Every student has unique learning needs. This can be especially true for students with learning disabilities (LD) and difficulties. Educational diagnosticians are a core part of the team responsible for recognizing, identifying and addressing the learning needs of these students.
Northwest Missouri State University offers an online Master of Science in Education (MSEd.) in Educational Diagnostician program designed to prepare educators for this specialized role. Degree candidates develop an advanced understanding of subjects like assessment and diagnosis, academic and behavior intervention, applied learning theory and instructional design. With the expertise they have gained, graduates can be instrumental in improving learning outcomes for students who receive special education services.
What Do Educational Diagnosticians Do?
In a brief on Early Detection of Learning Disabilities, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) states: "Early recognition of warning signs, well-targeted screening and assessment, effective intervention, and ongoing monitoring of progress are critical to helping individuals with LD to succeed in school, in the workplace, and in life."
Educational diagnosticians play an integral role in all of these processes. They collaborate closely with a team of teachers, specialists, parents, school administrators and other professionals to design and implement individualized education programs (IEPs) for students who receive special education services.
Educational diagnosticians use many kinds of formal and informal assessment and observation to screen for, evaluate and diagnose underlying learning challenges, delays or disabilities in students who are struggling in school. Based on their findings, educational diagnosticians do the assessments that lead to the creation of holistic educational plans with learning objectives, teaching strategies and accommodations customized to meet the unique needs of each student.
Educational diagnosticians provide teachers with tools and information so they can implement educational plans and teaching strategies. They continue monitoring as plans progress, ensuring IEP goals are met regarding the students' experience and learning outcomes.
What Kind of Impact Can Educational Diagnosticians Have on Teaching and Learning Outcomes?
ProCare Therapy calls educational diagnosticians "superheroes for schools and children with special needs." Educational diagnosticians bring a wealth of theoretical and practical knowledge about learning disabilities and appropriate teaching strategies to the classroom. This makes educational diagnosticians excellent resources for teachers trying to uncover the best ways to help their students learn.
Educational diagnosticians help teachers understand how to differentiate teaching methods in strategic ways according to a student's learning style. They facilitate a teacher's ability to match instruction and assessment design to each student's individual strengths and needs. By integrating these methods in a student's learning plan and guiding classroom practices, educational diagnosticians help empower teachers and students alike.
Educational diagnosticians also have the expertise needed to differentiate between the underlying factors involved in academic and behavioral issues in the classroom. Certain interventions can best address issues that arise directly or indirectly from a student's learning disability. Differing interventions are often more appropriate to address issues rooted in other aspects of student experience like environmental, social or cultural factors.
With this expertise, educational diagnosticians help teachers parse out the underlying reasons why a student is having trouble or acting out. With an accurate understanding of the probable root causes of issues, educators can address those issues in more targeted, effective and proactive ways.
Educational diagnosticians sometimes educate teachers on using specific assistive technologies, adaptations and accommodations to help students with LD succeed. This can be as simple as offering more time to complete an exam, getting written materials in audiobook form or minimizing noise and distraction in a student's environment.
Perhaps most importantly, educational diagnosticians are trained to recognize the earliest warning signs of learning disabilities and accurately identify and address them. As the NCLD puts it, "early identification and intervention are the most effective methods of ensuring learning success, regardless of the challenges faced by students." This is the primary purpose of educational diagnosticians, allowing them to improve learning outcomes and help every student succeed in school.
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