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Observation Portfolio Classroom of Special Education Essay

Pages:12 (3573 words)



Topic:Special Education

Document Type:Essay


Observation Portfolio – Special Education Classroom


This observation portfolio paper presents a summary of my experience and knowledge gained from analyzing four observation sessions in a special education classroom setting. Observation 1 and 2 was conducted in the morning, observation 3 of 4 took place during lunch break, and observation 4 of 4 was conducted in the afternoon. Each of the four observation sessions is discussed below.

Observation 1 of 4

Observation Summary

The class consisted of nine students; eight students were male and one was female. During my observation, I walked and looked around as the students started each morning with snacks, milk, and orange juice for breakfast followed by typing lessons, mathematics lessons, group calendar practice, and personal information binders. Before starting the mathematics lesson, the students played a game as a way to facilitate smooth transition from one activity to another. Personal information binders included practicing name, age, phone number, address, birthday and identifying days of the week, specifically today and yesterday.

Majority of the students had difficulties in social interaction, attention, and communication and displayed repetitive and unusual behaviors. Also, four of the students avoided eye contact with the host teacher. Overall, the class was very quiet because the students had poor social skills and rarely talked to each other.

The host teacher used visual aids depicting plates, cups, and cooking utensils to teach the student's vocabulary signs and written cues such as police officer, earthquake, and security to teach vocabulary in emergencies reading comprehension. Visual aids and written cues helped the students communicate, learn and develop self-control.

The host teacher demonstrates strong communication skills when teaching students. In order for a teacher to be successful, they must express themselves verbally and nonverbally in a clear, concise, and intriguing manner. Research studies show that successful teachers communicate clearly and directly and have good listening skills. They also respond calmly to student’s behaviors that can disrupt the lesson. For example, during the lesson, one of the students was Facebooking instead of filling in the blank questions in the document. The host teacher walked slowly towards the student and asked to see her progress. The student claimed she was confused, but after the host teacher had explained what the assignment is all about, the student started to fill in the blank questions in the document.

The behavioral strategy that I observed the host teacher using on most occasions was positive reinforcement (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2018). That is strengthening a behavior by providing a consequence an individual finds rewarding, thus making it more likely that the individual will engage in the behavior again. The teacher used praises and token to reward students who displayed appropriate behaviors. Also, the teacher avoided situations where unwanted behaviors is likely to occur.

How my Experience Correlates with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disabilities

Seven of the students I observed had significant limitations in attention, social cognition, and communication which are the behavioral characteristics associated with intellectual disability. According to Hallahan et al. (2018), intellectual disability refers to a “disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills” .It is also known as mental retardation.

Learning considerations for students with intellectual disabilities often include reinforcement and systematic instruction. Systematic instruction refers to the teaching method that is repeatable and learnable through step by step procedure (Hallahan et al., 2018). Any teacher who wishes to use this method should always have a plan. The plan should incorporate student special needs, ability and interests, subject matter to be taught, and instructional materials to be used. Reinforcement involves the use of either token or verbal praise following a desired behavior. I observed the host teacher using praises such as “good reading” to reinforce desired behaviors in students. A student who can associate praises with good reading is likely to develop good reading skills in the future.

Four of the nine students that I observed exhibited repetitive/ unusual behaviors and language deficits (echolalia) which are symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). ASD is a spectrum disorder because it affects people in different ways. I also noticed one of the students had Dandy-Walker Malformation. Echolalia can be defined as “the parroting repetition of words or phrases either immediately or after they are heard or later” (Hallahan et al., 2018). Dandy-Walker Malformation (DWM) refers to human brain malfunction that occurs during embryo development.

According to Hallahan et al. (2018), education strategies for students with ASD should include the following: 1) direct instruction skills, 2) behavior management, and 3) instruction in a natural setting. Students with ASD display random and unusual behaviors such as hitting and screaming, especially in a new and stimulating environment. Teachers are therefore encouraged to use a combination of functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and positive behavioral intervention and support (PBIS) to reduce or eliminate inappropriate behaviors. The host teacher used pictures to initiate and maintain functional communication especially when teaching vocabulary signs.

Critical Review

After this observation session, I engaged the host teacher. From our interaction, I learned about Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) and scaffolded instruction. The ZPD is defined as “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peer” (Shabani, Khatib, & Ebadi, 2010). The host teacher emphasized that learning tasks should be within a student’s ZPD. She also emphasized that learning occurs only when a student can complete a task without the help of a teacher. In scaffolded instruction, the teacher provides instruction to the students when they are first learning tasks and then gradually reduce it so that the students can do the tasks independently (Hallahan et al., 2018).

Observation 2 of 4

Observation Summary

This observation was conducted at a special education…

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…involved critical and creative thinking. A core belief of her classroom was that students should see the "bigger picture" of mathematics. The host teacher also explained that she strives to create a classroom environment that fosters creativity, cooperation, comfortability, respect, and limited tension. The atmosphere of the classroom is not stressful or tense yet still has a high level of efficiency and expectation for the students


The goals of my host teacher align closely to the goals of the host teachers of my peers. Similarly their host teachers strive for their students to develop an understanding and perform problems on their own. Comparably, their host teachers also place a major emphasis on content in the curriculum. As their host teacher may be seen focusing on solving inequalities in an Algebra class, or solving derivatives in a calculus class, my host teacher has similar goals for the progression of her students. The role of their host teacher is to teach the students the material and assess them through practice problems and assist when needed. My host teacher plays a similar role, but unlike the host teachers of my peers, has a co-teacher for her Algebra 2 class. This makes planning lessons and assessing student learning easier for her, and allows her to ensure that time is efficiently accounted for during class. The host teachers of my peers have occasional problems keeping their students on task, which did not occur during my observation hours. I believe that the host teachers of my peers solely perform lectures, due to the simplicity of lecturing and the convenience of planning such compared to an intricate and engaging class-activity. The primary teaching method of our host teachers is the same, which is lecturing. However, the host teachers of my peers do not provide their students with engaging on-task activities, like how my host teacher uses the interactive online game.

The classroom management implemented by their host teachers is that upon entering class, students sit down and complete a do-now. They then go over the homework and do the lesson and practice problems. The students are assigned the homework before the bell rings, while the classroom itself is arranged in row-style seating. My host teacher performs all of the same tasks, but makes sure to implement entertaining activities to assess her student’s learning. Also, my host teacher does not arrange the classroom seating in rows, but in small groups of typically three to four students. This allows the interpersonal intelligence of students to grow, thus cultivating a warm and friendly atmosphere. The host teachers of my peers give the same assessments that my host teacher gives: homework, quizzes and tests. There were no surprises according to my peers, while I was surprised on the other hand. I was surprised to see the level of technology in the classroom, from the smartboard to the usage of an intricate online game. My high school math class never used a smart board or interactive online assessment. The…

Sample Source(s) Used


Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J. M., & Pullen, P. C. (2018). Exceptional Learners: An Introduction to Special Education (14th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.


Shabani, K., Khatib, M., & Ebadi, S. (2010, December). Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development: Instructional Implications and Teachers' Professional Development. Retrieved from

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