Tools for Teaching

Many techniques that will help students with disabilities will also benefit all the students in your class. 

General Strategies

At the beginning of each semester, faculty are encouraged to make an announcement or put a statement on their syllabi such as: “Any student who feels that he or she warrants accommodations for a disability, please see the Director of the Learning Enrichment and Disability Services Office.”

When the student discusses the Access Letter with you, focus on understanding the student’s needs and how to overcome the student’s limitations. You do not need to know the diagnosis and often it is irrelevant since each situation is unique.

Good Teaching Practices

  • Implement universal design methods when planning your class experiences and evaluation methods. Faculty who do so successfully enable all students to have a better learning experience and more accurately reflect their learning when evaluated.
  • Established the essential components and learning objectives of your course. Consequently, if a concern occurs in this area, you will have pre-determined criteria as a basis for appealing an accommodation decision.
  • Have a semester plan with due dates for assignments, projects, papers, and examinations. Stay with the plan as closely as possible. Students with disabilities who need certain accommodations are disadvantaged when faculty suddenly require new material or don’t provide adequate advance notice of changes in examination dates.
  • Be sensitive to questions of access when planning field trips, assigning labs, computer or group work, and requiring visits to museums, attendance at off-campus lectures and dramatic presentations, and the like.
  • Open each new class period with a brief review of the previous session’s material and an outline of the points that will be covered. Conclude each session with a summary of key points.
  • Emphasize new or technical vocabulary and/or material by presenting it visually (on the chalkboard, an overhead slide, or a handout), orally and kinetically when possible.
  • Give students opportunities to ask questions, clarify, and review.
  • Speak clearly. Explain what you are writing on the board or what you are demonstrating.
  • Face the class when you are speaking.
  • When changing due dates or assignment specifics either write them on the board, overhead or hand out the information so that all students are aware of the change.
  • In-class discussion and conversation directly address the student.
  • Repeat comments or questions from participants as necessary.
  • Decide and make readings and required materials available in advance. Students who need printed materials in audio format or enlarged often require some lead time in making this happen. Other students simply need additional time to read and comprehend.
  • Learn about technological aids available to students.
  • Find out the relevant adaptive computer equipment that is available for students.
  • If you assign films or videos, obtain them with captions. Check with the Audio-Visual Center and/or find out about the Captioned Films Program, which distributes captioned theatrical, short subject, documentary, and educational films.
  • Provide appropriate test-taking conditions as described in the Access Letter given to you by the student.
  • Endeavor to facilitate other accommodations (such as encouraging a peer to be a note-taker, provide your notes or PowerPoint slides, or use technology) that are outlined in the Access Letter.
  • Provide opportunities for students to get small group or individualized assistance through office hours, Teaching Assistants, peer tutors, and/or structured small group study sessions.

Adapted from Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis; Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1993.

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