues), visors, and Koosh balls or something to fidget with.   I know these things were listed in the handbook for testers.  Is this still the case?  Since the GED is on the computer, is it possible for test-takers to change the color of the background on the screen?  This can make a huge difference in being able to focus and read without discomfort for many.  Some people with visual stress syndrome find that hanging a colored overlay over the screen can help if the screen color cannot be changed.  

It may be worth it for this young man and others with trouble focusing to do a lot of self-awareness work and figure out just what does help with focus while working on a computer.  Some people are so bothered by an uncomfortable chair, by extraneous noises or light, or other stimuli on top of the nervousness that taking the test can cause that they are at an extra disadvantage.  Having as much awareness of oneself and what really helps or doesn't help can be an advantage going into the test taking situation-- this can include the effect of color backgrounds on reading, whether having something to manipulate while thinking is helpful, etc.   

Robin Lovrien (Schwarz), M.Sp. Ed: LD; Ph. D.

Consultant in Adult ESOL and Learning Difficulties  

Steuben, ME   

Hi Robin,

Your comments reflect a topic that is important to me.  The majority of teachers I have trained were not aware of these test taking strategies/accommodations.  Even in groups of local GED Examiners, the use of these strategies was not well known or asked for.  They can make a huge difference in the testing experience for students with disabilities.

I am including the actual list below:


Accommodations and Test Taking Strategies

That Do Not Need Approval on the GED Tests

Some accommodations do not require special approval. Also, many people with disabilities have devised, or learned, strategies that help them compensate for their disability, and of these strategies do not require special approval. Some examples are:

  • Using the large-print version of the test—without extended time
  • Use of a straight-edge (no markings) or guide to facilitate the reading of the text, assists spatial orientation
  • Using colored overlays for reading
  • Use of clear transparencies and highlighters
  • Use of Post-it Notes/Flags for spatial orientation
  • Requesting to sit near a window, or away from fluorescent lights, etc., when possible
  • Using graph paper for working through math problems
  • Taking individual tests on different days (granted at discretion of the center and based on available staff)
  • Priority seating
  • Earplugs (disposable, assists concentration)
  • Wearing baseball cap with brim to eliminate glare
  • Sitting next to a fan, heating/ac unit, etc. (to block out distractions)

Other devices as deemed appropriate:   GED Testing Service allows all other devices as long as they compensate for the disability and do not provide an unfair advantage.


I would like to see this topic as a separate, new discussion thread.  Robin, would you like to start one?

Thanks for your contributions, Robin.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME




 Actually the accommodations listed in your post are for the paper test that expired in Dec of 2013.  GED 2014 candidates can no longer bring anything in to the testing room. This includes, graph paper, post its,colored overlays or a straight edge. No hats either! However, they can make the font bigger and change the colors (without an accommodation)  so that will help. This is on the My GED site after they create an account. Seating preferences are ok too.

Also. the paper test is only  given  now as an accommodation.  

I realize there is still a Minor Modifications page on gedtestingservice.com/accommodations that lists these things as acceptable. However, it says to get approval from your GED Chief Examiner and there is no such person anymore at the local level since the beginning of this year. Hence the confusion!!  Maybe it is possible but I'm not aware that we allow these minor modifications. Canada still has the GED paper test so maybe it is geared to them?

Hope this helps eliminate some of the confusion.



Hi Joansd,

Thank you for adding that clarification.  I should have been more specific in my message that it pertained to paper tests.

I am interested in your following statement --  "...it says to get approval from your GED Chief Examiner and there is no such person anymore at the local level since the beginning of this year.   Do you mean there is no GED Chief Examiner in your local area?  Is there is a specific reason for that?  How has that affected your GED test takers?

Rochelle Kenyon, SME


Hi Robin,

  There have been many changes with the new GED 2014. Thie local GED Chief Examiner used to handled the accommodation requests. Now the candidate has to create an account on ged.com and check "yes" to the question, "Do you wish to request accommodating testing conditions for a documented disabiltiy?"  This starts the process and GED Testing Service gets back to them by email.

The decision to provide accommodations (or not) is now in the hands of GED Testing Service, 

The documents that used to go to the GED Chief Examiner now go to GED Testing Service by fax.The directions to do this are emailed.

There is one GED Chief Examiner in FLorida now and she is in Talahassee. It is all done by email. After receiving approval for an accommodation the student can then register for the actual GED. Accommodations are - for the most part - imbedded in the delivery of the test by Pearson, the contractor. Things like extra time, more breaks, etc. are there already.    

      I hope this helps. It has been a challenge and there is still confusing information on the gedtestingservice,com web site. It is getting better though. I wish they would be more clear about the paper test just being given in Canada now. 

btw I'm in Palm Beach County Schools Adult and Community Ed.


Good morning Rochelle-

Last week I shared with my colleagues some of the Accommodations and Test Taking Strategies That Do Not Need Approval on the GED Tests from a discussion back in February.  Specifically, the use of clear transparencies and highlighters.  During my presentation, a question was raised on how would these be used for the 2014 GED? I told the individual I would forward the question.  Can you help explain how these might be used?



Good morning-

How does this impact students with disabilities in corrections education that still qualify for Special Education services?  In most cases, the student will not have access to a medical professional who can sign off that this student has a confirmed disability.  Will the accommodations identified in their most recent eligibility report and IEP be sufficient?   


Ted Oparnico

it is so importan tfor us, as educators, in Adult Ed to understand that we function under the guidelines of the ADA and not IDEA [which covers k-12]. Because of the difference in the law the student must present documentation from a professional in thefield of the disbility in order to be considered for accommodations in the adult world. This goes for adult ed, post secondary ed and employment. IEPs, while containing interesting information about what strategies  that have worked in the past are NOT sufficient to document a disability [the first step toward obtaining an accommodation]. Even for students identified with an intellectual disability or learning disabiltiy bya k-12 school psychologist the IEP alone is not sufficient. The actual assessment report from the school psychologist must be included.

The short answer to Ted's question in NO the IEP is not sufficient. Not the answer we hope for, I know!  Lauri


Thank you for your feedback.  I know that an IEP by itself is not sufficient.  However, I want to understand your response correctly.

If a student has an Eligibility report to include the necessary assessment documentation report, generated and confirmed by a professional school psychologist in the field, that the summary diagnosis identifies a specific disability for an individual student as well as the necessary accommodations, then the psychologist's report would be sufficient.   Am I correct in saying that?  




It is true, a student's k-12 IEP is not sufficient documentation for higher education accommodations, however, along with a current evaluation (within the last year administered by a school or outside psychologist) most higher education insitutions will start the process (once the student has been accepted to their school and self-identified with the insitution) of eligibility and accommodation needs.  The IEP is used in many instances for guidance of an individuals strengths, challenages and most importantly, what accommodations were used effiectively in the past (hoping the IEP only included needed accommodations).  I also understand different insitutions have different requirements, some more demanding then others.  Each higher ed establishment should have a DRC or Disability Resource Center link on their website that should give guidance of the process.

Oklahoma has a very good website OK-AHEAD that has good information under their resources tab in the top menu.  

Try this link:   http://www.ok-ahead.org/


M. Stickney


Thanks for adding the info about the DRCs to our discussion. They are the access point for all accommodations [and often the unsung heroes]  on post secondary campuses. Too bad other adult educational programs e.g. corrections, adult ed etc don't have folks designated to take charge of those tasks delineated byTilte 2 and 3 of the ADA. Lauri

Hi Ted: Very well said,with one caution. The documentation presented to qualify a student as disabled must have been obtained within the appropriate time frame for the specific disablity e.g. LD assessments are usually considered current for 3 years while documentation for psychiatric disabilites are generally considered out of date after 6 months and ID documentation is not ime limited. The GED testing service has guidance on this for us. Laauri

Hello members,

I have had several members say that they could not get the "audio/sound" working for this guest discussion.  Just to be sure that everyone is aware, I wanted to confirm that this is a print-only discussion.  There is no sound component unless you have your own screen reader/text reader to use.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

Ms. Digalbo,

I am interested in the following areas:

Executive Functioning

Delayed learning or slow processing

Universal design (specifically student directed learning, and UDL)


Thank you

Pamela Shrestha



Good morning everyone-

      As a Special Education Program Manager for Adult Corrections here in Idaho, my team and I have found that  "students in corrections do not want to be labeled" should not be a surprise.  Many students arrive already having education challenges as they progressed through the regular or public school settings.  As the students now find themselves in a correctional setting, they are more hesitant to ask for more help and be singled out.  We have found that students will initially be willing to coming to education classes for a few weeks, but then see them sporatically as some of the old thinking and past education experiences begins to come back.  Our challenge is to let them know education staff is willing and ready to assist anyway they can, but at times it is difficult when the student does not make it to classes.  That said, when students do make the commitment to school, the entire education staff does a nice job of making the necessary adjustments to not only students who have a disability, but also do a tremendous job working with students who have not been diagnosed, but still require additional support where necessary academically, functionally, and behaviorally. 

      I will be interested in getting a better understanding today about the Universal Design for Learning template and strategies to improve learning outcomes.  Have other correctional institutions incorporated Universal Design for Learning?  Has it been an effective tool?  





Thanks for presenting on these important areas of adult education for learners with exceptionalities.  Your earlier readings are very informative and give educators and professionals unfamiliar with disabilities in the learning environment a good foundation and great strategies.

This question is pre-mature, hopefully we can discuss it later tomorrow afternoon.  I'm wondering what adult education is offering in the way of transition skills and services that support productive and connected lives for these learners once their education is complete?





Hi Laura and everyone,

Thank you so much for providing us with this great discussion and for all the information you have included. I am going to share all of this with our adult ed folks at our Tech Center.

I work with adult students with disabilities and I am a very strong supporter in the importance of helping students build self-awareness and self-advocacy skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. I find that many of the students, particularly in our adult education programs, are severely lacking in these  areas. I am hoping this will come up in a discussion on transition, perhaps tomorrow. There is so much assistance available if only the student is willing (or in some cases knowledgeable) to take the first step. Without a doubt, taking advantage of available accommodations has made the difference between program completion and failure for my students in vocational certificate programs. I was interested in Ted's comments on students in corrections not wanting to be singled out. I had a former student of mine just recently return to see me about coming back to school. He got out of prison about a year ago. He shared that he had finally gotten his GED. When I asked him if he took advantage of the accommodations he could get, he said oh no.....people in prison don't ask for help because they learn very quickly that there are usually big strings attached. As a result, he told me it took him a long time to decide to call me and ask if I could help him get back into school. This was a real eye-opener for me and shed a lot of light on the whole issue of people not self-identifying and taking advantage of the assistance that may be available to them.

Thank you so much again for all the great information and sharing.


Diane Long

Hi All: As I just emailed to Rochelle ,due to the Nor'easter that arrived yesterday in New England and my need to shovel  [ugh] this AM I am just getting started for the day. I may need to combine two of the sessions in order to complete the info promised today and meet my other commitments. I will do the the Universal Design Strand on its own and post in by mid afternoon. The session on positive behavioral supports and social and emotional support may be combined; if so I will indicate it at the top of the posting.

Again thank you all for questions andcomments so far. Some of them might have been answered as we have moved along. I will respond to all postings though after my formal postings are complete. Lauri

Positive Behavior Support in the Classroom


This session is NOT intended to teach the treatment technique called "Positive Behavior Supports". Rather it is designed to help the adult educator identify interventions from 3 perspectives that will assist students to exhibit behavior appropirate to an adult ed environment.

Structuring the environment certainly includes the physical setting of the classroom. This was addressed yesterday with the concept of Clearing the Visual Field. Using this technique reminds students ofnthe reason they are in adult ed by focusing what they see around the content of learning. Our brains really liketo get consistent messages from our world. But structuring the classroom environment to promote appropriate behavior involves more. It has to do with articulation of expectations. As adults we may believe it is rude to say "out loud" what we believe is common knowledge e..g not interrupting  in class. Yet students report that the more clear the expectations are, academically and in terms of decorum the more comfroatble they are in class.

So how do we structure the classroom from a behavioral perspective?

  • First and foremost ,all adult ed programs should have a written behavior policy that is given to all students upon entry.
  • That policy should be known and followed by all faculty, staff and students
  • Overtly  [outloud] define our expectations for classroom behavior
  • Model the behavior we expect
  • Overtly monitor expected behavior, by identifying compliance as frequently  as we acknowledge academic success
  • AND [this one can be difficult] Enforce a continuum of consequences for inappropriate behavior. Unlike K-12, adult education is not required to retain students who violate behavior policy. It is important to note here that that disability is not an excuse for behavior policy violation. However the ADA suggests variation in reaccess policy for students who violate behavior policy due to disabiltiy related symptoms. When students don't exhibt appropriate behavior ,this process can give us some insight into whether they are incapable of comlpying or unwilling to comply.

The primary reason that adult ed students [or most adults in general] don't exhibit appropriate behavior is thta they don't know what it is! So many of our students did not have a normalized" public school experience or grew up in outside the "typical american culture". If our goal is to help students to succeed in the adult world, then they must develop in two ares: knowledge of adult expectaions in the community in which they live and "soft skills".

Adult world expectations are instilled through practice in a protected setting. Most of us learned them in the protected setting of family Adult education is a protected setting.  That experience is not universal for our students, as you know.Therefore it is essential that we hold our students to the same standards as they will be held to in employment and community. We do them no favors if don't "ramp it up" in our settings in terms of language, dress and demanor. In most cases students would like to comply but they have not been exposed to this information and therefore do not know it! When I consult around this issue wht adult ed  and post secondary programs the most common misconception around behavior compliance is that the student "knows better and just doesn't care".

Now on to "soft skills". These are also called executive functioning or technical skills and include; organization, planning impulse control, prioritization etc. Genrally we learn these skill intutively through practice. For students who are inefficient thinkers and those who have not been exposed to opportunites to use these skills they must be overtly taught! YES...we get to teach "grown up " behavior too. Adult students appreciate being told overtly that they need to modify their behavior. Subtlety is wasted here.....but kindness is not!

 We rarely think of the important role we play  in our students' lives. It is good to ocaissionally take time to realize that often we are th efirst adult who actually believed in their abilit yto succeed [see Hopefulness discussion in session 4]. We have remarkable influence in their lives. This is both a blessing and a curse. We can and should model behavior and hold ourstudents to the level of behavior that is required to be successful when they leave us. In this waywe treat them as peers.

Yet we also have an obligation to be clear about where our relationship ends. It is absolutely heartbreaking when a student misinterprets the interaction with a teacher/staff to be more than it is. Some student may never have felt  who cared for  in any way and therfore isn't familiar with the many levles of caring that exist between humans. But we are, and therefore the responsibility lies with us to treat provide clear messages [again an opportunity for modeling]. So, once again, good professional boundaries, are helpful for the student and for you. That clarity  reduces anxiety andstress on both sides.

Speaking of stress; Adult Ed is loaded with it; because it is an educational environmet in which many of them have failed before. Think how stressful it is to attempt something that you haven't done well at before. And these guys do it voluntarily .....they get huge credit from me!!

Stress is the primary antecedent to inappropritae behavior and it doesn'thelp learning either!  Here are some tips for mediating stress;

  • #1  make academic and behavioral expectations clear
  • Be sure everyone has the materials to complete required tasks...this is especialy important with work outside of class.
  • Give postive recognition to all students...but don't be disingenuous [it is really obvious]
  • Express interest in the students from the perpsective of our role. When conversations come up ,as they will, around personal issues refer the student to someone qualified to deal with the issue. Anything realted to school and learnig is fair game for you...therapy issues are not! By doing this you gvie the student 2 gifts; one is the clear sense of who you are in his/her life; the other is the knowledge of resources in the community for future use.
  • Encouragement to improve not only in the classroom towards their goasl but in life. You  would be surprised how may of our students believe that they can't improve, change and grow [well maybe you would beleive it!]

Finally I want to give you a template for creating a behavioral support plan that we have used in Ct with some success. Just Remeber this is not a clinical positve behavioral support plan.. Rather it is a way to think about the student's behavior and devise ways to address it in your environment

First; Identify the behavior FUNCTIONALLY, not by precieved intent oft he behavior or your feelings about it. It may help to seperate out the behavior into it's components and tackle them individually.

Second: List strategies  [or ways] that you can change the physical environment, your behavior and/or your teaching methods to specifically address that behavior.

This session is a combination of agenda sessions 5 and 6 [or Day II sessiosn 1and 2]. I'm taking a break and will be back to post the last session of this discussion on Universal Design.




Thanks for sharing.  Some of the key components are good reminders when working with any student: We have to model the behavior we expect from the students we teach (our actions speak louder than our words).  Expectations need to be clearly defined with professionalism and respect.  Helping students work through the soft skills are good traits to master when preparing themselves to enter the work force.  Teachers should always be looking for opportunities to encourage students to take calculated risks, let them know we believe they will be successful and be quick to recognize when they reach a set goal or accomplishment. 



Universal Design in Adult Education


Universal Design is a concept that grew out of the Disability Movement in the 1970'. it began at the University of California, Berkeley when a number of students who used wheelchairs were unablet o access some of the campus buildings.

" If a design works well for a person with a disabiltiy it probably works better for everybody" Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director of Adaptive Environments in Boston

Universal Design is defined as the creation of products, processes and environments that are used by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

By the beginning of this century universal design for learning was being implemented in post secondary education [see the work of Shaw, Mcguire and Madaus at the University of Connecticut.] By creating a flexible learning environment for all students we develop a more efficient and cost effective system of education Of course this doesn't just apply to colleges and universities. It applies to adult education as well.

Why is Universal Design an effiecient  way of delivering adult education?

  • it acknowledges that sudents have varied backgrounds and therefore need varied learning expereinces
  • It acknowledges that students hav varied degrees of language development and therefore information presented in varied ways
  • It acknowledges that students have different learning styles and preferences and therfore will learn beter and more qiuckly when those styles and preferences are utilized.


  • It allows us to teach to every students' individual strength while exposing all students to multiple ways of learning. The more generic strateiges we use for all our students in all our educational environments the less we will have to specialize teaching and create accommodations for individual students saving time, money and promoting inclusion..

Universal design does that by focusing on 3 areas;

Allowing for Multiple Means of Representation: giving learners various ways of aquiring information. Here we give students many ways to aquire information e.g. reading, interiewing,  research, attending lecture in the community etc.

Allowing Multpile Means of Expression: provide learners alternative ways to demonstrate what they know. Here we allow students to demonstrate learning in the manner most comfortable for them; oral presentation, in writing, test taking on paper ,test taking orally ,projects etc

In both of the above theteacher must be facile in his/her teaching techniques. My experience has been the adult educators intuitively teach from a universal design perspective because you have so many students with divergent learning  needs. I also find that adult educators are "ego less" when it comes to meeting student's needs. In the adult ed world it it all about the students [not always so in post secondary ed]. It is why I so enjoy worknig in Adult Ed.

Utilizing Multiple Means of Engagement: taps into learner's interests through a varieity of venues which challenge them and motivate them to learn. Here not only different ways of presenting information and measuring mastery are necessary but also the interactiveprocess of teaching e.g. flexible teaching times, flexible class locations, changing "teaching style" according to student's comfort. For me this resonates with the fact that the atmosphere of my classes tend to be different depending upon the student makeup. My job is to figure out how best to reach them; do I use humor [my personal favorite]? Do I stick to  direct content and not  stories to elaborate? Do they need a lot of reassurance or are they self actualized as learners? All of this analysis speaks to my  ability to modufy how to engage with them in the teaching moment.

One thing is for sure; we as teachers must be  versatile, flexible and knowledgeable in our profession to implement universal design for learning..It is also sure that if we teach from that perspective more students will feel confident and included in the learning process. These students will realize that there are many ways to learn and that we all learn a bit differently.This is the first step in "Learning How to Learn" or Metacognition

If a student can develop an attack plan for all new learning in his/her life, then we have had a lasting impact.  Below isa sequence that can be routinized by students  to learn to think [problem solve, live a successful life]

  • Define the task or problem
  • Brainstorm steps that one migh take to solve the probelm
  • Put the steps in logical order ;creating a plan [some steps may no longer make sense and get turfed away]
  • Consider the consequences of implementation of the plan
  • Look for alternatives if need be  may include considering input from others]
  • Decide to act

How interestingt o know that efficient thinkers learn this process intuitvely and with fully developed frontal lobes can execute the process in a matter of seconds from beginning to end. So many of our students have no idea that learning is a skill. They beleive you are either born with the skill or are out of luck. What a gift for them to realize that it is a process that weall need to learn and  then use the rest of our lives.




And so ends theformal component of this discussion thread...Once again ,thank you  who have preesnted questions and comments. I truly hope we can continue the dialogue, adding others along the way, for a some time to come. There is so much to learn and share with eachother. I will be getting back to all of you after a bit of typing rest!

Special thanks to Rochelle Kenyon and Dorjan Chaney for guidng me through the process of preparing and delivering the 6 sessions. Lauri


It is unfortunate that students in prison do not take more advantage of the opportunities provided to them.  As student advocates, I know it is our obligation to continue to offer the support and assistance available to students in prison, but I have found that I cannot care more about them getting to school and taking advantage of those opportunities.  It truly has to come from within the student.  When the student is ready, so will we be to assist...


Hi Ted,

I agree completely with you that it needs to come from the student first and foremost; the very reason behind why awareness and self-advocacy skills are so important. I just want to clarify some parts of my comment from yesterday to make sure that there was no misunderstanding. What my student was saying to me was that he didn't ask for help from the instructors because of  relationships  inmates had with each other and what would happen if  they would ask each other for help. That negative experience was then carried over to others (such as teachers). That was the main reason he was so hesitant to contact me. We feel the same kind of frustration you're talking about when students choose not to self-identify at the postsecondary level and take advantage of services available at our school because of the stigma and feelings they had, sometimes carried over from many years ago, that so often accompany labeling. It is so wonderful when you come upon students who really understand the importance of accepting their disability and then putting it in its proper perspective. That's when they can really move forward. We are always looking for new ways to assist students with this so I welcome any additional comments/ideas.


Diane Long


I understand your position that self advocacy is difficult for students with disabilities to ask for help due to previous and still current learning challenges. We can only hope that students can learn from their past old ways in education and embrace the opportunities to engage in their learning by asking for the necessary help, to stick with it through the difficult moments, and know the end result will be increased self confidence, sense of accomplishment, and a purpose to continue new learning opportunities in the future as they are guarenteed to come.  May you have continued success with your students in the days and weeks ahead. 




Hello Ted and Diane,

I appreciate both of your observations and comments concerning educating students in a secure setting and the stigmas and nuances that effect their willingness to take advantage of offered accommodations. I think one answer is for educators and facilities to take advantage of advances in available technology as well as the concepts of a flipped classroom or blended learning environment. One great thing about these models is that the learning is individualized, so the stigma is lessened because "weakness" is not highlighted or displayed.  There are still challenges in trying to move adult classrooms toward these models, not the least of which is finding affordable hardware or devices or utilizing a "bring your own device" system. The tides do seem to be turning to a certain extent, but there is still a ways to go. 

-- Heather 

Hi all,

The formal part of Laura Digalbo's presentation has been completed.  Yesterday she covered an additional two main topics including  1) Positive Behavior Support in the Classroom  and  2)  Universal Design in Adult Education.

More Interesting comments were posted by group members.

Despite her very busy work schedule (and her snow shoveling ), Laura will be addressing all your questions.

She will continue to address your questions within this same discussion strand, so be on the lookout.  Here is a list of all the questions.  If I have missed your question, please re-post it.


1)   How do you make incorporating this information a simple process for a small group of overextended instructors?

2)   Does the DOE study you referenced get mention in one of the links posted prior to the discussion?

3)   At what point (percentage or other way of categorizing it) do you determine whether a student has mastered a lesson before moving onto the next lesson?

4)   The process of accommodations on the new GED seem a little confusing. How can we as teachers help our students understand this process?

5)  Executive Functioning

6)  Delayed learning or slow processing

7)  Universal design (specifically student directed learning, and UDL)

8)  Have other correctional institutions incorporated Universal Design for Learning?  Has it been an effective tool?  

9)   I'm wondering what adult education is offering in the way of transition skills and services that support productive and connected lives for these learners once their education is complete?


Members can continue to discuss within our group on the topics brought up during this discussion.

In another message, I asked Robin Lovrien to begin a new discussion strand on the Use of Test Taking Strategies/Accommodations That Don't Require Approval on the GED Tests.  That would be on the "Discussions" page as a new strand if she accepts my invitation.

Thanks again to our guest speaker, Laura Digalbo for sharing her wealth of experience and knowledge -- and to all our group members who contributed to the discussion.  Lastly, thank you to all the group members who are behind-the-scene participants and continue to read each post.  If you are not aware, each page within the LINCS COP has a notation with the number of times that page was read.  This gives me a good indication of how many people are following along with the discussion.

Rochelle Kenyon, Subject Matter Expert

Disabilities in Adult Education Group


I have really enjoyed all the comments made during this discussion; from concern over the GED test taking porcess to enahncing self esteem  ass tudents and beyond to continueddiscussion of universal design for learning.

Rochelle has done a wonderful job of pullingtogehterthe issues and questions for me...so during thisweek I will responding to eadh one, giving thought to your input and nuances.

All the responses will follow along here, except my response ot SueP',s inital comments on finding a way to incorporate the "student engagement questions" into a porcess that is not overwhelming for our already over whelmed teachers [my words!]. Before i knew that Rochelle had organized me so well I responded to this question at the beginnig of the discussion thread. So scroll back to see my response if you like!

2] The DOE study content referred to  in session 2 is from a presentation that Sue Pimental did  entitled "Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards." . If you look at the U S. Dept of Education website and go the Research tab and then to Reading Instruction [2011] you should find more in depth info.

3] The issue of mastery is such an interesting one.It hits at the heart of what we intend to evaluate , and what we actually evaluate in education! Formal testing evaluates a students ability to have received information, retrieve the information and report it back. Arguably the components of remebering and reporting what has been presented. Effective learning,cemented learning  or mastery has to do with the student's sbility to use what has been presented appropriately and independently.

SO...demonstration of mastery of the concepts, information and processes taught would include opportunites for the student to demonstrate facility with  the information. This can be done through actual activities or quesions targetted at independent thought using the concepts or information. Needless to say this method of assessment does not lend itself to, multiple chioce , fill in the blank or  matching types of testing.All of these modalites have their place especially if we are assessing recognition and memory.. Combined with the  modalities that test facility with  the information presented they can give a full picture of response to teaching including how well the student attended, can file away info, retrieve it and report it back a swell as whether he/she will be able to use it in the future. [My vision of why we are here!]

To the degree that teachers can provide opportunites to practice using the info,concepts and processes they present; mastery will increased.

4] Accommodations and the GED.

I really like info that Rochelle posted including strategies that students can use that are not considered accommodations unde rthe law. These are very important as so many of our students do not have documentation of a disability and therefore are not elgiblefor formal accommdations.

i find it helpful to have that list of possbile ways to "focus attenton " in my arsenal so that when a student reports difficulty focusing theteacher can pull it up and engage in a discussion with the student to see if there is one that might help. Since there all sorts of reasons why students can't focus attention, some disability related, but many not. This "engagement tool"  becomes a univerasl design strategy to help all students. It is also very exciting for students to realize the many ways they are to learn.

I do have one caution though. If the student responds to a strategy that we know ,through our knowledge of the GED accommodation process, will not be allowed generically and therfore will require documentation. And if that sudent has no way to get documentation then we have an ethical [my word] obligation to not onlyto  tell thestudent but to attempt in every way possible to diminsh his/her reliance on that accommodatiion for one that is generic. I have found it heart breaking to see a student get through GED class,be ready for the test ,only to realize the very method that he/she came to rely  is prohibited for the high stakes test.

5 &6]  I believe request for information on Executive Functioning and Slow Cognitive Processing was requsted before I poste the sessions where they were discussed. BUT...please if there are specific questions or a desire to explore the concepts in more depth please let me know!

By now you must know more about my life e.g. shoveling etc that you want or need to....but here we go again; family obligations take me away this Sunday afternoon. I will attempt to repy to question/comments  #7-9 tomorrow. Lauri

I"M BACK, it's Monday and I hope your weekend was wonderful.

So on to #7 concernig Universal Design for Learning especially as it relates to student directed learning.

I always try to begin a program with "Student Engaged Assessment" and end with "Universal Design for Learning" becasue they go hand in hand. We often work with students who have varying learning issues which may not rise to the level of a disability or have not been formally evaluated. a large number in Adult Ed. Our best bet for successful instruction is to offer a varied processes for taking in information and for expressing knowledge to all our students. This universal approach will mediate for the classroom issues presented by most disabilities while helping all students to be more comfortable learning. Universal design is never intended to change or modify content rather it allows for modification of process!

When we have the conversation I suggested in the session about  engaging students in the asssessment process we discover, from them, how they learn best. Student directed learning is merely taking that infrmation and, to every degree possible, incorporate the options for receiving and demonstrating learning using those methodologies. As I mentioned earlier and adult ed teachers report that they have been doing this intuitvely all along.

Clearly "student directed learning" does not give students control over the teaching process. It does give teachers a greater opportunity to promote successful learning by allowing students to use processes that have worked in the past. If those processes do not work now the teacher may have gained enough  insight into their issues to suggest other methods of attack.

A very good way to manage the process of student directed learning is to give the class structured choices of ways to learn e.g. group reading, individual reading, partner reading. This process increases engagement in learning by the students while not being overwhelming  for the teacher or inapporpriate for the content o the instruction.

8] I so appreciated Diane,Ted and Heather's input around the dilemma of working with students in the Corrections environment. The dedication of those who teach in our correctional facilites is awe inspiring.

These students are "multilpy disadvantaged". Statistics here in Ct have estimate  that over 85% of inmates have cognitive processing difficulties. The majority of them lack appropriate education due to such factors as poor attendance, inappropriate opportunities to learn , poverty, fear laden  communities, lack of good nutrition to name a few. In addtion they have the expereince of living in the "culture of incarceration". I think the postings between Ted and  Diane spoke eloquently to this issue. And I beleive there is much more for us to learn from our colleagues who work with students who are incarcerated or have been released to the community[which has it's own set of concerns].

My professional experience with the Corrections System has been around diagnosis and treatment of inmates with aquired brain injuries not the educational process. I welcome hearing more from those of you work in correctional  environments and with students who have been released.. I can  say that the more areas of disenfranchisement [disability, criminal justice involvement, lack of education, poverty ,trauma ethnic or racial minority etc] a person must deal with, the more complex the process of learning may be.

9] Great question about focus on transition from adult ed to the world of postsecondary ed, employment and general adult living!

Here in Ct we have an interagency, interdisciplinary focus group sponsored by the State Dept of Ed Bureau of Adult Ed, that I chair.  The members of the group include staff from the Dept of Labor, Adult Ed, Corrections [special ed ], the Dept of Mental Health and Addiciton Services [both clinical and educational sides], Dept of Social Services [public assistance], theDept of Rehabilitation Services [voc rehab], Veteran'sAffairs and Literacy Volunteers. While this group's mssion is to create collaboration amongst the agencies for the benefit of adult ed students in transition.It came about from a need to collaborate around supporting students with disabilites. However our meetings, conversations and sponsored trainings can't help but spill over to the issues faced by all adult ed students for all the reasons we have discussed througout this discussion strand.

I have a real vested interest in hearing what is happening in your locations around transtion because I worked in the VR program for years focusing on transtion form k-12 to adulthood, and so see the need in adult ed for all students. Is it an ongoing focus, is it even on your radar screen? Please weigh in.

Thanks to you all who posted thoughts and insights during andimmediately after the formal discussion. I am looking forward to continued dialogue and learning more from your experiences through continuing "discussion conversations .. Lauri DiGalbo


Laura and Rochelle,

What a succesful conversation!  Thank you so much for your insight.  I believe that it was very helpful for many.

Meryl Becker-Prezocki