Step 4: Determine the Need for Content vs. Format Adaptations

Teachers who make content adaptations also need to meet current local and state education standards. A teacher may consider content adaptation only when the student's individualized education program (IEP) has noted that the curriculum is inappropriate for him or her. In cases in which the curriculum is considered appropriate for the student, adaptations may focus on format, not on content, since content adaptations can affect the fulfillment of curriculum standards.

In some cases, the IEP meeting may address the degree to which state standards and assessments can be modified. Based on the outcomes of the IEP meeting, the teacher may need to decide which parts of the curriculum content the student will be required to learn and what will constitute mastery of the important course content.

When content adaptation is neither possible nor desirable, it is still crucial to identify the essential elements of the content (i.e., the critical concepts) that the student must learn. To help you decide what format adaptations should be made, answer the following strategic questions:

  1. What are the critical concepts that must be mastered over the course of the year in this subject? (For example: "What are the 10 most important critical concepts that every student should learn in this seventh-grade social studies class?")

  2. What type of information must be mastered in each unit to ensure that the course ideas are mastered? (For example: "For each unit in seventh-grade social studies, what five concepts do students need to know and what five questions should they be able to answer about these concepts?")

  3. How will students be expected to demonstrate mastery of the critical content in each unit and at the end of the course? (For example: "Students will need to define each concept and provide at least one example of each concept. Students must state – orally or in writing – the essential answer to each of the five unit questions and must answer multiple-choice, matching, and true/false test questions about information related to the five unit questions.")

In cases in which content is judged appropriate for a student, the information about critical concepts should be used as a guide to adapting the format of the curriculum to assist the student in mastering content. Format adaptations are used to enhance or compensate for mismatches between the presentation or design of the materials and the skills and strategies of the student. In format adaptations, the information in the materials is not altered.

More on Adapting L.A., S.S., and Science Materials for the Inclusive Classroom.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.


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