Engaging Difference: Supporting LD, ELL, First-in-family and Other Exceptional Learners

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA, March 2019, Washington D.C.
contact email: 

In typical college classrooms, instructors face large groups of highly diverse students. In fact, students are often so diverse that even their diversity is diverse. Differences in educational background, family support systems, English-language proficiency, abilities and disabilities, and more, can strongly impact students' capacities to fulfill course expectations.

But while "differentiation" has become a pervasive buzzword within K-12 pedagogy, in higher education it remains unclear exactly how, where, when, and whose responsibility it is to engage and support students with various learning challenges.

And so, this roundtable invites participants to address both the principles and the practices of differentiation within higher education, particularly within reading- and writing-intensive courses.

Participants may ask:

--Do classroom instructors in higher education bear responsibility to support students with learning challenges? (Or is that the domain of Learning Support Services? --Or of Admissions?)

--When and how does that responsibility come into the picture? For example, does differentiation need to be designed into syllabi, and/or class time activities, and/or assignments and assessments? What are some examples of differentiated designs in these domains?

--Can some of the concepts and methods of differentiation that have become well-known in K-12 pedagogy -- such as student choice, inquiry-based learning, scaffolding, chunking, growth mindset, et cetera -- be applied in college classrooms? If so, how so?

Other topics may include:

--How to (or how not to) scaffold or "chunk" essay assignments

--Multimodal composition -- whys and wherefores

--Inquiry-based learning in the Arts and Humanities

--Priorities in assessment

--Stories of success or of failure