Broadening Special Education Curriculum to Include a More Multicultural Approach Thesis

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¶ … special education experiences more inclusive means making those experiences more meaningful as well. For a child at the elementary level who has great emotional, intellectual and/or physical challenges it is imperative that interesting, inspiring and even entertaining curricula be presented and that a multicultural approach should be the goal of schools and teachers. This thought goes well beyond federal law (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA) that applies to children with learning disabilities (there are approximately five million such children with varying disabilities currently in public and private schools in the U.S.).

Generalizations / Overture: Margaret E. King-Sears asserts that it is a "fallacy" that students with disabilities are incapable of benefiting from general education classes, an environment where they have an opportunity to participate with other students who are not like them in physical, mental and cultural / ethnic ways (King-Sears, 2008). King-Sears insists that students with disabilities can learn in general education classes when the curriculum is presented embracing techniques "that promote their learning" (King-Sears, 2008). Lesson plans that utilize "universal design for learning (DL) paradigm" provide flexibility for diverse learners should be the goal of instructors in the special education and general education genre vis-a-vis children with disabilities (King-Sears, 2008).

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An article in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education (JRCE) posits that a learning disability "…may mask a student's gifted abilities" but moreover curricula should be geared towards understanding "the importance of adaptation strategies, compensation strategies, and enrichment" in order to allow the student to "expand beyond the remedial approach" typically employed to attempt correcting the learning disability" (JRCE, 2008). "Vast numbers" of learning disabled (LD) students "are not being properly served," the article concludes.

Thesis on Broadening Special Education Curriculum to Include a More Multicultural Approach Assignment

Curriculum Ideas: Tracey Chappell, the principal of Bundaberg Special School in Queensland, Australia, has a passion directed toward curriculum for students with disabilities and toward strategies for inclusiveness for those students. Special educators need to ensure that students with disabilities "are offered the opportunity to learn and be challenged in ways that are meaningful to them in the global world" of the 21st Century, Chappell writes (2008). In that regard, Chappell insists that learning for students with disabilities should be "contextualized within systemic curriculum frameworks." In other words, instead of serving students with disabilities as though they are "users of resources…requiring support and assistance," they should be approached as "learners" in an inclusive environment who will become "active citizens" with "capacity and capabilities" (Chappell, 2008).

In New Zealand, as in other countries, the special education literature tends to have "significant absences and silences around curriculum" (Millar, et al., 2007). Perhaps this silence is because the "two apparently separate worlds" of curriculum and special education have not been fully integrated; however, Millar goes on, failure to explore "more fully the diverse curriculum needs of children with disabilities can only lead to their continued disadvantage in an educational world that is endeavoring to be inclusive" (Millar, p. 164).

Disabled children "are not just disabled," they might be "girls or boys, indigenous, poor, isolated… and/or from a non-English speaking background" (Millar, p. 164). That said, Millar asserts that there needs to be more than "surface structures" such as day-to-day practices, the distribution of resources, "the allocation of pupils to particular programs" and other tedious practices (Millar, p. 168). There needs to be diversity in curriculum, inclusion with general education, and a greater effort towards multiculturalism, Millar explains.

Curriculum Reform: Dr. James Banks' four stages to a fully multicultural curriculum reform should be posted on every bulletin board in every school in America. And Banks' laudable concepts and precepts are not just special education-related albeit they fit seamlessly into the special education genre. He understands that within twenty years, "students of color are projected to make up nearly 50% of the nation's student body" ( And indeed, students of color are already he majority population in Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. ( Looking at Banks' four phases of reform for a multicultural curriculum in schools, one can clearly see how these would dovetail wonderfully into a special education curriculum. Along with Banks, Peggy McIntosh has contributed to the curriculum reform vis-a-vis multiculturalism. When the curriculum is purely Eurocentric and "male-centric" it is "harmful for both students who identify with mainstream culture" and it is also harmful for individuals from "non-dominant groups" (

Number one is Banks' "Contributions Approach," that focuses on holidays, festivals, and cultural events that revolve around the deeds and energy of heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King (African-American students) or the Lunar New Year (for Asian students). The EdChange materials (incorporating McIntosh's curriculum reforms) call this first stage "Curriculum of the Mainstream" which certainly needs upgrading from the Eurocentric approach because, as Banks is quoted saying (Banks, 1993):

An all-Eurocentric curriculum "reinforces" the "sense of superiority" of Caucasian students and "gives them a misleading conception of their relationship with other racial and ethnic groups" ( Moreover, it "denies" Caucasian students the "opportunity to benefit from the knowledge, perspectives, and frames of reference" that can be gleaned by experiencing other cultures (

Banks' second stage is "Ethnic Additive Approach" (content added to the curriculum "without changing the mainstream or Eurocentric structure of the curriculum"). This stage is also alluded to as "Heroes and Holidays" in One example of this curriculum would be to add a Native American (Indian) unit that has been called "Westward Movement" so that not only are pioneers and explorers (like Lewis & Clark) taught, but also rather the Native Peoples who lived there prior to Europeans' advancement west are fully revealed and studied. In other words, a teacher adds an ethnic aspect to a unit that is already in place. This should be more than an "afterthought" (; it should be meaningful to children because they will likely perceive tokenism with regard to adding ethnic content.

The third phase, according to EdChange (using Banks and Peggy McIntosh's ideas) is "Integration": teachers move well beyond heroes and holidays and add "substantial materials and knowledge about non-dominant groups" to the curriculum. There may also be an emphasis on books by women, or by authors of color. For example, what was the role of women in World War I? What were some of the slave hymns or songs that black folks brought from Africa? Banks' stage 3 ( is called "Transformative Approach": this approach restructures the curriculum to incorporate "concepts, issues, and events" that are viewed in context with diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives. For example, a unit could be called "Encounter between Two Worlds" and would embrace the viewpoints of both the explorers (like James Cook) and the native peoples whose land the explorers arrived on (like Hawaiians).

The fourth phase of Banks (according to is the "Social Actions Approach"; these ideas allow for a creative curriculum that relates to the "concepts, issues, and problems that are currently being studied" in a plan to make the world a much better place. This really entails putting theory into practice because it includes having students write letters to the editor, organize campaigns for social change, and actually works to empower students to become "social agents of change" ( As to the Banks / McIntosh version of multicultural curriculum reform, they call stage four "Structural Reform" -- an interesting departure from "Social Actions Approach" -- that incorporates "new materials, perspectives and voices" that are woven "seamlessly with current frameworks of knowledge." This offers a chance for students to learn about "events, concepts and facts" about U.S. history, women's history, Asian-American History, Latino-American history, and African-American History.

The Banks / McIntosh version adds a stage five, "Multicultural, Social Action and Awareness"; this incorporates a study of racism, sexism, and "classism" to the curriculum. This phase also incorporates outside readings to add to the relevance of the discussion.

Science Curriculum for Special Education Classes: This unit, presented in the journal Focus on Exceptional Children (FEC) emphasizes the need to avoid typical science textbooks. Why? Because textbooks "emphasize breadth of content over depth of understanding" and students with disabilities lack the literacy skills necessary" for learning from textbooks. So, smart teachers in special education classes will employ "keywords" to allow students to identify with familiar concepts and link those concepts to words in science. An example is the term "ranidae" which refers to the family of common frogs. Indeed, "ranidae" sounds like "rainy day" and of course a majority of students in special education know what a rainy day is. Next the teacher shows interactively a picture with a frog in the rain. When learners are asked the meaning of "ranidae" they first think of a frog sitting in the rain then the word pops into their consciousness and they remember.

The journal article also puts forward the "hands-on" approach to science for special education students. In the area of ecosystems teachers could find a multitude of worthy curriculum projects. When showing (not just telling) the students about environmental issues, for example, the teacher can… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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