Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities at Beacon College

Lessons from the Inside

by William Nesbitt (Volume editor)
Monographs XIV, 148 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 48


Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities at Beacon College is a collection of essays written by professors and learning specialists (educational support personnel) at Beacon College, an accredited four-year institution for students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences. The purpose of this book is to help fill the massive gap in the literature on teaching students with learning disabilities at the college level. The attrition rate of students with learning disabilities at traditional colleges and universities is very high. With a 70% four-year graduation rate, Beacon College is well-positioned to be an instructional model for other institutions. The essays discuss institutional practices, alternative teaching strategies, and personal instructor experiences.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Part One: The Institution
  • Chapter 1: The Ethical and Programmatic Imperatives for Serving College Students who Learn Differently (Dr. George J. Hagerty)
  • Undergraduates Who “Learn Differently”
  • The Essential Questions for Fiduciaries
  • Institutional and Systemic Challenges and Stumbling Blocks
  • The K–12 Milieu
  • The Transition in Student’s Legal Protections
  • The Level of Student Preparation
  • The Enhancement of Diversity and the Focus on Sustaining Enrollments
  • The Presence of a Welcoming Academic Community
  • Strengthening the Efficacy of the Undergraduate Experience
  • Instructional Design
  • A System of Holistic Academic and Developmental Support
  • Preparing for a Campus Culture of Inclusion
  • A Sense of Place
  • Higher Education’s Ethical Imperative
  • References
  • Chapter 2: Improving College Graduation Rates for Students who Learn Differently (Dr. Shelly Chandler)
  • References
  • Chapter 3: Scaffolding as a Model for Academic Assistance (Dr. Oksana Hagerty)
  • References
  • Chapter 4: Making the Exception for Exceptional Students (Dr. Linda S. Lucas / Dr. A. J. Marsden / Dr. Nicki Nance / Dr. Richard V. Perrone)
  • Attention and Engagement in the Classroom
  • The Role of Memory in the Classroom
  • Encoding
  • Working Memory
  • Retrieval
  • Behavioral Challenges in the Classroom
  • Mental and Emotional Disorders in the Classroom
  • Clinical Conditions
  • Associated Behaviors
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter 5: Academic Mentoring for Students with Learning Differences: The Cornerstone For Academic Postsecondary Success (Michele Patestides)
  • References
  • Part Two: Innovative Practices
  • Chapter 6: Learning with Hearts and Hands and Voices: Bringing Navajo Wisdom to the College Classroom for Students with Learning Disabilities (Dr. Terri S. Ross)
  • Chapter 7: Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities (Simon Vaz)
  • Emotional Learning System
  • Cognitive Learning Systems
  • Physical Learning System
  • Reflective Learning Systems
  • Reference
  • Chapter 8: Using the Aleks Program in Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities (Sarita Cupp)
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Learning Styles
  • Dyscalculia
  • Pedagogy
  • References
  • Part Three: The Writing Classroom
  • Chapter 9: Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in the Writing Classroom (Dr. William Nesbitt / Dr. Caroline Le)
  • Introduction
  • Signs of Learning Disabilities
  • Types of Learning Disabilities
  • A Manageable Condition
  • Types of Learning Disabilities that Make Writing Difficult
  • Other Learning Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities and Learning Styles
  • Effective Classroom Practices
  • Physical Space
  • Techniques for Teaching
  • Incorporating Media
  • Working in Groups
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Process
  • Accommodations
  • Individual Student Conferencing Practices
  • Individual Student Conferences
  • Preparing for the Conference
  • Personal Matters
  • Scheduling
  • Materials and Responsibilities
  • Role of the Instructor
  • The Instructor-Student Relationship
  • References
  • Chapter 10: Beginning at the Beginning: The Practical Uses of Creative Writing (Dr. William Nesbitt)
  • References
  • Part Four: Being Teachers
  • Chapter 11: The First Year (Dr. Caroline Le)
  • You Might Feel Like a Little Kid Playing Grown Up
  • You’ll Feel as if You are Forgetting Something All of the Time
  • The Baby Hints Will Start Immediately
  • You Will Fight and Make Up (Again and Again)
  • Your Relationship With Your Students’ Parents is a Marathon, not a Sprint
  • You Might Miss Your Mom
  • You’ll Discover a “Habit” You Were Blissfully Unaware of Before
  • Your Students Might Get You Horrible Presents
  • It’s Really Important to Take a Vacation
  • You’ll Probably Have Even More Questions
  • References
  • Chapter 12: Cultural Expectations and Best Practices for Students with Learning Disabilities (Dr. Caroline Le)
  • References
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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Figure 2.1 Beacon College Student-Centered Learning Model

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Learning disabilities have been around since the start of humanity. Only in recent decades, however, have we developed better ways of diagnosing, accommodating, and integrating within the neurotypical world learning disabilities and those with learning disabilities. This collection compiles years of experience, knowledge, and strategies regarding teaching students with learning disabilities. Some essays focus on the theoretical, some are experiential, and some are a blend of both.

Part One focuses on the institution. Anchored by a visionary essay from Beacon College President, George J. Hagerty discussing what higher education needs to provide for students with learning disabilities. Other essays discuss graduation rates, supporting students through academic scaffolding, how to help student with learning disabilities, and academic mentoring.

Part Two explains and encourages the use of innovative practices from appropriations and transferences of Native American culture to the classroom, to a summary of teaching strategies, to the use of computer programs in mathematics classes.

Part Three concentrates on the writing classroom. The essays discuss various topics such as conferencing, writing strategies, and the uses of creative writing even for noncreative writing classes. ← xi | xii →

Part Five provides suggestions, support, and expectation for the first year of teaching. The final essay delves into cultural expectations and best practices for students with learning disabilities.

The hope is that these essays are neither the opening nor final word on this topic. Rather, Beacon College hopes that this collection is a positive contribution and part of a rich, sustained, and continuing conversation—a much needed conversation—about students with learning disabilities.

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We would like to thank Beacon College for its support of this project. Thanks to all of our contributors. A special thanks to Dr. Caroline Le and Dr. AJ Marsden who have been inspirational and sustaining forces during this project.

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Dr. George J. Hagerty

Undergraduates Who “Learn Differently”

At this writing, over fifteen percent of undergraduates enrolled in American higher education are students who “learn differently” (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2016). In a world of neurodiversity, our colleges and universities have struggled to effectively serve this particular population of admitted collegians, with a twenty-nine percent baccalaureate graduation rate nationally as testimony for these students (U.S. Department of Education & SRI International, 2009).

Individuals who learn differently are among a disparate undergraduate population. For the purposes of this chapter, these students are defined as a college-entry audience of students with diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities (LDs), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), processing and executive function issues, and learners on the autistic spectrum. Students and their families, many of who are determined to confront prior (K–12) “managed expectations” with respect to the pursuit of an undergraduate degree, weigh and do, in fact, ultimately decide to enter the arena of competitive higher education.


XIV, 148
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (February)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XIV, 148 pp.

Biographical notes

William Nesbitt (Volume editor)

William Nesbitt is Professor of English and Chair of Humanities and General Education at Beacon College. He earned his Ph.D. from Florida State University. His work has been published in Beat Drama: Playwrights and Performances of the “Howl” Generation, Beatdom, Route 7 Review, Popular Culture Review, Kudzu House Quarterly, the Southeast Review, and the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.


Title: Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities at Beacon College