How to Conduct a Case Study Evaluation for a Student with Special Needs

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Teaching is an especially challenging task when faced with students that have diverse and, in some cases, especially intensive needs. In order to meet the unique individual needs of students with disabilities and other special needs, it is essential that teachers make necessary accommodations and modifications as well as differentiate content, process, product and the learning environment as needed. Most educators are more than willing to take on this task, but many don’t know where to start.

If you have a student whose needs are not currently being met effectively or for whom you don’t know exactly what strategies will work best, conducting a case study evaluation is an excellent way to acquire data that can be used to help you create strategies and lessons to support the ongoing development of your student.

The following steps will help you conduct a case study evaluation that will give you a holistic, in-depth assessment of your student’s strengths, deficits, learning profile and needs:

1. If your student has an IEP or 504 Plan, read it thoroughly, take notes and write down any questions or concerns you may have. Review any folders or other records pertaining to the student you have access to. Take notes and write down any questions that arise from your review of the student’s records.

2. Collect anecdotal records regarding all aspects of the student’s performance, behavior and experiences in your classroom. Ask the student’s other current teachers, if any, to share any anecdotal records they have compiled.

3. Interview the student, his or her parents, the student’s other current teachers and any other school staff members, such as therapists or social workers, that work with the student on a regular basis. If possible, interview the student’s former teachers as well.

4. Collect samples of the students work as well as various types of assessment data (e.g., diagnostic, formative, summative, standardized, authentic).

5. Take notes during any meetings you attend concerning the student. Include the notes in your case study file.

Once you have assembled all of your data, organize, analyze and summarize it. Your summary should include a description of your classroom environment, including the physical and affective components, the tone of your learning community and your approach to instruction and classroom management. You should also include a discussion of the various data (i.e., observations, assessments, interview transcripts, interviews) you compiled and their implications for meeting your student’s needs.

Your final step will be to develop a plan for ongoing support of the student. Conducting a review of pertinent literature as well as familiarizing yourself with best relevant practices will help you immensely with this process. (Note: Remember that best practices are only guidelines. Since you are the person who knows and works with your students, you are the educator who is best qualified to determine which practices work best in your particular classroom with your particular students.)

Case studies are excellent starting points for customizing learning experiences to meet students’ needs. Conduct a case study whenever you need a thorough, comprehensive and holistic evaluation of a student’s needs.