Curricular Accommodations & Modifications

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Not all students learn the same. In many cases, methods and materials must be changed for certain students. In this lesson, learn the difference between curricular accommodations and modifications, and gain insight into some best practices.

What Are Curricular Accommodations and Modifications?

Looking at her class rosters is always so exciting to Ms. Vogel. She looks at the names on the lists, imagining how brilliant and hard-working each of the students will be in the coming school year. She always has a slight feeling of anxiety in the back of her mind, though. She knows that each of these students is an individual, unique in ways that she can't even imagine. She knows that many of her students will test her teaching skills, and that she will have to adapt her methods and materials in order to reach all of her students in meaningful ways.

Ms. Vogel is, of course, not a unique teacher. She is all teachers. All teachers are tested by their students to improve and change in order to reach them all.

Some changes are simple; you change the way you deliver a lesson or the speed at which you read. Some changes, though, are much more complex. When teachers change methods or materials to better suit their students, they are providing accommodations or modifications for them, depending on the degree of change.

Accommodations are developed to help a student (or a small group with similar learning styles) reach the same learning goals as their peers by changing the way the curriculum is presented or the way they interact with the classroom setting. Naturally, there are many different types of accommodations, but the main goal is to level the playing field in order for students to meet the same goals as their peers.

Modifications, on the other hand, are designed for students who are either far behind their peers or have significant learning difficulties, and provide changes to materials or methods that reduce the learning goals for the students who receive them. Modifications are seen as the more drastic of the two, as they are not designed to have students reach the same learning goals as their peers.

Curricular Accommodations: Best Practices

Several reasons exist for a student to receive curricular accommodations. The most obvious reason is that a student receives special education services, but students may also require accommodations if their learning style differs greatly from the majority of their peers. In any case, even slight accommodations can provide a much better learning experience for a student.

Curricular accommodations often take the form of changes in the way material is presented. If students have difficulty reading, they may be allowed to listen to an audio recording of the material. If they have trouble writing longhand, but are good with computers, they may have the opportunity to type their assignments. Sometimes, assignments and projects can be completed in a different format or in an extended amount of time. For long assignments, teachers may chunk the work into smaller parts to reduce the immediate burden on the student.

Allowing a student to complete written assignments using a computer does not reduce the learning expectations or goals, and is therefore considered a curricular accommodation.
Student at computer

The main idea behind curricular accommodations is that students who receive them are still required to complete the same or comparable work as their peers. They are held to the same learning standards, but simply complete the work in ways that better suit their individual needs.

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