Promoting STEM Learning for Students with Learning Disabilities

Panelists examine the challenges and opportunities faced by STEM educators when balancing strong STEM pedagogy with specific strategies for students with learning disabilities.

(Moderator: Robert Ochsendorf) 



For decades, the STEM education community has been moving toward modes of collaborative inquiry and social constructivism within rich and deep contexts for investigation. This includes situated learning models (e.g., cognitive apprenticeship) and student-centered learning in project-based learning environments. A primary focus in recent science education reform efforts encourages students and teachers to engage in more open inquiry and problem-solving practices that are inherent in the scientific discovery process. However, self-directed approaches to learning without appropriate scaffolding and structure have been shown to be counterproductive. While these issues persist in designing science learning experiences for all, they are amplified as a pedagogical challenge when considering the specific instructional needs of students with learning disabilities (LD) who tend to do better in structured learning environments.

With increased focused on students with LD (see READ Act legislation focused on dyslexia) and students with autism, it is important to understand as a community how to include, and perhaps leverage, all learners in today’s STEM learning environments.

This session includes a panel of researchers looking at these tensions between best practices in STEM and LD education. Areas of convergence between such fields is sought and examined. Three panelists give brief presentations of the challenges and opportunities they face in their work, followed by a Q&A session between the panelists and the audience. The last third of the session is a moderated discussion with the audience about salient themes that arise during the session that may help guide a research agenda in this area.