If teaching were as simple as using the one best way to teach everything, it would be considered a science. However, there isn’t just one correct method to teach everything. That is the reason teaching is an art. If teaching meant to follow a text book and a “one size fits all” approach, then anyone would be a master teacher. That is why teachers and especially special educators unique and special. That is why teachers know that individual needs, strengths and weaknesses must be considered to make the instructional process successful and geared to equip the student to achieve his optimum skills and abilities to meet the challenges of daily living.
Students come with their own individual packages and no two of them are alike. Even though the curriculum is the same, no two students learn the same way. Teachers are challenged to meet the students’ “package” and to create an approach at instruction that take into consideration the students’ differing abilities, strengths and needs are satisfied. To compound the challenges of instruction, the intellectually disabled (ID) student presents additional dynamics that impact the art of teaching.
This paper presents the diagnostic/prescriptive/evaluation (DPE) strategy of instruction for ID students. The DPE is not a concept. Educators have been using it for decades (Mann and Phillips, 1967). During the past 40 years it has been improved and refined (Ewing & Brecht). The paper examines each of the components of DPE: diagnosis, prescription, and evaluation (Thomas, 1996). In conclusion it presents two applications of implementing the DPE with two students diagnosed with ID.
The diagnostic process requires great skill and effort from the teacher. Alone the special educator cannot perform all the necessary functions of diagnosis. With the assistance of the other members of the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) and other service personnel, they are able to determine the needs of individual learners and to specify instructional objectives that will help the student satisfy his educational needs (Eisele, 1967). During this phase the teacher is to determine the most demanding needs of the student. The entire diagnostic process depends upon the accurate identification of these needs.
The specialists on the MDT provide the teacher with the data, or means of acquiring the data, about the student that are necessary for determining the student’s needs. This takes the form of providing formal and informal testing services for testing students, supplying the data that has been acquired from the testing, and providing the testing batteries that could be used for this purpose (Eisele, 1967). This becomes the Present Levels of Performance (PLOP) of the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
When the MDT has collected all of the significant data and determined the demanding needs of the student, then the teacher and the specialists develop the instructional goals and objectives appropriate for specific needs. These goals are selected from curriculum domains and the objectives can be selected from curriculum guides and resource units. Also the teacher and specialist can generate their own objectives.
When talking to the teacher and specialists, I asked what type of instructional activities and materials they use for students with ID? The teacher and specialists stated that they prescribe instructional activities and materials suitable for the student to master his objectives. This constitutes the second step in the DPE process. Prescribed learning is based on short- and long-term goals that are established for the individual student and are based on the skills needed to be mastered. Within these goals are markers to establish where there are gaps in the learning process. Instruction that follows will teach only to what the student still needs to master to be successful. It capitalizes on the strength of the student to fill in the learning gaps....