In my inclusion classroom, my co-teacher and I use a variety of methods to facilitate learning. As a special education teacher, I feel it is important to teach learners how to learn. My co-teacher and I create lessons based on students learning styles and the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. Every year, however, our class changes. One of the ways we address these changing dynamics is with a learning style assessment at the beginning of each school year. We also begin almost every unit with a pre-assessment to determine if students have prior knowledge/experience with a particular unit or skills.
When one student in our inclusion class fails an assignment, we discuss with that student how he/she studied and if the method they chose may have not met their learning style. When the whole class does poorly, my co-teacher and I ask each other, how can we reteach this lesson to meet the learning needs of our students.
Prior knowledge is important, like Alexander (1996) states, but so is experience with information. Remember that ancient Chinese saying, "When I hear, I forget. When I see I remember. When I do, I understand?"
To encourage information retention in the South Paris Collaborative, we use a lot of multi-sensory activities to help our students learn. As a class: we use graphic organizers, manipulatives, mnemonics, we watch and create video clips & movies, we draw, we act, we write, we blog, we podcast, we play games online and off, and we have discussions. We do all of these activities concurrently, and when we have time, we repeat them again. Repeated exposure in different modalities improves memory and understanding.
My experience is that multi-sensory learning environments help students to be more successful with learning. It is also my experience that project based learning provides students with a more authentic experience and a rationale for retaining information.