COE special ed. program moves

Anya Zentmeyer

Grand Valley State University’s special education program is moving graduate students into the real world, partnering with local schools in mutually-beneficial coursework that puts graduate students in the classroom to do one-on-one work with students who have disabilities.

In the College of Education’s “Colleagues” magazine for winter/spring semester, a newsletter written by Elaine Collins, dean of the COE at GVSU, said the college is in the process of embedding the special education program entirely within a local school system.

“Our expectation is that students will not only learn the latest research but also learn through clinical application,” Collins wrote. “In turn, the school system will have the support of a team of adults to assist in their district.”

Paula Lancaster, associate professor in the special education department and leader of the initiative, said there is currently a total of five graduate courses already are offered in Wyoming Public Schools — both the high school and elementary school — and Grandville Public Schools.

Next fall, the special education program will begin gradually moving the undergraduate assessment classes into local schools as well, with the goal of helping students to learn about the specific assessments during class time and then apply the new knowledge to assist school personnel in assessing children in the schools.

The plan is for the method courses to follow.

In the existing courses, graduate students’ courses are held in the schools, with two hours dedicated to traditional instruction with a professor and the third hour spent in the classroom, working with the children to apply the new methods.

“So our students, the graduate students, learn various theories and interventions and practices related to those topical areas,” Lancaster said. “Then, when the children come in, they implement those things.”

Mostly, the courses focus on early reading skills, oral language development and math.

“So, it offers them an opportunity to give some of their children who are struggling the most, it offers them an opportunity to give those kids some very intense support that they otherwise wont get,” Lancaster said. “The schools that we work with have given us nothing but positive feedback, so it has been consistently positive. They go out of their way to make these things work, primarily because they know that they’re giving the kids something that they otherwise might not be able to give.”

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