Promoting classroom participation: teacher training program
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In Cyprus elementary classrooms, as in many classrooms around the world, there is an increasing number of children learning with attention difficulties and sensory difficulties. International researchers have focused on creating and promoting sensory programs, play-based activities, and teaching approaches to assist students with these difficulties to participate during classroom time (Hildreth, 2013; Mere-Cook, 2016; Mills & Chapparo, 2017). However, in Cyprus there is still an important gap for both recognizing students’ difficulties and promoting new teaching approaches in elementary schools. This situation is leading to teachers’ inefficiency in understanding children’s behaviors and needs and acting to minimize students’ challenges in the classroom. This doctoral project was undertaken to develop an evidence-based and theoretically- grounded teachers’ training program to address both recognition of student problems and implementation of approaches to support students (Foran et al., 2017; Hildreth, 2013; Mere-Cook, 2016; Mills & Chapparo, 2017). It is an innovative program, designed from an occupational therapist’s perspective, to educate elementary teachers about sensory and attention difficulties and ways to minimize challenges of children in the classroom. This teacher training is comprised of three phases. During the first phase, teachers will be invited to a two-day training. The training will focus on the presentation of case studies of students with attention and sensory challenges, practice training and open discussion. Teachers will be provided with information for recognizing students’ attention and sensory challenges in the classroom and suggestions for activities and strategies to use in the classroom to address these challenges. Then through case studies of children with sensory and attention difficulties and open discussion, training participants will use and analyze the manual content. In the second phase, teachers will receive the manual and implement the program for their classroom. Consultation is the last phase of the training program where teachers will have the opportunity to reflect on their practice experiences after the implementation of the program, and also the concerns and thoughts on the activities and strategies implementation. The implementation of this innovative program will help teachers and students, and promote the profession of occupational therapy in Cyprus and the country’s school system.
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