Category Archives: School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies

Adapting Instructional Mechanisms to Accommodate Students with Special Needs

Well, our discussion regarding this topic is dependent upon your subject matter -AND- the nature of the needs being considered!

Given the topic (i.e. Adapting … to Accommodate … Special Needs), I shall convey an example that is based on my experience as a Career & Technical Educator while I was employed at a maximum security facility (for incarcerated youth).  This portion of my career was extremely challenging because of the context in which I had to implement my curriculum(s).  As such, some youth were only in my classroom for a few weeks/months; others had more extensive exposure to my teaching.  Furthermore, I had students entering and exiting my program almost weekly.  This scenario gives new meaning to the concept of differentiated instruction!

It is the intent of this post to illustrate the concept of adapting “your process” to address student needs.

Accordingly, the following context applies to our … ; I was initiating a graphic design project with students.  The curriculum involved a multi-stage (i.e. sequential) process that required students to produce a series of components which were based on a concept that I introduced via a short play/dialog.  Our topic: “A Discovery of Technological Systems” required students to develop multiple logos that would be combined into a master illustration of all constructs (i.e. manufacturing, communication, transportation, energy & power, construction systems and bio-technologies).  Each logo required students to “brainstorm” concepts (in the form of sketches) that could be refined and … combined with other logos to be assembled into a final “mock-up” which served as the template for — a screen printing activity — that would represent “mastery of the process”.

Note: Mastery of the process is not the same thing as mastery of the skill set!

Ok, now that you have an adequate illustration of the context in which the learning experiences occurred; I can finally convey the concept as described in the title of this post.  Well–one student in particular had not been to school (enough to complete …).  It was discussed at “our team” meeting that the extent of truancy (in this case) may have been six years.  It is sufficient to say that “our” … was a special needs student!

So, each day when “my” students arrived, we brought out their materials (generated from the previous sessions) and continued toward our goal.  (Are you following?)

Great, because I want to take this opportunity to tell you that “you” are responsible for the “safe keeping” of all work — “You must collect” & “You must distribute”.  This is essential  because “special needs” students may … the work of others (and they “may” sabotage their own efforts because of … fear of success … or a belief that they cannot possibly succeed).

So, you must control the flow of ALL resources pending/completed and/or utilized!

Back to the topic at hand–My special needs student came to class each day “scribbled out a logo” and told me — “that’s it”; it’s my design for …! I responded, let’s try another system. He (always) replied! That’s all I’m doing today!

How would you respond?

I simply stated: Ok, if you sit there quietly, without causing … (a disturbance), I will not force you to continue.  He probably thought he had this sucker wrapped around his finger.  But I had a longer range goal in my sights: HIS SUCCESS in fulfilling the requirements that were established.  Yes, he would screen print his design and wear his t-shirt (with pride); although he had yet to discover that fact.  This scenario repeated itself daily. Since I was collecting the work of all students (and securing it); some of my students had no idea that they were making progress!

Getting to the point:  This student finally developed all of the required sketches; when I said let’s refine them, he said nope that’s good enough for me!  So, I adapted my expectations (of success) to align with his expectations of failure.  NO WAY was I going to let this kid manipulate me; (SO HE COULD PROVE that HE WAS A FAILURE). As far as I was concerned; he was ready to print his haphazard collection of sketches — (after “pasting” them together into a final mock-up).  Subsequently, this student successfully “burnt” a screen template and prepared it for use on the “press”.  Finally, we slipped a t-shirt on the apparatus (after securing the template) and then, he stated he could not continue.  So, I placed my hands on top of his and “we” pulled the squeegee across the template.  Then, we gently lifted the press (i.e. template) and the image was perfect.  Wow, I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face!~The Special Needs Student was just like all the other students in my class; HE WAS A SUCCESS. –AND– I had succeeded in guiding him toward that success!

At this point (in our story), I “almost” have a tear in my eye (and this interaction occurred over 20 years ago).  Perhaps being a scholar has “many” disadvantages?

Read my “free” white paper (About Systemic Educational Reform) @


Leave a comment

Filed under #Student-centered Learning, Classroom Management, Curriculum and Instruction, Education, Inspirational, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies, special needs students, Teaching

Facilitating Action Oriented Research to Improve Our Schools

Consider the impact we may have on our environment “if” all citizen began to recycle most of the materials that are discarded in their trash bins?  Added value (i.e. enriched soils, healthy plants) may be expected if composting became a secondary habit!  Our lack of prowess in this matter results in the perpetuation of wasteful habits and squandered opportunities.

Think about this analogy as you consider the potential impact practitioners in the field of education might have “if” more faculty and staff were inclined to initiate Action Oriented Research.  The paradigm is most appropriate when examining what is happening in our classrooms and schools and in determining what may be done to improve learning in these contexts.  The results of such studies are not generalizable. As such, researchers often have no formal hypothesis.  Thus, exploratory studies (i.e. descriptive research paradigms) are frequently employed in the field of education because “the number of variables entailed in describing educational systems is so enormous that any hope of controlled experimentation, or of scientific modeling, must be suspended” (Gardner, 1993, p.332).  Accordingly, we may examine constructs relating to “student outcomes, the curriculum, instruction, school climate, or parental involvement” (Glanz, 1999, p.302).

Ok, remember our analogy regarding the potential benefits of recycling–think about that concept for a moment!  Do you have strong feelings about squandered resources (and opportunities)?  If so, consider the resources that are likely being wasted (in your school district) and the potential to enrich learning environments for successive “crops” of students.  Enriching the fertility of our educational programs via Action (oriented) Research is an opportunity we ought not to squander!

Learn more about Becoming A Reflective Practitioner and Conducting Action Research? @

Now facilitating Action Research Initiatives.  Interested in program options?

Contact: K. Fetterman & Associates @ P. O. Box 22 – Millersville, PA 17551



Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Glanz, J. (1999). A primer on action research for the school administrator. The Clearing House, 72(5), 301-304.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies

About Kenneth Fetterman Ed.D. Author of A Definitive White Paper: Systemic Educational Reform (The Recommended Course of Action for Practitioners of Teaching and Learning)

Dr. Fetterman has developed the most comprehensive and feasible (research-based) professional development strategy available.  He has taught at the junior and senior high school levels, established vocational/technical education curriculums in a juvenile justice facility, and served as an instructor of Mechanical Engineering Technologies at several community colleges.  In addition to these experiences, the author of works which are relevant to educational reform, teacher education and educational administration has served as an instructor (i.e. Field-based Teacher Educator) and faculty consultant at Temple University in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  His works are a must read for anyone that is passionate about initiating systemic educational reform in the United States and abroad. Learn more @

Source: A Definitive White Paper: Systemic Educational Reform (The Recommended Course of Action for Practitioners of Teaching and Learning)

Leave a comment

Filed under School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies

A Definitive White Paper: Systemic Educational Reform (The Recommended Course of Action for Practitioners of Teaching and Learning)

This (free) manuscript addresses the need to bring about more effective teacher training and propagate innovative schools in the United States (and abroad).  It is intended to serve as a policy statement and position paper which will enable political forces to rally behind a comprehensive strategy that will rectify the shortcomings of our educational system.  The constructs described may also be utilized by training and development professionals employed by corporations, governmental agencies, and social service providers to advance educational initiatives in these contexts.

A report published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) authenticates the reality of “massive teacher shortages … in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South Asia …” that may impede goals “to provide every child” in these regions “with a good quality primary education”….  Even in countries such as China, Brazil and India which will need “fewer teachers” … because of “declining school age populations”, UNESCO recognizes the potential to improve education quality by investing more resources to train teachers and improve working conditions in target regions (UNESCO, Institute for Statistics, 2006, p.3).  UNESCO identifies only 33 of the 194 sovereign nations that are recognized by the U.S. State Department.  Their report lists 32 countries outside of the U.S. with a current or expected teaching force that exceeds 50,000 teachers (Teachers and Educational Quality: Monitoring Global Needs for 2015, UNESCO, Institute for Statistics, 2006, p.44).  Excluding primary educators in the United States, the UNESCO study reveals a need for more than six million teachers in these (32) nations.  Imagine the potential numbers of secondary practitioners that must be trained across the globe in the coming decades (as many nations have yet to systematize these levels of formal schooling).  Honestly, given the need for teacher training at all levels in the U.S. and remaining 160 or more nations not considered by UNESCO; the potential to sustain political, economic, and social development initiatives in target regions via “our” straightforward “research-based professional development tutorials” is pragmatic.

The content of this publication includes: information regarding the problems which must be addressed to reform our educational system, the change parameters which are relevant, the reflection and instructional design components (i.e. tutorials) that are so essential to perpetuate innovation in our schools, and concluding remarks that describe the promise of fulfilling goals outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act.  For more information regarding the subject matter described and/or the products and services that shall be provided to …, please visit the link below to read the entire (free) manuscript @

1 Comment

Filed under Curriculum and Instruction, Education, Every Student Succeeds Act, Global Development Initiates (#reform), Instructional Design, professional Development, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies, Teaching, Teaching and Learning, UNESCO, White Paper

Every Student “must” Succeed

Promising legislation (The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015–ESSA) brings much anticipation that our educational system(s) will improve “dramatically”.  I am pleased that states have been given more autonomy in deciding the parameters (i.e. framework) for initiating educational reforms in our classrooms, school districts and (hopefully) university teacher-preparation programs.  A word of caution:  “We” must have accountability measures in place or “failure is certain”!

We need a comprehensive framework which will permit all stakeholders to develop reform measures that align with “our” collective vision for initiating change.  Without a collective vision, I fear that yet another round of piecemeal (let’s try this) reform strategies will burden hardworking practitioners.  “Mandates” are ineffective regardless of their origin (i.e. Federal or State).  Therefore, we must initiate school reforms via an interconnected (Democratic) framework of “local” and “regional” advisory (i.e. steering) committees that can inform policy makers employed by the Department of Education in each state.  Learn more about this concept; sample/purchase: “Becoming A Reflective Practitioner” @

Furthermore, initiating a greater variety of student-centered learning while ensuring that students acquire the competencies required to “succeed” in a 21st century village compels stakeholders to move beyond the use of standardized assessments as the sole measure of accountability for student learning.  In addition to employing “traditional” assessment devices to verify the acquisition of fundamental competencies, practitioners and policy advocates must give adequate consideration to evaluating higher-order thought processes via portfolio assessments.  Prior to implementing such reforms, “we” must examine “our” established curriculum to bring about a “collective vision” regarding how each component within the curriculum ought to be implemented.

The evaluation process is relatively simple!  Is the nature of this curriculum (regardless of the subject matter) technical or non-technical?  When the curriculum is technical in nature; teacher-centered instructional paradigms ought to be initiated.  However, non-technical curriculums are conducive to the implementation of student-centered learning.  Evaluation (i.e. accountability) mechanisms including the standardized measures and/or projects that were employed to verify specific competencies may be included in the portfolio of each student.  The variety of materials that may be exhibited within the unique portfolio that is created by each individual can only be imagined by those with vision.  Learn more about initiating student-centered and teacher-centered curriculum; sample/purchase: “The Dichotomy of Instructional Design” @

Much work has yet to be accomplished!  Practitioners must be nurtured in communities where action research is being conducted to perpetuate innovations in teaching and learning.  They must be provided with opportunities to examine their use of instructional practices and they must be continuously provoked to induce philosophical perspectives that result in innovative outcomes.  The manuscripts suggested above will provide practitioners with the means to bring about the promise that our recent legislation offers.  Cease the Day!



Leave a comment

Filed under Curriculum and Instruction, Education, Instructional Design, professional Development, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies, Teaching

Evaluation Criteria for Portfolio Assessments

While quantitative measures may be applied to assess competency-based outcomes via “standardized” instrumentation (i.e. testing, performance checklists, etc.); qualitative outcomes (which vary among individuals) can only be assessed via documentation mechanisms that are indicative of the unique characteristics (and higher-order thinking abilities) exhibited by each pupil.  Higher-order reasoning occurs when humans engage in learning experiences that compel them to conduct research, complete “personal” works, communicate via written and oral presentations, and evaluate the works of their peers.  Thus, practitioners (and society) must move beyond our reliance upon standardized assessments as the primary means of evaluating what (and how) students are learning.  Accordingly, portfolio assessments ought to be employed to exhibit the higher-order outcomes (i.e. products and processes) that are acquired by practitioners and their students.

The following criteria may be applied when assessing the specified requirements for (your/student) portfolios:

  1. Evidence of Reflective Analysis (Excellent; Average; Needs Improvement).
  2. Professional Appearance (Excellent; Average; Needs Improvement).
  3. Adherence to Content Requirements (Excellent; Average; Needs Improvement).

Criteria of Excellent: (Maximum points available may be awarded)

  • A well organized and useable portfolio;
  • Work is neat, indicative of mindful thinking, and well written;
  • Creativity and unique perspectives/constructs are exhibited.

Criteria of Average: (Maximum points will not exceed 90 percent of the potential)

  • A well organized and useable portfolio;
  • Work is neat, indicative of mindful thinking, and well written;
  • Creativity is kept to a minimum and examples (samples) address only the minimum requirement(s) associated with each section (i.e. component) exhibited in the portfolio.

Criteria of Needs Improvement: (Maximum points will not exceed 80 percent of the potential)

  • Portfolio contains examples of work but lacks adequate organizational structure, it requires additional effort to become useable (i.e. functional);
  • The documentation (i.e. examples) included in the portfolio appears inconsistent and/or not aligned with the requirements specified;
  • The portfolio shows that the practitioner (or student) has demonstrated little creativity and mindfulness when considering the overall appearance of the compilation.

Portfolio Requirements: (Additional components may be determined by participants)

  1. Title Page;
  2. Table of Contents;
  3. Presentation of Materials (via distinct sections with a description of contents that follow);
  4. Reflective Analysis (i.e. descriptive information including the significance of each component);
  5. Concluding Remarks (i.e. identify at least 3 components that are most significant);
  6. An Appendix Section (containing selected articles and/or relevant information).

Learn more about “The Dichotomy of Instructional Design” @

Leave a comment

Filed under #Student-centered Learning, Blooms Taxonomy, Curriculum and Instruction, Education, Instructional Design, professional Development, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies, Teaching

Higher-Order Thinking (Analysis; Synthesis; and Evaluation)

Fundamental learning experiences (i.e. Competency-based Paradigms) culminate when students are capable of applying knowledge and skills.  However, higher-order cognitive processes are indicative of three progressively more complex “hierarchical” classes of behavior (i.e. reasoning outcomes).  As presented in the “original” (1956) Taxonomy published by Bloom; these outcomes are described as follows.

Analysis emphasizes the breakdown of … [the integral] into its constituent parts and detection of the relationships of the parts and of the way they are organized.  It may also be directed at the techniques and devices used to convey the meaning or to establish the conclusion of a communication….  [Analysis entails] … the ability to distinguish fact from hypothesis …, to identify conclusions and supportive statements, to distinguish relevant from extraneous material, to note how one idea relates to another, to … [recognize] unstated assumptions …, to distinguish dominant from subordinate ideas or themes …, to find evidence of the author’s techniques and purposes, etc. (p. 144)  Analysis … may be divided into three types or levels….  [i.e. Elements, Relationships, and Organizational Principles].

Synthesis is … defined as the putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole [i.e. to constitute a pattern or structure]….  Generally this would involve a recombination of parts of previous experience with new material, reconstructed into a new … integrated whole.  [The] category … provides for creative behavior [i.e. produce and organize original ideas] on the part of the learner.  However, … the student is expected to work within the limits set by particular problems, materials, or some theoretical and methodological framework.  [Although] comprehension, application, and analysis also involve the putting together of elements and the construction of meanings, … these [constituent levels] tend to be more partial and less complete than synthesis in the magnitude of the task. (p. 162)  Three relatively distinct types of products are identified as sub-categories within this class of behavior [i.e. the production of a unique communication, the production of a  planned/proposed set of operations, and the derivation of abstract relations].

Evaluation is defined as the making of [quantitative and qualitative] judgments about the values … of ideas, works [e.g. artifacts, performances, etc.], solutions, methods, material, etc.  It involves the use of criteria [including values] as well as standards for appraising the extent to which particulars are accurate, effective, economical, or satisfying….  Evaluation is placed at this point in the taxonomy because it … involves some combination of all the other behaviors of Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, and Synthesis…. [The process] … is not necessarily the last step in thinking or problem-solving.  It … will in some cases be the prelude to the acquisition of new knowledge, a new attempt at comprehension or application, or a new analysis and synthesis. (p. 185)  Two types of (judgment) are considered (i.e. those in terms of internal evidence and those in terms of external criteria)  Both types must be made in accordance with “distinct” criteria.

Learn more about “The Dichotomy of Instructional Design” @

Leave a comment

Filed under Blooms Taxonomy, Curriculum and Instruction, Education, Instructional Design, professional Development, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies, Teaching