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Strategies Employed by North Carolina Agriculture Teachers in Serving Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities


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STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY NORT H CAROLINA AGRICULTURE TEACHERS IN SERVING STUDENTS WITH MILD TO MODERATE LEARNING DISABILITIES By JENNIFER M. RICHARDSON A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2005

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Copyright 2005 by Jennifer M. Richardson

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This document is dedicated to my family, friends, and colleges for their continued support, encouragement and contributions to this process.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to first thank my family, without whom I would not have had the courage or the endurance to pursue this endeavor. I thank them for trusting my judgment and answering my homesick phone calls. They have proven that no matter how far apart we are, we are still family. I thank Jessica Anderson, Misty Lambert, Jason Chester, Jason Phipps, Jimmy McGee and Brian Harrington for being my sounding board and my support group when I needed them the most and for not forgetting their friend who lives so far away. My other friends deserve my gratitude as well for always coming through when the going got rough. Credit is also due to Mike Moskowitz and Abbe DeGroat whom I am honored to have met and have as a part of my life. They have endured the good, the bad, and the ugly for the last two years and deserve my gratitude for putting up with my homesickness, my frustration, and my moodiness. I am forever indebted to you both. Professionally I would like to thank Dr. Shannon Washburn, Dr. Jim Dyer, and Dr. Glenn Israel for guiding me through this process and keeping my busy throughout my time here. Without their support I surely would have been lost. I thank them for seeing in me what I could not see in myself. I would also like to thank Mr. Josh Bledsoe, Dr. Marshall Stewart, Dr. Jim Flowers, Dr. Beth Wilson, Dr. Gary Moore, Dr. Barry Croom, and Mrs. Belinda Niedwick for keeping me in the North Carolina agricultural education loop. I thank them for putting up iv

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with me as an undergraduate and supporting my decision to attend graduate school in Florida. My time at NC State is a cherished memory because of them and I owe my progress as a professional in this field to their discipline, support and encouragement. Lastly, I would like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department for their knowledge, support, and friendship. I am a little more willing to call myself a Gator because of them and I surely would not have survived this transition without their friendship and your acceptance. v

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES ...............................................................................................................x LIST OF FIGURES ...........................................................................................................xi ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................................xii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Federal Legislation for Exceptional Children...............................................................2 State Legislation for Exceptional Children in North Carolina.....................................3 The ABC Accountability Model...........................................................................3 VoCATS Accountability for Career and Technical Education..........................4 Diversity in Agricultural Education..............................................................................5 Statement of the Problem..............................................................................................6 Purpose of the Study.....................................................................................................6 Limitations....................................................................................................................6 Assumptions.................................................................................................................7 Definition of Terms......................................................................................................7 Summary.......................................................................................................................9 2 LITERATURE REVIEW...........................................................................................11 Purpose of the study....................................................................................................11 Introduction.................................................................................................................11 Learning Disabilities...................................................................................................12 Dyslexia (Reading Disabilities)...........................................................................14 Dysgraphia (Writing Disabilities).......................................................................15 Dyscalculia (Mathematical Disabilities).............................................................15 Rationale for Instructional Modifications for Students with Learning Disabilities.......................................................................................................16 Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)..................................................16 The Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive (PASS) Theory of Cognitive Intelligence.............................................................................................19 Knowledge Base..................................................................................................21 vi

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Arousal................................................................................................................22 Arousal and Attention..........................................................................................23 Attention..............................................................................................................23 Information Selection Broadbents Filter Theory............................................24 Simultaneous and Successive Information Processing........................................25 Planning...............................................................................................................27 Planning Processes in Children...........................................................................28 The PASS Theory, Relative to Learning Disabilities.................................................28 Instructional Modifications for Attention...................................................................29 Instructional Modifications for Simultaneous and Successive Processing.................30 Other Educational Methods for Students with Learning Disabilities.........................31 Agricultural Education for Students with Learning Disabilities................................33 Summary.....................................................................................................................35 3 METHODOLOGY.....................................................................................................37 Purpose of the Study...................................................................................................37 Research Objectives....................................................................................................37 Introduction.................................................................................................................37 Procedure....................................................................................................................39 Population/ Sample.....................................................................................................40 Agricultural Education in North Carolina..................................................................42 Instruments Used in Data Collection..........................................................................43 Summary.....................................................................................................................46 4 FINDINGS..................................................................................................................48 Purpose of the Study...................................................................................................48 Introduction.................................................................................................................48 Delphi Round One Responses....................................................................................50 Delphi Round Two Responses....................................................................................56 Delphi Round Three Responses..................................................................................60 Summary.....................................................................................................................65 5 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS.............................66 Purpose of the Study...................................................................................................66 Research Objectives....................................................................................................66 Introduction.................................................................................................................66 Limitations of the Study.............................................................................................69 Research Design.........................................................................................................69 Population............................................................................................................71 Agricultural Education in North Carolina...........................................................72 Instrumentation....................................................................................................73 Data Collection...........................................................................................................74 Summary of Findings.................................................................................................76 Delphi Round One Responses.............................................................................76 vii

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Delphi Round Two Responses............................................................................77 Delphi Round Three Responses..........................................................................77 Conclusions.................................................................................................................79 Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a Variety of Curricular Modifications to Address the Special Education Needs of Students............................................................................................80 Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a Variety of Instructional Modifications.............................................................82 Conclusion: Instructional Modifications Being Made by Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Consistent With the Literature on Suggested Strategies........................................................................................82 Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Make a Variety of Modifications to the Classroom and/or Laboratory Environment for Students With Learning Disabilities................................................................83 Recommendations for Practitioners............................................................................85 Recommendation: Practitioners Need More Resources for Information About Methods of Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities........................................................................................86 Recommendation: Practitioners Should Consider the Realm of Possibilities for Making Curricular Modifications to Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities................................................................87 Recommendation: Practitioners Should Discover the Possibilities of Modifying the Physical Layout of a Learning Environment for Students With Learning Disabilities...............................................................................89 Recommendations for Future Research......................................................................90 Recommendation: Researchers Should Conduct More Detailed Studies With Teachers Who Are Successful at Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities..........................................................90 Recommendation: Additional Studies Should Be Undertaken on How Agriculture Teachers Receive Information About Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities.......................91 Recommendation: Research Studies Could Be Conducted on the Methods That Agriculture Teachers Use to Make Decisions Regarding the Implementation of Certain Modifications for Students With Learning Disabilities.......................................................................................................92 Recommendation: Agriculture Teachers Should Be Provided With More Specialized Information Relative to Agricultural Education and Employing Modifications for Students With Learning Disabilities...................................92 Summary.....................................................................................................................93 APPENDIX A PARTICIPANT NOMINATION INFORMATION..................................................95 B DELPHI ROUND ONE LETTERS AND INSTRUMENT.....................................102 C DELPHI ROUND TWO LETTER AND INSTRUMENT......................................106 viii

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D DELPHI ROUND THREE LETTER AND INSTRUMENT...................................111 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................114 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................118 ix

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LIST OF TABLES Table page 4-1 Strategies Used to Modify Curriculum for Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N = 23)................................51 4-2 Strategies Used to Modify Instruction for Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N = 23)................................53 4-3 Strategies Used to Modify the Classroom/ Laboratory Environment for Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N = 23).............................................................................................................................55 4-4 Round Two Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19).....................................................57 4-5 Round Two Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19).....................................................58 4-6 Round Two Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19)....................60 4-7 Round Three Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 17).....................................................61 4-8 Round Three Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 17).....................................................63 4-9 Round Three Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications That Are Successful for Learning Disabled Students (N = 17)................................65 x

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2-1 The PASS Model of Ability.....................................................................................21 2-2 Attention Processes Path Diagram...........................................................................24 2-3 Simultaneous Processing Path Diagram...................................................................26 2-4 Successive Processing Path Diagram.......................................................................27 xi

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY NORTH CAROLINA AGRICULTURE TEACHERS IN SERVING STUDENTS WITH MILD TO MODERATE LEARNING DISABILITIES By Jennifer M. Richardson May 2005 Chair: Shannon G. Washburn Major Department: Agricultural Education and Communication The effect of mainstreaming students with special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools have Individualized Education Plans. Therefore, it is vital to education that all teachers, including agriculture teachers, find ways to modify to their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments to aid students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter. The purpose of this study was to discover what instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina are using with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. xii

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J.P. Das and his colleagues developed a cognitive processing model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, which gives structure to the abstract concepts of stimulus input and information processing. The PASS Model includes four parts: Attention; Simultaneous and Successive Processing; and Planning. These four parts occur in this specific order in the brain every time new information is selected, processed, and stored in the memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to deficits in students who have learning disabilities and AD/HD. The Delphi method provided the structure for this study and three rounds of questionnaires were sent to teachers in North Carolina who were identified as expert agriculture teachers. The purposely drawn sample group was 45 teachers, with 23 (51%) responding to round one. Of the 23 teachers who chose to participate in the study, 19 (83%) responded to round two, and 17 (74%) responded to round three. The reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13. Results from this study concluded that these expert teachers were making modifications for students with learning disabilities that have a foundation in educational research. They reported making modifications to instruction, curriculum, and the classroom/laboratory environment in order to better serve students with learning disabilities. The information received from this study serves as a foundation for further research on how teachers have learned to identify appropriate modifications for students. xiii

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Exceptional children are given the right to an education in the least restrictive environment because of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, last amended in 1997 (United States Department of Education [USDE], 1997). The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) means, To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who do not have disabilities (USDE, 1997). Since this act became law in 1997, mainstreaming children with disabilities has become common practice in regular academic classrooms. Agricultural education has seen a change in its average student population as well. Originally, agricultural education courses were intended for non-college bound students, thus preparing them to become employed shortly after attaining their high school diploma (Elbert & Baggett, 2003, p.105). Mainstreaming is occurring in agriculture classrooms as well as academic classrooms because students with special needs reap benefits from the hands-on structure of agricultural education (McCann, 1998; Elbert & Baggett, 2003). Currently, 14.2% of all students enrolled in public schools in North Carolina have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Studies have indicated an increasing number of special needs students enrolled in agricultural education courses compared to other non-career and technical education courses (Elbert & Baggett, 2003, p.107). The U.S. Department of Education (1994) stated that individuals with academic disadvantages take more 1

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2 vocationaleducation courses than other students (Kraska, 1997). The evolution of the agricultural education curriculum from being primarily production based to becoming more technology centered has been the result of the changing needs of society. With those changing societal needs comes the changing of societal values and ideals and it seems that agricultural education is now serving students with varying levels of agricultural experience, age, grade, and academic skill (Elbert & Baggett, 2003). Federal Legislation for Exceptional Children As a result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1997, students who are considered exceptional or special needs have a required Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that is a contract between the student, their parents, their special education coordinator, and their regular teachers for the appropriate pedagogical or curricular accommodations needed for academic achievement (USDE, 1997). The implementation of an IEP requires the teacher to be knowledgeable of appropriate accommodations and of the students specific condition. Furthermore, special attention is needed of the regular teacher for each student with an IEP. Along with IDEA and other legislative acts outlining service to individuals with disabilities, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504; new legislation was launched in January 2002 that directly affects the American public school system (USDE, 1997). This new legislative effort, called No Child Left Behind (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction [NCDPI], n.d.), is an initiative of the Bush administration to hold schools accountable for the achievement and success of all children (NCDPI, n.d.). The plan calls for teachers to be considered highly qualified in their respective areas, for the closing of achievement gaps and for all students to perform at a high level (NCDPI, n.d.). The wording of all students implies that special needs

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3 students are also held accountable for performing at a high level. Exceptional students, or special needs students, are also considered minority students according to the act. This new legislation holds teachers accountable for students performance, and for the schools overall performance on standardized test scores (NCDPI, n.d.). State Legislation for Exceptional Children in North Carolina The North Carolina Public School System has undergone major changes in the past decade. North Carolina has an accountability system in place in the public school system for academics and vocational education. In 1996, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the School Based Management and Accountability Act, commonly know as the ABC's Program. The ABCs, although passed in 1996, was implemented in the 1997-98 school year and thus, includes special needs students with the student population in the accountability model (NCDPI, n.d.). The ABC Accountability Model This act served several purposes including: emphasis on strong accountability at the school district and school building level, focus on basic academic achievement (reading, mathematics, & writing), and emphasis on maximum control at the local supervisory level (NCDPI, n.d.). The ABCs Program is the comprehensive accountability measurement for all public schools in the state. Schools receive federal funds and recognition based on their score according to the formula used to calculate a schools growth each year. The act was updated to include information required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCDPI, n.d.). Although the ABCs Program focuses on academic achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics and uses standardized tests for measurement, Career and Technical Education in North Carolina has its own instructional management system commonly referred to as VoCATS (NCDPI, n.d.).

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4 VoCATS Accountability for Career and Technical Education VoCATS stands for Vocational Competency Achievement Tracking System and was designed to measure students achievement in vocational classes through a pre-test/ post-test system (NCDPI, n.d.). VoCATS is a program used to Plan instruction Assess students before, during, and after instruction Evaluate student mastery of competencies Document student achievement And provide accountability data It is a competency-based, computer-supported system encompassing course planning, lesson planning, and testing. The VoCATS program outlines the competencies that a student should learn in each Career and Technical Education (CTE) class they are enrolled in. There are currently 129 course blueprints that list core competencies and supplemental competencies, including 20 for agricultural education. In addition, VoCATS presents 100 curriculum guides developed or adopted for use in North Carolina, 19 for agricultural education (NCDPI, n.d.). If students are on an occupational course of study (OCS) in high school with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), then they are required to take and pass the VoCATS test, if there is a VoCATS test for that class (NCDPI, n.d.). VoCATS has been recognized as a national instructional model for Workforce Development Education by the U.S. Department of Education. The RAND corporation has also cited VoCATS as an exemplary statewide system to assess student learning in Workforce Development Education (NCDPI, n.d.). VoCATS was the sole measure of accountability as the standardized test for Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes until the 2003-2004 school year when a new assessment system was piloted and proposed

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5 to the legislative body to be integrated into the program as a more accurate assessment of total program accountability (R.M. Stewart, personal communication, February 10, 2005). Diversity in Agricultural Education Because students with learning disabilities, unless on an occupational course of study, are included in all accountability measurements in North Carolina, the issues of integration and diversity need to be addressed. Diversity in public education is a concept that is believed to be beneficial to students because it exposes them to all types of people. Elbert and Baggett (2003) state that: Diversity improves the educational system for all students by placing them in general education environments regardless of race, ability, gender, economic status, learning styles, ethnicity, cultural background, religion, family structure, linguistic ability, and sexual orientation. Individual needs involve sensitivity to and acceptance of individual needs and differences (p.106). This heterogeneous education has necessitated that the agriculture teacher implement various techniques and curriculum accommodations, while teaching all types of students simultaneously (Elbert and Baggett, 2003). Hillison confirmed that many agriculture teachers have become frustrated in their attempts to reach and educate special needs students (cited in Elbert & Baggett, 2003). Wakefield and Talbert (1999) questioned the preparation of agriculture teachers in the area of exceptional children and their ability to engage these students in the program. Jones and Moore (2000) and Moore et al. (2001) reported that although agriculture teachers were comfortable working with ethnically and culturally diverse students, those same teachers were less comfortable working with mentally challenged people. Teachers may also feel ill prepared for helping those students grasp the curriculum and stay focused in class.

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6 Statement of the Problem Agriculture teachers who have had success with students with learning disabilities have inevitably found ways to provide additional resources for those students in class. Therefore, methods for modifying curriculum, instruction, and classroom environment would seem to help to improve the attention, focus, and information processing of students with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia or ADHD. There is a lack of empirical research on the depth of the issue concerning what methods agricultural teachers should use to make modifications and accommodations for these students (Moore & Woods, 2002). Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. The objectives of the study were as follows: 1. To identify modifications to curricula used to assist students with learning disabilities in mastering subject matter. 2. To identify successful methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated in a students Individualized Education Plan. 3. To identify physical changes to the learning environment that have assisted learning disabled students in maintaining attention or processing information. Limitations The Delphi technique is a successful tool for understanding the complexity of a problem and better understanding its possible solutions. The small sample size does

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7 prohibit generalizabilty among all agriculture teachers in North Carolina and thus other limitations may apply, such as the following: 1. The difference in socioeconomic status of the specific communities in which each school is located will cause disparity in the amount of financial resources available to each respective agricultural program to make modifications to the curriculum and the program as a whole. 2. The data is self-reported. This may cause disparity between the teaching methods that teachers report using in the classroom versus what they actually use. 3. Availability of teacher assistance varies within each classroom. 4. Class size will vary, causing teachers to have differing availability to aid students who have special needs. 5. The severity and uniqueness of each students disability cannot be predicted from the information given. Assumptions For the purposes of this study it was assumed that 1. Teachers who were asked to participate in this study are expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina. 2. Data reported by teachers is accurate to the best of their understanding of the questions asked. 3. Opinions reported by participants accurately describe their opinions of making modifications to instruction, curriculum, and classroom/ lab environment. 4. The instruments used accurately measured the breadth of modifications that are made by agriculture teachers in North Carolina. Definition of Terms The following terms used in this study were operationally defined as follows: 1. Learning Disabilities (LD): disabilities in which the individual possess average intelligence but is substantially delayed in academic achievement in the areas of math, reading or writing (Smith, 2004). 2. Dyslexia: severely impaired ability to read (Smith, 2004). 3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD): A condition now included in the special education category other health impairments; students display

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8 hyperactive behaviors, have difficulty attending to the task at hand or focusing on relevant features of tasks, and tend to be impulsive. Not all students with AD/HD qualify for special education services (Smith, 2004). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association, defines two basic symptom clusters of ADHD, one consisting of hyperactivity and impulsivity and the other of inattention (Weiler et al. 2002). AD/HD and other learning disabilities may coexist in some instances (Smith, 2004). 4. Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities: those learning disabilities, which are not severe enough that students need to be excluded from mainstream classrooms for instruction. Most children with mild to moderate learning disabilities receive all of their instruction in the regular academic classroom. Examples of mild to moderate learning disabilities are Dyslexia, and other reading, writing, or mathematical disabilities. AD/HD is also included in this grouping because it occurs in concert with other learning disabilities in most cases. 5. Exceptional Children: The term used by North Carolina Public Schools for any child who receives aid in the classroom or in education dictated by an Individualized Education Plan. 6. Individualized Education Plan (IEP): a contract between the student, their parents, their special education coordinator, and their regular teachers for the appropriate educational or curriculum accommodations needed for academic achievement (USDE, 1997). 7. Vocational Education: the term used to describe educational programs that were intended to train students for a specific industry or agricultural field. These programs were organized educational programs that directly related to the preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment, or for additional preparation for a career requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree. Vocational education became known as Workforce Development Education in the 1980s and is know known as Career and Technical Education. 8. Workforce Development Education (WDE): the term previously used to describe Career and Technical Education. 9. Career & Technical Education (CTE): The title for educational programs in North Carolina such as agricultural education; business and information technology education; career development education; family and consumer sciences education; health occupations education; marketing education; middle grades education; and technology education (NCDPI, n.d.). 10. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): federal legislation that gives Exceptional Children the right to an education in the least restrictive environment; last amended in 1997 (USDE, 1997).

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9 11. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who do not have disabilities (USDE, 1997). 12. Americans with Disabilities Act: legislation passed in 1990 that gives people with disabilities the same rights as those without disabilities and mandates certain accommodations to physical environments be undertaken to ensure this equality. 13. Section 504: legislation that grants civil and equal rights to people with disabilities and makes discrimination a criminal offense. 14. ABCs of Accountability: In 1996, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the School Based Management and Accountability Act, commonly know as the "ABC's Program. It is the comprehensive accountability measurement for all public schools in North Carolina. Schools receive federal funds and recognition based on their score according to the formula used to calculate a schools growth each year, based on standardized test scores. 15. VoCATS: an acronym for the North Carolina Vocational Competency Achievement Tracking System, which was designed to measure students achievement in vocational classes (NC Public Schools, 2005). Currently used to: plan instruction; assess students before, during, and after instruction; evaluate student mastery of competencies; document student achievement; and provide accountability data 16. FFA: Abbreviation for the National FFA Organization, the Career and Technical Education student organization that is intracurricular to agricultural education. FFA promotes the ideals of premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Summary Societal needs and changes in education reform such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act have created diverse educational environments. The effect of mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans. To effectively aid students with mild to moderate learning disabilities

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10 in understanding agricultural subject matter, agriculture teachers must find ways to modify their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments. This study will explore the modifications that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina are making in these areas and the theoretical research basis that supports the efficacy of their efforts.

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Purpose of the study The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. Introduction Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.) Therefore, it is vital that agriculture teachers find ways to modify curricula, instruction, and educational environments to aid students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. In 1903 Pavlov published his landmark study on psychology and attention entitled, The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals. This study linked response of dogs to the stimulus of food. Since that time, scientists have been working to 11

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12 determine how humans process thought and rationalize (Nobel Foundation, n.d.). In addition to the interest shown by psychologists, educational researchers also found the concept of attention and information processing vital to education, especially in the area of attention deficits and how they can be addressed through instructional settings (Das et al., 1994). When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was first passed and implemented in 1976-1977, only about one-quarter of students with learning disabilities were served. In the 11-year period from 1990 to 2000, the number of students classified with learning disabilities had grown by 34% (Smith, 2004). The need for this study stems from a need for more research on students with mild disabilities in the agriculture classroom (Moore & Woods, 2002). A large, diverse body of literature provided the foundation for the study. This chapter will provide a systematic overview of the search process in reviewing the literature, and will examine the theoretical and empirical studies in the field. Learning Disabilities For this study Learning Disabilities are operationally defined as disabilities in which the individual possessed average intelligence, but is substantially delayed in academic achievement in the areas of mathematics, reading, or writing (Smith, 2004). There are two accepted definitions currently used to describe learning disabilities. The United States Department of Education concluded that learning disabilities are defined as A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages. (Smith, 2004, p.110)

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13 The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, a coalition of professional and parent organizations concerned with learning disabilities, defined learning disabilities in the following way: Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences or insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences. (Smith, 2004, p. 111) Although the aforementioned definitions are worded differently, Smith (2004) noted the key characteristics of learning disabilities as follows: 1. Intelligence [IQ] scores within a normal range. 2. Significant disparity exists between academic achievement and expected potential. 3. Learning disabilities are not caused by other factors, such as cultural differences, lack of educational opportunities, poverty, or other disabilities. 4. Learning disabilities often manifest themselves in language-related areas, such as communication, written language, or reading. 5. Problems with learning disabilities are intrinsic to the individual, involving that persons central nervous system, specific deficits in information processing, or the ability to learn. 6. Learning problems are specific and confined to one or two cognitive areas. Although there are commonalities in how federal agencies define learning disabilities, states vary in their own definitions, thereby causing inconsistency in the percentages of students included in the learning disabilities category per state. However, nationally,

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14 over half of the students included in special education are designated as having a learning disability (Smith, 2004). The defining characteristic of learning disabilities is unexpected underachievement (Smith, 2004). Learning disabilities are very different from merely poor academic performance, they are a result of cognitive disabilities resulting in poor motivation possibly from poor teaching (Smith, 2004). Torgensen suggested that learning disabilities may reflect deficits in the ability to process information, although no current assessment methods for this notion are available (cited in Smith, 2004). The learning disabilities category is broad, covering disabilities related to academic subject areas as well as motor skills. The four classifications of learning disabilities are: Dyslexia (reading disabilities), Dysgraphia (writing disabilities), Dyscalculia (mathematical disabilities), and Dyspraxia (fine motor skills disabilities) (National Center for Learning Disabilities [NCLD], n.d.). The three types of learning disabilities found most often in educational research are Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia, presumably because these disabilities are directly related to academic subject matter (Siegel, 1988, 1992; Das & Mishra, 1994; Newman, 2000; Smith, 2004; National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke [NINDS], n.d.). For the purposes of this study, only Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia will be discussed. Dyslexia (Reading Disabilities) Dyslexia is a specific reading disability (Siegel, 1988, 1992; Das & Mishra, 1994). Students identified as having learning disabilities have much lower reading abilities than do those students who are merely low achievers (Smith, 2004). For example, children with dyslexia do not typically test low on IQ tests, except where test items require

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15 reading (Das & Mishra, 1994). Reading disabilities, therefore, are not accurately measured by IQ (Siegel, 1988, 1992). Difficulty with reading disabilities involves the necessity to understand printed text, requiring proficiency in a number of skills, including: reading words, comprehending language, and accessing background language (Smith, 2004). Reading disabilities make school difficult for students because, as the complexity of reading tasks increases, students who are not proficient in reading tasks cannot keep up with their classmates (Smith, 2004). Dysgraphia (Writing Disabilities) Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities (NINDS, n.d.). Writing occurs in many varying formats such as essays, reports, creative writing, and note taking. Failure to be able to complete these tasks would obviously make school difficult for students with writing disabilities (Smith, 2004). Dysgraphia causes a persons writing to be distorted or incorrect, including inappropriately spaced or sized letters and wrong or misspelled words. Children with this disorder may have a combination of learning disabilities, but are not of low intelligence (NINDS, n.d.). Because reading and writing are intimately related, most students with reading disabilities also have writing disabilities (Smith, 2004). Dyscalculia (Mathematical Disabilities) Dyscalculia is a mathematical disability. Some symptoms include: difficulty with the abstract concepts of time and direction; inconsistent results in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; inability to grasp and remember mathematical concepts; inability to visualize concepts; and difficulty keeping score in games (Newman, 2000). Children with mathematical disabilities have difficulty retrieving information from their

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16 long-term memory such as remembering certain number facts (Smith, 2004). Possibly, more than half of students with learning disabilities also have difficulties with math (Smith, 2004). Rationale for Instructional Modifications for Students with Learning Disabilities If a student receives instruction in ways that are typically used in general education classrooms, and they do not respond or significantly improve, further intervention or individualized instruction may be necessary (Smith, 2004). Some students do not learn at the same rate as their classmates, and therefore need further aid in the classroom (Smith, 2004). Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) The description of AD/HD can be found as early as 1960, but long before that, Still had summarized the symptoms of this condition (cited in Das et al., 1994). In those days, children with AD/HD were distinguished from those with brain damage, but were still viewed as medical problems. This distinction was necessitated by previous treatment of AD/HD children as mental health patients. Other forms of mental health services for children either dealt with infants or were non-existent (Das et al., 1994). Strauss and Lehtinen suggested that because symptoms of AD/HD were viewed as medical problems and the symptoms were similar to those of people with brain injury, the disorder inappropriately became associated with neurological damage (cited in Das et al., 1994). Treatment for educational purposes, in particular, was formulated according to the brain injury model and remained unchanged well into the 1980s. At the time, treatments were limited to minimal stimulation. Individual study areas were used to treat distractibility. Teachers wore plain clothes and no jewelry and classroom walls were neutral colors. Currently, it has been found that children with AD/HD do not need such

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17 unstimulating educational environments and are not distractible in the same sense as brain-injured children (Das et al., 1994). The learning disabilities category is a broad category designated in the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Act to including students who have disabilities associated with reading, writing, or mathematics (USDE, 1997; Smith, 2004). As such, symptoms of learning disabilities vary according to the areas where students are experiencing difficulty. Learning disabilities are separate in their nature from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a medical disorder that causes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. AD/HD is designated as a disorder outside of Learning Disabilities. However, AD/HD and Learning Disabilities may coexist in some cases (Smith, 2004). Silver (2002) states that as many as 30 40% of individuals who have Learning Disabilities also have AD/HD. In the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA, AD/HD was classified by the government as a part of the other health impairments category, possibly in hopes of reducing the size of the learning disabilities category (Smith, 2004). No reduction in the learning disabilities category occurred; instead, the health impairments category increased by 341% because of the inclusion of AD/HD in that definition (Smith, 2004). According to the American Psychiatric Association, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines AD/HD as, a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development (Smith, 2004). The latest version of the DSM identifies two basic symptom clusters of AD/HD, one

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18 consisting of hyperactivity and impulsivity, and the other of inattention (Weiler et al., 2002). According to Das et al. (1994), AD/HD is defined as a developmental behavior disability where attentional deficits are the primary symptoms, coupled with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and noncompliance. The disorder results from a failure in inhibition and self-control that may arise when key brain circuits do not develop properly, possibly because of altered genes (Barkley, 1998). One of the problems associated with AD/HD is self-control. In their early years, children perform executive cognitive functions externally (i.e., talking aloud). However, as most children mature, those executive functions become internalized. Children with AD/HD have little self-control over these functions and seem to lack the restraint needed to inhibit the public performance of these functions (Barkley, 1998). Executive functions are commonly grouped into four areas of mental activity: operation of working memory; internalization of self-directed speech; controlling emotions, motivation, and state of arousal; and reconstitution (Barkley, 1998). No researcher has been able to find the direct and immediate causes of the difficulties experienced by children with AD/HD. However, brain-imaging studies during the past decade have suggested that patients with AD/HD have malfunctions in certain areas of the brain (Barkley, 1998). Castellanos and Rapoport conducted a study in 1996 at the National Institute of Mental Health and found that in children with ADHD have right prefrontal cortexes that are significantly smaller than normal. The right prefrontal cortexes regulate attention. Most researchers believed the difference in size of these brain areas to be a genetic disorder with a heritability approaching 80% (cited in Barkley, 1998).

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19 Research by Weiler et al. (2002) indicated that students with AD/HD process visual information more slowly, especially when multitasking. They also may be more susceptible to distractions in the classroom. Interventions that appear to benefit children with AD/HD may possibly help other children with learning impairments (Weiler et al., 2002). There is a cognitive intelligence model that focuses on attention processing and information processing, two areas where students with learning disabilities and AD/HD have the most difficulty. This model, called the PASS Theory of Cognitive Intelligence, helps to provide some structure for research into the areas where students have deficiencies (Das et al., 1994). By determining the cognitive areas in which deficiencies occur, curricular and instructional modifications can then be developed. The Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive (PASS) Theory of Cognitive Intelligence J.P. Das began research in 1972 based on the works of Luria (1966, 1973, 1980) on the cortical lobes of the brain where information is held and processed. In 1994, Das, Naglieri, and Kirby published their research emphasizing the cognitive processes in Lurias model, rather than the neurological locations where arousal, attention, information processing, and planning processes takes place. Luria concluded that human cognitive processing involves three functional systems that work in concert (Das et al., 1994). The first unit regulates cortical tone and maintenance of attention. The second unit receives, processes, and stores information, using simultaneous and successive information coding. The third unit programs, regulates, and directs mental activity (Das et al., 1994).

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20 Although the PASS acronym represents four pieces of the cognitive processing puzzle, these four parts are actually divided into three main units of cognitive function. The first unit is attention. An individual has to first attend to a stimulus or stimuli in order to process information. Attention tasks require the individual to direct responses to a particular stimulus and suppress reacting to a competing stimulus or stimuli (Das et al., 1994). The second unit of cognitive function is simultaneous and successive processing, which are both types of information coding. Simultaneous processing of information involves the integration of stimuli into groups based on common characteristics. Successive processing involves the integration of stimuli into a series where the elements fall into a progression (Das et al., 1994). Planning processes make up the third unit of cognitive function. They provide the means to analyze cognitive activity, develop problem-solving methods, evaluate the effectiveness of a solution, and modify the approach used as needed. Planning processes require the input, acquisition, and coding of knowledge and are therefore the final aspect of cognitive function (Das et al., 1994). The three basic units are dynamic and respond to the experiences of the individual. They are also subject to developmental changes and form an interrelated system (Das et al., 1994). As seen in Figure 2-1, the functional units are interrelated but maintain their specific and independent functions (Das et al., 1994).

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21 Knowledge Base Knowledge Base AROUSAL/ ATTENTION Memory Conceptual Perceptual First Functional Unit Brain Stem PLANNING Memory Conceptual Perceptual Frontal Occipital, Parietal, & Temporal SIMULTANEOUS & SUCCESSIVE Conce p tual Memor y Perce p tual Second Functional Uni t Third Functional Unit Input Output Concurren t Serial Concurren t Serial Figure 2-1. The PASS Model of Ability (Das et al., 1994) Knowledge Base The PASS Theory outlines the manner in which individual students acquire knowledge, process that knowledge, and code it for storage in long-term memory. A students knowledge base, or previously learned information stored in long-term memory, ultimately affects all aspects of the acquisition and storage of new knowledge (Das et al., 1994). Knowledge base is the information that has been accumulated by an individual using formal and informal means (Das et al., 1994). The functional units all rely on ones

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22 knowledge base, as well as influence it. All cognitive processes are influenced by the existing knowledge base and the knowledge base acts as a moderator during processing (Das et al., 1994). The acquisition of knowledge stems from the interaction of coding and planning to perform various tasks. During the interaction of coding and planning, a proper state of arousal is required to provide an opportunity for learning. As noted by Das et al. (1994), effective processing is accomplished through the integration of knowledge with planning, attention, simultaneous, and successive processes as demanded by the particular task. Arousal In order for a person to be attentive, they must first be in an awakened state, or an aroused state of mind. Arousal and its relationship with attention must be understood physiologically and behaviorally. Attention typically entails focus and selectivity (Das et al., 1994). Titchener first mentioned attention in terms of sensible clearness or clarity of sensation (cited in Das et al., 1994). A contemporary of Titchener, William James, explained attention as a process of selection; an individual selects one stimulus from the large number of stimuli that impinge on it during an awakened state (cited in Das et al., 1994). According to Luria, arousal regulates the activity level in both the body and the mind (Das et al., 1994). He suggests that there are three sources of influence on arousal: 1. The metabolic processes of each individual vary, causing differing physiological states of arousal within a group of individuals, 2. The orienting response of the arrival of the stimulus from outside the current knowledge base of the individual (whether the arrival is new and unique to the individual, causes confusion or creates intense emotion),

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23 3. Internal sources of stimuli from the individuals intentions, plans, and other thoughts arriving from the frontal lobes are influences on the aroused state of the individual. Of these three influences, Luria believed that the last two have the greatest relationship to attention (Das et al., 1994). Arousal and Attention Arousal and attention fluctuate based on environmental factors. External conditions such as heat, cold, and noise can modulate arousal as well as internal factors such as intense emotion or cognitive conditions (Das et al., 1994). Attention may increase with loud noise levels or anxiety and then decrease as levels become excessively high and unmanageable. A prolonged period of attention can reduce arousal, causing the individual to become drowsy. Physiological signs observed during arousal are changes in heart rate, blood flow, and respiration. These same changes can be measures of attention as well. The relationships between attention and arousal are complex, but to be stated simply, arousal is the state of being active whereas attention is specific; we attend to a specific or particular thing or things (Das et al., 1994). Attention As previously mentioned, children with attention deficits, sometimes coupled with hyperactivity and impulsivity, are diagnosed with having AD/HD (Smith, 2004; Weiler et al., 2002; Das et al., 1994). Attention can now be understood as the focus on a specific piece of information for a specific reason and filtered out of all other pieces of information simultaneously received (Das et al., 1994). Geschwind stated that there are five characteristics of the attentional system that can summarize its complexity (cited in Das et al., 1994). They are: Attention is selective.

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24 Attention is coherent, as it is maintained for some time once the selection is made. It is necessary to shift attention in order to process information. It is important to monitor a broad range of stimuli before focusing attention. Individuals may have special sensitivity to certain kinds of stimuli. These characteristics provide evidence that attention is one of many complex cognitive systems used to process information. They also describe higher cognitive functions that manifest themselves in intelligent behavior. Therefore, attention can be considered intelligent activity (Das et al., 1994). Figure 2-2 shows a simplistic view of how the attention processes interact. No Yes Detection of specific stimulus is required Is this stimulus the one? Respond Do not respond Examine next stimulus Input of several stimuli Figure 2-2. Attention Processes Path Diagram (Das et al., 1994) Information Selection Broadbents Filter Theory After attention is focused on a specific stimulus, the information must then be processed. In order to process meaningful information, it has been theorized that

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25 individuals use a filter system to select important information out of the influx of sensory information received during arousal. The information is received through the senses and creates a bottleneck flow of information until the most meaningful information or stimulus is chosen for processing. Selection is necessary to keep the flow of information from overloading the brains limited capacity. This theory is called Broadbents Filter Theory (Das et al., 1994). Information processing theories assume that an individuals past experiences (knowledge base) determine the significance of the new stimulus or event (Das et al., 1994). Emotions, attitudes, and preconceived strategies for information processing can affect the actual processing of the information. These factors exist in the social and personal realm of the individual and are extrinsic to the stimulus itself (Das et al., 1994). Simultaneous and Successive Information Processing Attention-arousal systems facilitate information processing. However, it is in the processing system that most of the action takes place. Successive processing has been found to be particularly difficult for children with dyslexia because it is required in the decoding of words (Kirby & Robinson, 1987; Kirby & Das, 1990; Smith, 2004). Information processing is also the issue with writing disabilities and mathematical disabilities because the recall of information is required (Smith, 2004). In the information processing system, incoming information is received and combined with prior knowledge. It is then transformed according to the knowledge base and the planning system, and stored for later use as an addition to the knowledge base (Das et al., 1994). Coding is the specific part of processing that occurs in this system. By definition, coding is what happens when new information is interpreted in terms of

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26 what we already know. Outside stimuli do not carry meaning until meaning is given it by the individual; therefore, stimuli have to be coded in different ways (Das et al., 1994). There are two types of coding: simultaneous and successive. Simultaneous coding relationships are between multiple pieces of information and produce a single code. As seen in Figure 2-3, all of the pieces of information input from a stimulus into the brain share some relationship with one another. Those relationships, or the pieces needed for discovering it, already exist in the knowledge base. These are individual pieces of information, but can be grouped together in memory and easily recalled because of their shared relationships. The result is a code that takes up only one space in the working memory (Das et al., 1994). For example, if a student is given the task of learning the names of all the states within the United States, they may group certain states together either by alphabetical order or by geographical location in order to more easily remember or recall that information. The student will choose how to store this information based on their pre-existing knowledge base. It is not important the order in which information is stored, only that the group itself is easily stored and recalled. 1 3 4 2 Figure 2-3. Simultaneous Processing Path Diagram (Das et al., 1994) Successive processing produces and holds an ordered set of information. It is used to remember sequences of information. Unlike with simultaneous processing, the order in which information is stored in successive processing is critical. There is a specific

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27 order for pieces of information based on the nature of that information. In successive processing only those sequential relationships are received. Note figure 2-4 for further description of successive processing (Das et al., 1994). 2 3 4 1 Figure 2-4. Successive Processing Path Diagram (Das et al., 1994) Simultaneous and successive processing are complementary to one another. Neither process is superior to the other because both are needed at various levels of information processing (Das et al., 1994). The individual can employ either strategy when processing and recalling information based on the nature of the task, the knowledge base and the strategy employed by the individual. The selection of strategy used is a function of planning (Das et al., 1994). Planning Planning processes involve analyzing cognitive activity, developing problem-solving methods, evaluating the effectiveness of a solution, and modifying the approach used as needed. Planning behaviors are not routine or entrenched, but are in some ways regulatory behaviors. They regulate the physiological and neurological behaviors of the individual, while resisting distractions and overcoming discontinuities (Das et al., 1994). Planning is purposeful and occurs in advance of action. It involves flexibility and the evaluation of ones own actions as well as the actions of others. A breakdown in the planning processes can be seen in the failures to evaluate errors correctly or regulate functions. Planning is difficult if attention and processing functions are not present (Das et al., 1994).

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28 Planning Processes in Children It is not known whether planning occurs in the cognitive processes of younger children because planning makes use of Inner Speech, which younger children would not have not yet developed. This is consistent with Lurias views on planning and younger children. However, the behavior of younger children does stem from metacognitive activity, where children are aware of what they do and do not know. Therefore, the behaviors of young children do have some order and are not randomized (Das et al., 1994). It is also unclear at what age planning processes develop or begin. All that is known is that speech must regulate action as a prerequisite for planning. The regulatory role of speech is absent during the impulsive actions of children or adults (Das et al., 1994). The PASS Theory, Relative to Learning Disabilities The cognitive processes discussed in the PASS theory give form to abstract concepts such as thought, attention, and planning processes. It is not possible to measure the activity that occurs during these processes because students are not able to describe exactly how they perform these functions. It is only possible to measure the outcome of thought, attention, and planning by using assessment measures in an educational setting (Bailin et al., 1999). Learning disabled and hyperactive individuals may have limited capacities in some areas because of one or more of the three contexts emotional, attitudinal, or strategic (Das et al., 1994). For children, the capacity to process information is already limited. However, children with disabilities are even further limited, which affects their attention and short-term memory (Das et al., 1994).

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29 Rivera and Smith (1997) concluded that the following learning characteristics are at the root of academic problems: Lack of motivation or poor attribution Inattention Inability to generalize Faulty information processing Insufficient problem solving skills Carlson et al. (2002) determined that students could develop a negative attitude and come to believe their failure is a result of lack of ability, instead of recognizing their need for help. Such external factors as luck, extra help, teacher favoritism, or classmate help are other reasons that they may believe contribute to their success or failure. Students with AD/HD also have attributions that undermine their success in school. Because learning disabilities and AD/HD often occur concurrently, it is important to use methods that can aid either disability at the same time (Smith, 2004). Instructional Modifications for Attention Mercer (1997) noted that attention deficits are one of the key characteristics of students with AD/HD. Another key characteristic of AD/HD is impulsivity. A related problem then is developing good organizational skills in those students. Creating structure helps students to become more organized and contributes to their focus on certain tasks. Deshler et al. (2001) found that advance organizers or organizing routines helped to focus students attention by providing an introductory overview of the material to be presented. Advance organizers create a framework for students to follow and structure of course content so that students can see how parts of a course fit together. According to the United States Department of Education [USDE] (2004) some strategies that will help students with AD/HD are:

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30 Provide an advance organizer Review previous lessons Set learning expectations Set behavioral expectations State needed materials Explain additional resources Simplify instructions, choices, and scheduling While conducting lessons, some strategies to aid students with learning disabilities are (USDE, 2004): Be predictable Support the students participation in the classroom Use audiovisual materials Check student performance Ask probing questions Perform ongoing student evaluation Help students correct their own mistakes Help students focus Follow-up on directions Lower noise level Divide work into smaller units Highlight key points Eliminate or reduce the frequency of timed tests Use cooperative learning strategies Use assistive technology Instructional Modifications for Simultaneous and Successive Processing Children with learning disabilities have the most trouble with information processing (Smith, 2004). Smith (2004) noted that educators could aid in the processing of information by: Repeating important information Organizing content systematically Providing students with relevant information Relating examples to student experiences Associating content with familiar information Rivera and Smith (1997) noted that students with learning disabilities also have problems with problem solving and thinking skills. Brigham and Brigham (2001)

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31 suggested that in order to aid these students with their problem solving skills, learning strategies can be applied in order for students to study efficiently and remember content. Swanson and Sachse-Lee (2000) suggested that one way of giving students the tools to compensate for their learning problems is the use of learning strategies. The Learning Strategies approach, designed by Deshler and Schumaker, directs students to group similar information by main ideas and details, as well as how to read high school texts and write reports in systematic ways. According to Smith (2004), key features of the learning strategies approach are the use of: Highly structured materials Advance organizers (organizing structures) Mnemonics This approach goes beyond crisis teaching that used to be performed by special education teachers and helps students to meet the demands of the general education secondary curriculum. There are several learning strategies that can aid students in recalling information. Three such strategies as presented by Smith (2004) are referenced here: Classifying : the learner categorizes and groups items together according to their common characteristics. Association : identifying relationships between and among different knowledge bases and items within those knowledge bases Sequencing : putting items together in a logical sequence to facilitate memory and learning. For example, physical items can be sequenced by size and weight while ideas can be sequenced by time or importance. Other Educational Methods for Students with Learning Disabilities Federal and State educational laws require certain instructional modifications for students who have learning disabilities, based on the students Individualized Education Plan (USDE, 1997). These modifications can include such items as: extended time on

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32 tests, tests being read aloud to the student, or taking a test in a separate room. Teachers can implement other instructional and curricular strategies in the classroom in order to promote attentiveness in students and aid them in understanding difficult concepts (Smith, 2004). Using peers to aid students in learning subject matter has become one of the more prominent teaching methods used in education for general education classrooms and students with learning disabilities alike. Peer tutoring is known to help some students with learning disabilities or AD/HD, especially if the number of these students in a class is relatively low (Smith, 2004). Smith (2004) noted that some of the steps used to create a peer-learning environment are: Teachers include student input in describing the problem Teacher and students worked together to identify some solutions Ability groups are mixed within the class This type of learning environment is phased in, not scheduled for all types of activities across the entire day An evaluation component is included in the peer-learning process Swanson and Sachse-Lee (2000) and Vaughn et al. (2000) found that some keys to effective instruction for students with learning disabilities are: 1. Directly teach the subject, skill, or content area 2. Be certain students have opportunities for drill, repetition, practice, and review 3. Work in small, active groups 4. Break learning units into small segments 5. Use strategy instruction Hock (1997) and Sexton et al. (1998) stated that students also benefit when they are shown the relationship between effort and accomplishment and when they are taught learning strategies they know are effective. Vaughn et al. (2000) noted that without

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33 instruction on how to approach learning, students who have learning disabilities are unable to compensate for their learning problems. Agricultural Education for Students with Learning Disabilities A major concern in the development and societal transition of special needs students is their ability to become employed after high school graduation (Morningstar, 1997). Through vocational programs, some students with disabilities find employment and those students with disabilities who had paid or unpaid work experience in high school had better employment outcomes, higher wages, more hours, [and] more continuous employment (Wonacott, 2000, p.1). These students often obtained competitive jobs more often and were better prepared to keep their jobs (Wonacott, 2000). One such program is agricultural education, where students can find employment through a Supervised Agricultural Experience (Schwager & White, 1994). Agricultural Education covers a wide variety of science based curricular areas and includes the classroom/ laboratory environment, Supervised Agricultural Experiences and FFA involvement. Classroom and laboratory time are the part of Agricultural Education that is supervised by teachers during the school day and are therefore more easily modified by teachers for students with learning disabilities. In agricultural education, both the classroom and laboratory time are designed by teachers to include hands-on performance. Understanding agricultural concepts such as greenhouse maintenance, floral design, biotechnology, or animal husbandry require the learner to have adequate experience. In order to provide that experience, agriculture teachers use the same laboratory environments found in most science classrooms to teach these concepts. Recently, biotechnology has become a part of the agricultural curriculum. This requires a great deal of laboratory experimentation and experience with

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34 technical laboratory equipment. Other types of laboratory environments found in agricultural programs are onsite farms, or land laboratories. Subject areas, such as horticulture and animal science, use land laboratories to give students first hand experience with animals and plants in their natural environment. McCann (1998) found that science classes provide learning-disabled students with opportunities to learn that they may not get in other classes, and special education teachers are often not trained in the sciences. It is therefore imperative that certain modifications be made to enable scientific inquiry (McCann, 1998). As more agricultural programs emphasize the scientific nature of agriculture through their curricula, the cautions presented here may be pertinent to agricultural education as well as science education. Exceptional students are now an integral part of the classroom and in becoming so, have used the task-oriented structure of agricultural education to their benefit for learning work related skills (Elbert & Baggett, 2003). However, because of the nature of agricultural education, as an elective course serving diverse populations, it is slightly more difficult to engage all students at once (Elbert & Baggett, 2003). Jones and Moore (2000) and Moore et al. (2001) reported that, although agriculture teachers were comfortable working with ethnically and culturally diverse students, those same teachers were less comfortable working with mentally challenged students. In 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Education, special needs students were found in an increasingly higher proportion in agricultural education courses (Elbert & Baggett, 2003). With the population of exceptional students present in each class, agriculture teachers need to be prepared for and feel competent in serving these students and have a

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35 need for more resources on how to effectively engage these students (Moore & Woods, 2002). Cobb et al., Colley and Jamison concluded that students with disabilities enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs were found to be less likely to drop out and more likely to become employed and to have paid, competitive jobs (cited in Wonacott, 2000). Therefore, a strong need exists for special needs students to be enrolled and actively involved in Career and Technical Education. Eventually, knowing how agricultural educators should make modifications for special needs students will help to achieve a greater sense of acceptance of these students into the agriculture program, due to the benefits they may receive as participants (Wonacott, 2000). Summary Researchers have been concerned with attentional processes and information processing since the early 1900s. Attention and information processing have strong implications in educational settings because of the nature of the classroom and the requirements of students in modern education. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract concepts of thought processing from stimulus and information input. The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous

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36 and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to deficits in students who have learning disabilities and AD/HD. Students with AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach seems to provide aid. AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. The concern for teachers of agricultural education, specifically, is that the nature of an agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom as far as having to teach subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their education in the least restrictive environment as required by law, while enabling them to be successful.

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CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. Research Objectives The objectives of the study were as follows: 1. To identify modifications to curricula used to assist students with learning disabilities in mastering subject matter. 2. To identify successful methods of modifyi ng instruction, outside of those dictated in a students Individualized Education Plan. 3. To identify physical changes to the learning environm ent that have assisted learning disabled students in maintaining attention or processing information. Introduction Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in 37

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38 North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that agriculture teachers, along with teachers in other areas, find ways to make modifications to their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments in order to aid students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter. Chapter 2 discussed the concern educational researchers have with attentional processes and information processing because of their strong implications in the classroom. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract concepts related to information processing The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in the memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to deficits in students who have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. Students with AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students

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39 in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach seems to provide aid. The concern for teachers of agricultural education is that the nature of an agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom; teaching subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their education in the least restrictive environment, while enabling them to be successful. Procedure The Delphi technique using a series of mailed questionnaires was used for this study. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique. The research was conducted during a four-month period during November 2004 through March 2005. The Delphi structure is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face. The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possible error in responses will be and also the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the data (Dalkey, 1969). An issue with face-to-face group discussion is often the presence of highly influential individuals in the group. The Delphi method omits this problem because

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40 anonymity is used to protect the responses of individuals through information collection by media such as mail, electronic mail, or online (Dalkey, 1969). Another problem with face-to-face group communication is noise within the group discussion, or the focus of the group on group interests instead of the question at hand. This is curtailed by the use of controlled feedback in the Delphi method. The exercise is conducted in a series of rounds between which the summary of results from the previous rounds are communicated to participants, allowing for the focus of the group to be on the specific issue in question (Dalkey, 1969). Statistical definition of group consensus is an easy way to solve the last problem with normal face-to-face communication, which is the desire for group conformity. By conducting the exercise in rounds where data is condensed at the end of each round by statistical measures, the data eventually reaches a point where consensus can be determined by an assigned mean instead of the group. This ensures that the opinion of each group member is equally represented in the final response (Dalkey, 1969). Dalkey (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13. Population/ Sample A letter of invitation to participate in the study was mailed from the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida to selected agriculture teachers in North Carolina determined to be experts in addressing special education needs of agriculture students. A list of expert teachers were chosen by Dr. Jim Flowers, Chair, of the Department of Agricultural & Extension Education at North Carolina State University and Dr. Marshall Stewart, State Agricultural Education

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41 Coordinator. Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart are recognized as experts in agricultural education in North Carolina and nationwide. Dr. Flowers has served as Department Head at North Carolina State University for over 5 years. Prior to his current position he was a professor of Agricultural Education at North Carolina State University and a high school agriculture teacher. He served as National President of the American Association of Agricultural Education in 2001 and National Secretary from 1997-1998. He has received several awards for his research, including Outstanding Research Paper from the American Vocational Education Research Association in 2000. He has also received several awards for his teaching, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Region of the American Association of Agricultural Education in 1994. Dr. Flowers earned his PhD at the University of Illinois in agricultural education. Dr. Stewart has served as the Agricultural Education Coordinator since 1996. Prior to his current position with North Carolina agricultural education he served as Executive Director of the National Association of Agriculture Educators from 1994 to 1995, held several positions with the National FFA Organization from 1988 to 1994, and taught high school agriculture in North Carolina from 1986 to 1988. Both men are considered leaders in agricultural education nationwide. Of the 362 agriculture teachers in North Carolina, 45 were invited to participate in this Delphi study (NC FFA, 2004). The criteria for selection of these expert teachers was as follows: 1. At least 5 years of teaching experience 2. Currently teaching in an agriculture program at a public high school 3. Known experience with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities

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42 The rationale for a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience was the understanding that a teacher with 5 years of service will have adequate knowledge in serving students with special needs. As teachers with 5 years of experience have gained the knowledge necessary to be considered an expert teacher, they are also still within close proximity of their teacher preparation program and can recall those experiences while participating in this study. Based on these criteria, Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart nominated 45 teachers who were initially invited to participate in this study. The number of invited participants was determined in order to ensure adequate participation throughout the three rounds of this Delphi study. In order for reliability of the data to be above .80, at least 13 Delphi group members must be involved in the study (Dalkey, 1969). All members of the sample are experts, and non-response error is not a concern in a Delphi format (Dalkey, 1969). Therefore, it was determined that a larger group afforded the likelihood of identifying a more composite list of items in earlier rounds. Agricultural Education in North Carolina North Carolina has the 4 th fastest growing student enrollment in the United States (NC FFA, 2004). Currently there are 362 teachers in 261 programs (NC FFA, 2004). However only, 4% of the middle school students in North Carolina are enrolled in agriculture (NC FFA, 2004). In high schools, 9.2% of the 371,987 students enrolled in grades 9-12 are enrolled in agricultural education (NC FFA, 2004). Although small, agricultural education had the largest gains in achievement scores than any other program area in Career and Technical Education in North Carolina in 2004, with a 26.2% gain in Level 3 scores since 2001. Level 3 scores are passing scores according to VoCATS (NC FFA, 2004).

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43 Instruments Used in Data Collection Three instruments were used in this Delphi study. All Round one instruments were mailed to panel members. In succeeding rounds, respondents were able to choose the delivery method; United States Postal Service mail or electronic mail. The round one instrument contained three open-ended questions. The questions were: 1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom / lab environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? These questions were developed based on the works of Cole et al (2000) on the nine types of adaptations that classroom teachers can use to adapt curriculum and instruction in inclusive classrooms. The nine adaptations are: 1. Input : the instructional strategies used to facilitate student learning. 2. Output : the ways learners can demonstrate understanding and knowledge. 3. Size : the length or portion of an assignment. 4. Time : the flexible time needed for student learning. 5. Difficulty : the varied skill levels, conceptual levels and processes involved in learning. 6. Level of Support : the amount of assistance to the learner. 7. Degree of Participation : the extent to which the learner is actively involved in tasks. 8. Modified Goals : the adapted outcome expectations within the context of a general education outcome. 9. Substitute Curriculum : the significantly differentiated instruction and materials to meet a learners identified goals.

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44 These nine types of adaptations seemed to fit into two broad categories: instruction and curriculum. In addition, environmental modifications, such as strategic seating arrangements and working in groups, are noted in the literature as having an effect on the focus and attention of students with learning disabilities (USDE, 1997; Smith, 2004; USDE, 2004). The review of literature was the basis for emphasis on instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications. Due to the open-ended nature of the round one instrumentation for a Delphi study, the questions had to be asked in a generalized manner in order for teachers to be able to elaborate on the methods they used, within the context of the questionnaire. For round one, a cover letter and questionnaire were mailed on November 29, 2004. In the letter, teachers were given the option of returning the questionnaire by mail, fax, or electronic mail. If electronic mail was chosen it was understood that all correspondence from that point would be conducted by electronic mail. Due to lack of response by the first deadline of December 15, 2004, a second reminder electronic mail was sent to all prospective participants on January 3, 2005 asking them to respond to the round one questionnaire that was attached in the electronic mail. Again, response was not as expected (it was suggested that at least 20 responses be returned for round one before continuing with round two). A second mailing of the round one questionnaire was sent on January 19, 2005 with a deadline of January 28, 2005. Items from round one were combined, repetition was eliminated, and items were coded for content. From this coding, a condensed list of items was formulated for the following categories: instructional modifications, curricular modifications, and environmental modifications. It was necessary to move some items into a more

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45 appropriate category for the round two questionnaire. Therefore the initial number of responses for each category is substantially higher than the final list of statements for each category. The second questionnaire asked respondents to rank the responses from round one, using a questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree). The panel was also asked to make comments if they did not agree with or understand a statement, or to revise a statement to clarify it. Some respondents indicated that they preferred electronic mail as their method of delivery for future rounds, so an electronic version of the questionnaire was used in round 2 for these individuals. The first electronic mail version of round two was sent to those respondents from round one who noted they preferred electronic mail on February 1, 2005. The mail version was sent on February 2, 2005 to the remainder of respondents who returned the round one instrument. The deadline for return of this round was set for February 11, 2005. All items with a mean of 3.49 or higher, determined a priori, were included in the round three questionnaires, leaving 40 statements out of the original 53. The rationale for including any items with a mean of 3.49 or higher was to include the items that were marked agree or strongly agree as well as those that might have been considered uncertain, because this is the first study of its type. In this final round, respondents were asked to mark whether they agreed or disagreed with each of the 40 statements. The electronic mail version of round three was sent on February 28, 2005 with a return deadline of March 11, 2005. The mail version

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46 was sent on March 3, 2005 with a deadline for return of March 14, 2005. Consensus was determined in the third questionnaire by percentage of agreement on each statement by the panel and no further rounds of questionnaires were required. Summary A modified Delphi technique with a series of mailed questionnaires was used for this study. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique. The Delphi structure is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face. Expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina (N=45) were chosen as participants in this study. Teachers were contacted in November with a cover letter and round one questionnaire asking for their voluntary participation. After receiving responses on round one, statements were refined and sent out in a round two questionnaire to those teachers who responded to the round one questionnaire. Teachers were informed in the round one cover letter that if they did not desire to participate in the study they were not required to return the round one questionnaire. Therefore, the participants in this study were only those that returned the round one questionnaire. In this round, respondents were asked to rank each item on their agreement using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree). All responses with a mean of 3.49 or higher were combined to form the round three questionnaire where respondents were asked to mark whether they agreed

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47 or disagreed with each statement listed. Consensus was reached in the third round and no further rounds were needed (Moore, 1987).

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CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. Introduction Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that agriculture teachers, along with teachers in other areas, find ways to make modifications to their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments in order to aid students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter. Chapter 2 discussed the concern educational researchers have with attentional processes and information processing because of their strong implications in the 48

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49 classroom. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract concepts related to information processing The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in the memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to deficits in students who have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. Students with AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach seems to provide aid. The concern for teachers of agricultural education is that the nature of an agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom; teaching subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with

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50 learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their education in the least restrictive environment, while enabling them to be successful. Chapter 3 described in detail the research methodology chosen for this study and the rationale for choosing that specific methodology. The research method for this study is the Delphi method, which is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face. The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possibility of error in responses. Furthermore, the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the data. Dalkey (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13. The instrumentation used in this study was a series of three rounds of mailed questionnaires. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique. Delphi Round One Responses The round one questionnaire was mailed to 45 agricultural teachers in North Carolina identified as experts by Dr. Jim Flowers, Department Chair, Department of Agricultural and Extension Education at North Carolina State University and Dr. Marshall Stewart, North Carolina Agricultural Education Coordinator. Nominated teachers could choose to participate in the study by returning the round one questionnaire, indicated as such in the cover letter. The round one questionnaire contained three open-ended questions to which teachers were asked to respond, based upon the strategies they use in their classrooms to make modifications for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. The questions asked were:

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51 1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom/ lab environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? Table 4-1 shows the responses to the first question, received from respondents participating in round one of the Delphi study. The frequency of responses to each statement is listed opposite the appropriate response in the table. Multiple responses were received on 12 items. All responses from this question in round one were coded for content, edited for replication, and condensed to form statements included in the round two questionnaires. Table 4-1. Strategies Used to Modify Curriculum for Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N = 23) Strategy f Choose competencies they can master from the VoCATS blueprint 5 VoCATS doesnt allow curriculum modification unless the student is on an Occupational Course of Study (OCS) 5 Determine which unit/ lesson objectives they can successfully complete 4 No modification is made to the curriculum 3 Shortened or modified assignments are given 3 Hands-on learning activities 3 Grading students based on ability (skills learned instead of test scores) 2 Peer helping/tutoring 2 Lower level, or more appropriate, reading materials 2 Extra time on tests 2 Testing in a separate location 2 Read-aloud for tests 2

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52 Table 4-1. Continued Strategy f Handouts based on objectives in the class for study guides 1 Modified worksheets 1 Ask questions appropriate to their skill level 1 Supplemental activities to hands-on learning 1 Test those students differently 1 Have an Exceptional Children (EC) assistant present in class for extra help 1 Oral exams and presentations 1 Short answer exams 1 Curriculum alignment with their grade level in math, English, social studies, and science 1 Smaller units of instruction 1 Remove some memorization tasks (Creed, etc.) 1 Special needs teachers give an assay on each student 1 Give students a competency guide with competencies that will be covered in class 1 Follow each students Individualized Education Plan (IEP) 1 Verbal assignments broken into smaller parts 1 Cooperative learning (mixed ability groups) 1 Expect special needs students to meet the goals set for all students in the class 1 Length of time spent on a subject is modified 1 Depth of instruction on a subject is modified 1 Guided notes 1 Preferential seating 1 Note. Some items from this list were moved into more appropriate categories for future rounds. Table 4-2 shows the responses to the second question asked in round one. This question asked respondents what strategies they used to modify instruction for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Eighteen strategies were identified by

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53 multiple respondents. All responses to this question were coded for content, edited for replication, and combined to form the statements that were included as a part of the round two questionnaires. Table 4-2. Strategies Used to Modify Instruction for Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N = 23) Strategy f Using PowerPoint with graphics, large fonts, etc. to present notes 9 Pair with an advanced student (peer tutoring) 8 Note handouts or copies of teacher notes 7 Fill in the blank note guides 6 Hands-on assignments and labs 6 Modified assignments and assignment requirements 4 Shortened assignments 4 Different testing methods (verbal, etc.) 3 Read aloud on tests 3 Grade differently 3 Follow the students Individualized Education Plan (IEP) 3 Testing in separate locations 2 Tutoring after school 2 Extended time on tests 2 Extra time on assignments 2 Present information in many forms (written, verbal, visual) 2 Maintain an assignment notebook 2 Group work 2 Verbal instruction 1 Diversity in activities 1 Shortened activities 1 Meet with Exceptional Children (EC) teachers to discuss students 1 Pick out most important items on an assignment 1 Seating close to the front of the room 1

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54 Table 4-2. Continued Strategy f Provide frequent rewards 1 Notes available online for all students 1 Hands-on activity demonstrations 1 Directions for assignments are read aloud 1 Slow instruction down 1 More individualized instruction 1 Allow students to be exempt from written tasks 1 Study guides are given 1 Rubrics are used for performance items 1 Allow learning disabled students to use word banks on plant identification tests 1 Remove paper and pencil tasks 1 Avoid penalizing spelling errors 1 Small units of instruction 1 Update Special Education teachers on what students should be learning 1 Activities that focus on doing rather than obtaining knowledge 1 Some activities are graded as group assignments 1 Show videos that are supplemental to instruction 1 Use a word wall for difficult vocabulary 1 Preferential seating 1 Note. Some items from this list were moved into more appropriate categories for future rounds. The responses to the third question in round one, regarding environmental modifications for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities, are listed in Table 4-3. Of the responses returned, 9 were duplicated on multiple questionnaires. All responses to this question were edited for repetition, coded for content, and condensed to form the strategies listed as a part of the round two questionnaires.

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55 Table 4-3. Strategies Used to Modify the Classroom/ Laboratory Environment for Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N = 23) Strategy f Placed or paired with a partner during lab assignments 8 Receive more teacher attention 4 More hands-on instruction 4 No modifications to the classroom/ lab environment are made 3 Learning disabled students are grouped with normal students in seating arrangements 3 Orally repeat directions 2 or 3 times or make a chart with instructions 3 Preferential seating 3 Use more audio/visual teaching methods to stimulate student interest 2 Strategic seating arrangement so distractions are at a minimum 2 Folder kept in class to hold their pens, paper, etc. 1 Set high expectations 1 Give them activities where they can be successful 1 Use several varying methods of instruction 1 Use stories to make a point 1 Place desks in short rows for easier group work and access to equipment 1 Give them additional jobs to boost their confidence 1 Give them small lab projects to complete 1 Write all notes for their notebooks on the board 1 In the greenhouse, use pre-printed labels to reduce handwriting tasks 1 Modified grading 1 Follow the students IEP 1 Give them shorter assignments 1 Reduce the number of pieces of equipment a student can use in the lab/ shop 1 Note. Some items from this list were moved into more appropriate categories for future rounds.

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56 Of the 45 teachers who were invited to participate in the study, 23 (51%) returned the questionnaire, confirming their willingness to participate. Participants were informed in the cover letter for round one that returning their round one questionnaire indicated their consent to participate in this study. They were also given the option to withdraw from the study at any time. Therefore, the respondent group includes 23 expert North Carolina agriculture teachers. Information in Tables 4-1 through Table 4-3 represented the responses of the study participants to the round one questionnaire. Some of the statements made by teachers are repeated in different sections because the teachers responded in such a manner. Because of this redundancy, and the fact that some responses did not appropriately match the category they were originally reported in, the researcher combined responses that were similar and reorganized the reported information according to the appropriate categories of information, based on the research objectives, in order to receive accurate responses from the research. There were a total of 99 original responses to the round one questionnaire. Delphi Round Two Responses The round two questionnaires were mailed to the 23 respondents from round one of the study. The condensed list of strategies from round one consisted of 52 statements that formed the round two questionnaires. The following tables (Table 4-4 to Table 4-6) reflect the data reorganized into statements that appeared in the round two questionnaires and includes the mean and standard deviation of the round two responses. Table 4-4 reflects the responses to statements included on the round two questionnaires in the category of curriculum strategies that are successful for students with learning disabilities. Only three of the statements in this category had a mean

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57 response above four (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree). Six statements had mean responses below four (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain). The mean responses for the statements listed in Table 4-5 range from 2.42 to 4.56. Table 4-4. Round Two Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19) Strategy M SD Creating and conducting hands-on activities for each unit 4.56 .616 Breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction 4.32 .582 The use of lower level reading materials 4.00 .667 Choosing competencies for the student that they can master 3.79 1.134 Giving students a competency guide that lists what will be covered 3.72 .752 Focusing only on core competencies 3.53 1.073 The removal of some memorization tasks (Creed, etc.) 3.47 1.124 Allowing exemption for assignments in areas where the student is weak 2.94 .873 I cannot modify curriculum for students unless they are OCS 2.42 1.121 Note. Means based on 5-point Likert-scale responses (1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Uncertain, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree). Responses to statements listed on the round two questionnaires in the category of instructional strategies that aid students with learning disabilities are listed in Table 4-5. There were 19 statements with mean responses of four or higher, indicating that the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree). Fifteen statements had mean responses of below four (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain). The mean responses for this category, listed in Table 4-6, range from 2.32 to 4.58.

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58 Table 4-5. Round Two Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19) Strategy M SD Reading a students Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and providing those modifications 4.58 0.507 Strategically assigning partners or groups for work/ projects 4.47 .612 Giving study guides for tests 4.42 .507 Giving students hand-outs that coordinate with lessons 4.37 .496 Emphasizing good hands-on skills 4.37 .496 Giving students fill in the blank note guides or note outlines 4.32 .478 Read aloud for tests/ assignments 4.26 .733 Showing videos and other visual media that relate to topics 4.26 .653 Use stories to illustrate a point in the lesson 4.26 .562 Giving students copies of notes from teacher or other student 4.26 .562 Asking Special Education teachers to provide an assay of each student 4.16 1.015 Keeping Special Education teachers informed about what students should be learning in your class 4.11 1.049 Students keeping a notebook that is graded and checked for accuracy 4.11 .809 The use of Power Points to provide notes and visuals 4.05 .911 Shorter assignments depending on modifications 4.05 .524 Allowing LD students to use a word bank for difficult vocabulary on tests (Plant ID, Tool ID tests, etc.) 4.05 .705 Using a different rubric/ scoring guide for learning disabled students on the same assignment other students complete 4.05 .780 Spending more time with them and watching them more closely during hands-on activities 4.05 .780 Tutoring students after school 4.00 .745 Keeping special education teachers informed about what students should be learning 3.95 .911 Slowing down to give more individualized instruction 3.92 .793 Modified testing, open notebook tests for learning disabled students 3.89 .809

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59 Table 4-5. Continued Strategy M SD Focus on vocabulary that may be difficult for them to understand (creating a word wall, worksheet, etc) 3.89 .658 Not penalizing spelling errors 3.84 .834 Assigning them several tasks a day that focus on active learning rather than passive learning 3.63 .831 Oral exams and presentations 3.63 1.065 Giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items 3.63 1.012 Making sure all students have copied the notes before continuing 3.47 .964 Provide frequent rewards for achievement (food or passes) 3.42 1.071 Have an Exceptional Children (EC) assistant in class 3.32 1.057 Giving short answer exams 3.05 1.129 Writing all notes for their notebooks on the board 2.89 1.243 Not holding learning disabled students responsible for written tasks when grading 2.61 1.092 Removing paper and pencil tasks 2.32 .885 Note. Means based on 5-point Likert-scale responses (1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Uncertain, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree). Table 4-6 reflects the mean responses to statements in round two regarding classroom and/or laboratory environmental modifications that are successful for learning disabled students. Four statements had a mean response of four or higher (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree). Five statements had a mean response below four (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain). The mean responses for this category, listed in Table 4-7, range from 1.84 to 4.68.

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60 Table 4-6. Round Two Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19) Strategy M SD Pairing them with a good partner during lab projects 4.68 .478 Placing students in groups strategically during lab projects 4.47 .513 Placing students in a strategic location with minimum distractions 4.32 .478 Preferential seating 4.32 .671 Giving students shorter and easier shop assignments to complete 3.84 .602 Giving them additional jobs/ tasks, during lab time, to boost their confidence 3.84 .958 Reduce the number of pieces of equipment students can work with 3.05 1.079 Reducing handwriting tasks during lab activities by using pre-printer plant labels, etc. 3.00 1.029 I prefer not to provide special classroom/ lab modifications 1.84 .958 Note. Means based on 5-point Likert-scale responses (1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Uncertain, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree). The round two instruments had a response rate of 83% from the respondents who returned the round one questionnaire (19 out of 23). Statements are ordered by the mean response. Any statement with a mean of 3.49, determined a priori, or higher were retained for the round three questionnaires. Delphi Round Three Responses The round three questionnaires consisted of 40 statements that had mean responses above 3.49 from round two. The round three instruments took statements with which most of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with and asked them to agree or disagree with these statements in order to form consensus. The following tables (Table 4-7 to Table 4-9) list the responses that were used for round three and the percentage of agreement found among the panel of experts. The percentages of agreement for the statements in the round three questionnaire that were concerned with curriculum

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61 strategies that are successful for students with learning disabilities are listed in Table 4-7. Of the seven statements that were retained in the round three questionnaires, five statements had a percentage of agreement above 75%. The other two statements had an agreement percentage below 75% and were thus considered in disagreement of the panel. The first research objective was directly related to this category of statements regarding modifications to curriculum have been used to ensure that students who have learning disabilities can master the subject matter. Based on the information in Table 4-7, there are five curricular modification strategies that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina agreed upon as successful for students with learning disabilities. Giving students a competency guide that lists what will be taught, breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction, the use of lower level reading materials, creating and conducting hands-on activities for each unit, and choosing competencies for the student that they can master were the consensual curricular modifications for students with learning disabilities. Table 4-7. Round Three Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 17) Strategy P Giving students a competency guide that lists what will be taught 88% Breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction 88% The use of lower level reading materials 82% Creating and conducting hands-on activities for each unit 82% Choosing competencies for the student that they can master 76% Focusing only on core competencies 71% Allowing exemption for assignments in areas where the student is weak 59%

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62 Table 4-8 reflects the percentages of agreement with statements of instructional strategies that can aid students with learning disabilities. All 27 of the instructional strategies that were retained from round two had a percentage of agreement above 75% and were thus considered consensual statements. The second research objective dealt with methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated in a students Individualized Education Plan. Of the responses obtained in this round, six strategies were concerned with helping students to organize their notes. Statements ranged from suggestions for more efficient note taking, to providing students with advance organizers and study guides. Three strategies related to testing modifications for these students. These strategies were related to giving students oral exams, giving students open notebook tests, and having tests read aloud for students. There were two strategies related to clarity in scoring. Teachers reported giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items and using a different scoring guide for learning disabled students on certain assignments. Seven strategies dealt with involving students in active learning activities. These strategies were concerned with having students work in groups with other students; engaging them in hands-on activities; using visual aids and stories to supplement lessons; and modifying assignment length or time given for assignment completion. Three strategies dealt with vocabulary, suggesting that difficult vocabulary be given for students in a word bank on tests, more focus spent on defining difficult vocabulary in class, and students not be penalized for spelling errors on tests. Two strategies were concerned with obtaining assistance from a special education teacher and one was concerned with providing modifications as mandated in a students IEP. The last three strategies

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63 suggested additional assistance to students with learning disabilities, either in the form of after-school tutoring, spending more time with them in class, or involving special education teachers by keeping them informed of what students are learning in class. Table 4-8. Round Three Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 17) Strategy P Giving students fill in the blank note guides or note outlines 100% Reading a students IEP and providing those modifications 100% Showing videos and other visual media that relate to topics 100% Giving students copies of notes from teacher or other student 100% Focus on vocabulary that may be difficult for them to understand (creating a word wall, worksheet, etc) 100% The use of Power Points to provide notes and visuals 100% Spending more time with them and watching them more closely during hands-on activities 100% Giving students handouts that coordinate with lessons 100% Giving study guides for tests 100% Read aloud for tests/ assignments 100% Oral exams and presentations 94% Not penalizing spelling errors 94% Allowing learning disabled students to use a word bank for difficult vocabulary on tests (Plant Identification tests, Tool Identification tests, etc.) 94% Modified testing (open notebook tests for learning disabled students. separate location, more time, etc) 94% Assigning them several tasks a day that focus on active learning rather than passive learning 94% Emphasizing good hands-on skills 94% Shorter assignments depending on modifications 94% Use stories to illustrate a point in the lesson 94%

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64 Table 4-8. Continued Strategy P Strategically assigning partners or groups for work/ projects 94% Tutoring students after school 94% Giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items 88% Keeping Special Education teachers informed about what students should be learning in your class 88% Asking Special Education teachers to provide an assay of each student 88% Keeping special education teachers informed about what students should be learning 88% Students keeping a notebook that is graded and checked for accuracy 82% Slowing down to give more individualized instruction 82% Using a different rubric/ scoring guide for learning disabled students on the same assignment other students complete 76% The percentage of agreement for strategies dealing with classroom and/or laboratory modifications for students with learning disabilities is listed in Table 4-9. All six of the environmental modifications that were retained from round two had a percentage of agreement above 75%, indicating consensus. The final research objective was to understand if any physical changes to the learning environment can aid these students in maintaining attention or processing information. The statements regarding classroom and/or laboratory environmental modifications were directly related to this research objective. Two of the strategies were concerned with placing students in strategic locations where they were comfortable and distractions could be minimized. Placing students in groups during lab assignments were the subject matter of two of the modifications suggested for environmental modification. These two statements suggested placing students either with a good partner or in groups strategically to complete their lab assignments. The last two modifications consisted of

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65 giving students additional tasks during lab time to boost their confidence and assigning them shorter and easier shop assignments to complete. Table 4-9. Round Three Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications That Are Successful for Learning Disabled Students (N = 17) Strategy P Placing students in a strategic location with minimum distractions 100% Preferential seating 100% Placing students in groups strategically during lab projects 100% Pairing them with a good partner during lab projects 100% Giving them additional jobs/ tasks, during lab time, to boost their confidence 100% Giving students shorter and easier shop assignments to complete 88% Forty of the 53 original statements were left in round three. This round had a response rate of 74% (17 out of 23). Any statements with a percentage of agreement over 75%, determined a priori, were considered consensual statements. The consensus of the group indicated 38 strategies for modifying curriculum, instruction, and the learning environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Summary Findings from this Delphi study concerning modifications that North Carolina agriculture teachers use for students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities provide evidence that the research objectives have been met. Expert teachers in North Carolina reported making curricular, instructional, and environmental modifications to their agriculture programs in order to aid students who have learning disabilities. They reported the modifications that they make are successful for those students. Consensus was reached on the conclusive statements from the three rounds of questionnaires that teachers agreed are successful methods of modifications for those students.

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CHAPTER 5 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. Research Objectives The objectives of the study were as follows: 1. To identify modifications to curricula used to assist students with learning disabilities in mastering subject matter. 2. To identify successful methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated in a students Individualized Education Plan. 3. To identify physical changes to the learning environment that have assisted learning disabled students in maintaining attention or processing information. Introduction Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National 66

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67 Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that agriculture teachers, along with teachers in other areas, find ways to make modifications to their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments in order to aid students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter. Chapter 2 discussed the concern educational researchers have with attentional processes and information processing because of their strong implications in the classroom. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract concepts related to information processing The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in the memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to deficits in students who have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. Students with AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with

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68 information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach seems to provide aid. The concern for teachers of agricultural education is that the nature of an agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom; teaching subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their education in the least restrictive environment, while enabling them to be successful. Chapter 3 described in detail the research methodology chosen for this study and the rationale for choosing that specific methodology. The research method for this study is the Delphi method, which is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face. The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possibility of error in responses. Furthermore, the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the data. Dalkey (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13. The instrumentation used in this study was a series of three rounds of mailed questionnaires. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique. Chapter 4 discussed the findings from this Delphi study concerning modifications that North Carolina agriculture teachers use for students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities and provided evidence that the research objectives have been met.

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69 Expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina reported making curricular, instructional, and environmental modifications to their agriculture programs in order to aid students who have learning disabilities. They reported the modifications that they make are successful for those students. Consensus was reached on the 38 conclusive statements from the three rounds of questionnaires that teachers agreed are successful methods of modifications for those students. Limitations of the Study The Delphi technique is a successful tool for understanding the complexity of a problem and better understanding its possible solutions. The small, unrepresentative sample size does prohibit generalizabilty among all agriculture teachers in North Carolina and thus other limitations may apply, such as the following: 1. The difference in socioeconomic status of the specific communities in which each school is located will cause disparity in the amount of financial resources available to each respective agricultural program to make modifications to the curriculum and the program as a whole. 2. The data is self-reported. This may cause disparity between the teaching methods that teachers report using in the classroom versus what they actually use. 3. Availability of teacher assistance varies within each classroom. 4. Class size will vary, causing teachers to have differing availability to aid students who have special needs. 5. The severity and uniqueness of each students disability cannot be predicted from the information given. Research Design The Delphi technique using a series of mailed questionnaires was used for this study. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique. The research was conducted during a four-month period during November 2004 through March 2005.

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70 The Delphi structure is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face. The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possible error in responses will be and also the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the data (Dalkey, 1969). An issue with face-to-face group discussion is often the presence of highly influential individuals in the group. The Delphi method omits this problem because anonymity is used to protect the responses of individuals through information collection by media such as mail, email, or online (Dalkey, 1969). Another problem with face-to-face group communication is noise within the group discussion, or the focus of the group on group interests instead of the question at hand. This is curtailed by the use of controlled feedback in the Delphi method. The exercise is conducted in a series of rounds between which the summary of results from the previous rounds are communicated to participants, allowing for the focus of the group to be on the specific issue in question (Dalkey, 1969). Statistical definition of group consensus is an easy way to solve the last problem with normal face-to-face communication, which is the desire for group conformity. By conducting the exercise in rounds where data is condensed at the end of each round by statistical measures, the data eventually reaches a point where consensus can be determined by an assigned mean instead of the group. This ensures that the opinion of each group member is equally represented in the final response (Dalkey, 1969). Dalkey

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71 (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13. Population In order to collect information, a letter of invitation to participate in the study was mailed from the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida to selected agriculture teachers in North Carolina. Selected teachers were be nominated by Dr. Jim Flowers, Chair, of the Department of Agricultural & Extension Education at North Carolina State University and Dr. Marshall Stewart, State Agricultural Education Coordinator. Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart are two experts in agricultural education in North Carolina and nationwide. Dr. Flowers has served as Department Head at North Carolina State University for over 5 years. Prior to his current position he was a professor of Agricultural Education at North Carolina State University and a high school agriculture teacher. He served as National President of the American Association of Agricultural Education in 2001 and National Secretary from 1997-1998. He has received several awards for his research, including Outstanding Research Paper from the American Vocational Education Research Association in 2000. He has also received several awards for his teaching, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Region of the American Association of Agricultural Education in 1994. Dr. Flowers earned his PhD at the University of Illinois in agricultural education. Dr. Stewart has served as the Agricultural Education Coordinator since 1996. Prior to his current position with North Carolina agricultural education he served as Executive Director of the National Association of Agriculture Educators from 1994 to 1995, held several positions with the National FFA Organization from 1988 to 1994, and taught high

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72 school agriculture in North Carolina from 1986 to 1988. Both men are considered leaders in agricultural education nationwide. Of the 362 agriculture teachers in North Carolina, 45 were invited to participate in this Delphi study (NC FFA, 2004). The criteria for selection of these expert teachers was as follows: 1. At least 5 years of teaching experience 2. Currently teaching in an agriculture program at a public high school 3. Known experience with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities The rationale for a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience was the understanding that a teacher with 5 years of service will have adequate knowledge in serving students with special needs. As teachers with 5 years of experience have gained the knowledge necessary to be considered an expert teacher, they are also still within close proximity of their teacher preparation program and can recall those experiences while participating in this study. Based on these criteria, Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart nominated 45 teachers who were initially invited to participate in this study. The number of invited participants was determined in order to ensure adequate participation throughout the three rounds of this Delphi study. In order for reliability of the data to be above .80, at least 13 Delphi group members must be involved in the study (Dalkey, 1969). All members of the sample are experts, and non-response error is not a concern in a Delphi format (Dalkey, 1969). Therefore, it was determined that a larger group afforded the likelihood of identifying a more composite list of items in earlier rounds. Agricultural Education in North Carolina North Carolina has the 4 th fastest growing student enrollment in the United States (NC FFA, 2004). There are 362 teachers in 261 programs (NC FFA, 2004). Currently,

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73 4% of the middle school students in North Carolina are enrolled in agriculture (NC FFA, 2004). In high schools, 9.2% of the 371,987 students enrolled in grades 9-12 are enrolled in agricultural education (NC FFA, 2004). Agricultural education has had the largest gains in achievement scores than any other program area in Career and Technical Education in North Carolina this year, with a 26.2% gain in Level 3 scores since 2001. Level 3 scores are passing scores according to VoCATS (NC FFA, 2004). Instrumentation A modified Delphi technique, using three rounds of questionnaires, was the chosen research methodology for this study. The round one instrument contained three open-ended questions. The questions were as follows: 1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom / lab environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? These questions were developed based on the works of Cole et al. (2000) on the nine types of adaptations that classroom teachers can use to adapt curriculum and instruction in inclusive classrooms. The nine adaptations are as follows: 1. Input : the instructional strategies used to facilitate student learning. 2. Output : the ways learners can demonstrate understanding and knowledge. 3. Size : the length or portion of an assignment. 4. Time : the flexible time needed for student learning. 5. Difficulty : the varied skill levels, conceptual levels and processes involved in learning. 6. Level of Support : the amount of assistance to the learner.

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74 7. Degree of Participation : the extent to which the learner is actively involved in tasks. 8. Modified Goals : the adapted outcome expectations within the context of a general education outcome. 9. Substitute Curriculum : the significantly differentiated instruction and materials to meet a learners identified goals. These nine types of adaptations seemed to fit into two broad categories: instruction and curriculum. In addition, environmental modifications, such as strategic seating arrangements and working in groups, are noted in the literature as having an effect on the focus and attention of students with learning disabilities (USDE, 1997; USDE, 2004; Smith, 2004). The review of literature was the basis for emphasis on instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications. Due to the open-ended nature of the round one instrumentation for a Delphi study, the questions had to be asked in a generalized manner in order for teachers to be able to elaborate on the methods they used, within the context of the questionnaire. Data Collection For round one, a cover letter and questionnaire were mailed on November 29, 2004. In the letter, teachers were given the option of returning the questionnaire by mail, fax, or electronic mail. If electronic mail was chosen it was understood that all correspondence from that point would be conducted by electronic mail. Due to lack of response by the first deadline of December 15, 2004, a second reminder electronic mail was sent to all prospective participants on January 3, 2005 asking them to respond to the round one questionnaire that was attached in the electronic mail. Again, response was not as expected (it was suggested that at least 20 responses be returned for round one

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75 before continuing with round two). A second mailing of the round one questionnaire was sent on January 19, 2005 with a deadline of January 28, 2005. Items from round one were combined, repetition was eliminated, and items were coded for content. From this coding, a condensed list of items was formulated for the following categories: instructional modifications, curricular modifications, and environmental modifications. It was necessary to move some items into a more appropriate category for the round two questionnaire. Therefore the initial number of responses for each category is substantially higher than the final list of statements for each category. The second questionnaire asked respondents to rank the responses from round one, using a questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree). The panel was also asked to make comments if they did not agree with or understand a statement, or to revise a statement to clarify it. Some respondents indicated that they preferred electronic mail as their method of delivery for future rounds, so an electronic version of the questionnaire was used in round two for these individuals. The first electronic mail version of round two was sent to those respondents from round one who noted they preferred electronic mail on February 1, 2005. The mail version was sent on February 2, 2005 to the remainder of respondents who returned the round one instrument. The deadline for return of this round was set for February 11, 2005. All items with a mean of 3.49 or higher, determined a priori, were included in the round three questionnaires leaving 40 statements out of the original 53. The rationale for

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76 including any items with a mean of 3.49 or higher was to include the items that were marked agree or strongly agree as well as those that might have been considered uncertain, because this is the first study of its type. In this final round, respondents were asked to mark whether they agreed or disagreed with each of the 40 statements. The electronic mail version of round three was sent on February 28, 2005 with a return deadline of March 11, 2005. The mail version was sent on March 3, 2005 with a deadline for return of March 14, 2005. Criteria for determining consensus on round three was the retention of any statements with a 75% percentage of agreement or higher, determined a priori. Consensus was determined in the third round and no further rounds of questionnaires were required. Summary of Findings Three rounds were used to solicit responses and obtain consensus. The responses from rounds one through three created a list of modifications that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina feel are beneficial and successful for students with learning disabilities. It was determined that consensus was reached after three rounds. Delphi Round One Responses The round one survey contained three open-ended questions. Those questions were as follows: 1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? 3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom/ lab environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

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77 Round one yielded 99 statements from these three questions. From the original 45 teachers who were invited to participate in this study, 51% (N = 23) responded to the round one survey. Participants were informed in the cover letter for round one that returning their round one questionnaire indicated their consent to participate in this study. They were also given the option to withdraw from the study at any time. Therefore, the respondent group includes 23 expert North Carolina agriculture teachers. Delphi Round Two Responses The statements from the round one questionnaire were combined, replication eliminated, and items were coded for content. The coded statements from round one created the list of 53 statements for the round two questionnaire. A response rate of 83% (N = 19) was obtained from the 23 respondents to round one. Delphi Round Three Responses Round three was comprised of responses from round two that had a mean response of 3.49 or higher (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree), set a priori, resulting in a 40 statement round three questionnaire. The response rate for round three was 74% (N = 17), from the 23 participants. The respondents to round three were asked to agree or disagree with the statements from round two that had the highest rate of agreement among the panel. Consensus was reached in this round and no further rounds were needed. The final list of modifications that expert North Carolina agriculture teachers feel are successful with students who have learning disabilities consisted of 38 statements. The first research objective was directly related to the category of statements regarding modifications to curriculum have been used to ensure that students who have learning disabilities can master the subject matter. There are five curricular modification

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78 strategies that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina agreed upon as successful for students with learning disabilities. Giving students a competency guide that lists what will be covered; breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction; the use of lower level reading materials; creating and conducting hands-on activities for each unit; and choosing competencies for the student that they can master were the consensual curricular modifications for students with learning disabilities. The second research objective was directly related to the category of methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated in a students Individualized Education Plan. Of the responses obtained in this round, six strategies were concerned with helping students to organize their notes. Statements ranged from suggestions for more efficient note taking, to providing students with advance organizers and study guides. Three strategies related to testing modifications for these students. These strategies were related to giving students oral exams, giving students open notebook tests, and having tests read aloud for students. There were two strategies related to clarity in scoring. Teachers reported giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items and using a different scoring guide for learning disabled students on certain assignments. Seven strategies dealt with involving students in active learning activities. These strategies were concerned with having students work in groups with other students; engaging them in hands-on activities; using visual aids and stories to supplement lessons; and modifying assignment length or time given for assignment completion. Three strategies dealt with vocabulary, suggesting that difficult vocabulary be given for students in a word bank on tests, more focus spent on defining difficult vocabulary in class, and students not be penalized for spelling errors on tests.

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79 Two strategies were concerned with obtaining assistance from a special education teacher and one was concerned with providing modifications as mandated in a students IEP. The last three strategies suggested additional assistance to students with learning disabilities, either in the form of after-school tutoring, spending more time with them in class, or involving special education teachers by keeping them informed of what students are learning in class. The final research objective was to understand if any physical changes to the learning environment can aid these students in maintaining attention or processing information. The statements regarding classroom and/or laboratory environmental modifications were directly related to this research objective. Two of the strategies were concerned with placing students in strategic locations where they were comfortable and distractions could be minimized. Placing students in groups during lab assignments were the subject matter of two of the modifications suggested for environmental modification. These two statements suggested placing students either with a good partner or in groups strategically to complete their lab assignments. The last two modifications consisted of giving students additional tasks during lab time to boost their confidence and assigning them shorter and easier shop assignments to complete. Conclusions The responses of expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina to the initial questions regarding instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that are made for students with learning disabilities reflect the suggestions from literature on the subject of teaching students with learning disabilities. There is no standardized text that supplies guidance or teaching methodologies for working with students who have

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80 learning disabilities. Often the teachers experiences guide their choices in teaching techniques, along with influences from their state agricultural education staff, and information learned during their pre-service educational experiences. Therefore, this study is not generalizable among all agriculture teachers, but can give a foundational basis for further research. The information received from this study does provide assurance that measures are being taken to ensure the involvement of students with learning disabilities in agricultural programs. Additional questions remain related to the level of success teachers have with the strategies they employ. Information received from this study does allow the researcher to draw some conclusions regarding the implementation of modifications in agriculture programs in North Carolina for students with learning disabilities. Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a Variety of Curricular Modifications to Address the Special Education Needs of Students. The first research objective was to determine if any modifications to curriculum have been used to ensure that students who have learning disabilities can master the subject matter. Potential curricular modifications might include strategies such as creating significantly differentiated instructional methods and materials to meet a students individual needs. The researcher concluded that, based on the responses received from these expert agriculture teachers, a variety of curricular modifications are being made in agriculture programs for students who have learning disabilities. Teachers responded with comments such as: I have modified the curriculum by selecting objectives from the blueprint [VoCATS competency blueprint], along with the assistance of resource instructors [special education teachers], to fit the ability of my students with mild to moderate

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81 learning disabilities. The modifications are present when at the end of the semester I assess the student with a test I have constructed that fits those objectives, which have been identified to fit their learning needs. Other curricular modification strategies that teachers included were: teaching subject matter in smaller units, creating hands on activities to supplement learning, and the use of lower level reading materials. These types of curricular modifications are consistent with previous research as being beneficial to students who learning disabilities, based on their specific disability and their symptoms. Although a variety of curriculum modifications were listed, several teachers responded that there are limitations to making curricular modifications, due to the VoCATS accountability system for North Carolina Career and Technical Education classes. VoCATS is not only a standardized testing system for CTE courses, but it also provides blueprints of course content for nearly every CTE course offered in North Carolina. These course blueprints are based on core and supplemental competencies that are learning goals for each student enrolled in the class. One teacher responded as such: Our agricultural curriculum is modified for OCS (Occupational Course of Study) only. We do not modify the contents of the curriculum for those with mild to moderate learning disabilities due to the fact that they are accountable for the same competencies [VoCATS] as students that have not been classified with a mild or moderate learning disability. In short, all students, with the exception of OCS students are responsible for the same competencies and objectives and will be tested on those at the end of the course regardless of an Exceptional Childrens classification. Therefore, we do not have the ability to modify or change the curriculum to meet their individual needs if the student is participating in the Standard Course of Study option. Several teachers responded to the question on curricular modifications in round one in similar ways. Therefore it can be concluded that North Carolina agriculture teachers are making a variety of curricular modifications, but also feel that there are limitations due to the VoCATS accountability system.

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82 Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a Variety of Instructional Modifications. The second research objective was to discover which methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated in a students Individualized Education Plan, have been successful with this particular student group. However, most teachers did report modifications that are often designated by a students IEP (extended time on tests, read-aloud for tests, testing in a separate location, etc.), as well as other instructional modifications. The number of responses in this category was much higher than the responses in the other two categories. The number of responses from teachers for this question indicated that they have a relatively high comfort level in knowing how to modify their instructional methods for these students. On the round one questionnaire, 43 modifications for instruction were given from the 23 respondents. Some statements were moved into more appropriate categories, but most were coded for content, edited for repetition, and combined to form 30 statements used in round two. When the statements were evaluated after round two for a mean above 3.49, determined a priori as the criteria for retention, 24 statements were retained. After round three, all 24 of the statements had a percentage of agreement above 75%, determined a priori as criteria for consent of the expert panel. Conclusion: Instructional Modifications Being Made by Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Consistent With the Literature on Suggested Strategies. An extensive body of literature exists on the methods of modifying instruction to aid students with learning disabilities. The responses of these expert teachers echoed several of the suggested teaching methods found in textbooks and supplemental teaching

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83 strategy guides. Information from the United States Department of Education (2004) included the following strategies: Use audiovisual materials Ask probing questions Help students focus Follow-up on directions Divide work into smaller units Highlight key points Use cooperative learning strategies Use assistive technology The responses from teachers correspond with the strategies suggested by USDE (2004). In addition, several teachers listed strategies for aiding students in note taking and organization that, according to Deshler et al. (2001), help students to focus their attention. For students with learning disabilities, information processing is difficult and therefore Smith (2004) noted that educators could aid in this by: Repeating important information Organizing content systematically Providing students with relevant information Relating examples to student experiences Associating content with familiar information Teachers also reported using strategies that correspond with these strategies from Smith (2004). Therefore, it can be concluded that the expert panel of agriculture teachers in North Carolina reported implementing strategies that are consistent with educational research. Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Make a Variety of Modifications to the Classroom and/or Laboratory Environment for Students With Learning Disabilities. The final research objective was to determine whether any physical changes to the learning environment could aid these students in maintaining attention or processing information. Teachers responded very generally that they arranged seating strategically

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84 in order to work better in groups or to avoid distractions to student learning. One teacher responded to the question regarding classroom or laboratory modifications by saying: I have arranged seating charts, used many more hands-on opportunities, limited the number of activities going on in the room at one time in order to focus more attention to the matter at hand, make sure that there is plenty of color, pictures, and illustrations about the room for every topic in order to give a large opportunity for students to visualize what the content of an area is. The low number of responses on this question could have resulted from the fact that agriculture teachers are trained to be aware of their physical learning environments for the safety of their students. These teachers instinctively make changes in the physical environment for the safety or the individual needs of these students without conscious thought. Obvious modifications to learning environments for students with AD/HD would be to eliminate noise and other distractions. Several responses of this nature were received. Teachers also responded to placing students in groups strategically so they could receive aid from peers or see the board more clearly. One teacher responded that a strategy for modifying the classroom/ laboratory environment was: Placing an EC [Exceptional Children] student in a strategic place in the class setting where distractions are not a problem or held to a minimum. Some teachers responded that providing additional tasks for students who have learning disabilities helps to boost their confidence, which is a method often observed in use by agriculture teachers. Teachers also responded that they give students with learning disabilities shorter labs to complete while actually in the lab environment. One teacher responded as such: I give the students a shorter and easier shop activity to complete.

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85 Despite these responses, the researcher had anticipated responses about the physical location of desks in association with the classroom exits, pencil sharpener, material supply cabinets, bookshelves, and other learning areas that students need to locate in the classroom. The locations of these elements affect the aesthetic nature of the classroom as well as affect the distraction of the students. Some students with AD/HD require movement about the classroom at regular intervals and physical environment layout would influence their ability to do so. The responses of teachers to the question associated with this research objective were adequate, but not entirely encompassing of the possible modifications that could be made in the physical classroom environment. Every classroom differs in its size and layout. Some agriculture teachers hold class in an actual mechanical lab, while others have separate classrooms and laboratory environments. The differences in each agriculture departments facilities would lead to a wide spectrum of modifications that could be made to physical environments to help these students be more successful. Recommendations for Practitioners The strategies reported by expert agriculture teachers are useful in informing other teachers how to modify their agriculture programs for students with disabilities. However, there remains a need for further research on this topic regarding the methods through which agriculture teachers receive information on modifications that are proven beneficial for students with learning disabilities. It would also be beneficial to discover how these teachers know which strategies to use, based on each individuals student needs.

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86 Recommendation: Practitioners Need More Resources for Information About Methods of Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities. Although responses to the questions regarding instructional modifications were numerous, teachers responses to the questions regarding curricular and environmental modifications were limited. The researcher interpreted the low number of responses in these categories to mean that teachers either were less comfortable thinking of ways to modify these two factors or that teachers did not have adequate information to respond to these questions. The initial number of responses in the curriculum modifications category was high, consisting of 33 statements. However, several of the statements initially reported as curricular modifications were actually instructional or environmental modifications, leaving the curricular modifications category to consist of 9 statements in the round two questionnaire. Consensus was reached in round three by the expert panel of agriculture teachers on 5 statements of the original 9. The round one responses consisted of 23 statements regarding classroom and/or laboratory modifications for students with learning disabilities. However, after condensing the statements, editing for replication, and moving some statements to more appropriate categories, only 9 statements were left. The expert panel only reached consensus on 6 of these statements in round three. More resources for obtaining information about methods of modifying agriculture programs for students with learning disabilities may be needed in order for teachers to receive adequate knowledge on this subject matter. Teachers should also become as educated as possible about the symptoms of learning disabilities because they often appear to the untrained eye as mere underachievement, or lack of motivation. It is also

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87 important for teachers to understand the realm of possible modifications that are successful for students with learning disabilities and AD/HD in order to find solutions to problems in the classroom. One way of providing these opportunities for further education is for states to offer in-service workshops for teachers on this topic. With in-service training teachers could get renewal credits towards their certification while becoming familiar with this information. Another possibility is finding ways to financially support teachers in furthering their education by enrolling in college courses on this topic. An issue with teacher preparation is teachers who receive their certification while employed lateral entry in agriculture education. These teachers may have significant career experience in agriculturally related fields, but often have little coursework in education. They would benefit greatly from enrollment in a course on students with disabilities and educational strategies or the opportunity to attend an in-service workshop on the topic. Recommendation: Practitioners Should Consider the Realm of Possibilities for Making Curricular Modifications to Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities. The number of responses in round one in the curricular modifications category was high, consisting of 33 statements. However, several of the statements initially reported as curricular modifications were actually instructional or environmental modifications, leaving the curricular modifications category to consist of 9 statements in the round two questionnaire with consensus only reached on 5 of the statements. This low number of consensual statements after round three indicates that teachers have differing opinions on appropriate curricular modifications for students with learning

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88 disabilities. Therefore, there may be more possibilities for making these modifications than teachers think. Eight teachers of the 23 respondents referenced either the VoCATS accountability test or the VoCATS blueprint competencies in their responses to this question. This indicated to the researcher that VoCATS is a factor for teachers in determining what curricular modifications they can make for students with learning disabilities. For example one teacher wrote: Since we have VoCATS, you cannot modify the content much, these students are not getting what they need. Although it seems that possibilities for making such accommodations for students with learning disabilities are stifled by the VoCATS accountability system, it may actually be possible to make curricular modifications that do not affect end of course testing. Curicular modifications may seem difficult and time consuming for the teacher to enact, but if used properly could give students the ability to have a more individualized education. It could also prevent having to re-teach any material that students did not grasp the first time. Having a completely different set of worksheets, readings, and activities for students with learning disabilities would be difficult to manage at first, but the nature of agricultural education as a kinesthetic learning environment provides opportunities for teachers to work closely with students who need more help while advanced students complete their own individualized assignments. Teachers sometimes provide different work for more advanced students in class because they require less supervision, but this concept could work for lower level students as well if managed properly.

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89 As far as curriculum materials, most agriculture textbooks are written on such a technical level that even more advanced agriculture students may have difficulty with the language. One respondent made a remark on his returned questionnaire in relation to this issue: I wish I had a modified textbook-but I dont. Finding ways to lower the reading level of texts, or even to simplify required readings could aid these students. A different textbook for students with learning disabilities may not be an option currently, but reading aloud in class or providing handouts to make the reading more simplified could help a great deal. Recommendation: Practitioners Should Discover the Possibilities of Modifying the Physical Layout of a Learning Environment for Students With Learning Disabilities. Teachers should consciously think about the physical layout of the different learning environments that are in use for each class. Most agriculture departments have a combination of classrooms, mechanical laboratories, scientific laboratory areas, and outside land laboratory areas. The arrangement of equipment and materials in these areas, even down to the labeling of materials to make them easier to read, could give great aid to students. For round one the responses consisted of 23 statements regarding classroom and/or laboratory modifications for students with learning disabilities. However, after condensing the statements, editing for replication, and re-categorizing some statements, only 9 statements were left. Consensus was only reached on 6 of these statements. The low number of consensual statements in this category indicated to the researcher that teachers might need more information on the benefits of modifying the physical learning environment for students with learning disabilities. However, it also

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90 may indicate that teachers do not think of these changes as modifications for their students, since agriculture teachers are trained to consider the safety of their students in all learning environments. These teachers often make changes instinctively to aid their students. If students with learning disabilities would benefit from physical changes to the learning environments, then agriculture teachers should consider these modifications as an addition to the modifications they already make for safety. Although educational monetary resources place restrictions on classroom layout and space, there are ways to improve the focus of a room or the accessibility of materials for students. Such considerations of the physical learning environment may have positive results for all students, not just the students who suffer from learning disabilities and AD/HD. Recommendations for Future Research There is little research associated with agricultural education and students who have learning disabilities. Most research is either state specific or relates to the broader concept of Career and Technical Education. Most of the general education literature related to making modifications for students with learning disabilities or AD/HD is written specifically for elementary school teachers. Therefore research on high school students with learning disabilities is needed. Recommendation: Researchers Should Conduct More Detailed Studies With Teachers Who Are Successful at Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities. In this study some teachers responded in great detail while others wrote a short list of modifications that they make without much explanation. A case study of expert teachers would be more effective than a Delphi study in providing detailed information to

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91 other teachers. Observing these teachers in their classrooms may also give a more comprehensive view of the modifications they are making. It is difficult to know, in the agricultural education realm, if teachers actually make these modifications in the classroom as they are only observed by their school administration and not by state agricultural education staff. One of the only indicators that a teacher is attempting to include students with learning disabilities in their agriculture program is if those students are involved in local, regional, or state activities with the FFA. School administrators who are observing agriculture teachers in the classroom could be interviewed to collect their opinions on the success of the modifications that are apparent to them during those observations. State agricultural education staff could collect ideas that they observe from expert teachers that they visit or have contact with. Studying only the expert agriculture teachers in an area is a way of collecting ideas that could be given to teachers who need them, but it does not give an accurate view of every agriculture teacher who is making modifications for students with disabilities. In general, opportunities for more in-depth research into this topic are plentiful. Recommendation: Additional Studies Should Be Undertaken on How Agriculture Teachers Receive Information About Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities. In order to better serve agriculture teachers, it would be vital to research the methods by which they receive information regarding modifications for learning disabilities. Determining if knowledge about educational modifications for students with learning disabilities was acquired during pre-service education, at in-service workshops, or by other teachers would aid state supervisors in ensuring that all agriculture teachers receive accurate information. Knowledge gained through a study of such would indicate

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92 the strengths and weaknesses of the methods of acquiring information employed by agriculture teachers. Recommendation: Research Studies Could Be Conducted on the Methods That Agriculture Teachers Use to Make Decisions Regarding the Implementation of Certain Modifications for Students With Learning Disabilities Research is warranted that would identify how teachers determine which modifications to make for students with certain disabilities or disorders. Discovering if these decisions come from personal experience, knowledge from other teachers, their pre-service education, or other factors would be vital to understanding how to better prepare agriculture teachers in the future. It would also be helpful to know if teachers take the time to reflect on the effectiveness of the modifications they have chosen to employ and how they choose which strategies to discard. Recommendation: Agriculture Teachers Should Be Provided With More Specialized Information Relative to Agricultural Education and Employing Modifications for Students With Learning Disabilities. Several instructional resources exist for general education teachers related to potential modifications for these students in reading, writing, and mathematics as well as how to accommodate students with AD/HD. Unfortunately no texts are available that specifically educate agriculture teachers on possible modifications to their agriculture programs for students with learning disabilities. Although agricultural education incorporates a wide realm of reading, writing, mathematical, and scientific skills, a specific text would be beneficial in educating agriculture teachers on how to specifically perform modifications. From the available literature, suggested strategies for modifying instruction, curriculum, and environment for students with learning disabilities are often too generalized. Agricultural education researchers need to provide more comprehensive aid

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93 to teachers that would answer some of basic questions about the strategies that are present in the literature. In order to provide agriculture teachers with more comprehensive instructional and curricular guides more research is needed on the topic of students with learning disabilities in agricultural education. Summary The effect of mainstreaming students with special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Therefore, it is vital to education that all teachers, including agriculture teachers, find ways to modify to their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments to aid students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter. The purpose of this study was to discover what instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina, who have been identified as expert teachers, are using with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing aid to this unique student group. The Delphi method provided the structure for this study and three rounds of questionnaires were sent to teachers in North Carolina who were identified as expert agriculture teachers. The purposely drawn sample group was 45 teachers, with 23 (51%) responding to round one. Of the 23 teachers who chose to participate in the study, 19 (83%) responded to round two, and 17 (74%) responded to round three. Dalkey (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13.

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94 The conclusions of this study have shown that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina are making modifications for students with disabilities. From the three rounds of this Delphi study that were sent to expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina, a consensual list of 38 strategies for modifying curriculum, instruction, and the learning environment were formed. Teachers reported employing modifications that are proven to be beneficial and are consistent with the body of research available on this topic. Although the conclusions of this study are not generalizable because they are self-reported by expert teachers, the modifications generated by these teachers could be used by any teacher. Small changes in curriculum, instruction, and environment could make big changes in the lives of students struggling with a learning disability.

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APPENDIX A PARTICIPANT NOMINATION INFORMATION October 12, 2004 Dear Dr. Jim Flowers, Agricultural education is an ever-changing field as is education in general. My experiences in the agriculture classroom as well as my interest in improving the pedagogy of agricultural education have stimulated my current interest in special needs students. As a result, I am conducting a Delphi study to determine the instructional strategies that agriculture teachers in North Carolina have successfully used with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. I would appreciate your assistance with identifying effective agriculture teachers who have adequate experience teaching students who have learning disabilities. On the attached form please nominate 45 of the most effective agriculture teachers in North Carolina based on the following criteria: 1. At least 5 years of teaching experience 2. Teaching in an agriculture program at a public high school 3. Known experience with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities The teachers you nominate will be asked to complete three brief questions totaling approximately 25 minutes. The first questionnaire will ask them to answer three questions regarding strategies used in the classroom to teach students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. The two subsequent questionnaires will seek to find common themes among all participants to help us to identify major modifications that should be made for these students in the agriculture classroom. Participants will be asked only to identify those methods with which they have noticed success. Their identity, as well as your identity, will be kept strictly confidential. Participant names will be stored in a locked file cabinet and only a random identification number will identify them. While your response to this request is voluntary, I would greatly appreciate your assistance with this important study. Results compiled from this study have the potential to help current or future agriculture teachers more effectively serve students with learning disabilities. I do not anticipate any risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you or the individuals you nominate as a contribution to this study. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. For questions about your rights as a research participant, please contact the UF Institutional Review Board Office at (352) 392-0433 or irb2@ufl.edu. 95

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96 If you have any questions regarding this research study, please contact Jennifer Richardson or Shannon Washburn by phone (352-392-0502) or email (jmrichardson@mail.ifas.ufl.edu or sgwash@ufl.edu). Your nominations may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585) or via email to the above address. I encourage you to return the requested information to me by October 31, 2004. Thank you for your assistance. Sincerely, Jennifer Richardson Graduate Student

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97 October 12, 2004 Dear Dr. Marshall Stewart, Agricultural education is an ever-changing field as is education in general. My experiences in the agriculture classroom as well as my interest in improving the pedagogy of agricultural education have stimulated my current interest in special needs students. As a result, I am conducting a Delphi study to determine the instructional strategies that agriculture teachers in North Carolina have successfully used with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. I would appreciate your assistance with identifying effective agriculture teachers who have adequate experience teaching students who have learning disabilities. On the attached form please nominate 45 of the most effective agriculture teachers in North Carolina based on the following criteria: 1. At least 5 years of teaching experience 2. Teaching in an agriculture program at a public high school 3. Known experience with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities The teachers you nominate will be asked to complete three brief questions totaling approximately 25 minutes. The first questionnaire will ask them to answer three questions regarding strategies used in the classroom to teach students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. The two subsequent questionnaires will seek to find common themes among all participants to help us to identify major modifications that should be made for these students in the agriculture classroom. Participants will be asked only to identify those methods with which they have noticed success. Their identity, as well as your identity, will be kept strictly confidential. Participant names will be stored in a locked file cabinet and only a random identification number will identify them. While your response to this request is voluntary, I would greatly appreciate your assistance with this important study. Results compiled from this study have the potential to help current or future agriculture teachers more effectively serve students with learning disabilities. I do not anticipate any risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you or the individuals you nominate as a contribution to this study. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. For questions about your rights as a research participant, please contact the UF Institutional Review Board Office at (352) 392-0433 or irb2@ufl.edu. If you have any questions regarding this research study, please contact Jennifer Richardson or Shannon Washburn by phone (352-392-0502) or email (jmrichardson@mail.ifas.ufl.edu or sgwash@ufl.edu). Your nominations may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585) or via email to the

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98 above address. I encourage you to return the requested information to me by October 31, 2004. Thank you for your assistance. Sincerely, Jennifer Richardson Graduate Student

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99 Agriculture Teacher Nomination Form Please complete the following form with the names and schools of the 45 agriculture teachers in North Carolina who meet the criteria previously discussed. The addresses and contact information for these individuals will be found using the North Carolina Agriculture Teacher Directory at http://www.ncffa.org/directory/main.html. Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________

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100 Agriculture Teacher Nomination Form (Page 2) Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________

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101 Agriculture Teacher Nomination Form (Page 3) Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ____________________________ School: ___________________________ Name: ___________________________ School: ___________________________

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APPENDIX B DELPHI ROUND ONE LETTERS AND INSTRUMENT November 29, 2004 Dear TEACHER, Agricultural education is an ever-changing field as is education in general. My experiences in the agriculture classroom, as well as my interest in improving the pedagogy of agricultural education, have stimulated my current interest in special needs students. As a result, I am conducting a Delphi study to determine the instructional strategies that agriculture teachers in North Carolina have successfully used with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. You have been identified as successful in teaching students with learning disabilities, so I hope you will be willing to participate. The study will take place in several rounds. The first round will ask you for your response(s) to three open-ended questions. The second round will allow you to rate your agreement with the responses provided from all the participants. The third round will require you to indicate if you agree or disagree with a series of statements. Additional rounds may be necessary to reach consensus among all of the participants in the study. I anticipate that the total time required for participation will not exceed thirty minutes. While your response to this request is voluntary, I would greatly appreciate your assistance with this important study. Results compiled from this study have the potential to help current or future agriculture teachers more effectively serve students with learning disabilities. There are no anticipated risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you as a participant in the study. No individual teachers or programs will be identified in any questionnaire or publication. Your return of the enclosed form indicates your consent that the researchers add your responses to those of the rest of the group for further study. You are free to withdraw your consent to participate and may discontinue your participation in the study at any time without consequence. You do not have to answer any question you do not wish to answer. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law and your responses will be reported anonymously. If you have questions about your rights concerning this study, please contact the UFIRB office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250. 102

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103 If you have any questions regarding this research study, please contact Jennifer Richardson or Shannon Washburn by phone (352-392-0502x. 244) or email (jmrichardson@ifas.ufl.edu). Your response may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585) or via email to the above address. On the questionnaire, you may indicate if you would like to receive future correspondence via email. I encourage you to return the requested information to me by December 1, 2004. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Jennifer M. Richardson Graduate Student Enclosure: Round 1 Questionnaire

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104 ID# PIN Please provide your response(s) to the following questions. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom / lab environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities? Your response may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585), or via email to jmrichardson@ifas.ufl.edu. If you would like to receive further correspondence through email, please include your email address below:

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105 January 19, 2004 Dear TEACHER, A month ago I sent you a letter requesting that you participate in my study on the teaching methods that North Carolina agriculture teachers use to better serve students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. My records indicate that I have not received your response. If you have already returned the initial survey instrument please disregard this letter. While your response to this request is voluntary, I would greatly appreciate your assistance with this important study. Results compiled from this study have the potential to help current or future agriculture teachers more effectively serve students with learning disabilities. There are no anticipated risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you as a participant in the study. No individual teachers or programs will be identified in any questionnaire or publication. Your return of the enclosed form indicates your consent that the researchers add your responses to those of the rest of the group for further study. You are free to withdraw your consent to participate and may discontinue your participation in the study at any time without consequence. You do not have to answer any question you do not wish to answer. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law and your responses will be reported anonymously. If you have questions about your rights concerning this study, please contact the UFIRB office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250. The study will take place in several rounds. The first round will ask you for your response(s) to three open-ended questions. I have enclosed a second response form for the first round. The second round will allow you to rate your agreement with the responses provided from all the participants. The third round will require you to indicate if you agree or disagree with a series of statements. I anticipate that the total time required for participation will not exceed thirty minutes. The estimated time for this round is only a couple of minutes. I have received several responses from teachers, but I do not currently have enough responses to continue my study. Your participation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time! Your response may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585) or via email (jmrichardson@ifas.ufl.edu) to the above address. On the questionnaire, you may indicate if you would like to receive future correspondence via email. I encourage you to return the requested information to me by February 2, 2005. Thank you for your help! Sincerely, Jennifer M. Richardson

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APPENDIX C DELPHI ROUND TWO LETTER AND INSTRUMENT February 1, 2005 Dear TEACHER, Thank you for your prompt response to my survey. This mailing contains the instrument for round 2 of this study. Please mark your answers according to how strongly you agree or disagree with the statements made by your peers. If you disagree with a statement because of the wording of that statement please make the appropriate corrections on the form so that it is more agreeable to you. Please return this form by February 15, 2005. The third round will directly follow this study and will require you to indicate if you agree or disagree with a series of statements. I anticipate that the total time required for participation will not exceed thirty minutes. The estimated time for this round is only a couple of minutes. Thank you for your time! Your response may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585) or via email (jmrichardson@ifas.ufl.edu) to the above address. On the questionnaire, you may indicate if you would like to receive future correspondence via email. I encourage you to return the requested information to me by February 15, 2005. Thank you for your help! Sincerely, Jennifer M. Richardson AEC Graduate Student, University of Florida Enclosure: Round 2 Questionnaire 106

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APPENDIX D DELPHI ROUND THREE LETTER AND INSTRUMENT March 3, 2005 Dear TEACHER, This mailing contains the instrument for round 2 of this study. Please mark your answers according to if you agree or disagree with the statements made by your peers. If you disagree with a statement because of the wording of that statement please make the appropriate corrections on the form so that it is more agreeable to you. Please return this form by March 14, 2005. The estimated time for this round is only a couple of minutes. Thank you for your time and cooperation with this study! This is the final round and no further correspondence will be needed after this round is complete. Your responses may be returned using the postage paid envelope, by fax (352-392-9585) or via email (jmrichardson@ifas.ufl.edu) to the above address. On the questionnaire, you may indicate if you would like to receive future correspondence via email. Thank you for your help and encouragement! Sincerely, Jennifer M. Richardson AEC Graduate Student, University of Florida Enclosure: Round 3 Questionnaire

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LIST OF REFERENCES Bailin, S., Case, R., Coombs, J. R., & Daniels, L. B. (1999). Common misconceptions of critical thinking. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(3), 269-283. Barkley, R. A. (1998). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Scientific American, 279(3), 66-71. Brigham, R., & Brigham, M. (2001). A focus on mnemonic instruction. Current Practice Alerts, 5, 1-4. Carlson, C. L., Booth, J. E., Shin, M., & Canu, W. H. (2002). Parent-, teacher-, and self-rated motivational styles in ADHD subtypes. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 104-113. Cole, S., Horvath, B., Chapman, C., Deschenes, C., Ebeling, D. G., Sprague, J. (2000). Adapting curriculum & instruction in inclusive classrooms: a teachers desk reference (2 nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Author. Dalkey, N. C. (1969). The Delphi method: An experimental study of group opinion. Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Coorporation. Das, J. P., Kirby, J. R., & Jarman, R. F. (1979). Simultaneous and successive cognitive processes. New York, NY: Academic Press. Das, J. P., Mishra, R. K. (1994). Cognitive patterns of children with dyslexia: a comparison between groups with high and average nonverbal intelligence. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 27(4), 235-243. Das, J. P., Naglieri, J. A., & Kirby, J. R.(1994). Assessment of cognitive processes: the PASS theory of intelligence. New York, NY: Allyn & Bacon. Deshler, D.D., Schumaker, J. B., Lenz, B. K., Bulgren, J. A., Hock, M. F. Knight, J., & Ehren, B. J. (2001). Ensuring content-area learning by secondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16, 96-108. Dyer, J. E., Breja, L. M., & Ball, A. L. (2003). A Delphi study of agriculture teacher perceptions of problems in student retention. Journal of Agricultural Education, 44(2), 86-95. 114

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115 Elbert, C. D. & Baggett, C. D. (2003). Teacher competence for working with disabled students as perceived by secondary level agricultural instructors in Pennsylvania. Journal of Agricultural Education, 37(3), 105-115. Hock, M. (1997). Student motivation and commitment: A cornerstone of strategy instruction. Strategram, 9, 1-2. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1997). Disability Rights, Education, and Defense Fund. Retrieved December 10, 2003, from http://www.dredf.org/idea_dredf.html Jones, L. T. & Moore, E. A. (2000). Attitudes of Michigan agriScience teachers towards diversity. Dissertation Abstracts International. Kirby, J. R., & Das, J. P. (1990). A cognitive approach to intelligence: Attention, coding, and planning. Canadian Psychology, 31, 320-331. Kirby, J. R., & Robinson, G. L. (1987). Simultaneous and successive processing in reading disabled children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 20, 243-252. Kraska, M. F. (1997). T&I teachers and inclusion: attitudes of trade and industrial education teachers toward inclusion. Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 20(1), 9-17. Luft, V. D. (1996). Extent to which cultural diversity is addressed in secondary agricultural education, Journal of Agricultural Education, 37(3), 67-75. McCann, W. S. (1998). Science classrooms for students with special needs. ERIC Digest, (ED433185). Mercer, C. D., (1997). Students with learning disabilities (5 th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill. Moore, C. M. (1987). Group techniques for idea building. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Moore, E. A., Ingram, P. & Jones, L. T. (2001). Attitudes of Michigan agriscience teachers towards diversity. NACTA Journal, 45 (March), 32-42. Moore, E. A. & Woods, M. D. (2002). Diversity in agricultural education: A synthesis of research. 29 th National Agricultural Education Research Meeting Conference Proceedings, Las Vegas, NV. Morningstar, M. E. (1997). Critical issues in career development and employment preparation for adolescents with disabilities. Remedial & Special Education, 18(5), 307-321.

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116 Naglieri, J. A. & Reardon, S. M. (1993). Traditional IQ is irrelevant to learning disabilities intelligence is not. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26(2), 127-133. National Center for Educational Statistics (n.d.). State education data profiles. Retrieved February 8, 2005, from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/stateprofiles/sresult.asp?mode=full&displaycat=1&s1=37 National Center for Learning Disabilities (n.d.) LD at a Glance: A Quick Look. Retrieved March 29, 2005, from http://www.ld.org/LDInfoZone/InfoZone_FactSheet_LD_QuickLook.cfm National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (n.d.). NINDS Dysgraphia information page. Retrieved January 25, 2005, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dysgraphia/dysgraphia.htm Newman, R. (2000). Dyscalculia symptoms. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from http://www.dyscalculia.org/calc.html Nobel Foundation (n.d.). Ivan pavlov biography. Retrieved February 13, 2005, from http://nobelprize.org/medicine/laureates/1904/pavlov-bio.html North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (n.d.). ABCs: accountability in public education. Retrieved December 10, 2003, from http://abcs.ncpublicschools.org/abcs/ North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (n.d.). Exceptional Children Division. Retrieved December 9, 2003, from http://www.ncpublicschools.org/ec/ North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (n.d.) NC course of study graduation requirements. Retrieved February 9, 2005, from http://www.ncpublicschools.org/student_promotion/gradreq.html North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (n.d.). No child left behind. Retrieved November 9, 2003, from http://www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb/ North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (n.d.) VoCATS briefing. Retrieved February 9, 2005, from http://www.ncpublicschools.org/workforce_development/vocats/briefing/indrex.html North Carolina FFA Association (2004). State of the state address. Retrieved February 8, 2005, from http://www.ncffa.org/SOS04Forrest.ppt Rivera, D. P., & Smith, D. D. (1997). Teaching students with learning and behavior problems. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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117 Schwager, T A. & White, J. D. (1994). Teachers perceptions of SAE programs and benefits for students with special needs in Oklahoma. (Report No. CE-069-784). Stillwater, OK: Department of Agricultural Education, Oklahoma State University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EDS387591) Sexton, M., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (1998). Self-regulated strategy development and the writing process: Effects on essay writing and attributions. Exceptional Children, 64, 295-311. Siegel, L. S. (1988). Evidence that IQ scores are irrelevant to the definition and analysis of reading disability. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 42, 201-215. Siegel, L. S. (1992). An evaluation of the discrepancy definition of dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 618-629. Silver, L. (2002). What is AD/HD? Is it a type of LD? LD Online. Retrieved February 13, 2005, from http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/add_adhd/what_is_adhd.html Smith, D. D. (2004). Introduction to special education: teaching in an age of opportunity (5 th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Swanson, H. L., & Sachse-Lee, C. (2000). A meta-analysis of single-subject-design intervention research for students with LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 114-136. United States Department of Education (1997). IDEA Retrieved December 10, 2003, from http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/Policy/IDEA/index.html United States Department of Education (2004). Teaching children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: instructional strategies and practices. Retrieved December 15, 2004, from http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/index.html Vaughn, S., Gersten, R., & Chard, D. J. (2000). The underlying message in LD intervention research: Findings from research syntheses. Exceptional Children, 67, 99-114. Wakefield, D. & Talbert, B. A. (1999). A descriptive study on university agricultural education programs in preparing faculty and students to work with diverse student populations. 26 th National Agricultural Education Research Meeting Conference Proceedings, Orlando, FL, 458-470. Weiler, M. D., Bernstein, J. H., Bellinger, D., & Waber, D. P. (2002). Information processing deficits in children with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type, and children with reading disability. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(5), 448-461. Wonacott, M. E. (2001). Students with disabilities in Career and Technical Education. ERIC Digest (ED459324).

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH The author was born Jennifer Michelle Richardson on August 6, 1981, to Mike and Sara Richardson. She grew up in Ramseur, North Carolina, with her younger sister Angie, and attended Eastern Randolph High School where she graduated in 1999. Her love of FFA began at Eastern Randolph and has continued to influence her life since. Jennifers college career began in August of 1999 when she first attended North Carolina State University. While pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural education, she served as State FFA Vice-President and traveled extensively promoting agricultural education and the FFA. She spent most of her undergraduate career working for the North Carolina FFA Association and for several years she also served as an Education Division intern at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. She graduated in May of 2003. Realizing her love of education, Jennifer decided to broaden her horizons and attend graduate school at the University of Florida where she enrolled in August of 2003. While completing her Master of Science degree, Jennifer assisted on several research projects, including an evaluation study of the Space Agriculture in the Classroom project, was a teaching assistant and served on the Graduate Committee as a masters degree representative. 118


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STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY NORTH CAROLINA AGRICULTURE TEACHERS
IN SERVING STUDENTS WITH MILD TO MODERATE LEARNING
DISABILITIES
















By

JENNIFER M. RICHARDSON


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2005

































Copyright 2005

by

Jennifer M. Richardson
































This document is dedicated to my family, friends, and colleges for their continued
support, encouragement and contributions to this process.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to first thank my family, without whom I would not have had the

courage or the endurance to pursue this endeavor. I thank them for trusting my judgment

and answering my homesick phone calls. They have proven that no matter how far apart

we are, we are still family.

I thank Jessica Anderson, Misty Lambert, Jason Chester, Jason Phipps, Jimmy

McGee and Brian Harrington for being my sounding board and my support group when I

needed them the most and for not forgetting their friend who lives so far away. My other

friends deserve my gratitude as well for always coming through when the going got

rough.

Credit is also due to Mike Moskowitz and Abbe DeGroat whom I am honored to

have met and have as a part of my life. They have endured the good, the bad, and the

ugly for the last two years and deserve my gratitude for putting up with my

homesickness, my frustration, and my moodiness. I am forever indebted to you both.

Professionally I would like to thank Dr. Shannon Washburn, Dr. Jim Dyer, and Dr.

Glenn Israel for guiding me through this process and keeping my busy throughout my

time here. Without their support I surely would have been lost. I thank them for seeing

in me what I could not see in myself.

I would also like to thank Mr. Josh Bledsoe, Dr. Marshall Stewart, Dr. Jim Flowers,

Dr. Beth Wilson, Dr. Gary Moore, Dr. Barry Croom, and Mrs. Belinda Niedwick for

keeping me in the North Carolina agricultural education loop. I thank them for putting up









with me as an undergraduate and supporting my decision to attend graduate school in

Florida. My time at NC State is a cherished memory because of them and I owe my

progress as a professional in this field to their discipline, support and encouragement.

Lastly, I would like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students in the Agricultural

Education and Communication Department for their knowledge, support, and friendship.

I am a little more willing to call myself a Gator because of them and I surely would not

have survived this transition without their friendship and your acceptance.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS



A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

L IST O F T A B L E S .............. ................................................... ............... x.. ... ......x

LIST OF FIGURES ........................................ .............. xi

A B S T R A C T ...................................................................................................................... x ii

CHAPTER

1 IN T R O D U C T IO N .................................................................. .. ... .... ............... 1

Federal Legislation for Exceptional Children...............................2...
State Legislation for Exceptional Children in North Carolina ...............................3...
The A B C A accountability M odel ...................................................... ...............3...
VoCATS Accountability for Career and Technical Education .......................4...
D diversity in A agricultural E ducation......................................................... ...............5...
Statem ent of the P problem ...................................................................... ...............6...
Purpose of the Study .......................... .. ........... ...................................... ...6
L im itatio n s ......................................................... ................................................ .. 6
A ssu m p tio n s ........................................................................................................ .. 7
Definition of Terms ...................... .. ........... .........................................7
Su m m ary .................................................................................................... ......... 9

2 LITER A TU RE REV IEW ................................................................................... 11

Purpose of the study..... .. .............................................................................. .... 11
Introduction ............................................................................................... ............... 11
L earning D disabilities .................................................................................. .. ................ 12
D yslexia (R leading D isabilities)...................................................... ............... 14
D ysgraphia (W writing D disabilities) .................................................. ................ 15
D yscalculia (M them atical D disabilities) ........................................ ................ 15
Rationale for Instructional Modifications for Students with Learning
D isab ilitie s ............... ......... ......................................................... . ........... 16
Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) ........................ ..................... 16
The Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive (PASS) Theory of
C ognitive Intelligence ............. ................ .............................................. 19
K now ledge B ase .... .. ................................. ........................................... 21









A rousal ............... .................................................... .................. . .....22
A rou sal and A attention .......................................... ........................ ................ 23
A attention .............................................................................................................23
Information Selection Broadbent's Filter Theory ......................................24
Simultaneous and Successive Information Processing................................... 25
P la n n in g ............... .............................................................................................. 2 7
Planning Processes in C children ...................................................... ................ 28
The PASS Theory, Relative to Learning Disabilities............................................ 28
Instructional Modifications for Attention.............................................................. 29
Instructional Modifications for Simultaneous and Successive Processing.............. 30
Other Educational Methods for Students with Learning Disabilities......................31
Agricultural Education for Students with Learning Disabilities ..............................33
S u m m a ry .................................................................................................................. .. 3 5

3 M E T H O D O L O G Y ................................................... ............................................ 37

P purpose of the Study .... .. ........................................... ........................ .... ......... 37
Research Objectives.............................. .... ......... ...... ............... 37
In tro d u ctio n ................................................................................................................ 3 7
P ro c e d u re ................................................................................................................. ... 3 9
P population/ Sam ple ....................................................................................................... 40
Agricultural Education in North Carolina ............................................................. 42
Instruments Used in Data Collection..................................................................... 43
S u m m a ry .................................................................................................................. ... 4 6

4 F IN D IN G S ................................................................................................................ .. 4 8

P purpose of the Study .... .. ........................................... ........................ .... ......... 48
In tro d u ctio n ................................................................................................................ 4 8
D elphi R ound O ne R esponses ...................................... ...................... ................ 50
Delphi Round Two Responses........................................................................... 56
Delphi Round Three Responses............................................................................. 60
S u m m a ry .................................................................................................................. ... 6 5

5 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..................66

P u rp o se o f th e S tu dy ................................................................................................... 6 6
Research Objectives.............................. .... ......... ...... ............... 66
In tro d u ctio n ................................................................................................................ 6 6
L im stations of the Study .................................................................................... 69
R e search D esig n ......................................................................................................... 6 9
P population ............... ............ ...... ............................. 7 1
Agricultural Education in North Carolina...................................................... 72
In stru m entation .................................................................................................... 7 3
D ata C o llectio n ........................................................................................................... 7 4
Summary of Findings ............... ................. .............................................. 76
Delphi Round One Responses ....................................................................76









D elphi R ound Tw o R esponses ....................................................... ................ 77
D elphi Round Three Responses ................................................... 77
C onclu sions ......................................................................... ........... ...............79
Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a
Variety of Curricular Modifications to Address the Special Education
N eeds of Students. .............. ......................... ...... .. ..... ....... ......... .... 80
Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a
Variety of Instructional M odifications........................................ ................ 82
Conclusion: Instructional Modifications Being Made by Expert Agriculture
Teachers in North Carolina Are Consistent With the Literature on
Suggested Strategies. ............... ........ .............. ..... .. ............ .. ...............82
Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Make a Variety
of Modifications to the Classroom and/or Laboratory Environment for
Students W ith Learning D disabilities .......................................... ................ 83
R ecom m endations for Practitioners................................................... .................... 85
Recommendation: Practitioners Need More Resources for Information About
Methods of Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With
L earning D isab ilities ........................................................ .... .. .......... ......... .. 86
Recommendation: Practitioners Should Consider the Realm of Possibilities
for Making Curricular Modifications to Their Agriculture Programs for
Students W ith Learning D disabilities .......................................... ................ 87
Recommendation: Practitioners Should Discover the Possibilities of
Modifying the Physical Layout of a Learning Environment for Students
W ith L earning D disabilities ........................ .............................................. 89
Recom m endations for Future Research................................................. ................ 90
Recommendation: Researchers Should Conduct More Detailed Studies With
Teachers Who Are Successful at Modifying Their Agriculture Programs
for Students W ith Learning Disabilities ..................................... ................ 90
Recommendation: Additional Studies Should Be Undertaken on How
Agriculture Teachers Receive Information About Modifying Their
Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities....................91
Recommendation: Research Studies Could Be Conducted on the Methods
That Agriculture Teachers Use to Make Decisions Regarding the
Implementation of Certain Modifications for Students With Learning
D isa b ilitie s ............................... ... ..................................................................... 9 2
Recommendation: Agriculture Teachers Should Be Provided With More
Specialized Information Relative to Agricultural Education and Employing
Modifications for Students With Learning Disabilities...............................92
S u m m a ry .................................................................................................................. ... 9 3

APPENDIX

A PARTICIPANT NOMINATION INFORMATION .............................................95

B DELPHI ROUND ONE LETTERS AND INSTRUMENT .................................... 102

C DELPHI ROUND TWO LETTER AND INSTRUMENT .................................... 106









D DELPHI ROUND THREE LETTER AND INSTRUMENT..................................11

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ................................................................................................. 114

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ........................................................................................... 118















LIST OF TABLES


Table page

4-1 Strategies Used to Modify Curriculum for Students with Mild to Moderate
Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N= 23)..............................51

4-2 Strategies Used to Modify Instruction for Students with Mild to Moderate
Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N= 23)..............................53

4-3 Strategies Used to Modify the Classroom/ Laboratory Environment for Students
with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N=
2 3 ) ......................................................................................................... ........ .. 5 5

4-4 Round Two Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19)................................ ................ 57

4-5 Round Two Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19)................................ ................ 58

4-6 Round Two Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications
That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N= 19).................60

4-7 Round Three Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 17)................................ ................ 61

4-8 Round Three Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 17)................................ ................ 63

4-9 Round Three Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications
That Are Successful for Learning Disabled Students (N= 17)...............................65















LIST OF FIGURES

Figure page

2-1 The PA SS M odel of A ability ....................................... ...................... ................ 2 1

2-2 A attention Processes Path D iagram ...................................................... ................ 24

2-3 Simultaneous Processing Path Diagram..............................................................26

2-4 Successive Processing Path D iagram .................................................. ................ 27















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science

STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY NORTH CAROLINA AGRICULTURE TEACHERS
IN SERVING STUDENTS WITH MILD TO MODERATE LEARNING
DISABILITIES

By

Jennifer M. Richardson

May 2005

Chair: Shannon G. Washburn
Major Department: Agricultural Education and Communication

The effect of mainstreaming students with special needs has caused teachers to

provide modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture

teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of

those students enrolled in public schools have Individualized Education Plans.

Therefore, it is vital to education that all teachers, including agriculture teachers, find

ways to modify to their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments to aid

students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter.

The purpose of this study was to discover what instructional, curricular, and

environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina are using

with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed

successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing

aid to this unique student group.









J.P. Das and his colleagues developed a cognitive processing model, entitled The

PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, which gives structure to the abstract concepts of

stimulus input and information processing. The PASS Model includes four parts:

Attention; Simultaneous and Successive Processing; and Planning. These four parts

occur in this specific order in the brain every time new information is selected, processed,

and stored in the memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and

simultaneous and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces

specifically to deficits in students who have learning disabilities and AD/HD.

The Delphi method provided the structure for this study and three rounds of

questionnaires were sent to teachers in North Carolina who were identified as expert

agriculture teachers. The purposely drawn sample group was 45 teachers, with 23 (51%)

responding to round one. Of the 23 teachers who chose to participate in the study, 19

(83%) responded to round two, and 17 (74%) responded to round three. The reliability of

data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi group is larger than 13.

Results from this study concluded that these expert teachers were making

modifications for students with learning disabilities that have a foundation in educational

research. They reported making modifications to instruction, curriculum, and the

classroom/laboratory environment in order to better serve students with learning

disabilities. The information received from this study serves as a foundation for further

research on how teachers have learned to identify appropriate modifications for students.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Exceptional children are given the right to an education in the "least restrictive

environment" because of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, last amended in

1997 (United States Department of Education [USDE], 1997). The Least Restrictive

Environment (LRE) means, "To the maximum extent appropriate, children with

disabilities are educated with children who do not have disabilities" (USDE, 1997).

Since this act became law in 1997, mainstreaming children with disabilities has become

common practice in regular academic classrooms.

Agricultural education has seen a change in its average student population as well.

"Originally, agricultural education courses were intended for non-college bound students,

thus preparing them to become employed shortly after attaining their high school

diploma" (Elbert & Baggett, 2003, p. 105). Mainstreaming is occurring in agriculture

classrooms as well as academic classrooms because students with special needs reap

benefits from the hands-on structure of agricultural education (McCann, 1998; Elbert &

Baggett, 2003).

Currently, 14.2% of all students enrolled in public schools in North Carolina have

an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) (National Center for Educational Statistics

[NCES], n.d.). "Studies have indicated an increasing number of special needs students

enrolled in agricultural education courses compared to other non-career and technical

education courses" (Elbert & Baggett, 2003, p.107). The U.S. Department of Education

(1994) stated that individuals with academic disadvantages take more









vocationaleducation courses than other students (Kraska, 1997). The evolution of the

agricultural education curriculum from being primarily production based to becoming

more technology centered has been the result of the changing needs of society. With

those changing societal needs comes the changing of societal values and ideals and it

seems that agricultural education is now serving students with varying levels of

agricultural experience, age, grade, and academic skill (Elbert & Baggett, 2003).

Federal Legislation for Exceptional Children

As a result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1997, students who

are considered "exceptional" or "special needs" have a required Individualized Education

Plan (IEP) that is a contract between the student, their parents, their special education

coordinator, and their regular teachers for the appropriate pedagogical or curricular

accommodations needed for academic achievement (USDE, 1997). The implementation

of an IEP requires the teacher to be knowledgeable of appropriate accommodations and

of the student's specific condition. Furthermore, special attention is needed of the regular

teacher for each student with an IEP.

Along with IDEA and other legislative acts outlining service to individuals with

disabilities, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504; new

legislation was launched in January 2002 that directly affects the American public school

system (USDE, 1997). This new legislative effort, called "No Child Left Behind" (North

Carolina Department of Public Instruction [NCDPI], n.d.), is an initiative of the Bush

administration to hold schools accountable for the achievement and success of all

children (NCDPI, n.d.). The plan calls for teachers to be considered "highly qualified" in

their respective areas, for the closing of achievement gaps and for all students to perform

at a "high level" (NCDPI, n.d.). The wording of "all students" implies that special needs









students are also held accountable for performing at a high level. Exceptional students,

or special needs students, are also considered minority students according to the act. This

new legislation holds teachers accountable for student's performance, and for the

school's overall performance on standardized test scores (NCDPI, n.d.).

State Legislation for Exceptional Children in North Carolina

The North Carolina Public School System has undergone major changes in the past

decade. North Carolina has an accountability system in place in the public school system

for academics and vocational education. In 1996, the North Carolina General Assembly

enacted the School Based Management and Accountability Act, commonly know as the

ABC's Program. The ABC's, although passed in 1996, was implemented in the 1997-98

school year and thus, includes special needs students with the student population in the

accountability model (NCDPI, n.d.).

The ABC Accountability Model

This act served several purposes including: emphasis on strong accountability at the

school district and school building level, focus on basic academic achievement (reading,

mathematics, & writing), and emphasis on maximum control at the local supervisory

level (NCDPI, n.d.). The ABC's Program is the comprehensive accountability

measurement for all public schools in the state. Schools receive federal funds and

recognition based on their score according to the formula used to calculate a school's

growth each year. The act was updated to include information required by the "No Child

Left Behind" Act (NCDPI, n.d.). Although the ABC's Program focuses on academic

achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics and uses standardized tests for

measurement, Career and Technical Education in North Carolina has its own instructional

management system commonly referred to as VoCATS (NCDPI, n.d.).









VoCATS Accountability for Career and Technical Education

VoCATS stands for Vocational Competency Achievement Tracking System and

was designed to measure student's achievement in vocational classes through a pre-test/

post-test system (NCDPI, n.d.). VoCATS is a program used to

* Plan instruction
* Assess students before, during, and after instruction
* Evaluate student mastery of competencies
* Document student achievement
* And provide accountability data

It is a competency-based, computer-supported system encompassing course planning,

lesson planning, and testing. The VoCATS program outlines the competencies that a

student should learn in each Career and Technical Education (CTE) class they are

enrolled in. There are currently 129 course blueprints that list core competencies and

supplemental competencies, including 20 for agricultural education. In addition,

VoCATS presents 100 curriculum guides developed or adopted for use in North Carolina,

19 for agricultural education (NCDPI, n.d.). If students are on an occupational course of

study (OCS) in high school with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), then they are

required to take and pass the VoCATS test, if there is a VoCATS test for that class

(NCDPI, n.d.).

VoCATS has been recognized as a national instructional model for Workforce

Development Education by the U.S. Department of Education. The RAND corporation

has also cited VoCATS as an exemplary statewide system to assess student learning in

Workforce Development Education (NCDPI, n.d.). VoCATS was the sole measure of

accountability as the standardized test for Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes

until the 2003-2004 school year when a new assessment system was piloted and proposed









to the legislative body to be integrated into the program as a more accurate assessment of

total program accountability (R.M. Stewart, personal communication, February 10,

2005).

Diversity in Agricultural Education

Because students with learning disabilities, unless on an occupational course of

study, are included in all accountability measurements in North Carolina, the issues of

integration and diversity need to be addressed. Diversity in public education is a concept

that is believed to be beneficial to students because it exposes them to all types of people.

Elbert and Baggett (2003) state that:

Diversity improves the educational system for all students by placing them in
general education environments regardless of race, ability, gender, economic status,
learning styles, ethnicity, cultural background, religion, family structure, linguistic
ability, and sexual orientation. Individual needs involve sensitivity to and
acceptance of individual needs and differences (p. 106).

This heterogeneous education has necessitated that the agriculture teacher implement

various techniques and curriculum accommodations, while teaching all types of students

simultaneously (Elbert and Baggett, 2003). Hillison confirmed that many agriculture

teachers have become frustrated in their attempts to reach and educate special needs

students (cited in Elbert & Baggett, 2003). Wakefield and Talbert (1999) questioned the

preparation of agriculture teachers in the area of exceptional children and their ability to

engage these students in the program.

Jones and Moore (2000) and Moore et al. (2001) reported that although agriculture

teachers were comfortable working with ethnically and culturally diverse students, those

same teachers were less comfortable working with mentally challenged people. Teachers

may also feel ill prepared for helping those students grasp the curriculum and stay

focused in class.









Statement of the Problem

Agriculture teachers who have had success with students with learning disabilities

have inevitably found ways to provide additional resources for those students in class.

Therefore, methods for modifying curriculum, instruction, and classroom environment

would seem to help to improve the attention, focus, and information processing of

students with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia or ADHD. There is a lack of

empirical research on the depth of the issue concerning what methods agricultural

teachers should use to make modifications and accommodations for these students

(Moore & Woods, 2002).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and

environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with

students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed

successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing

aid to this unique student group.

The objectives of the study were as follows:

1. To identify modifications to curricula used to assist students with learning
disabilities in mastering subject matter.

2. To identify successful methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated
in a student's Individualized Education Plan.

3. To identify physical changes to the learning environment that have assisted
learning disabled students in maintaining attention or processing information.

Limitations

The Delphi technique is a successful tool for understanding the complexity of a

problem and better understanding its possible solutions. The small sample size does









prohibit generalizabilty among all agriculture teachers in North Carolina and thus other

limitations may apply, such as the following:

1. The difference in socioeconomic status of the specific communities in which each
school is located will cause disparity in the amount of financial resources available
to each respective agricultural program to make modifications to the curriculum
and the program as a whole.

2. The data is self-reported. This may cause disparity between the teaching methods
that teachers report using in the classroom versus what they actually use.

3. Availability of teacher assistance varies within each classroom.

4. Class size will vary, causing teachers to have differing availability to aid students
who have special needs.

5. The severity and uniqueness of each student's disability cannot be predicted from
the information given.

Assumptions

For the purposes of this study it was assumed that

1. Teachers who were asked to participate in this study are expert agriculture teachers
in North Carolina.

2. Data reported by teachers is accurate to the best of their understanding of the
questions asked.

3. Opinions reported by participants accurately describe their opinions of making
modifications to instruction, curriculum, and classroom/ lab environment.

4. The instruments used accurately measured the breadth of modifications that are
made by agriculture teachers in North Carolina.

Definition of Terms

The following terms used in this study were operationally defined as follows:

1. Learning Disabilities (LD): disabilities in which the individual possess average
intelligence but is substantially delayed in academic achievement in the areas of
math, reading or writing (Smith, 2004).

2. Dyslexia: severely impaired ability to read (Smith, 2004).

3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD): A condition now included in
the special education category "other health impairments;" students display









hyperactive behaviors, have difficulty attending to the task at hand or focusing on
relevant features of tasks, and tend to be impulsive. Not all students with AD/HD
qualify for special education services (Smith, 2004). The Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association,
defines two basic symptom clusters of ADHD, one consisting of hyperactivity and
impulsivity and the other of inattention (Weiler et al. 2002). AD/HD and other
learning disabilities may coexist in some instances (Smith, 2004).

4. Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities: those learning disabilities, which are not
severe enough that students need to be excluded from mainstream classrooms for
instruction. Most children with mild to moderate learning disabilities receive all of
their instruction in the regular academic classroom. Examples of mild to moderate
learning disabilities are Dyslexia, and other reading, writing, or mathematical
disabilities. AD/HD is also included in this grouping because it occurs in concert
with other learning disabilities in most cases.

5. Exceptional Children: The term used by North Carolina Public Schools for any
child who receives aid in the classroom or in education dictated by an
Individualized Education Plan.

6. Individualized Education Plan (IEP): a contract between the student, their
parents, their special education coordinator, and their regular teachers for the
appropriate educational or curriculum accommodations needed for academic
achievement (USDE, 1997).

7. Vocational Education: the term used to describe educational programs that were
intended to train students for a specific industry or agricultural field. These
programs were organized educational programs that directly related to the
preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment, or for additional
preparation for a career requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.
Vocational education became known as "Workforce Development Education" in
the 1980's and is know known as "Career and Technical Education."

8. Workforce Development Education (WDE): the term previously used to describe
Career and Technical Education.

9. Career & Technical Education (CTE): The title for educational programs in
North Carolina such as agricultural education; business and information technology
education; career development education; family and consumer sciences education;
health occupations education; marketing education; middle grades education; and
technology education (NCDPI, n.d.).

10. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): federal legislation that gives
Exceptional Children the right to an education in the "least restrictive
environment"; last amended in 1997 (USDE, 1997).









11. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): "To the maximum extent appropriate,
children with disabilities are educated with children who do not have disabilities"
(USDE, 1997).

12. Americans with Disabilities Act: legislation passed in 1990 that gives people with
disabilities the same rights as those without disabilities and mandates certain
accommodations to physical environments be undertaken to ensure this equality.

13. Section 504: legislation that grants civil and equal rights to people with disabilities
and makes discrimination a criminal offense.

14. ABC's of Accountability: In 1996, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted
the School Based Management and Accountability Act, commonly know as the
"ABC's Program." It is the comprehensive accountability measurement for all
public schools in North Carolina. Schools receive federal funds and recognition
based on their score according to the formula used to calculate a school's growth
each year, based on standardized test scores.

15. VoCATS: an acronym for the North Carolina Vocational Competency
Achievement Tracking System, which was designed to measure student's
achievement in vocational classes (NC Public Schools, 2005). Currently used to:
plan instruction; assess students before, during, and after instruction; evaluate
student mastery of competencies; document student achievement; and provide
accountability data

16. FFA: Abbreviation for the National FFA Organization, the Career and Technical
Education student organization that is intracurricular to agricultural education.
FFA promotes the ideals of premier leadership, personal growth, and career success
through agricultural education.

Summary

Societal needs and changes in education reform such as the Americans with

Disabilities Act, Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act have

created diverse educational environments. The effect of mainstreaming students who

have special needs has caused teachers to provide modifications for those students to

ensure their academic success.

Agriculture teachers in North Carolina are faced with a growing population of

students, and 14.2% of those students enrolled in public schools having Individualized

Education Plans. To effectively aid students with mild to moderate learning disabilities






10


in understanding agricultural subject matter, agriculture teachers must find ways to

modify their curriculum, instruction, and educational environments. This study will

explore the modifications that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina are making in

these areas and the theoretical research basis that supports the efficacy of their efforts.














CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and

environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with

students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed

successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing

aid to this unique student group.

Introduction

Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the

inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act,

Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of

mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide

modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in

North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those

students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National

Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.) Therefore, it is vital that agriculture

teachers find ways to modify curricula, instruction, and educational environments to aid

students with mild to moderate learning disabilities.

In 1903 Pavlov published his landmark study on psychology and attention entitled,

"The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals." This study linked

response of dogs to the stimulus of food. Since that time, scientists have been working to









determine how humans process thought and rationalize (Nobel Foundation, n.d.). In

addition to the interest shown by psychologists, educational researchers also found the

concept of attention and information processing vital to education, especially in the area

of attention deficits and how they can be addressed through instructional settings (Das et

al., 1994). When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was first passed

and implemented in 1976-1977, only about one-quarter of students with learning

disabilities were served. In the 11-year period from 1990 to 2000, the number of students

classified with learning disabilities had grown by 34% (Smith, 2004).

The need for this study stems from a need for more research on students with mild

disabilities in the agriculture classroom (Moore & Woods, 2002). A large, diverse body

of literature provided the foundation for the study. This chapter will provide a systematic

overview of the search process in reviewing the literature, and will examine the

theoretical and empirical studies in the field.

Learning Disabilities

For this study Learning Disabilities are operationally defined as disabilities in

which the individual possessed average intelligence, but is substantially delayed in

academic achievement in the areas of mathematics, reading, or writing (Smith, 2004).

There are two accepted definitions currently used to describe learning disabilities. The

United States Department of Education concluded that learning disabilities are defined as

A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in
understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in
an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical
calculations, including such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury,
minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does
not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or
motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental,
cultural, or economic disadvantages. (Smith, 2004, p. 110)









The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, a coalition of professional and

parent organizations concerned with learning disabilities, defined learning disabilities in

the following way:

Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of
disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of
listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical skills. These
disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous
system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-
regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with
learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability.
Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping
conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional
disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences or insufficient
or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or
influences. (Smith, 2004, p. 111)

Although the aforementioned definitions are worded differently, Smith (2004) noted the

key characteristics of learning disabilities as follows:

1. Intelligence [IQ] scores within a normal range.

2. Significant disparity exists between academic achievement and expected potential.

3. Learning disabilities are not caused by other factors, such as cultural differences,
lack of educational opportunities, poverty, or other disabilities.

4. Learning disabilities often manifest themselves in language-related areas, such as
communication, written language, or reading.

5. Problems with learning disabilities are intrinsic to the individual, involving that
person's central nervous system, specific deficits in information processing, or the
ability to learn.

6. Learning problems are specific and confined to one or two cognitive areas.

Although there are commonalities in how federal agencies define learning disabilities,

states vary in their own definitions, thereby causing inconsistency in the percentages of

students included in the learning disabilities category per state. However, nationally,









over half of the students included in special education are designated as having a learning

disability (Smith, 2004).

The defining characteristic of learning disabilities is unexpected underachievement

(Smith, 2004). Learning disabilities are very different from merely poor academic

performance, they are a result of cognitive disabilities resulting in poor motivation

possibly from poor teaching (Smith, 2004). Torgensen suggested that learning

disabilities may reflect deficits in the ability to process information, although no current

assessment methods for this notion are available (cited in Smith, 2004).

The learning disabilities category is broad, covering disabilities related to academic

subject areas as well as motor skills. The four classifications of learning disabilities are:

Dyslexia (reading disabilities), Dysgraphia (writing disabilities), Dyscalculia

(mathematical disabilities), and Dyspraxia (fine motor skills disabilities) (National Center

for Learning Disabilities [NCLD], n.d.). The three types of learning disabilities found

most often in educational research are Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia,

presumably because these disabilities are directly related to academic subject matter

(Siegel, 1988, 1992; Das & Mishra, 1994; Newman, 2000; Smith, 2004; National

Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke [NINDS], n.d.). For the purposes of this

study, only Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia will be discussed.

Dyslexia (Reading Disabilities)

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability (Siegel, 1988, 1992; Das & Mishra, 1994).

Students identified as having learning disabilities have much lower reading abilities than

do those students who are merely low achievers (Smith, 2004). For example, children

with dyslexia do not typically test low on IQ tests, except where test items require









reading (Das & Mishra, 1994). Reading disabilities, therefore, are not accurately

measured by IQ (Siegel, 1988, 1992).

Difficulty with reading disabilities involves the necessity to understand printed text,

requiring proficiency in a number of skills, including: reading words, comprehending

language, and accessing background language (Smith, 2004). Reading disabilities make

school difficult for students because, as the complexity of reading tasks increases,

students who are not proficient in reading tasks cannot keep up with their classmates

(Smith, 2004).

Dysgraphia (Writing Disabilities)

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities (NINDS,

n.d.). Writing occurs in many varying formats such as essays, reports, creative writing,

and note taking. Failure to be able to complete these tasks would obviously make school

difficult for students with writing disabilities (Smith, 2004).

Dysgraphia causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect, including

inappropriately spaced or sized letters and wrong or misspelled words. Children with this

disorder may have a combination of learning disabilities, but are not of low intelligence

(NINDS, n.d.). Because reading and writing are intimately related, most students with

reading disabilities also have writing disabilities (Smith, 2004).

Dyscalculia (Mathematical Disabilities)

Dyscalculia is a mathematical disability. Some symptoms include: difficulty with

the abstract concepts of time and direction; inconsistent results in addition, subtraction,

multiplication and division; inability to grasp and remember mathematical concepts;

inability to visualize concepts; and difficulty keeping score in games (Newman, 2000).

Children with mathematical disabilities have difficulty retrieving information from their









long-term memory such as remembering certain number facts (Smith, 2004). Possibly,

more than half of students with learning disabilities also have difficulties with math

(Smith, 2004).

Rationale for Instructional Modifications for Students with Learning Disabilities

If a student receives instruction in ways that are typically used in general education

classrooms, and they do not respond or significantly improve, further intervention or

individualized instruction may be necessary (Smith, 2004). Some students do not learn at

the same rate as their classmates, and therefore need further aid in the classroom (Smith,

2004).

Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

The description of AD/HD can be found as early as 1960, but long before that, Still

had summarized the symptoms of this condition (cited in Das et al., 1994). In those days,

children with AD/HD were distinguished from those with brain damage, but were still

viewed as medical problems. This distinction was necessitated by previous treatment of

AD/HD children as mental health patients. Other forms of mental health services for

children either dealt with infants or were non-existent (Das et al., 1994).

Strauss and Lehtinen suggested that because symptoms of AD/HD were viewed as

medical problems and the symptoms were similar to those of people with brain injury, the

disorder inappropriately became associated with neurological damage (cited in Das et al.,

1994). Treatment for educational purposes, in particular, was formulated according to

the brain injury model and remained unchanged well into the 1980's. At the time,

treatments were limited to minimal stimulation. Individual study areas were used to treat

distractibility. Teachers wore plain clothes and no jewelry and classroom walls were

neutral colors. Currently, it has been found that children with AD/HD do not need such









unstimulating educational environments and are not distractible in the same sense as

brain-injured children (Das et al., 1994).

The "learning disabilities" category is a broad category designated in the 1997

Individuals with Disabilities Act to including students who have disabilities associated

with reading, writing, or mathematics (USDE, 1997; Smith, 2004). As such, symptoms of

learning disabilities vary according to the areas where students are experiencing

difficulty. Learning disabilities are separate in their nature from Attention

Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a medical disorder that causes inattention,

hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

AD/HD is designated as a disorder outside of Learning Disabilities. However,

AD/HD and Learning Disabilities may coexist in some cases (Smith, 2004). Silver

(2002) states that as many as 30 40% of individuals who have Learning Disabilities also

have AD/HD.

In the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA, AD/HD was classified by the government as

a part of the "other health impairments" category, possibly in hopes of reducing the size

of the "learning disabilities" category (Smith, 2004). No reduction in the learning

disabilities category occurred; instead, the health impairments category increased by

341% because of the inclusion of AD/HD in that definition (Smith, 2004).

According to the American Psychiatric Association, The Diagnostic and Statistical

Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines AD/HD as, "a persistent pattern of

inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is

typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development" (Smith, 2004).

The latest version of the DSM identifies two basic symptom clusters of AD/HD, one









consisting of hyperactivity and impulsivity, and the other of inattention (Weiler et al.,

2002). According to Das et al. (1994), AD/HD is defined as a developmental behavior

disability where attentional deficits are the primary symptoms, coupled with

hyperactivity, impulsivity, and noncompliance. The disorder results from a failure in

inhibition and self-control that may arise when key brain circuits do not develop properly,

possibly because of altered genes (Barkley, 1998).

One of the problems associated with AD/HD is self-control. In their early years,

children perform executive cognitive functions externally (i.e., talking aloud). However,

as most children mature, those executive functions become internalized. Children with

AD/HD have little self-control over these functions and seem to lack the restraint needed

to inhibit the public performance of these functions (Barkley, 1998). Executive functions

are commonly grouped into four areas of mental activity: operation of working memory;

internalization of self-directed speech; controlling emotions, motivation, and state of

arousal; and reconstitution (Barkley, 1998).

No researcher has been able to find the direct and immediate causes of the

difficulties experienced by children with AD/HD. However, brain-imaging studies

during the past decade have suggested that patients with AD/HD have malfunctions in

certain areas of the brain (Barkley, 1998). Castellanos and Rapoport conducted a study in

1996 at the National Institute of Mental Health and found that in children with ADHD

have right prefrontal cortexes that are significantly smaller than normal. The right

prefrontal cortexes regulate attention. Most researchers believed the difference in size of

these brain areas to be a genetic disorder with a heritability approaching 80% (cited in

Barkley, 1998).









Research by Weiler et al. (2002) indicated that students with AD/HD process visual

information more slowly, especially when multitasking. They also may be more

susceptible to distractions in the classroom. Interventions that appear to benefit children

with AD/HD may possibly help other children with learning impairments (Weiler et al.,

2002).

There is a cognitive intelligence model that focuses on attention processing and

information processing, two areas where students with learning disabilities and AD/HD

have the most difficulty. This model, called the PASS Theory of Cognitive Intelligence,

helps to provide some structure for research into the areas where students have

deficiencies (Das et al., 1994). By determining the cognitive areas in which deficiencies

occur, curricular and instructional modifications can then be developed.

The Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive (PASS) Theory of Cognitive
Intelligence

J.P. Das began research in 1972 based on the works of Luria (1966, 1973, 1980) on

the cortical lobes of the brain where information is held and processed. In 1994, Das,

Naglieri, and Kirby published their research emphasizing the cognitive processes in

Luria's model, rather than the neurological locations where arousal, attention,

information processing, and planning processes takes place.

Luria concluded that human cognitive processing involves three functional systems

that work in concert (Das et al., 1994). The first unit regulates cortical tone and

maintenance of attention. The second unit receives, processes, and stores information,

using simultaneous and successive information coding. The third unit programs,

regulates, and directs mental activity (Das et al., 1994).









Although the PASS acronym represents four pieces of the cognitive processing

puzzle, these four parts are actually divided into three main units of cognitive function.

The first unit is attention. An individual has to first attend to a stimulus or stimuli in

order to process information. Attention tasks require the individual to direct responses to

a particular stimulus and suppress reacting to a competing stimulus or stimuli (Das et al.,

1994).

The second unit of cognitive function is simultaneous and successive processing,

which are both types of information coding. Simultaneous processing of information

involves the integration of stimuli into groups based on common characteristics.

Successive processing involves the integration of stimuli into a series where the elements

fall into a progression (Das et al., 1994).

Planning processes make up the third unit of cognitive function. They provide the

means to analyze cognitive activity, develop problem-solving methods, evaluate the

effectiveness of a solution, and modify the approach used as needed. Planning processes

require the input, acquisition, and coding of knowledge and are therefore the final aspect

of cognitive function (Das et al., 1994).

The three basic units are dynamic and respond to the experiences of the individual.

They are also subject to developmental changes and form an interrelated system (Das et

al., 1994). As seen in Figure 2-1, the functional units are interrelated but maintain their

specific and independent functions (Das et al., 1994).









Input
Serial Concurrent



U............


4 f


Output
Serial Concurrent


^ -............


4 t


Figure 2-1. The PASS Model of Ability (Das et al., 1994)

Knowledge Base

The PASS Theory outlines the manner in which individual students acquire

knowledge, process that knowledge, and code it for storage in long-term memory. A

student's knowledge base, or previously learned information stored in long-term memory,

ultimately affects all aspects of the acquisition and storage of new knowledge (Das et al.,

1994). Knowledge base is the information that has been accumulated by an individual

using formal and informal means (Das et al., 1994). The functional units all rely on one's


Occipital, Parietal, & Temporal
o I Memory Conceptual Perceptual
SSIMULTANEOUS & SUCCESSIVE









knowledge base, as well as influence it. All cognitive processes are influenced by the

existing knowledge base and the knowledge base acts as a moderator during processing

(Das et al., 1994).

The acquisition of knowledge stems from the interaction of coding and planning to

perform various tasks. During the interaction of coding and planning, a proper state of

arousal is required to provide an opportunity for learning. As noted by Das et al. (1994),

"effective processing is accomplished through the integration of knowledge with

planning, attention, simultaneous, and successive processes as demanded by the

particular task."

Arousal

In order for a person to be attentive, they must first be in an awakened state, or an

aroused state of mind. Arousal and its relationship with attention must be understood

physiologically and behaviorally. Attention typically entails focus and selectivity (Das et

al., 1994). Titchener first mentioned attention in terms of "sensible clearness" or clarity

of sensation (cited in Das et al., 1994). A contemporary of Titchener, William James,

explained attention as a process of selection; an individual selects one stimulus from the

large number of stimuli that impinge on it during an awakened state (cited in Das et al.,

1994).

According to Luria, arousal regulates the activity level in both the body and the

mind (Das et al., 1994). He suggests that there are three sources of influence on arousal:

1. The metabolic processes of each individual vary, causing differing physiological
states of arousal within a group of individuals,

2. The orienting response of the arrival of the stimulus from outside the current
knowledge base of the individual (whether the arrival is new and unique to the
individual, causes confusion or creates intense emotion),









3. Internal sources of stimuli from the individual's intentions, plans, and other
thoughts arriving from the frontal lobes are influences on the aroused state of the
individual.

Of these three influences, Luria believed that the last two have the greatest relationship to

attention (Das et al., 1994).

Arousal and Attention

Arousal and attention fluctuate based on environmental factors. External

conditions such as heat, cold, and noise can modulate arousal as well as internal factors

such as intense emotion or cognitive conditions (Das et al., 1994). Attention may

increase with loud noise levels or anxiety and then decrease as levels become excessively

high and unmanageable. A prolonged period of attention can reduce arousal, causing the

individual to become drowsy. Physiological signs observed during arousal are changes in

heart rate, blood flow, and respiration. These same changes can be measures of attention

as well. The relationships between attention and arousal are complex, but to be stated

simply, arousal is the state of being active whereas attention is specific; we attend to a

specific or particular thing or things (Das et al., 1994).

Attention

As previously mentioned, children with attention deficits, sometimes coupled with

hyperactivity and impulsivity, are diagnosed with having AD/HD (Smith, 2004; Weiler et

al., 2002; Das et al., 1994). Attention can now be understood as the focus on a specific

piece of information for a specific reason and filtered out of all other pieces of

information simultaneously received (Das et al., 1994).

Geschwind stated that there are five characteristics of the attentional system that

can summarize its complexity (cited in Das et al., 1994). They are:

* Attention is selective.









* Attention is coherent, as it is maintained for some time once the selection is made.
* It is necessary to shift attention in order to process information.
* It is important to monitor a broad range of stimuli before focusing attention.
* Individuals may have special sensitivity to certain kinds of stimuli.


These characteristics provide evidence that attention is one of many complex cognitive

systems used to process information. They also describe higher cognitive functions that

manifest themselves in intelligent behavior. Therefore, attention can be considered

intelligent activity (Das et al., 1994). Figure 2-2 shows a simplistic view of how the

attention processes interact.


Figure 2-2. Attention Processes Path Diagram (Das et al., 1994)

Information Selection Broadbent's Filter Theory

After attention is focused on a specific stimulus, the information must then be

processed. In order to process meaningful information, it has been theorized that


Input of several stimuli


Detection of specific
stimulus is required









individuals use a filter system to select important information out of the influx of sensory

information received during arousal. The information is received through the senses and

creates a bottleneck flow of information until the most meaningful information or

stimulus is chosen for processing. Selection is necessary to keep the flow of information

from overloading the brain's limited capacity. This theory is called Broadbent's Filter

Theory (Das et al., 1994).

Information processing theories assume that an individual's past experiences

(knowledge base) determine the significance of the new stimulus or event (Das et al.,

1994). Emotions, attitudes, and preconceived strategies for information processing can

affect the actual processing of the information. These factors exist in the social and

personal realm of the individual and are extrinsic to the stimulus itself (Das et al., 1994).

Simultaneous and Successive Information Processing

Attention-arousal systems facilitate information processing. However, it is in the

processing system that most of the action takes place. Successive processing has been

found to be particularly difficult for children with dyslexia because it is required in the

decoding of words (Kirby & Robinson, 1987; Kirby & Das, 1990; Smith, 2004).

Information processing is also the issue with writing disabilities and mathematical

disabilities because the recall of information is required (Smith, 2004).

In the information processing system, incoming information is received and

combined with prior knowledge. It is then transformed according to the knowledge base

and the planning system, and stored for later use as an addition to the knowledge base

(Das et al., 1994). Coding is the specific part of processing that occurs in this system.

By definition, coding is what happens when new information is interpreted in terms of









what we already know. Outside stimuli do not carry meaning until meaning is given it by

the individual; therefore, stimuli have to be coded in different ways (Das et al., 1994).

There are two types of coding: simultaneous and successive. Simultaneous coding

relationships are between multiple pieces of information and produce a single code. As

seen in Figure 2-3, all of the pieces of information input from a stimulus into the brain

share some relationship with one another. Those relationships, or the pieces needed for

discovering it, already exist in the knowledge base. These are individual pieces of

information, but can be grouped together in memory and easily recalled because of their

shared relationships. The result is a code that takes up only one space in the working

memory (Das et al., 1994). For example, if a student is given the task of learning the

names of all the states within the United States, they may group certain states together

either by alphabetical order or by geographical location in order to more easily remember

or recall that information. The student will choose how to store this information based on

their pre-existing knowledge base. It is not important the order in which information is

stored, only that the group itself is easily stored and recalled.


1 2




3 4


Figure 2-3. Simultaneous Processing Path Diagram (Das et al., 1994)

Successive processing produces and holds an ordered set of information. It is used

to remember sequences of information. Unlike with simultaneous processing, the order

in which information is stored in successive processing is critical. There is a specific









order for pieces of information based on the nature of that information. In successive

processing only those sequential relationships are received. Note figure 2-4 for further

description of successive processing (Das et al., 1994).







Figure 2-4. Successive Processing Path Diagram (Das et al., 1994)

Simultaneous and successive processing are complementary to one another.

Neither process is superior to the other because both are needed at various levels of

information processing (Das et al., 1994). The individual can employ either strategy

when processing and recalling information based on the nature of the task, the knowledge

base and the strategy employed by the individual. The selection of strategy used is a

function of planning (Das et al., 1994).

Planning

Planning processes involve analyzing cognitive activity, developing problem-

solving methods, evaluating the effectiveness of a solution, and modifying the approach

used as needed. Planning behaviors are not routine or entrenched, but are in some ways

regulatory behaviors. They regulate the physiological and neurological behaviors of the

individual, while resisting distractions and overcoming discontinuities (Das et al., 1994).

Planning is purposeful and occurs in advance of action. It involves flexibility and

the evaluation of one's own actions as well as the actions of others. A breakdown in the

planning processes can be seen in the failures to evaluate errors correctly or regulate

functions. Planning is difficult if attention and processing functions are not present (Das

et al., 1994).









Planning Processes in Children

It is not known whether planning occurs in the cognitive processes of younger

children because planning makes use of Inner Speech, which younger children would not

have not yet developed. This is consistent with Luria's views on planning and younger

children. However, the behavior of younger children does stem from metacognitive

activity, where children are aware of what they do and do not know. Therefore, the

behaviors of young children do have some order and are not randomized (Das et al.,

1994).

It is also unclear at what age planning processes develop or begin. All that is

known is that speech must regulate action as a prerequisite for planning. The regulatory

role of speech is absent during the impulsive actions of children or adults (Das et al.,

1994).

The PASS Theory, Relative to Learning Disabilities

The cognitive processes discussed in the PASS theory give form to abstract

concepts such as thought, attention, and planning processes. It is not possible to measure

the activity that occurs during these processes because students are not able to describe

exactly how they perform these functions. It is only possible to measure the outcome of

thought, attention, and planning by using assessment measures in an educational setting

(Bailin et al., 1999).

Learning disabled and hyperactive individuals may have limited capacities in some

areas because of one or more of the three contexts emotional, attitudinal, or strategic

(Das et al., 1994). For children, the capacity to process information is already limited.

However, children with disabilities are even further limited, which affects their attention

and short-term memory (Das et al., 1994).









Rivera and Smith (1997) concluded that the following learning characteristics are at

the root of academic problems:

* Lack of motivation or poor attribution
* Inattention
* Inability to generalize
* Faulty information processing
* Insufficient problem solving skills

Carlson et al. (2002) determined that students could develop a negative attitude and

come to believe their failure is a result of lack of ability, instead of recognizing their need

for help. Such external factors as luck, extra help, teacher favoritism, or classmate help

are other reasons that they may believe contribute to their success or failure. Students

with AD/HD also have attributions that undermine their success in school. Because

learning disabilities and AD/HD often occur concurrently, it is important to use methods

that can aid either disability at the same time (Smith, 2004).

Instructional Modifications for Attention

Mercer (1997) noted that attention deficits are one of the key characteristics of

students with AD/HD. Another key characteristic of AD/HD is impulsivity. A related

problem then is developing good organizational skills in those students.

Creating structure helps students to become more organized and contributes to their

focus on certain tasks. Deshler et al. (2001) found that advance organizers or organizing

routines helped to focus student's attention by providing an introductory overview of the

material to be presented. Advance organizers create a framework for students to follow

and structure of course content so that students can see how parts of a course fit together.

According to the United States Department of Education [USDE] (2004) some

strategies that will help students with AD/HD are:









* Provide an advance organizer
* Review previous lessons
* Set learning expectations
* Set behavioral expectations
* State needed materials
* Explain additional resources
* Simplify instructions, choices, and scheduling

While conducting lessons, some strategies to aid students with learning disabilities

are (USDE, 2004):

* Be predictable
* Support the student's participation in the classroom
* Use audiovisual materials
* Check student performance
* Ask probing questions
* Perform ongoing student evaluation
* Help students correct their own mistakes
* Help students focus
* Follow-up on directions
* Lower noise level
* Divide work into smaller units
* Highlight key points
* Eliminate or reduce the frequency of timed tests
* Use cooperative learning strategies
* Use assistive technology

Instructional Modifications for Simultaneous and Successive Processing

Children with learning disabilities have the most trouble with information

processing (Smith, 2004). Smith (2004) noted that educators could aid in the processing

of information by:

* Repeating important information
* Organizing content systematically
* Providing students with relevant information
* Relating examples to student experiences
* Associating content with familiar information

Rivera and Smith (1997) noted that students with learning disabilities also have

problems with problem solving and thinking skills. Brigham and Brigham (2001)









suggested that in order to aid these students with their problem solving skills, learning

strategies can be applied in order for students to study efficiently and remember content.

Swanson and Sachse-Lee (2000) suggested that one way of giving students the tools to

compensate for their learning problems is the use of learning strategies. The Learning

Strategies approach, designed by Deshler and Schumaker, directs students to group

similar information by main ideas and details, as well as how to read high school texts

and write reports in systematic ways. According to Smith (2004), key features of the

learning strategies approach are the use of:

* Highly structured materials
* Advance organizers (organizing structures)
* Mnemonics

This approach goes beyond crisis teaching that used to be performed by special education

teachers and helps students to meet the demands of the general education secondary

curriculum.

There are several learning strategies that can aid students in recalling information.

Three such strategies as presented by Smith (2004) are referenced here:

* Classifying: the learner categorizes and groups items together according to their
common characteristics.

* Association: identifying relationships between and among different knowledge
bases and items within those knowledge bases

* Sequencing: putting items together in a logical sequence to facilitate memory and
learning. For example, physical items can be sequenced by size and weight while
ideas can be sequenced by time or importance.

Other Educational Methods for Students with Learning Disabilities

Federal and State educational laws require certain instructional modifications for

students who have learning disabilities, based on the student's Individualized Education

Plan (USDE, 1997). These modifications can include such items as: extended time on









tests, tests being read aloud to the student, or taking a test in a separate room. Teachers

can implement other instructional and curricular strategies in the classroom in order to

promote attentiveness in students and aid them in understanding difficult concepts

(Smith, 2004).

Using peers to aid students in learning subject matter has become one of the more

prominent teaching methods used in education for general education classrooms and

students with learning disabilities alike. Peer tutoring is known to help some students

with learning disabilities or AD/HD, especially if the number of these students in a class

is relatively low (Smith, 2004). Smith (2004) noted that some of the steps used to create

a peer-learning environment are:

* Teachers include student input in describing the problem

* Teacher and students worked together to identify some solutions

* Ability groups are mixed within the class

* This type of learning environment is phased in, not scheduled for all types of
activities across the entire day

* An evaluation component is included in the peer-learning process

Swanson and Sachse-Lee (2000) and Vaughn et al. (2000) found that some keys to

effective instruction for students with learning disabilities are:

1. Directly teach the subject, skill, or content area
2. Be certain students have opportunities for drill, repetition, practice, and
review
3. Work in small, active groups
4. Break learning units into small segments
5. Use strategy instruction

Hock (1997) and Sexton et al. (1998) stated that students also benefit when they are

shown the relationship between effort and accomplishment and when they are taught

learning strategies they know are effective. Vaughn et al. (2000) noted that without









instruction on how to approach learning, students who have learning disabilities are

unable to compensate for their learning problems.

Agricultural Education for Students with Learning Disabilities

A major concern in the development and societal transition of special needs

students is their ability to become employed after high school graduation (Morningstar,

1997). Through vocational programs, some students with disabilities find employment

and those "students with disabilities who had paid or unpaid work experience in high

school had better employment outcomes, higher wages, more hours, [and] more

continuous employment" (Wonacott, 2000, p.1). These students often obtained

competitive jobs more often and were better prepared to keep their jobs (Wonacott,

2000). One such program is agricultural education, where students can find employment

through a Supervised Agricultural Experience (Schwager & White, 1994).

Agricultural Education covers a wide variety of science based curricular areas and

includes the classroom/ laboratory environment, Supervised Agricultural Experiences and

FFA involvement. Classroom and laboratory time are the part of Agricultural Education

that is supervised by teachers during the school day and are therefore more easily

modified by teachers for students with learning disabilities.

In agricultural education, both the classroom and laboratory time are designed by

teachers to include hands-on performance. Understanding agricultural concepts such as

greenhouse maintenance, floral design, biotechnology, or animal husbandry require the

learner to have adequate experience. In order to provide that experience, agriculture

teachers use the same laboratory environments found in most science classrooms to teach

these concepts. Recently, biotechnology has become a part of the agricultural

curriculum. This requires a great deal of laboratory experimentation and experience with









technical laboratory equipment. Other types of laboratory environments found in

agricultural programs are onsite farms, or land laboratories. Subject areas, such as

horticulture and animal science, use land laboratories to give students first hand

experience with animals and plants in their natural environment.

McCann (1998) found that science classes provide learning-disabled students with

opportunities to learn that they may not get in other classes, and special education

teachers are often not trained in the sciences. It is therefore imperative that certain

modifications be made to enable scientific inquiry (McCann, 1998). As more agricultural

programs emphasize the scientific nature of agriculture through their curricula, the

cautions presented here may be pertinent to agricultural education as well as science

education.

Exceptional students are now an integral part of the classroom and in becoming so,

have used the task-oriented structure of agricultural education to their benefit for learning

work related skills (Elbert & Baggett, 2003). However, because of the nature of

agricultural education, as an elective course serving diverse populations, it is slightly

more difficult to engage all students at once (Elbert & Baggett, 2003).

Jones and Moore (2000) and Moore et al. (2001) reported that, although agriculture

teachers were comfortable working with ethnically and culturally diverse students, those

same teachers were less comfortable working with mentally challenged students. In

1994, according to the U.S. Department of Education, special needs students were found

in an increasingly higher proportion in agricultural education courses (Elbert & Baggett,

2003). With the population of exceptional students present in each class, agriculture

teachers need to be prepared for and feel competent in serving these students and have a









need for more resources on how to effectively engage these students (Moore & Woods,

2002).

Cobb et al., Colley and Jamison concluded that students with disabilities enrolled in

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs were found to be less likely to drop out

and more likely to become employed and to have paid, competitive jobs (cited in

Wonacott, 2000). Therefore, a strong need exists for special needs students to be

enrolled and actively involved in Career and Technical Education. Eventually, knowing

how agricultural educators should make modifications for special needs students will

help to achieve a greater sense of acceptance of these students into the agriculture

program, due to the benefits they may receive as participants (Wonacott, 2000).

Summary

Researchers have been concerned with attentional processes and information

processing since the early 1900s. Attention and information processing have strong

implications in educational settings because of the nature of the classroom and the

requirements of students in modern education. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive

processing model based on the works of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for

information processing in the brain. This model, entitled "The PASS Model of Cognitive

Intelligence," gives structure to the abstract concepts of thought processing from stimulus

and information input.

The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and

Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an

individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in

memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous









and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to

deficits in students who have learning disabilities and AD/HD.

Students with AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity,

causing teachers to develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization

for these students in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have

problems with information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies

approach seems to provide aid. AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur

concurrently, creating a need for strategies that can assist students dealing with one or

both disorders.

The concern for teachers of agricultural education, specifically, is that the nature of

an agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be

present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom as

far as having to teach subject matter content and also accommodating for students who

have learning disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate

students with learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to

provide their education in the "least restrictive environment" as required by law, while

enabling them to be successful.














CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and

environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with

students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed

successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing

aid to this unique student group.

Research Objectives

The objectives of the study were as follows:

1. To identify modifications to curricula used to assist students with learning
disabilities in mastering subject matter.

2. To identify successful methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated
in a student's Individualized Education Plan.

3. To identify physical changes to the learning environment that have assisted
learning disabled students in maintaining attention or processing information.

Introduction

Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the

inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act,

Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of

mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide

modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in









North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those

students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National

Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that agriculture

teachers, along with teachers in other areas, find ways to make modifications to their

curriculum, instruction, and educational environments in order to aid students who have

mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter.

Chapter 2 discussed the concern educational researchers have with attentional

processes and information processing because of their strong implications in the

classroom. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works

of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This

model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract

concepts related to information processing

The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and

Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an

individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in the

memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous

and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to

deficits in students who have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity

Disorder (AD/HD).

AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for

strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. Students with

AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to

develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students









in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with

information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach

seems to provide aid.

The concern for teachers of agricultural education is that the nature of an

agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be

present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom;

teaching subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning

disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with

learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their

education in the least restrictive environment, while enabling them to be successful.

Procedure

The Delphi technique using a series of mailed questionnaires was used for this

study. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical

methodology of the Delphi technique. The research was conducted during a four-month

period during November 2004 through March 2005.

The Delphi structure is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in

a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of

experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face.

The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possible error in responses will

be and also the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the

data (Dalkey, 1969).

An issue with face-to-face group discussion is often the presence of highly

influential individuals in the group. The Delphi method omits this problem because









anonymity is used to protect the responses of individuals through information collection

by media such as mail, electronic mail, or online (Dalkey, 1969).

Another problem with face-to-face group communication is "noise" within the

group discussion, or the focus of the group on group interests instead of the question at

hand. This is curtailed by the use of controlled feedback in the Delphi method. The

exercise is conducted in a series of rounds between which the summary of results from

the previous rounds are communicated to participants, allowing for the focus of the group

to be on the specific issue in question (Dalkey, 1969).

Statistical definition of group consensus is an easy way to solve the last problem

with normal face-to-face communication, which is the desire for group conformity. By

conducting the exercise in rounds where data is condensed at the end of each round by

statistical measures, the data eventually reaches a point where consensus can be

determined by an assigned mean instead of the group. This ensures that the opinion of

each group member is equally represented in the final response (Dalkey, 1969). Dalkey

(1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi

group is larger than 13.

Population/ Sample

A letter of invitation to participate in the study was mailed from the Department of

Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida to selected

agriculture teachers in North Carolina determined to be experts in addressing special

education needs of agriculture students. A list of expert teachers were chosen by Dr. Jim

Flowers, Chair, of the Department of Agricultural & Extension Education at North

Carolina State University and Dr. Marshall Stewart, State Agricultural Education









Coordinator. Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart are recognized as experts in agricultural

education in North Carolina and nationwide.

Dr. Flowers has served as Department Head at North Carolina State University for

over 5 years. Prior to his current position he was a professor of Agricultural Education at

North Carolina State University and a high school agriculture teacher. He served as

National President of the American Association of Agricultural Education in 2001 and

National Secretary from 1997-1998. He has received several awards for his research,

including Outstanding Research Paper from the American Vocational Education

Research Association in 2000. He has also received several awards for his teaching,

including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Region of the American

Association of Agricultural Education in 1994. Dr. Flowers earned his PhD at the

University of Illinois in agricultural education.

Dr. Stewart has served as the Agricultural Education Coordinator since 1996. Prior

to his current position with North Carolina agricultural education he served as Executive

Director of the National Association of Agriculture Educators from 1994 to 1995, held

several positions with the National FFA Organization from 1988 to 1994, and taught high

school agriculture in North Carolina from 1986 to 1988. Both men are considered

leaders in agricultural education nationwide.

Of the 362 agriculture teachers in North Carolina, 45 were invited to participate in

this Delphi study (NC FFA, 2004). The criteria for selection of these expert teachers was

as follows:

1. At least 5 years of teaching experience
2. Currently teaching in an agriculture program at a public high school
3. Known experience with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities









The rationale for a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience was the

understanding that a teacher with 5 years of service will have adequate knowledge in

serving students with special needs. As teachers with 5 years of experience have gained

the knowledge necessary to be considered an expert teacher, they are also still within

close proximity of their teacher preparation program and can recall those experiences

while participating in this study.

Based on these criteria, Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart nominated 45 teachers who

were initially invited to participate in this study. The number of invited participants was

determined in order to ensure adequate participation throughout the three rounds of this

Delphi study. In order for reliability of the data to be above .80, at least 13 Delphi group

members must be involved in the study (Dalkey, 1969). All members of the sample are

experts, and non-response error is not a concern in a Delphi format (Dalkey, 1969).

Therefore, it was determined that a larger group afforded the likelihood of identifying a

more composite list of items in earlier rounds.

Agricultural Education in North Carolina

North Carolina has the 4th fastest growing student enrollment in the United States

(NC FFA, 2004). Currently there are 362 teachers in 261 programs (NC FFA, 2004).

However only, 4% of the middle school students in North Carolina are enrolled in

agriculture (NC FFA, 2004). In high schools, 9.2% of the 371,987 students enrolled in

grades 9-12 are enrolled in agricultural education (NC FFA, 2004). Although small,

agricultural education had the largest gains in achievement scores than any other program

area in Career and Technical Education in North Carolina in 2004, with a 26.2% gain in

Level 3 scores since 2001. Level 3 scores are passing scores according to VoCATS (NC

FFA, 2004).









Instruments Used in Data Collection

Three instruments were used in this Delphi study. All Round one instruments were

mailed to panel members. In succeeding rounds, respondents were able to choose the

delivery method; United States Postal Service mail or electronic mail. The round one

instrument contained three open-ended questions. The questions were:

1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom / lab
environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

These questions were developed based on the works of Cole et al (2000) on the nine

types of adaptations that classroom teachers can use to adapt curriculum and instruction

in inclusive classrooms. The nine adaptations are:

1. Input: the instructional strategies used to facilitate student learning.

2. Output: the ways learners can demonstrate understanding and knowledge.

3. Size: the length or portion of an assignment.

4. Time: the flexible time needed for student learning.

5. Difficulty: the varied skill levels, conceptual levels and processes involved in
learning.

6. Level of Support: the amount of assistance to the learner.

7. Degree of Participation: the extent to which the learner is actively involved in
tasks.

8. Modified Goals: the adapted outcome expectations within the context of a general
education outcome.

9. Substitute Curriculum: the significantly differentiated instruction and materials to
meet a learner's identified goals.









These nine types of adaptations seemed to fit into two broad categories: instruction

and curriculum. In addition, environmental modifications, such as strategic seating

arrangements and working in groups, are noted in the literature as having an effect on the

focus and attention of students with learning disabilities (USDE, 1997; Smith, 2004;

USDE, 2004). The review of literature was the basis for emphasis on instructional,

curricular, and environmental modifications. Due to the open-ended nature of the round

one instrumentation for a Delphi study, the questions had to be asked in a generalized

manner in order for teachers to be able to elaborate on the methods they used, within the

context of the questionnaire.

For round one, a cover letter and questionnaire were mailed on November 29,

2004. In the letter, teachers were given the option of returning the questionnaire by mail,

fax, or electronic mail. If electronic mail was chosen it was understood that all

correspondence from that point would be conducted by electronic mail. Due to lack of

response by the first deadline of December 15, 2004, a second reminder electronic mail

was sent to all prospective participants on January 3, 2005 asking them to respond to the

round one questionnaire that was attached in the electronic mail. Again, response was

not as expected (it was suggested that at least 20 responses be returned for round one

before continuing with round two). A second mailing of the round one questionnaire was

sent on January 19, 2005 with a deadline of January 28, 2005.

Items from round one were combined, repetition was eliminated, and items were

coded for content. From this coding, a condensed list of items was formulated for the

following categories: instructional modifications, curricular modifications, and

environmental modifications. It was necessary to move some items into a more









appropriate category for the round two questionnaire. Therefore the initial number of

responses for each category is substantially higher than the final list of statements for

each category.

The second questionnaire asked respondents to rank the responses from round one,

using a questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3

= Uncertain, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree). The panel was also asked to make

comments if they did not agree with or understand a statement, or to revise a statement to

clarify it.

Some respondents indicated that they preferred electronic mail as their method of

delivery for future rounds, so an electronic version of the questionnaire was used in round

2 for these individuals. The first electronic mail version of round two was sent to those

respondents from round one who noted they preferred electronic mail on February 1,

2005. The mail version was sent on February 2, 2005 to the remainder of respondents

who returned the round one instrument. The deadline for return of this round was set for

February 11, 2005.

All items with a mean of 3.49 or higher, determined a priori, were included in the

round three questionnaires, leaving 40 statements out of the original 53. The rationale for

including any items with a mean of 3.49 or higher was to include the items that were

marked "agree" or "strongly agree" as well as those that might have been considered

"uncertain," because this is the first study of its type.

In this final round, respondents were asked to mark whether they agreed or

disagreed with each of the 40 statements. The electronic mail version of round three was

sent on February 28, 2005 with a return deadline of March 11, 2005. The mail version









was sent on March 3, 2005 with a deadline for return of March 14, 2005. Consensus was

determined in the third questionnaire by percentage of agreement on each statement by

the panel and no further rounds of questionnaires were required.

Summary

A modified Delphi technique with a series of mailed questionnaires was used for

this study. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical

methodology of the Delphi technique. The Delphi structure is useful for gathering

information from a group of experts in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of

literature on that subject or the group of experts are geographically separated so that it is

difficult for them to meet face to face.

Expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina (N=45) were chosen as participants in

this study. Teachers were contacted in November with a cover letter and round one

questionnaire asking for their voluntary participation.

After receiving responses on round one, statements were refined and sent out in a

round two questionnaire to those teachers who responded to the round one questionnaire.

Teachers were informed in the round one cover letter that if they did not desire to

participate in the study they were not required to return the round one questionnaire.

Therefore, the participants in this study were only those that returned the round one

questionnaire.

In this round, respondents were asked to rank each item on their agreement using a

5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain, 4 = Agree, and

5 = Strongly Agree). All responses with a mean of 3.49 or higher were combined to form

the round three questionnaire where respondents were asked to mark whether they agreed






47


or disagreed with each statement listed. Consensus was reached in the third round and no

further rounds were needed (Moore, 1987).














CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and

environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with

students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed

successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing

aid to this unique student group.

Introduction

Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the

inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act,

Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of

mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide

modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in

North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those

students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National

Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that agriculture

teachers, along with teachers in other areas, find ways to make modifications to their

curriculum, instruction, and educational environments in order to aid students who have

mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter.

Chapter 2 discussed the concern educational researchers have with attentional

processes and information processing because of their strong implications in the









classroom. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works

of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This

model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract

concepts related to information processing

The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and

Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an

individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in the

memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous

and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to

deficits in students who have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity

Disorder (AD/HD).

AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for

strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. Students with

AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to

develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students

in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with

information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach

seems to provide aid.

The concern for teachers of agricultural education is that the nature of an

agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be

present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom;

teaching subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning

disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with









learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their

education in the least restrictive environment, while enabling them to be successful.

Chapter 3 described in detail the research methodology chosen for this study and

the rationale for choosing that specific methodology. The research method for this study

is the Delphi method, which is useful for gathering information from a group of experts

in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of

experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face.

The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possibility of error in responses.

Furthermore, the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the

data. Dalkey (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when

the Delphi group is larger than 13. The instrumentation used in this study was a series of

three rounds of mailed questionnaires. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed

questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique.

Delphi Round One Responses

The round one questionnaire was mailed to 45 agricultural teachers in North

Carolina identified as experts by Dr. Jim Flowers, Department Chair, Department of

Agricultural and Extension Education at North Carolina State University and Dr.

Marshall Stewart, North Carolina Agricultural Education Coordinator. Nominated

teachers could choose to participate in the study by returning the round one questionnaire,

indicated as such in the cover letter.

The round one questionnaire contained three open-ended questions to which

teachers were asked to respond, based upon the strategies they use in their classrooms to

make modifications for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. The

questions asked were:









1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom/ lab
environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

Table 4-1 shows the responses to the first question, received from respondents

participating in round one of the Delphi study. The frequency of responses to each

statement is listed opposite the appropriate response in the table. Multiple responses

were received on 12 items. All responses from this question in round one were coded for

content, edited for replication, and condensed to form statements included in the round

two questionnaires.

Table 4-1. Strategies Used to Modify Curriculum for Students with Mild to Moderate
Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N= 23)
Strategy f
Choose competencies they can master from the VoCATS blueprint 5
VoCATS doesn't allow curriculum modification unless the student is on an 5
Occupational Course of Study (OCS)

Determine which unit/ lesson objectives they can successfully complete 4
No modification is made to the curriculum 3
Shortened or modified assignments are given 3
Hands-on learning activities 3
Grading students based on ability (skills learned instead of test scores) 2
Peer helping/tutoring 2
Lower level, or more appropriate, reading materials 2
Extra time on tests 2
Testing in a separate location 2
Read-aloud for tests 2









Table 4-1. Continued
Strategy f
Handouts based on objectives in the class for study guides 1
Modified worksheets 1
Ask questions appropriate to their skill level 1
Supplemental activities to hands-on learning 1
Test those students differently 1
Have an Exceptional Children (EC) assistant present in class for extra help 1
Oral exams and presentations 1
Short answer exams 1
Curriculum alignment with their grade level in math, English, social studies, 1
and science

Smaller units of instruction 1
Remove some memorization tasks (Creed, etc.) 1
Special needs teachers give an assay on each student 1
Give students a competency guide with competencies that will be covered in 1
class

Follow each student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) 1
Verbal assignments broken into smaller parts 1
Cooperative learning (mixed ability groups) 1
Expect special needs students to meet the goals set for all students in the class 1
Length of time spent on a subject is modified 1
Depth of instruction on a subject is modified 1
Guided notes 1
Preferential seating 1
Note. Some items from this list were moved into more appropriate categories for future rounds.


Table 4-2 shows the responses to the second question asked in round one. This

question asked respondents what strategies they used to modify instruction for students

with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Eighteen strategies were identified by









multiple respondents. All responses to this question were coded for content, edited for

replication, and combined to form the statements that were included as a part of the round

two questionnaires.

Table 4-2. Strategies Used to Modify Instruction for Students with Mild to Moderate
Learning Disabilities from Round One Respondents (N= 23)
Strategy f
Using PowerPoint with graphics, large fonts, etc. to present notes 9
Pair with an advanced student (peer tutoring) 8
Note handouts or copies of teacher notes 7
Fill in the blank note guides 6
Hands-on assignments and labs 6
Modified assignments and assignment requirements 4
Shortened assignments 4
Different testing methods (verbal, etc.) 3
Read aloud on tests 3
Grade differently 3
Follow the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) 3
Testing in separate locations 2
Tutoring after school 2
Extended time on tests 2
Extra time on assignments 2
Present information in many forms (written, verbal, visual) 2
Maintain an assignment notebook 2
Group work 2
Verbal instruction 1
Diversity in activities 1
Shortened activities 1
Meet with Exceptional Children (EC) teachers to discuss students 1
Pick out most important items on an assignment 1
Seating close to the front of the room 1










Table 4-2. Continued
Strategy f
Provide frequent rewards 1
Notes available online for all students 1
Hands-on activity demonstrations 1
Directions for assignments are read aloud 1
Slow instruction down 1
More individualized instruction 1
Allow students to be exempt from written tasks 1
Study guides are given 1
Rubrics are used for performance items 1
Allow learning disabled students to use word banks on plant identification tests 1
Remove paper and pencil tasks 1
Avoid penalizing spelling errors 1
Small units of instruction 1
Update Special Education teachers on what students should be learning 1
Activities that focus on doing rather than obtaining knowledge 1
Some activities are graded as group assignments 1
Show videos that are supplemental to instruction 1
Use a "word wall" for difficult vocabulary 1
Preferential seating 1
Note. Some items from this list were moved into more appropriate categories for future rounds.


The responses to the third question in round one, regarding environmental

modifications for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities, are listed in Table

4-3. Of the responses returned, 9 were duplicated on multiple questionnaires. All

responses to this question were edited for repetition, coded for content, and condensed to


form the strategies listed as a part of the round two questionnaires.









Table 4-3. Strategies Used to Modify the Classroom/ Laboratory Environment for
Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities from Round One
Respondents (N= 23)
Strategy f
Placed or paired with a partner during lab assignments 8
Receive more teacher attention 4
More hands-on instruction 4
No modifications to the classroom/ lab environment are made 3
Learning disabled students are grouped with normal students in seating 3
arrangements

Orally repeat directions 2 or 3 times or make a chart with instructions 3
Preferential seating 3
Use more audio/visual teaching methods to stimulate student interest 2
Strategic seating arrangement so distractions are at a minimum 2
Folder kept in class to hold their pens, paper, etc. 1
Set high expectations 1
Give them activities where they can be successful 1
Use several varying methods of instruction 1
Use stories to make a point 1
Place desks in short rows for easier group work and access to equipment 1
Give them additional jobs to boost their confidence 1
Give them small lab projects to complete 1
Write all notes for their notebooks on the board 1
In the greenhouse, use pre-printed labels to reduce handwriting tasks 1
Modified grading 1
Follow the student's IEP 1
Give them shorter assignments 1
Reduce the number of pieces of equipment a student can use in the lab/ shop 1
Note. Some items from this list were moved into more appropriate categories for future rounds.









Of the 45 teachers who were invited to participate in the study, 23 (51%) returned

the questionnaire, confirming their willingness to participate. Participants were informed

in the cover letter for round one that returning their round one questionnaire indicated

their consent to participate in this study. They were also given the option to withdraw

from the study at any time. Therefore, the respondent group includes 23 expert North

Carolina agriculture teachers.

Information in Tables 4-1 through Table 4-3 represented the responses of the study

participants to the round one questionnaire. Some of the statements made by teachers are

repeated in different sections because the teachers responded in such a manner. Because

of this redundancy, and the fact that some responses did not appropriately match the

category they were originally reported in, the researcher combined responses that were

similar and reorganized the reported information according to the appropriate categories

of information, based on the research objectives, in order to receive accurate responses

from the research. There were a total of 99 original responses to the round one

questionnaire.

Delphi Round Two Responses

The round two questionnaires were mailed to the 23 respondents from round one of

the study. The condensed list of strategies from round one consisted of 52 statements that

formed the round two questionnaires. The following tables (Table 4-4 to Table 4-6)

reflect the data reorganized into statements that appeared in the round two questionnaires

and includes the mean and standard deviation of the round two responses.

Table 4-4 reflects the responses to statements included on the round two

questionnaires in the category of curriculum strategies that are successful for students

with learning disabilities. Only three of the statements in this category had a mean









response above four (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree). Six statements had mean responses

below four (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain). The mean responses for

the statements listed in Table 4-5 range from 2.42 to 4.56.

Table 4-4. Round Two Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N = 19)
Strategy M SD
Creating and conducting hands-on activities for each unit 4.56 .616
Breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction 4.32 .582
The use of lower level reading materials 4.00 .667
Choosing competencies for the student that they can master 3.79 1.134
Giving students a competency guide that lists what will be covered 3.72 .752
Focusing only on core competencies 3.53 1.073
The removal of some memorization tasks (Creed, etc.) 3.47 1.124
Allowing exemption for assignments in areas where the student is weak 2.94 .873
I cannot modify curriculum for students unless they are OCS 2.42 1.121
Note. Means based on 5-point Likert-scale responses (l=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Uncertain,
4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree).

Responses to statements listed on the round two questionnaires in the category of

instructional strategies that aid students with learning disabilities are listed in Table 4-5.

There were 19 statements with mean responses of four or higher, indicating that the

respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly

Agree). Fifteen statements had mean responses of below four (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 =

Disagree, 3 = Uncertain). The mean responses for this category, listed in Table 4-6,

range from 2.32 to 4.58.









Table 4-5. Round Two Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N= 19)


Strategy
Reading a student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and providing
those modifications

Strategically assigning partners or groups for work/ projects

Giving study guides for tests

Giving students hand-outs that coordinate with lessons

Emphasizing good hands-on skills

Giving students fill in the blank note guides or note outlines

Read aloud for tests/ assignments

Showing videos and other visual media that relate to topics

Use stories to illustrate a point in the lesson

Giving students copies of notes from teacher or other student

Asking Special Education teachers to provide an assay of each student

Keeping Special Education teachers informed about what students should
be learning in your class

Students keeping a notebook that is graded and checked for accuracy

The use of Power Points to provide notes and visuals

Shorter assignments depending on modifications

Allowing LD students to use a word bank for difficult vocabulary on tests
(Plant ID, Tool ID tests, etc.)

Using a different rubric/ scoring guide for learning disabled students on
the same assignment other students complete

Spending more time with them and watching them more closely during
hands-on activities

Tutoring students after school

Keeping special education teachers informed about what students should
be learning

Slowing down to give more individualized instruction

Modified testing, open notebook tests for learning disabled students


M
4.58


4.47

4.42

4.37

4.37

4.32

4.26

4.26

4.26

4.26

4.16

4.11


4.11

4.05

4.05

4.05


SD
0.507


.612

.507

.496

.496

.478

.733

.653

.562

.562

1.015

1.049


.809

.911

.524

.705


4.05 .780


4.05 .780


4.00

3.95


3.92

3.89


.745

.911


.793

.809









Table 4-5. Continued
Strategy M SD
Focus on vocabulary that may be difficult for them to understand 3.89 .658
(creating a word wall, worksheet, etc)

Not penalizing spelling errors 3.84 .834
Assigning them several tasks a day that focus on active learning rather 3.63 .831
than passive learning

Oral exams and presentations 3.63 1.065
Giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items 3.63 1.012
Making sure all students have copied the notes before continuing 3.47 .964
Provide frequent rewards for achievement (food or passes) 3.42 1.071
Have an Exceptional Children (EC) assistant in class 3.32 1.057
Giving short answer exams 3.05 1.129
Writing all notes for their notebooks on the board 2.89 1.243
Not holding learning disabled students responsible for written tasks when 2.61 1.092
grading

Removing paper and pencil tasks 2.32 .885
Note. Means based on 5-point Likert-scale responses (l=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Uncertain,
4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree).


Table 4-6 reflects the mean responses to statements in round two regarding

classroom and/or laboratory environmental modifications that are successful for learning

disabled students. Four statements had a mean response of four or higher (4 = Agree, 5 =

Strongly Agree). Five statements had a mean response below four (1 = Strongly

Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Uncertain). The mean responses for this category, listed in


Table 4-7, range from 1.84 to 4.68.









Table 4-6. Round Two Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory Modifications
That Are Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N= 19)
Strategy M SD
Pairing them with a good partner during lab projects 4.68 .478
Placing students in groups strategically during lab projects 4.47 .513
Placing students in a strategic location with minimum distractions 4.32 .478
Preferential seating 4.32 .671
Giving students shorter and easier shop assignments to complete 3.84 .602
Giving them additional jobs/ tasks, during lab time, to boost their 3.84 .958
confidence
Reduce the number of pieces of equipment students can work with 3.05 1.079
Reducing handwriting tasks during lab activities by using pre-printer 3.00 1.029
plant labels, etc.

I prefer not to provide special classroom/ lab modifications 1.84 .958
Note. Means based on 5-point Likert-scale responses (l=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Uncertain,
4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree).

The round two instruments had a response rate of 83% from the respondents who

returned the round one questionnaire (19 out of 23). Statements are ordered by the mean

response. Any statement with a mean of 3.49, determined a priori, or higher were

retained for the round three questionnaires.

Delphi Round Three Responses

The round three questionnaires consisted of 40 statements that had mean responses

above 3.49 from round two. The round three instruments took statements with which

most of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with and asked them to agree or

disagree with these statements in order to form consensus. The following tables (Table

4-7 to Table 4-9) list the responses that were used for round three and the percentage of

agreement found among the panel of experts. The percentages of agreement for the

statements in the round three questionnaire that were concerned with curriculum









strategies that are successful for students with learning disabilities are listed in Table 4-7.

Of the seven statements that were retained in the round three questionnaires, five

statements had a percentage of agreement above 75%. The other two statements had an

agreement percentage below 75% and were thus considered in disagreement of the panel.

The first research objective was directly related to this category of statements

regarding modifications to curriculum have been used to ensure that students who have

learning disabilities can master the subject matter. Based on the information in Table 4-

7, there are five curricular modification strategies that expert agriculture teachers in

North Carolina agreed upon as successful for students with learning disabilities. Giving

students a competency guide that lists what will be taught, breaking material/assignments

into smaller units of instruction, the use of lower level reading materials, creating and

conducting hands-on activities for each unit, and choosing competencies for the student

that they can master were the consensual curricular modifications for students with

learning disabilities.

Table 4-7. Round Three Responses Regarding Curriculum Strategies That Are Successful
for Students with Learning Disabilities (N= 17)
Strategy P
Giving students a competency guide that lists what will be taught 88%
Breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction 88%
The use of lower level reading materials 82%
Creating and conducting hands-on activities for each unit 82%
Choosing competencies for the student that they can master 76%
Focusing only on core competencies 71%
Allowing exemption for assignments in areas where the student is weak 59%









Table 4-8 reflects the percentages of agreement with statements of instructional

strategies that can aid students with learning disabilities. All 27 of the instructional

strategies that were retained from round two had a percentage of agreement above 75%

and were thus considered consensual statements.

The second research objective dealt with methods of modifying instruction, outside

of those dictated in a student's Individualized Education Plan. Of the responses obtained

in this round, six strategies were concerned with helping students to organize their notes.

Statements ranged from suggestions for more efficient note taking, to providing students

with advance organizers and study guides. Three strategies related to testing

modifications for these students. These strategies were related to giving students oral

exams, giving students open notebook tests, and having tests read aloud for students.

There were two strategies related to clarity in scoring. Teachers reported giving students

a rubric for the grading of performance items and using a different scoring guide for

learning disabled students on certain assignments.

Seven strategies dealt with involving students in active learning activities. These

strategies were concerned with having students work in groups with other students;

engaging them in hands-on activities; using visual aids and stories to supplement lessons;

and modifying assignment length or time given for assignment completion. Three

strategies dealt with vocabulary, suggesting that difficult vocabulary be given for students

in a word bank on tests, more focus spent on defining difficult vocabulary in class, and

students not be penalized for spelling errors on tests. Two strategies were concerned with

obtaining assistance from a special education teacher and one was concerned with

providing modifications as mandated in a student's IEP. The last three strategies









suggested additional assistance to students with learning disabilities, either in the form of

after-school tutoring, spending more time with them in class, or involving special

education teachers by keeping them informed of what students are learning in class.

Table 4-8. Round Three Responses Regarding Instructional Strategies That Are
Successful for Students with Learning Disabilities (N= 17)
Strategy P
Giving students fill in the blank note guides or note outlines 100%
Reading a student's IEP and providing those modifications 100%
Showing videos and other visual media that relate to topics 100%
Giving students copies of notes from teacher or other student 100%
Focus on vocabulary that may be difficult for them to understand (creating a 100%
word wall, worksheet, etc)

The use of Power Points to provide notes and visuals 100%
Spending more time with them and watching them more closely during hands- 100%
on activities

Giving students handouts that coordinate with lessons 100%
Giving study guides for tests 100%
Read aloud for tests/ assignments 100%
Oral exams and presentations 94%
Not penalizing spelling errors 94%
Allowing learning disabled students to use a word bank for difficult vocabulary 94%
on tests (Plant Identification tests, Tool Identification tests, etc.)

Modified testing (open notebook tests for learning disabled students. separate 94%
location, more time, etc)

Assigning them several tasks a day that focus on active learning rather than 94%
passive learning

Emphasizing good hands-on skills 94%
Shorter assignments depending on modifications 94%
Use stories to illustrate a point in the lesson 94%









Table 4-8. Continued
Strategy P
Strategically assigning partners or groups for work/ projects 94%
Tutoring students after school 94%
Giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items 88%
Keeping Special Education teachers informed about what students should be 88%
learning in your class
Asking Special Education teachers to provide an assay of each student 88%
Keeping special education teachers informed about what students should be 88%
learning

Students keeping a notebook that is graded and checked for accuracy 82%
Slowing down to give more individualized instruction 82%
Using a different rubric/ scoring guide for learning disabled students on the 76%
same assignment other students complete


The percentage of agreement for strategies dealing with classroom and/or

laboratory modifications for students with learning disabilities is listed in Table 4-9. All

six of the environmental modifications that were retained from round two had a

percentage of agreement above 75%, indicating consensus.

The final research objective was to understand if any physical changes to the

learning environment can aid these students in maintaining attention or processing

information. The statements regarding classroom and/or laboratory environmental

modifications were directly related to this research objective. Two of the strategies were

concerned with placing students in strategic locations where they were comfortable and

distractions could be minimized. Placing students in groups during lab assignments were

the subject matter of two of the modifications suggested for environmental modification.

These two statements suggested placing students either with a good partner or in groups

strategically to complete their lab assignments. The last two modifications consisted of









giving students additional tasks during lab time to boost their confidence and assigning

them shorter and easier shop assignments to complete.

Table 4-9. Round Three Responses Regarding Classroom and/or Laboratory
Modifications That Are Successful for Learning Disabled Students (N= 17)
Strategy P
Placing students in a strategic location with minimum distractions 100%
Preferential seating 100%
Placing students in groups strategically during lab projects 100%
Pairing them with a good partner during lab projects 100%
Giving them additional jobs/ tasks, during lab time, to boost their confidence 100%
Giving students shorter and easier shop assignments to complete 88%


Forty of the 53 original statements were left in round three. This round had a

response rate of 74% (17 out of 23). Any statements with a percentage of agreement over

75%, determined a priori, were considered consensual statements. The consensus of the

group indicated 38 strategies for modifying curriculum, instruction, and the learning

environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities.

Summary

Findings from this Delphi study concerning modifications that North Carolina

agriculture teachers use for students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities

provide evidence that the research objectives have been met. Expert teachers in North

Carolina reported making curricular, instructional, and environmental modifications to

their agriculture programs in order to aid students who have learning disabilities. They

reported the modifications that they make are successful for those students. Consensus

was reached on the conclusive statements from the three rounds of questionnaires that

teachers agreed are successful methods of modifications for those students.














CHAPTER 5
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to identify instructional, curricular, and

environmental modifications that expert agricultural teachers in North Carolina use with

students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These methods, if deemed

successful with students who have learning disabilities, may be sound ways of providing

aid to this unique student group.

Research Objectives

The objectives of the study were as follows:

1. To identify modifications to curricula used to assist students with learning
disabilities in mastering subject matter.

2. To identify successful methods of modifying instruction, outside of those dictated
in a student's Individualized Education Plan.

3. To identify physical changes to the learning environment that have assisted
learning disabled students in maintaining attention or processing information.

Introduction

Chapter 1 discussed the societal changes that have been implemented since the

inception of education reform legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act,

Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The effect of

mainstreaming students who have special needs has caused teachers to provide

modifications for those students to ensure their academic success. Agriculture teachers in

North Carolina are faced with a growing population of students, and 14.2% of those

students enrolled in public schools having Individualized Education Plans (National









Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that agriculture

teachers, along with teachers in other areas, find ways to make modifications to their

curriculum, instruction, and educational environments in order to aid students who have

mild to moderate learning disabilities in understanding subject matter.

Chapter 2 discussed the concern educational researchers have with attentional

processes and information processing because of their strong implications in the

classroom. Das et al. (1994) developed a cognitive processing model based on the works

of A.P. Luria and the neurological locations for information processing in the brain. This

model, entitled The PASS Model of Cognitive Intelligence, gives structure to the abstract

concepts related to information processing

The PASS Model includes four parts: Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and

Successive Processing. These four parts occur in this specific order in the mind of an

individual every time new information is selected as input, processed, and stored in the

memory for later use. The primary concern of this study is attention and simultaneous

and successive processing, because research has linked these two pieces specifically to

deficits in students who have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity

Disorder (AD/HD).

AD/HD and learning disabilities often occur concurrently, creating a need for

strategies that can assist students dealing with one or both disorders. Students with

AD/HD have difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, causing teachers to

develop methods of removing distractions and providing organization for these students

in their class work. Students with learning disabilities of any kind have problems with









information processing and retrieval. In this case, the Learning Strategies approach

seems to provide aid.

The concern for teachers of agricultural education is that the nature of an

agricultural course, as an elective class, allows for students of all ability levels to be

present in one class. Therefore, agriculture teachers have dual duties in the classroom;

teaching subject matter content and also accommodating for students who have learning

disabilities. It is important to find effective methods to accommodate students with

learning disabilities into the general education classroom in order to provide their

education in the least restrictive environment, while enabling them to be successful.

Chapter 3 described in detail the research methodology chosen for this study and

the rationale for choosing that specific methodology. The research method for this study

is the Delphi method, which is useful for gathering information from a group of experts

in a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of

experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face.

The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possibility of error in responses.

Furthermore, the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the

data. Dalkey (1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when

the Delphi group is larger than 13. The instrumentation used in this study was a series of

three rounds of mailed questionnaires. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed

questionnaires is the typical methodology of the Delphi technique.

Chapter 4 discussed the findings from this Delphi study concerning modifications

that North Carolina agriculture teachers use for students who have mild to moderate

learning disabilities and provided evidence that the research objectives have been met.









Expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina reported making curricular, instructional,

and environmental modifications to their agriculture programs in order to aid students

who have learning disabilities. They reported the modifications that they make are

successful for those students. Consensus was reached on the 38 conclusive statements

from the three rounds of questionnaires that teachers agreed are successful methods of

modifications for those students.

Limitations of the Study

The Delphi technique is a successful tool for understanding the complexity of a

problem and better understanding its possible solutions. The small, unrepresentative

sample size does prohibit generalizabilty among all agriculture teachers in North Carolina

and thus other limitations may apply, such as the following:

1. The difference in socioeconomic status of the specific communities in which each
school is located will cause disparity in the amount of financial resources available
to each respective agricultural program to make modifications to the curriculum
and the program as a whole.

2. The data is self-reported. This may cause disparity between the teaching methods
that teachers report using in the classroom versus what they actually use.

3. Availability of teacher assistance varies within each classroom.

4. Class size will vary, causing teachers to have differing availability to aid students
who have special needs.

5. The severity and uniqueness of each student's disability cannot be predicted from
the information given.

Research Design

The Delphi technique using a series of mailed questionnaires was used for this

study. Moore (1987) concluded that a series of mailed questionnaires is the typical

methodology of the Delphi technique. The research was conducted during a four-month

period during November 2004 through March 2005.









The Delphi structure is useful for gathering information from a group of experts in

a certain field, especially if there is a lack of literature on that subject or the group of

experts are geographically separated so that it is difficult for them to meet face to face.

The larger the number of group members, the smaller the possible error in responses will

be and also the larger the respondent group, the higher the reliability and validity of the

data (Dalkey, 1969).

An issue with face-to-face group discussion is often the presence of highly

influential individuals in the group. The Delphi method omits this problem because

anonymity is used to protect the responses of individuals through information collection

by media such as mail, email, or online (Dalkey, 1969).

Another problem with face-to-face group communication is "noise" within the

group discussion, or the focus of the group on group interests instead of the question at

hand. This is curtailed by the use of controlled feedback in the Delphi method. The

exercise is conducted in a series of rounds between which the summary of results from

the previous rounds are communicated to participants, allowing for the focus of the group

to be on the specific issue in question (Dalkey, 1969).

Statistical definition of group consensus is an easy way to solve the last problem

with normal face-to-face communication, which is the desire for group conformity. By

conducting the exercise in rounds where data is condensed at the end of each round by

statistical measures, the data eventually reaches a point where consensus can be

determined by an assigned mean instead of the group. This ensures that the opinion of

each group member is equally represented in the final response (Dalkey, 1969). Dalkey









(1969) stated that the reliability of data collected was greater than .80 when the Delphi

group is larger than 13.

Population

In order to collect information, a letter of invitation to participate in the study was

mailed from the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the

University of Florida to selected agriculture teachers in North Carolina. Selected

teachers were be nominated by Dr. Jim Flowers, Chair, of the Department of Agricultural

& Extension Education at North Carolina State University and Dr. Marshall Stewart,

State Agricultural Education Coordinator. Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart are two experts in

agricultural education in North Carolina and nationwide.

Dr. Flowers has served as Department Head at North Carolina State University for

over 5 years. Prior to his current position he was a professor of Agricultural Education at

North Carolina State University and a high school agriculture teacher. He served as

National President of the American Association of Agricultural Education in 2001 and

National Secretary from 1997-1998. He has received several awards for his research,

including Outstanding Research Paper from the American Vocational Education

Research Association in 2000. He has also received several awards for his teaching,

including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Region of the American

Association of Agricultural Education in 1994. Dr. Flowers earned his PhD at the

University of Illinois in agricultural education.

Dr. Stewart has served as the Agricultural Education Coordinator since 1996. Prior

to his current position with North Carolina agricultural education he served as Executive

Director of the National Association of Agriculture Educators from 1994 to 1995, held

several positions with the National FFA Organization from 1988 to 1994, and taught high









school agriculture in North Carolina from 1986 to 1988. Both men are considered

leaders in agricultural education nationwide.

Of the 362 agriculture teachers in North Carolina, 45 were invited to participate in

this Delphi study (NC FFA, 2004). The criteria for selection of these expert teachers was

as follows:

1. At least 5 years of teaching experience
2. Currently teaching in an agriculture program at a public high school
3. Known experience with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities

The rationale for a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience was the

understanding that a teacher with 5 years of service will have adequate knowledge in

serving students with special needs. As teachers with 5 years of experience have gained

the knowledge necessary to be considered an expert teacher, they are also still within

close proximity of their teacher preparation program and can recall those experiences

while participating in this study.

Based on these criteria, Dr. Flowers and Dr. Stewart nominated 45 teachers who

were initially invited to participate in this study. The number of invited participants was

determined in order to ensure adequate participation throughout the three rounds of this

Delphi study. In order for reliability of the data to be above .80, at least 13 Delphi group

members must be involved in the study (Dalkey, 1969). All members of the sample are

experts, and non-response error is not a concern in a Delphi format (Dalkey, 1969).

Therefore, it was determined that a larger group afforded the likelihood of identifying a

more composite list of items in earlier rounds.

Agricultural Education in North Carolina

North Carolina has the 4th fastest growing student enrollment in the United States

(NC FFA, 2004). There are 362 teachers in 261 programs (NC FFA, 2004). Currently,









4% of the middle school students in North Carolina are enrolled in agriculture (NC FFA,

2004). In high schools, 9.2% of the 371,987 students enrolled in grades 9-12 are enrolled

in agricultural education (NC FFA, 2004). Agricultural education has had the largest

gains in achievement scores than any other program area in Career and Technical

Education in North Carolina this year, with a 26.2% gain in Level 3 scores since 2001.

Level 3 scores are passing scores according to VoCATS (NC FFA, 2004).

Instrumentation

A modified Delphi technique, using three rounds of questionnaires, was the chosen

research methodology for this study. The round one instrument contained three open-

ended questions. The questions were as follows:

1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom / lab
environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

These questions were developed based on the works of Cole et al. (2000) on the

nine types of adaptations that classroom teachers can use to adapt curriculum and

instruction in inclusive classrooms. The nine adaptations are as follows:

1. Input: the instructional strategies used to facilitate student learning.

2. Output: the ways learners can demonstrate understanding and knowledge.

3. Size: the length or portion of an assignment.

4. Time: the flexible time needed for student learning.

5. Difficulty: the varied skill levels, conceptual levels and processes involved in
learning.

6. Level of Support: the amount of assistance to the learner.









7. Degree of Participation: the extent to which the learner is actively involved in
tasks.

8. Modified Goals: the adapted outcome expectations within the context of a general
education outcome.

9. Substitute Curriculum: the significantly differentiated instruction and materials to
meet a learner's identified goals.

These nine types of adaptations seemed to fit into two broad categories: instruction

and curriculum. In addition, environmental modifications, such as strategic seating

arrangements and working in groups, are noted in the literature as having an effect on the

focus and attention of students with learning disabilities (USDE, 1997; USDE, 2004;

Smith, 2004). The review of literature was the basis for emphasis on instructional,

curricular, and environmental modifications. Due to the open-ended nature of the round

one instrumentation for a Delphi study, the questions had to be asked in a generalized

manner in order for teachers to be able to elaborate on the methods they used, within the

context of the questionnaire.

Data Collection

For round one, a cover letter and questionnaire were mailed on November 29,

2004. In the letter, teachers were given the option of returning the questionnaire by mail,

fax, or electronic mail. If electronic mail was chosen it was understood that all

correspondence from that point would be conducted by electronic mail. Due to lack of

response by the first deadline of December 15, 2004, a second reminder electronic mail

was sent to all prospective participants on January 3, 2005 asking them to respond to the

round one questionnaire that was attached in the electronic mail. Again, response was

not as expected (it was suggested that at least 20 responses be returned for round one









before continuing with round two). A second mailing of the round one questionnaire was

sent on January 19, 2005 with a deadline of January 28, 2005.

Items from round one were combined, repetition was eliminated, and items were

coded for content. From this coding, a condensed list of items was formulated for the

following categories: instructional modifications, curricular modifications, and

environmental modifications. It was necessary to move some items into a more

appropriate category for the round two questionnaire. Therefore the initial number of

responses for each category is substantially higher than the final list of statements for

each category.

The second questionnaire asked respondents to rank the responses from round one,

using a questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3

= Uncertain, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree). The panel was also asked to make

comments if they did not agree with or understand a statement, or to revise a statement to

clarify it.

Some respondents indicated that they preferred electronic mail as their method of

delivery for future rounds, so an electronic version of the questionnaire was used in round

two for these individuals. The first electronic mail version of round two was sent to those

respondents from round one who noted they preferred electronic mail on February 1,

2005. The mail version was sent on February 2, 2005 to the remainder of respondents

who returned the round one instrument. The deadline for return of this round was set for

February 11, 2005.

All items with a mean of 3.49 or higher, determined a priori, were included in the

round three questionnaires leaving 40 statements out of the original 53. The rationale for









including any items with a mean of 3.49 or higher was to include the items that were

marked "agree" or "strongly agree" as well as those that might have been considered

"uncertain," because this is the first study of its type.

In this final round, respondents were asked to mark whether they agreed or

disagreed with each of the 40 statements. The electronic mail version of round three was

sent on February 28, 2005 with a return deadline of March 11, 2005. The mail version

was sent on March 3, 2005 with a deadline for return of March 14, 2005. Criteria for

determining consensus on round three was the retention of any statements with a 75%

percentage of agreement or higher, determined a priori. Consensus was determined in

the third round and no further rounds of questionnaires were required.

Summary of Findings

Three rounds were used to solicit responses and obtain consensus. The responses

from rounds one through three created a list of modifications that expert agriculture

teachers in North Carolina feel are beneficial and successful for students with learning

disabilities. It was determined that consensus was reached after three rounds.

Delphi Round One Responses

The round one survey contained three open-ended questions. Those questions were

as follows:

1. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your curriculum for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

2. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your instruction for students
with mild to moderate learning disabilities?

3. What strategies have you successfully used to modify your classroom/ lab
environment for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities?









Round one yielded 99 statements from these three questions. From the original 45

teachers who were invited to participate in this study, 51% (N= 23) responded to the

round one survey. Participants were informed in the cover letter for round one that

returning their round one questionnaire indicated their consent to participate in this study.

They were also given the option to withdraw from the study at any time. Therefore, the

respondent group includes 23 expert North Carolina agriculture teachers.

Delphi Round Two Responses

The statements from the round one questionnaire were combined, replication

eliminated, and items were coded for content. The coded statements from round one

created the list of 53 statements for the round two questionnaire. A response rate of 83%

(N= 19) was obtained from the 23 respondents to round one.

Delphi Round Three Responses

Round three was comprised of responses from round two that had a mean response

of 3.49 or higher (4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree), set a priori, resulting in a 40 statement

round three questionnaire. The response rate for round three was 74% (N= 17), from the

23 participants.

The respondents to round three were asked to agree or disagree with the statements

from round two that had the highest rate of agreement among the panel. Consensus was

reached in this round and no further rounds were needed. The final list of modifications

that expert North Carolina agriculture teachers feel are successful with students who have

learning disabilities consisted of 38 statements.

The first research objective was directly related to the category of statements

regarding modifications to curriculum have been used to ensure that students who have

learning disabilities can master the subject matter. There are five curricular modification









strategies that expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina agreed upon as successful for

students with learning disabilities. Giving students a competency guide that lists what

will be covered; breaking material/assignments into smaller units of instruction; the use

of lower level reading materials; creating and conducting hands-on activities for each

unit; and choosing competencies for the student that they can master were the consensual

curricular modifications for students with learning disabilities.

The second research objective was directly related to the category of methods of

modifying instruction, outside of those dictated in a student's Individualized Education

Plan. Of the responses obtained in this round, six strategies were concerned with helping

students to organize their notes. Statements ranged from suggestions for more efficient

note taking, to providing students with advance organizers and study guides.

Three strategies related to testing modifications for these students. These strategies

were related to giving students oral exams, giving students open notebook tests, and

having tests read aloud for students. There were two strategies related to clarity in

scoring. Teachers reported giving students a rubric for the grading of performance items

and using a different scoring guide for learning disabled students on certain assignments.

Seven strategies dealt with involving students in active learning activities. These

strategies were concerned with having students work in groups with other students;

engaging them in hands-on activities; using visual aids and stories to supplement lessons;

and modifying assignment length or time given for assignment completion. Three

strategies dealt with vocabulary, suggesting that difficult vocabulary be given for students

in a word bank on tests, more focus spent on defining difficult vocabulary in class, and

students not be penalized for spelling errors on tests.









Two strategies were concerned with obtaining assistance from a special education

teacher and one was concerned with providing modifications as mandated in a student's

IEP. The last three strategies suggested additional assistance to students with learning

disabilities, either in the form of after-school tutoring, spending more time with them in

class, or involving special education teachers by keeping them informed of what students

are learning in class.

The final research objective was to understand if any physical changes to the

learning environment can aid these students in maintaining attention or processing

information. The statements regarding classroom and/or laboratory environmental

modifications were directly related to this research objective.

Two of the strategies were concerned with placing students in strategic locations

where they were comfortable and distractions could be minimized. Placing students in

groups during lab assignments were the subject matter of two of the modifications

suggested for environmental modification. These two statements suggested placing

students either with a good partner or in groups strategically to complete their lab

assignments. The last two modifications consisted of giving students additional tasks

during lab time to boost their confidence and assigning them shorter and easier shop

assignments to complete.

Conclusions

The responses of expert agriculture teachers in North Carolina to the initial

questions regarding instructional, curricular, and environmental modifications that are

made for students with learning disabilities reflect the suggestions from literature on the

subject of teaching students with learning disabilities. There is no standardized text that

supplies guidance or teaching methodologies for working with students who have









learning disabilities. Often the teacher's experiences guide their choices in teaching

techniques, along with influences from their state agricultural education staff, and

information learned during their pre-service educational experiences. Therefore, this

study is not generalizable among all agriculture teachers, but can give a foundational

basis for further research.

The information received from this study does provide assurance that measures are

being taken to ensure the involvement of students with learning disabilities in agricultural

programs. Additional questions remain related to the level of success teachers have with

the strategies they employ. Information received from this study does allow the

researcher to draw some conclusions regarding the implementation of modifications in

agriculture programs in North Carolina for students with learning disabilities.

Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a
Variety of Curricular Modifications to Address the Special Education Needs of
Students.

The first research objective was to determine if any modifications to curriculum

have been used to ensure that students who have learning disabilities can master the

subject matter. Potential curricular modifications might include strategies such as

creating significantly differentiated instructional methods and materials to meet a

student's individual needs.

The researcher concluded that, based on the responses received from these expert

agriculture teachers, a variety of curricular modifications are being made in agriculture

programs for students who have learning disabilities. Teachers responded with

comments such as:

"I have modified the curriculum by selecting objectives from the blueprint
[VoCATS competency blueprint], along with the assistance of resource instructors
[special education teachers], to fit the ability of my students with mild to moderate









learning disabilities. The modifications are present when at the end of the semester
I assess the student with a test I have constructed that fits those objectives, which
have been identified to fit their learning needs."

Other curricular modification strategies that teachers included were: teaching

subject matter in smaller units, creating hands on activities to supplement learning, and

the use of lower level reading materials. These types of curricular modifications are

consistent with previous research as being beneficial to students who learning disabilities,

based on their specific disability and their symptoms.

Although a variety of curriculum modifications were listed, several teachers

responded that there are limitations to making curricular modifications, due to the

VoCATS accountability system for North Carolina Career and Technical Education

classes. VoCATS is not only a standardized testing system for CTE courses, but it also

provides blueprints of course content for nearly every CTE course offered in North

Carolina. These course blueprints are based on core and supplemental competencies that

are learning goals for each student enrolled in the class. One teacher responded as such:

"Our agricultural curriculum is modified for OCS (Occupational Course of Study)
only. We do not modify the contents of the curriculum for those with mild to
moderate learning disabilities due to the fact that they are accountable for the same
competencies [VoCATS] as students that have not been classified with a mild or
moderate learning disability. In short, all students, with the exception of OCS
students are responsible for the same competencies and objectives and will be
tested on those at the end of the course regardless of an Exceptional Children's
classification. Therefore, we do not have the ability to modify or change the
curriculum to meet their individual needs if the student is participating in the
Standard Course of Study option.

Several teachers responded to the question on curricular modifications in round one in

similar ways. Therefore it can be concluded that North Carolina agriculture teachers are

making a variety of curricular modifications, but also feel that there are limitations due to

the VoCATS accountability system.









Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Are Employing a
Variety of Instructional Modifications.

The second research objective was to discover which methods of modifying

instruction, outside of those dictated in a student's Individualized Education Plan, have

been successful with this particular student group. However, most teachers did report

modifications that are often designated by a student's IEP (extended time on tests, read-

aloud for tests, testing in a separate location, etc.), as well as other instructional

modifications.

The number of responses in this category was much higher than the responses in

the other two categories. The number of responses from teachers for this question

indicated that they have a relatively high comfort level in knowing how to modify their

instructional methods for these students. On the round one questionnaire, 43

modifications for instruction were given from the 23 respondents. Some statements were

moved into more appropriate categories, but most were coded for content, edited for

repetition, and combined to form 30 statements used in round two. When the statements

were evaluated after round two for a mean above 3.49, determined a priori as the criteria

for retention, 24 statements were retained. After round three, all 24 of the statements had

a percentage of agreement above 75%, determined a priori as criteria for consent of the

expert panel.

Conclusion: Instructional Modifications Being Made by Expert Agriculture
Teachers in North Carolina Are Consistent With the Literature on Suggested
Strategies.

An extensive body of literature exists on the methods of modifying instruction to

aid students with learning disabilities. The responses of these expert teachers echoed

several of the suggested teaching methods found in textbooks and supplemental teaching









strategy guides. Information from the United States Department of Education (2004)

included the following strategies:

* Use audiovisual materials
* Ask probing questions
* Help students focus
* Follow-up on directions
* Divide work into smaller units
* Highlight key points
* Use cooperative learning strategies
* Use assistive technology

The responses from teachers correspond with the strategies suggested by USDE

(2004). In addition, several teachers listed strategies for aiding students in note taking

and organization that, according to Deshler et al. (2001), help students to focus their

attention. For students with learning disabilities, information processing is difficult and

therefore Smith (2004) noted that educators could aid in this by:

* Repeating important information
* Organizing content systematically
* Providing students with relevant information
* Relating examples to student experiences
* Associating content with familiar information

Teachers also reported using strategies that correspond with these strategies from

Smith (2004). Therefore, it can be concluded that the expert panel of agriculture teachers

in North Carolina reported implementing strategies that are consistent with educational

research.

Conclusion: Expert Agriculture Teachers in North Carolina Make a Variety of
Modifications to the Classroom and/or Laboratory Environment for Students
With Learning Disabilities.

The final research objective was to determine whether any physical changes to the

learning environment could aid these students in maintaining attention or processing

information. Teachers responded very generally that they arranged seating strategically









in order to work better in groups or to avoid distractions to student learning. One teacher

responded to the question regarding classroom or laboratory modifications by saying:

"I have arranged seating charts, used many more hands-on opportunities, limited
the number of activities going on in the room at one time in order to focus more
attention to the matter at hand, make sure that there is plenty of color, pictures, and
illustrations about the room for every topic in order to give a large opportunity for
students to visualize what the content of an area is."

The low number of responses on this question could have resulted from the fact

that agriculture teachers are trained to be aware of their physical learning environments

for the safety of their students. These teachers instinctively make changes in the physical

environment for the safety or the individual needs of these students without conscious

thought.

Obvious modifications to learning environments for students with AD/HD would

be to eliminate noise and other distractions. Several responses of this nature were

received. Teachers also responded to placing students in groups strategically so they

could receive aid from peers or see the board more clearly. One teacher responded that a

strategy for modifying the classroom/ laboratory environment was:

"Placing an EC [Exceptional Children] student in a strategic place in the class
setting where distractions are not a problem or held to a minimum."

Some teachers responded that providing additional tasks for students who have

learning disabilities helps to boost their confidence, which is a method often observed in

use by agriculture teachers. Teachers also responded that they give students with

learning disabilities shorter labs to complete while actually in the lab environment. One

teacher responded as such:

"I give the students a shorter and easier shop activity to complete."









Despite these responses, the researcher had anticipated responses about the physical

location of desks in association with the classroom exits, pencil sharpener, material

supply cabinets, bookshelves, and other learning areas that students need to locate in the

classroom. The locations of these elements affect the aesthetic nature of the classroom as

well as affect the distraction of the students. Some students with AD/HD require

movement about the classroom at regular intervals and physical environment layout

would influence their ability to do so.

The responses of teachers to the question associated with this research objective

were adequate, but not entirely encompassing of the possible modifications that could be

made in the physical classroom environment. Every classroom differs in its size and

layout. Some agriculture teachers hold class in an actual mechanical lab, while others

have separate classrooms and laboratory environments. The differences in each

agriculture department's facilities would lead to a wide spectrum of modifications that

could be made to physical environments to help these students be more successful.

Recommendations for Practitioners

The strategies reported by expert agriculture teachers are useful in informing other

teachers how to modify their agriculture programs for students with disabilities.

However, there remains a need for further research on this topic regarding the methods

through which agriculture teachers receive information on modifications that are proven

beneficial for students with learning disabilities. It would also be beneficial to discover

how these teachers know which strategies to use, based on each individual's student

needs.









Recommendation: Practitioners Need More Resources for Information About
Methods of Modifying Their Agriculture Programs for Students With Learning
Disabilities.

Although responses to the questions regarding instructional modifications were

numerous, teacher's responses to the questions regarding curricular and environmental

modifications were limited. The researcher interpreted the low number of responses in

these categories to mean that teachers either were less comfortable thinking of ways to

modify these two factors or that teachers did not have adequate information to respond to

these questions.

The initial number of responses in the curriculum modifications category was high,

consisting of 33 statements. However, several of the statements initially reported as

curricular modifications were actually instructional or environmental modifications,

leaving the curricular modifications category to consist of 9 statements in the round two

questionnaire. Consensus was reached in round three by the expert panel of agriculture

teachers on 5 statements of the original 9.

The round one responses consisted of 23 statements regarding classroom and/or

laboratory modifications for students with learning disabilities. However, after

condensing the statements, editing for replication, and moving some statements to more

appropriate categories, only 9 statements were left. The expert panel only reached

consensus on 6 of these statements in round three.

More resources for obtaining information about methods of modifying agriculture

programs for students with learning disabilities may be needed in order for teachers to

receive adequate knowledge on this subject matter. Teachers should also become as

educated as possible about the symptoms of learning disabilities because they often

appear to the untrained eye as mere underachievement, or lack of motivation. It is also









important for teachers to understand the realm of possible modifications that are

successful for students with learning disabilities and AD/HD in order to find solutions to

problems in the classroom.

One way of providing these opportunities for further education is for states to offer

in-service workshops for teachers on this topic. With in-service training teachers could

get renewal credits towards their certification while becoming familiar with this

information. Another possibility is finding ways to financially support teachers in

furthering their education by enrolling in college courses on this topic.

An issue with teacher preparation is teachers who receive their certification while

employed lateral entry in agriculture education. These teachers may have significant

career experience in agriculturally related fields, but often have little coursework in

education. They would benefit greatly from enrollment in a course on students with

disabilities and educational strategies or the opportunity to attend an in-service workshop

on the topic.

Recommendation: Practitioners Should Consider the Realm of Possibilities for
Making Curricular Modifications to Their Agriculture Programs for Students
With Learning Disabilities.

The number of responses in round one in the curricular modifications category was

high, consisting of 33 statements. However, several of the statements initially reported as

curricular modifications were actually instructional or environmental modifications,

leaving the curricular modifications category to consist of 9 statements in the round two

questionnaire with consensus only reached on 5 of the statements.

This low number of consensual statements after round three indicates that teachers

have differing opinions on appropriate curricular modifications for students with learning