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Academic Adaptations: What Are They and Why Are They Important?


As explained in the BC Ministry of Education’s A Guide to Adaptations and Modifications, adaptations are teaching and assessment strategies designed to accommodate individual learning needs to enable students to meet the learning outcomes and demonstrate mastery (BC Ministry of Education, 2012). When planning for student adaptations, adjustments may be made to the way the student will gain access to the learning situation, the way the student will ‘show what he or she knows’, or the way teachers will assess what a student knows. Students whose education programs include adaptations will generally be working toward graduating with a Dogwood Diploma (BC Ministry of Education, 2012).

Types of adaptations

Adaptations can involve accommodations with regard to the following four areas: environment and materials, instruction, form of assessment, or content or Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs; Delta School District, 2012).

Common adaptations include, but are not limited to:

  • strategic seating arrangements or a quiet work space
  • audio books, electronic texts, or a reader
  • access to a computer for written assignments, which might include use of word prediction software or voice-to-text software
  • access to a calculator
  • alternative ways of demonstrating knowledge in place of written assignments
  • alternative materials (e.g., information presented at a lower reading level)
  • copies of notes, or graphic organizers to assist with following classroom instruction
  • extended time to complete assignments or tests
  • reduced quantity of work or homework to be completed
  • one-to-one support to develop and practice study skills; for example, in a learning assistance block
  • working on provincial learning outcomes from a lower grade level

The adaptations used with any particular student should be determined through assessment of student needs and detailed in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). When reporting student outcomes, no adjustments to student grades should be made because of the use of adaptions. If the learning outcomes that a student is working toward are below grade level, this should be noted in the student’s IEP as well as in the body of the student’s progress report (Ministry of Education, 2009).

Why are they important?

A common misconception is that adaptations provide unfair advantages to students. In fact, as noted in the A Guide to Adaptations and Modifications, without appropriate adaptations students may be unfairly penalized for their individual learning differences. As stated by Stainback and Stainback in their book, Support Networks for Inclusive Schooling: Interdependent Integrated Education,“the focus is not exclusively on how to help students…fit into the existing, standard curriculum in the school. Rather the curriculum in the regular education class is adapted, when necessary, to meet the needs of any student for whom the standard curriculum is inappropriate.”

Adaptations encourage the inclusion of all students by addressing individual learning styles and needs. This promotes diversity within the school environments and enables all students to feel successful in school.



BC Ministry of Education (2009). A Guide to Adaptations and Modifications

Delta School District (2012). Adapting and Modifying: Guidelines for Intermediate Grades.

Stainback, W.C., & Stainback, S.B. (1990). Support Networks for Inclusive Schooling: Interdependent Integrated Education. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, ISBN: 1557660417