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Accessing Inquiry for Students with Disabilities through Primary Sources - online and in-person sections

Image of course poster with title and collage of primary sources
Sat, 03/16/2024

Social Studies and Humanities pose distinct challenges for students with disabilities. Extensive discipline-specific vocabulary, difficult informational texts –including complex primary sources– and a need for background knowledge can be barriers. Yet the authentic sources, important ideas and connections to issues of these subjects also offer virtual tools for differentiation and potent means to motivate students.

This exciting graduate course supports content instruction for Students with Disabilities in History-Social Studies and Humanities (including literature, art, music, and language); and for Special Education teachers. 

Grounded in decades of practice by history educators, historians, and experts in Special Education, and based on current research and innovative classroom practices this course features models of best practices and employs primary sources and analysis tools.

Participants will:

  • Gain and apply practical classroom strategies.
  • Integrate History of Disability through issues of Citizenship, private and government responsibility to provide services, and struggles for empowerment.
  • Create/adapt lessons to meet state and national standards, and employing Universal Design for Learning. 
  • Sample the Reform to Equal Rights: K-12 Disability History Curriculum (2023). 
  • Access free follow-up resources via Emerging America's Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse


This “Accessing Inquiry” course meets Massachusetts teacher license renewal requirements for 15-hours of professional development on teaching students with disabilities and students with diverse learning styles. Link to renewal regulations


  • Ross Newton, History Teacher, HEC Academy, Collaborative for Educational Services
  • Rich Cairn, Civics and Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Collaborative for Educational Services



Teachers in Social Studies or Humanities; Grades 3-12.

Invite a partner! We encourage - but do not require - participation of teams, such as a Special Education teacher and a History/American Literature teacher, members of a department, or interdisciplinary teams.


Course Expectations

During both sections of the course, participants research and create a text set of primary sources and write a lesson plan that employs techniques of access for students with disabilities. (Alternative final assignments are available on approval by the instructor.) 

Please note: This is a graduate-level course. All participants will be required to prepare for the start of the course by getting access to course resources in Google Docs and Canvas, and posting to introduce themselves in the TPS Teachers Network. More about this assignment will be emailed after registration is complete. (Past course syllabus from a previous online section, for Westfield State University. We will post the updated course syllabuses when they are available.)

In-Person Course

The in-person course runs on two days from 8:30am to 3:00pm, plus about 3 hours of readings and preparation outside of that. Most teachers complete a draft of the main course assignment during the second day of the workshop. Many choose to polish the lesson on their own in the days after the workshop. 

Online Course 

When offered as an online offering over several weeks, the course will run 3 hours per week plus some additional reading. Participants may complete work at a convenient time of day for them. There will be two scheduled webinars. (Webinars will be recorded.) Each week will include a mix of readings, video clips, and online activities. Each week, participants will write responses to prompts in a class forum, and reply to classmates’ posts in the second half of the week.


Massachusetts teachers receive 22.5 PDPs upon completion of the course and assignments (as per DESE regulations awarding time-and-a-half for graduate-level professional development). CES will send participants from other states a letter of participation for 15 hours.

Participants may choose instead to take either course for 1 graduate credit in History in partnership with Westfield State University for an additional cost of $200. 

“Accessing Inquiry” courses meet Massachusetts teacher license renewal requirements for 15-hours of professional development on teaching students with disabilities and students with diverse learning styles. Link to renewal regulations


Contact us about scheduling a section for your school district or community. 



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