Thursday, September 27, 2018

How might we deal with the mismatch?

Last week I heard Kat Holmes talk about her new book, Mismatch. I learned how designing for "normal" can miss the mark. As a result, many of us encounter mismatched experiences in our physical and virtual spaces. Effectively dealing with these mismatches requires inclusive design principles: 1) recognizing exclusion; 2) learning from diversity; and 3) solving for one - extending to many. In order to illustrate the second principle, Kat introduced us to Victor Pineda who made the following point:

There's a triangle of three different things that have to come together to really unlock human accomplishments for people with disabilities. And those involve assistive technology, personal assistance—somebody that's aware, understanding how to support you, and three is coping strategies. And so these three things sort of create a variety of tools.
Of course, I started connecting these ideas to teaching.

A curriculum is often designed for the normal/average student.
In reality, a student and the curriculum are typically mismatched.
To help the student to connect with the curriculum and be a contributor, the teacher might need to offer personal assistance, assistive technology, and/or coping strategies. And we can ask the student (learning from diversity, or as Dr. Emdin writes - co-teaching) to participate in the design.

Having planned for one student, the teacher must consider how to extend the design to many students.

After Kat's talk, I had the opportunity to watch a student-teacher deal with the mismatch between her students' experiences solving problems involving scientific notation [8.EE.A.4] and the curriculum used in her school. We talked about using a think-aloud (personal assistance) to create an anchor chart (assistive technology) that students could refer to (coping strategy) while solving 8.EE.A.4 problems. 

In the next lesson, she tried these ideas out. The lesson started with her making her thinking visible while solving an 8.EE.A.4 problem. Next, she asked students what they noticed in her thinking and added it to an anchor chat. She happened to put the anchor chart in the back of the room so it was obvious later in the lesson how many of the students were using this tool as they turned in their seats to see it. Because of her efforts, students were able to successfully connect to the curriculum.

I'm still processing a lot of this and would appreciate you sharing your thoughts in the comments.

[This blog post was written with the help of the Innovators' Compass. Check out my planning.]


  1. I think struggling learners benefit greatly from models, be it step-by-step examples of how to solve a problem or specific questions to ask when problem solving. Just my opinion, but I think some students could benefit if they had in their notes a divided page with anchor questions on the left and an example problem solved following these steps on the right.

    On student involvement in the design of their learning environment, I think asking students on the first day, and after each test, the question, “What has helped you to learn in the past?” can provide useful feedback, especially if students can respond privately or anonymously.

    And of course, I am supremely jealous that you got to hear Kat Holmes speak!

    Twitter: @autismplusmath

  2. Teacher is the one who truly bridges the gap. In my small tutorial center, I am using technology and don't really plan the entire curriculum to make the target more realistic.

  3. I thought it was really interesting that you made this very important aspect of teaching down to a science. My question is, how are you addressing things like this during the pandemic? Especially when most students do not have their cameras on and you cannot see their facial expressions for understanding