Expanded core curriculum: 12 years later.
Parenting (Psychological aspects)
Special education teachers (Services)
Teachers of disabled children (Services)
Visually disabled children (Education)
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X|
|Issue:||Date: Feb, 2009 Source Volume: 103 Source Issue: 2|
|Topic:||Event Code: 360 Services information|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
Abstract: This study investigated changes in teachers' and
parents' understanding and implementation of or philosophy on the
implementation of the content areas of the expanded core curriculum for
students who are visually impaired. The results demonstrated some
changes since the original survey results were reported in 1998 and a
discrepancy between the perceptions of parents and teachers of
teachers' level of knowledge of the expanded core curriculum.
As several of us continue to travel the United States promoting the teaching of the expanded core curriculum (ECC), we realize the paucity of literature that we can use in our efforts. Now, thanks to Keri and Karen, we have an up-to-date study of the current state of the art of the ECC among a small population of parents and teachers. Although one may criticize the small sample, it should not be considered such in our field.
Keri and Karen report on some significant findings among both parents and educators--findings that should motivate us to provide more professional development and parent education about the ECC. The findings also emphasize the issue of "time to teach," as well as a gap in knowledge and awareness between parents and professionals. It should be clear to the reader that this should be just the beginning of collecting data that will guide instruction in the ECC in the future.
The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those Who Have Multiple Disabilities (hereafter the National Agenda; Corn, Hatlen, Huebner, Ryan, & Siller, 1995) began as a facilitated discussion in 1995, suggested by Mary Nelle McClennan as part of the annual conference of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). From that conference, a small group of professionals, including Anne Corn and Phil Hatlen, identified key issues in the education of children and youths who are visually impaired--that is, those who are blind or have low vision (for an annotated chronology, see Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, TSBVI, 2006).
A structure to lead a grassroots effort (steering committee, national goal leaders, and state coordinators) was established to collect and analyze data on the eight goal areas of the National Agenda. The original cochairs were Donna Stryker and Phil Hatlen, representing a strong partnership between families and professionals. As part of the original structure, data were collected nationally on each chosen goal area and published as A Report to the Nation (Corn & Huebner, 1998). The survey for Goal 8 of the ECC asked three questions to determine the ability of teachers of students with visual impairments and certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists to assess and instruct students in the ECC, address barriers to instruction, and provide solutions if they were unable to provide instruction. At that time, the survey falsely assumed that teachers had accepted the need to implement the ECC. Most respondents indicated they were unable to assess and provide instruction in the ECC content areas because of large caseloads, inadequate assessment materials, and the need to address academic areas. Solutions included summer programs, partnerships with special-purpose schools (schools for students who are visually impaired), and in-service training for professionals and administrators. Another study, conducted by Wolffe et al. (2002), found that teachers continued to focus on general education and were not providing instruction in the ECC content areas.
In 2002, two additional goal areas, transition and ongoing professional staff development, were identified, and national goal leaders were identified. Two additional cochairs were identified (parent and professional) at that time. Since then, the national goal leaders have been using a results-based decision-making process designed by Friedman (1996) to identify baseline data, critical partners, and indicators of success. The national goal leaders for Goal 8, Phil Hatlen and Debbie Willis (of APH), decided to create and distribute a survey to gather current data on the value, understanding, and implementation of the ECC (the lead author of this article joined the goal leaders in 2006).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 mandates that functional outcomes, as well as academic outcomes, be addressed in every individualized education program (IEP). This act has changed the relationship of the field of visual impairment and blindness and the ECC, since teachers are now required by the federal government to assess and provide instruction in the ECC content areas. The ECC is designed to go beyond the core components of math, reading, writing, and science to address essential areas and experiences that are unique to persons who are visually impaired (Pugh & Erin, 1999). These areas should be taught in addition to the core curriculum, because they are specific to the disability of visual impairment. However, some research has suggested that the ECC can be successfully integrated into some areas of the core curriculum (Lohmeier, 2003).
The nine areas of the ECC are those that are typically learned incidentally by sighted children through observing role models. Although children who are visually impaired have little or no opportunity to learn such skills by observation, they have the opportunity to acquire them through sequential systematic instruction by a knowledgeable person (a teacher of students with visual impairments or a certified O&M specialist). The nine areas of the ECC are compensatory or access skills, social interaction skills, recreational and leisure skills, O&M skills, independent living skills, assistive technology and technology skills, career education, sensory efficiency skills (previously known as visual efficiency, which includes tactile and auditory skills as well as visual skills), and self-determination skills (Hatlen, 1996, 2003). Box 1 presents the ECC content areas, their definitions, and examples of skills that need to be developed in these areas.
Surveys were designed by Phil Hatlen, Debbie Willis, and Karen Blankenship in 2005 to gather information from professionals and parents on their understanding of the ECC content areas, the degree to which they value the ECC, and the ways in which they or their children's teachers are implementing the ECC content areas. The cover letter included with the survey provided a brief description of the National Agenda, Goal 8 (assessment and instruction in the ECC content areas), as well as of the efforts of the goal leaders. The participants were asked to return the completed surveys to the third author. The surveys consisted of questions on the demographic characteristics of the participants and questions on the participants' understanding, value, and implementation of the ECC content areas. Responses for some questions were on a Likert-type scale (for example, no goals known, some goals known, most goals known, and all goals known) or in a yes, no, or don't know format.
The first section of the parent survey consisted of 4 questions on the respondents' demographic characteristics and prior level of exposure to the National Agenda. The first section of the professional survey consisted of 6 forced-choice questions on the respondents' demographic characteristics, prior level of exposure to the National Agenda, and employment information. The second section of the parent survey had 7 forced-choice questions and 1 comment space. The 7 questions were used to measure awareness of the ECC, perceptions of service to their children in these areas, and perceptions of the ability to effectively carry out these services of the specialists working with their children. The second section of the professional survey consisted of 14 questions that were broken up into 10 forced-choice questions, 2 open-ended questions, and 2 general comments sections; these questions were used to measure the implementation of the ECC, the frequency with which the specialized areas were addressed in the classroom, obstacles in carrying out instruction, and potential solutions. Overall trends in responses were calculated through cross-tabulations and graphic charts.
The surveys were developed and distributed at national conferences, such as the annual conferences of APH, California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped, and Texas Focus; included in the newsletter of the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments; and distributed by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In addition, surveys were made accessible on the TSBVI web site. Notification of the survey on the web site was communicated to the participants through e-mail messages, letters, statewide National Agenda meetings, and word of mouth. The national goal leaders did not use electronic discussion groups or other large electronic lists of participants to distribute the surveys, but notification of the electronically accessible surveys was included in the newsletter of the Itinerant Personnel Division (Division 16) of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), the largest organization of teachers of students with visual impairments in the country.
A total of 90 surveys were completed and received: 40 parent surveys and 50 professional surveys. Of the 50 professional surveys that were received, the majority were from teachers of students with visual impairments (70%, n = 35), dually certified teachers and certified O&M specialists (22%, n = 11), and teachers certified in other areas (8%, n = 4); none was received from certified O&M specialists. Surveys were completed or downloaded by the participants, and hard copies of their responses were sent to the Goal 8 national goal leaders for calculation and analysis.
The results were aggregated as appropriate for surveys. Of the 90 participants, most were from 14 states: Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
PARTICIPATION OF PARENTS
The primary exposure of parents to the National Agenda before reading the cover letter that accompanied the survey was minimal--no exposure (60%, n = 24), previous exposure (22.5%, n = 9), and not certain (5%, n = 5); two participants did not respond to this question. The parents' responses to the question about teachers' or O&M specialists' level of knowledge of the content of the ECC also varied; the most significant responses were some content known (25%, n = 10), all content known (22.50%, n = 9), and no content known (10%, n = 4). In addition, 50% of the parents (n = 20) thought that the teachers or O&M specialists were committed and dedicated to teaching the ECC content areas, and 32% (n = 13) did not know. The parents also indicated that they understood the time restraints that teachers and O&M specialists face in teaching these areas (57%, n = 23) to their children.
The parents stated that when they participate in their children's IEP meetings, it is apparent that their children's skills in areas of the ECC have not been evaluated (45%, n = 18). For ECC areas that were evaluated during the IEP meetings (40%, n = 16), the parents thought that the IEP goals developed from the evaluations addressed educational needs in the ECC (57.50%, n = 23). With regard to the appropriateness of the instruction that their children were receiving in the ECC, 37.50% (n = 15) thought that their children were not receiving appropriate instruction, 35% (n = 14) thought that their children were receiving appropriate instruction, and 27.50% (n = 11) stated that they did not know if their children were receiving appropriate instruction.
PARTICIPATION OF PROFESSIONALS
The primary exposure of teachers of students with visual impairments and certified O&M specialists to the National Agenda before they read the accompanying cover letter was high--previous exposure (60%, n = 30), no exposure (36%, n = 18), and not certain (4%, n = 2). The participants were further asked how knowledgeable they thought their fellow professionals were in the goals of the National Agenda. Although many thought that their fellow professionals in their states were not necessarily well versed in all the National Agenda's goals (only 33% thought that "some "goals were known by their counterparts), they thought that their counterparts were knowledgeable about the contents of the ECC-most content known (40.43%, n = 19), some content known (27.66%, n = 13), no content known (17.02%, n = 8), and all content known (14.89%, n = 7); 3 responses were left unanswered. The participants also noted that they are professionally committed to the critical need for assessment and instruction in the ECC skills, but factors often limit their ability to do so.
The survey also examined teachers' preparation and limitations to instruction in the ECC. The participants indicated that university teacher preparation programs in visual impairment are attempting to spend more time creating resources for and providing assistance to future teachers in the ECC, but more instruction needs to be provided for future teachers--only 25% thought that ample time was being spent. When teaching in classrooms in the field, time continues to be a constraint because multiple curricula need to be addressed. The results indicate that even within the ECC areas, some areas are more likely to be treated as priorities and taught because of the time constraints--57% of the participants stated that they did not have time to teach the ECC. Table 1 presents areas of the ECC that the two groups of professionals listed as those that they were more likely to teach than others. As can be seen, technology was the most prevalent area of instruction (22.9%), followed by social skills (12%), and O&M (10.8%). Areas that were the least likely to be taught were recreational and leisure skills (1.2%, n = 1), self-determination (1.2%, n = 1), and visual (sensory) efficiency (2.4%, n = 2).
Even with the obstacle of time constraints, the results indicate that professionals in the field of visual impairment understand the need for and are committed to providing instruction in the ECC. These professionals were given the opportunity to reflect on innovative ways that ECC skills can be taught. Some professionals recommended using the special-purpose schools (schools for students who are visually impaired) to implement the ECC fully. Table 2 presents their suggestions.
For questions that were the same for both the professionals and the parents, the responses were cross tabulated to compare the perceptions of the two groups. The results indicate that both groups believed that children are being served by teachers who are committed to instruction in the ECC. However, their perceptions of the professionals' knowledge of the content areas of the ECC differed. Most parents did not believe that the knowledge base of their children's teachers or O&M specialists in the content areas of the ECC was as comprehensive as the professionals believed it was (see Figure 1).
Additional qualitative data were collected by the second author during national presentations (2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d; 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; 2008a, 2008b) on effective instructional practices for the ECC. After the presentations, the participants identified what they knew, what they wanted to learn, and what they had learned from the presentations. The majority of the participants wanted to know how to integrate instruction in the ECC into the typical school day and were worried that parents, students, and administrators did not fully value and understand the importance of the ECC.
The results demonstrate a gap in the perceptions of parents and professionals of the knowledge and awareness of the ECC of professionals. This gap may represent a weakness in communication between professionals and parents. Professionals may be teaching the ECC skills, but may not provide enough feedback to parents about the purpose of their children's instruction, the children's progress in developing a skill, and the necessity for the parents to promote the generalization and reinforcement of the skill.
The professionals indicated that they struggle with techniques and time to teach the ECC areas. Table 2 presents many suggestions that the professionals provided for how the ECC areas may be taught, including summer programs, after-school instruction, special-purpose schools, and integrated or aligned IEP goals. However, the most significant response was no response at all--35% of the professionals had no suggestions for how ECC skills can be taught. This finding may indicate a significant need for more professional development opportunities and methods for providing instruction in the ECC in various environments with a variety of resources.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
These surveys provide baseline data for the national goal leaders of Goal 8 to identify strategies and action steps to increase the understanding of the value and implementation of the ECC. The original survey results published in A Report to the Nation (Corn & Huebner, 1998) found that only 36% of the respondents reported that they were able to assess and instruct in the ECC content areas. There appears to have been significant progress in the 12 years of discussing and advocating for instruction in the ECC content areas. For additional information regarding the National Agenda, see TSBVI's web site
The most significant limitations of the study were the small sample and the fact that the surveys were randomly distributed over a significant period to gather as much input as possible. In addition, the use of surveys and self-reports lacks the rigor of other research designs, but the study was trying to measure the perception of change. Future studies of parents and professionals need to assess how representative each sample is of its respective population. In addition, this study was, in effect, a pilot study for a larger survey that will be conducted using more participants.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FIELD
The results of this survey indicate that the field of visual impairment has embraced the ECC and that it is time to move forward with actual strategies to improve instruction and outcomes. The field has spent years developing a common language and understanding, and that strategy seems to have worked because most parents and professionals value and understand the need for the ECC. Additional research is needed on the delivery of instruction in the ECC. A Delphi study similar to the ones that were completed in the areas of literacy instruction would benefit the field to determine the skills sets and instructional time and duration that are needed for competence.
Blankenship, K. (2006a, July). Effective teaching practices for the ECC content areas. Paper presented at the AER International Conference, Snowbird, UT.
Blankenship, K. (2006b, October). Effective instructional practices for the expanded core curriculum. Keynote speech presented at the Nebraska AER Conference, Nebraska City.
Blankenship, K. (2006c, November). Effective instructional practices for the expanded core curriculum. Keynote speech presented at the Utah AER Conference, Salt Lake City.
Blankenship, K. (2006d, November). Effective instructional practices for the expanded core curriculum. Keynote speech presented at the New York AER Conference, Albany.
Blankenship, K. (2007a, June). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the preconference day-long presentation, Texas Focus, San Antonio.
Blankenship, K. (2007b, August). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the California School for the Blind, Fremont.
Blankenship, K. (2007c, November). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the conference of the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children, Louisville.
Blankenship, K. (2008a, February). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the New Mexico AER Conference, Albuquerque.
Blankenship, K. (2008b, April). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the Michigan AER Conference, Lavonia.
Corn, A., Hatlen, P., Huebner, K., Ryan, F., & Siller, M. A. (1995). The national agenda for the education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. New York: AFB Press.
Corn, A. L., & Huebner, K. M. (Eds.). (1998). A report to the nation: The national agenda for the education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. New York: AFB Press.
Friedman, M. (1996). Turn the curve: Process as part of the results accountability. Retrieved from http://www.raguide.org/RA/ Turn the curve.htm
Hatlen, P. (1996). The core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students, including those with additional disabilities. RE:view, 28, 25-32.
Hatlen, P. (2003). Impact of literacy on the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Lohmeier, K. (2003). Aligning the state standards and the expanded core curriculum (rev.). Retrieved from http://www.ed.arizona.edu/azaer/AZ%20Standards%20Aligned.pdf
Pugh, G. S., & Erin, J. (Eds.). (1999). Blind and visually impaired students: Educational service guidelines. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (2006). National Agenda: 1993-2000 background chronology. Retrieved from http://www.tsbvi.edu/agenda/chronology.htm
Wolffe, K., Sacks, S., Corn, A., Erin, J., Huebner, K., & Lewis, S. (2002). Teachers of students with visual impairments: What are they teaching? Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 96, 293-304.
Keri Lohmeier, Ed.D., cochair, National Agenda Goal 8, vision programming specialist, Office of Education Services, 1020 Richardson Drive, Raleigh, NC 27699, and adjunct faculty, East Carolina University; e-mail:
Table 1 Areas of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) that are most likely to be taught. ECC area Number of Percentage of respondents respondents Compensatory academic skills 7 8.4 Social interaction skills 10 12.0 Recreational and leisure skills 1 1.2 Technology 19 22.9 Orientation and mobility skills 9 10.8 Independent living skills 6 7.2 Career education 5 6.0 Visual (sensory) efficiency 2 2.4 Self-determination 1 1.2 Table 2 Suggestions for ways of teaching ECC skills. Alternative method Number of Percentage respondents Attend a specialized school 2 3.0 Summer programs 11 21.5 Family workshops 2 4.6 Afterschool instruction 5 9.2 Extended school year 2 3.0 Instruction beyond the 12th grade 2 3.0 Smaller itinerant caseloads 3 4.6 Weekend instruction 3 4.6 Resource room placement 1 1.5 Integrated IEP goals 2 3.0 Other 3 6.1 No answer 18 35.0 Box 1 Areas of the expanded core curriculum. Points of Interest Expanded core area (Hatten, 1996, 2003) Examples Compensatory Skills that students Concept access skills who are visually development, impaired need communication to access modes (calendar all areas of the systems, Braille, core curriculum. print), Mastery of organizational compensatory skills, needed access skills accommodations usually means that the student has access to learning in a manner equal to that of his or her sighted peers. Social interaction Individuals who are Social concepts, skills visually impaired physical skills, cannot learn social integration social interaction parallel and group skills in a casual play, eye contact, and incidental tone of voice fashion. They learn them through sequential teaching and modeling. Recreational and These skills must be Hobbies, sports, leisure skills deliberately planned games, and taught orientation, to students physical who are visually fitness impaired and should focus on the development of lifelong skills. Assistive technology Assistive technology Media literacy, and technology devices provide technical skills access to the concepts, general learning selection of environment. appropriate Technology assistive enhances devices, communication media needs, and learning and accessibility to expands the information world of persons who are visually impaired in many ways. It makes information that is typically inaccessible readily available. O&M skills O&M emphasizes the Body image, fundamental need travel, and basic right spatial of people who awareness, are visually safety, impaired to directionality travel as independently as possible, enjoying and learning to the greatest extent possible from the environment through which they are passing. Independent living This area, often Hygiene, food skills referred to as preparation or daily living retrieval, money skills, consists management, time of all the tasks monitoring, and functions dressing that people perform, according to their abilities, to live as independently as possible. As with the skills of social interaction, students who are visually impaired cannot learn these skills without direct, sequential instruction. Career education Career education is Exploring vital because interests, here, too, areas of general instruction strength, assumes a basic job awareness, knowledge of the planning, world of preparation, work that is placement, based on prior work ethic visual experiences. Sensory efficiency Systematically Visual, auditory, skills training students and tactile to use their learning: remaining environmental functional cues and vision and awareness, tactile and personal auditory senses attributes, better and more sensory efficiently is attributes, vital. use of low vision devices Self-determination This area is Sense of self, skills based on decision the premise that making, students who are problem visually impaired solving, must acquire goal setting, specific knowledge personal and skills and advocacy, have many self-control, opportunities and to practice them assertiveness to become training successful.
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