Certificate in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity​

Course Syllabus
LDN 633—Academic Strategies and Executive Function Supports for Students with LD, ADHD, and Autism

This course is the part of the online professional certificate program in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) offered by Landmark College, with specializations in “Executive Function,” “Autism Online and on Campus,” or “Post-Secondary Disability Services” (coming Fall 2022).

What strategies and supports have proven to be effective in promoting academic success for students with learning and executive function challenges? This course presents evidence-based, classroom-tested strategies, many developed at Landmark College, that help nontraditional learners thrive in academic settings. The first module reviews critical factors to consider when designing effective instruction: processing speed, working memory, executive skills, within the framework of Cognitive Load Theory. The second module describes the features of an EF-Friendly Classroom. Each subsequent module presents a process or strategic approach that addresses difficulties in the following areas: academic reading, academic writing, note taking, studying and test preparation, and math. The course considers no-, low- and high-technology approaches that belong in every educator’s instructional toolkit. The instructor is committed to working with participants to ensure that the course is relevant and valuable to their current and future professional roles.

Three graduate credits will be awarded per course for students achieving a grade of 80% or greater.

This course contains 8 weekly modules but runs for 9 weeks [in Winter term]. Each module includes several micro-units that are subtopics within the modules. The course also includes 5 online synchronous sessions (i.e., video conferences) scheduled primarily in the evenings (Eastern Time), that are one option for fulfilling a graded assignment, as well as an enriching way to connect personally with instructors and fellow students. We will try to accommodate individual schedules, so we may vary the time from week to week depending on student demand. Make up assignments are possible for students not able to attend live sessions. Registered participants will be provided with details to log on during the week before the start of classes.

The course objectives align with professional standards in the field of LD, specifically the standards for special educators established by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). We have chosen to align to the “Advanced” set of Preparation Standards, as this higher-level set of standards more closely matches the level of content and expertise required of a graduate level course in the field. The CEC Advanced Preparation Standards are linked here, or can be found on the CEC’s website: www.cec.sped.org.

ObjectivesCEC Advanced Preparation Standards
Articulate new and emerging understanding of neurodiversity and neuroatypical profiles of learners, including awareness of neuroplasticity and multiple perspectives on individual differences in Executive Function (EF).2.2, 2.3
Discuss current evidence-based findings on EF, and LC’s approach to addressing EF challenges among diverse learners.2.3
3.1, 3.2, 3.3
Identify, evaluate, adapt, and apply the LC model of EF supports geared towards meta-cognitive awareness and self-determination.1.2
4.1, 4.2, 4.3
Describe effective practices for introducing strategies that support academic reading and writing, note taking, test taking, and math development for diverse students.2.2, 2.3 3.3, 3.5 4.2
5.3, 5.4
Evaluate their own professional development within the context of this course with respect to practical applications and lessons learned.3.3
6.0, 6.2, 6.4
1Framework for Design
• Introductions
• Creating an online learning community
• Considerations for designing and introducing academic strategies
     -  Cognitive Load Theory
     -  Executive Function (EF)
          o Working Memory
          o Processing Speed
     - Language Processing
• Create a Learner Profile
2The EF-Friendly Classroom
• EF challenges in the classroom for students with LD/ADHD/autism
• Designing an EF-friendly classroom
     -  Principles
     -  Practices
• Learner Profile and Toolkit: Ideal classroom environment
• Synchronous class discussion
3Scaffolding Academic Reading
• Cognitive challenge of reading
• Active reading strategies
• Critical reading strategies
• Technology to support reading
• Learner Profile and Toolkit: personalized reading strategies
4Scaffolding Academic Writing
• Cognitive challenge of writing
• Supporting growth of student metacognition
• Scaffolding writing process
• Explicit instruction in written forms and conventions
• Technology to support writing
• Learner Profile and Toolkit: personalized writing strategies
• Synchronous class discussion
5Scaffolding Note Taking
• Cognitive challenge of taking notes
• Research on note taking
• Visual and text-based note-taking strategies
• Note-revision strategies
• Technology to support note taking
• Learner Profile and Toolkit: personalized note-taking strategies
• Final Project Preview: select topic and format
• Synchronous class discussion
6Scaffolding Studying and Test Preparation
• How memory works: principles for effective study
• Individualizing study routines
• Capitalizing on social learning: effective study groups
• This is a test: coping with test anxiety and other strategies
• Learner Profile and Toolkit: personalized study and test prep strategies
• Synchronous class discussion
7Scaffolding Math
• Cognitive challenges of math: dyscalculia and other issues
• Strategies for math conceptualization
• Strategies for math procedures
• Learner Profile and Toolkit: personalized math strategies
• Synchronous class discussion
8Putting it all together
• Looking back: synthesizing course learning
• Final projects: applying course learning
• Course evaluation survey

Details of the module format are as follows:

  • Module Objectives—Each module will start by articulating the objectives for that module. The objectives will list anticipated learning of the topics that will be addressed in each module.
  • Warmup Activities—Warmup activities are designed to help to create a community of learners within this course, to understand each other’s perspectives, and to engage in a discourse. Warmup activities will be posed at the start of each module as a query or a scenario to get us thinking about the topic as a group. You can post your own insights, observations, and/or respond to someone else’s posting.
  • Learning Activities—Learning activities serve as instructional content for the module topics. (Example: viewing/listening to presentation slides; readings, assignments, targeted website browsing, creating your own library of resources.)
  • Talk Time—Talk Time is the synchronous meeting time for the course. During this time, we will address queries and points to ponder for discussion. Graded.
  • Learner Profile and Toolkit—The Learner Profile and Toolkit is a cumulative assignment that begins by creating a student profile in Module 1, incrementally adding personalized tools and strategies drawn from each subsequent module. The purpose of this activity is to synthesize and apply course learning to your specific educational environment. Each module’s portion of the Learner Profile/Toolkit will be graded.
  • Additional Resources—Each module will include a repository of resources suggested and annotated by members of this learning community. Typically, it will include links to supplemental articles, organizations, websites. This graded assignment is an alternative to participating in the Talk Time for that module.

The final course grade is determined by the following four categories of assignments.

  1. Warmups—Six of the modules have graded warmups. You will post an original response to a warmup and also post responses to other students’ comments. For full credit, each of your warmups should follow the directions specified for responses and be posted by Thursday of that week. Plan on responding to all 6 warmups. (30 points total; 5 points each)
  2. Talk Time—During Talk Time (synchronous meeting via video conferencing). We will discuss questions and comments presented by course participants and instructors. It is a chance to connect personally and professionally with fellow students and instructors. In these sessions, we are looking for your active participation and thoughtful engagement. There will be 5 Talk Times in all; you should plan to participate in at least 4 of these synchronous sessions. Video recordings of each Talk Time will be posted to the course website if you can’t make it to the synchronous session. If your schedule precludes participating in Talk Time, you have the option of watching a recording of the session and commenting on the recording or posting annotated resources to the Additional Resources page. (20 points total; 5 points each session)
  3. Learner Profile and Tool Kit—The Learner Profile and Toolkit is a cumulative assignment that begins by creating a student profile in Module 1, incrementally adding personalized tools and strategies drawn from each subsequent module. Each module’s portion of the Learner Profile/Toolkit will be graded. (30 points total; 5 points each section)
  4. Academic Strategies Implementation Project—This is the final project of the course. It is intended to be relevant to your current or future role in education. The goal of this assignment is to apply the cumulative knowledge from this course to create an item of value to you in your situation. Examples of past final projects include: (1) a presentation: slides, YouTube video, text document, or other format intended for students, parents, or professional colleagues, (2) a sample lesson plan with a specific intervention, (3) a tip sheet for parents at your institution, (4) a student guide for using a specific academic support strategy, (5) student orientation program or workshop sequence for addressing EF challenges, (6) a case study based on your Learner Profile and Toolkit, or other project of your choice. Please consult with the instructor about your choice of projects no later than Module 6. (20 points)

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