Special Education Reports

Teaching Students With Learning Differences: Results of a National Survey

July 2022

When teachers use research-based practices and strategies to serve students with learning differences, they promote equity in education and help to develop the nation’s future workforce. A clearer understanding of the degree to which teachers implement such practices can inform efforts to improve teacher preparation and training.

In 2021, the EdWeek Research Center fielded a survey to learn more about teachers’ perspectives regarding instructional practices that can help students with learning differences to succeed. In the survey, researchers defined this population to include students with specific learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) and students with other processing challenges that can impact learning (such as attention deficits). The study’s definition of this group included students who had been formally identified for special education services and those who had not been identified for such services but experienced learning challenges.

Effective approaches for teaching these students have taken on even more critical importance due to the coronavirus pandemic. When schools were forced to abruptly switch to remote learning in early 2020 to curtail the spread of virus, students of all backgrounds experienced unprecedented disruptions to their learning and their daily lives. There is widespread concern that those changes have caused many students to miss out on key academic content and to face mental health difficulties. Students with disabilities and learning differences, in particular, lost existing services and supports. The pandemic also made it more difficult for educators to identify students in need of special education services. Implementation of instructional best practices will be vital in helping them recover lost ground.

The survey examined teachers’ perspectives on effective practices, their implementation of those instructional strategies, and the broader beliefs that impact their approaches to teaching. This report outlines survey findings. The goal of the research is to provide resources that help to guide teacher training and to boost teachers’ use of effective strategies.

Coverage of students with diverse learning needs is supported in part by a grant from the Oak Foundation, at www.oakfnd.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.