/ Publication / Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Analysis of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching

Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Analysis of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching
Published on December 4, 2016

Modified on December 4, 2016

Report #4: Teaching


Currently, many prospective teachers are enrolling in online courses offered through their universities as part of their initial preparation. The coursework in these teacher education programs at institutions of higher education may consist individual classes online through a traditional university or completing degrees in fully online university programs. In fact, according to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Preparation (AACTE), as many as 75% of universities offered online teaching preparation in 2013. However, being prepared with online coursework is not the same as being prepared for online teaching responsibilities (Rice, Mellard, & Carter, 2016). In addition, Kennedy and Archambault (2012) found that only 1.3 % of teacher education programs are preparing teachers for K-12 online teaching. A more recent survey found that this number had only increased to 4.1 % (Archambault, Kennedy, Shelton, Dalal, McAllister, & Huyett, 2016). Further these dismal numbers do not reflect preparation for K-12 online teaching that attends to disability. This report includes a summary of the need for this research and a summary of the methodology but focuses primarily on the findings specific to the iNACOL Teaching Standards.

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Written By
  • Mary F. Rice, University of Kansas
  • Daryl F. Mellard, University of Kansas
  • Jesse R. Pace, University of Kansas
What we already know about this topic
  • Quality teaching provides instructional strategies and other specific support to students with disabilities that includes but moves beyond Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) when appropriate
  • Teachers should engage in a variety of strategies to monitor student progress through the course and intervene as early as possible when problems arise
  • Students need assistance in attending to the vocabulary presented and other textual demands
  • Students with disabilities need extended opportunities for learner-learner engagement and general social skill development
What this report adds
  • Introduces the process of reviewing the iNACOL standards for online teaching.
  • Reports major implications across all three reviews.
  • Directs readers to additional sources and key issues.
Implications for practice and/or policy

The revisions of these standards form the basis by which teachers can be evaluated and supported in their work with students with disabilities. This evaluation can take place both formally and informally in consultation with administrators and other colleagues. In particular, the revisions to the standards empower the teacher to individualize curriculum for students with disabilities and to advocate for that responsibility within their schools. Proposed revisions to the standards were made with an orientation of particular care and respect for the work that teachers do with students in online learning environments. It was very important during the process to think about what a teacher should do within their professional roles and responsibilities versus what others involved in the online learning process are better positioned to do (administrators, course designers, parents, related services providers, and so forth). Additional consideration was taken for what teachers were prepared to do and what they could do with additional preparation and professional development. From a policy standpoint, we know that not everything we recommend will be easy to implement. But we hope that practice, research, and policy will be mutually supportive in taking up the challenge to implement the standards to the greatest extent possible. Policies around teacher evaluation should consider the ideals and goals of quality teaching against the realities of the online teaching context for students with disabilities as they make judgments about resource allocation and determine the quality of service delivery.

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