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Bridging the Gap Between Special Education and General Education Practices

This course is designed to give participants the needed mindset and skills for facilitating high quality inclusive instructional experiences that blend targeted Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) with rigorous standards based instruction that utilizes the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This course is meant to be a resource for special education teachers, general education teachers, service providers, paraprofessionals, and/or district and site leaders.

In this course we will be working to cross the unfortunate and often under discussed chasm that is general education and special education. The course design very much sees the two areas of educational thought, practice, and specialization as complementary to each other and an integrated approach as the way forward to a more personalized, adaptive and yet rigorous experience of American public education. This course is built on a framework centered on ways to design systems and steer educational practice toward fully inclusive educational environments in efforts to reorganize schools as problem solving entities.

Your thoughts and ideas are critical for moving this work forward. We welcome new perspectives, disagreement, and each other’s best collective thinking to make schools a better place for all students, especially those needing specially designed instructional practices.

At a Glance















Course Objectives


Educators will understand the mindset and values needed for creating accessible, compassionate, and rigorous learning outcomes for students.


Educators will develop the skills for creating robust Individualized Education Plan (IEP) based learning experiences and supports relevant both to the needs of individual students and families and to the expectations of a modern universally designed standards based classroom.


Educators will understand how to work together across differing areas of expertise as well as understand their role within educational systems for creating equitable and inclusive learning environments and systems.

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About Your Instructor

Zach Smith was born and raised in Fresno, California. Growing up with siblings with disabilities, Zach saw first hand the impact of exclusionary instructional practices. After graduating from Fresno State, he began his career as a special education teacher. He worked for eight years in a small rural district named Sanger Unified. In his last three years with Sanger, he moved outside the classroom to co-lead the implementation of UDL for all teachers in the district. Zach has extensive knowledge in UDL; presenting, coaching, planning, and building organizational capacity around this initiative. In the fall of 2019, Zach started a new chapter in his professional journey as a student in Harvard’s Doctorate of Education Leadership program. Zach lives with his wife and best friend Dorothy, as well as their four daughters, Grace (9), Amy (7), Isabella (4), and Sydney(2). Zach is a passionate advocate for the power of inclusion to revolutionize the way teachers teach and as paramount for closing opportunity and achievement gaps in today’s classrooms.



What to Expect

How the Course Works

  • Start off each module watching a quick (1-5 minute) video introducing each module.
  • Dive deeper into the content. Review readings and resources - the key is to self-differentiate. Choose what that works best for you and helps you better understand the content and engage with the lesson. 
  • Post to the discussion board, interact with your classmates if you choose to, and make connections.
  • Complete each module with a short self-assessment. These are diagnostic assessments and are ungraded. They are there to help you understand where your current knowledge stands.
  • With each module, there is an optional project task or thinking piece that helps to build towards your final project. The final project is a great tool to help you propel your learning from this course into practice.
  • A final project, optional for all, a requirement for graduate credit
  • Receive your completion certificate for 45 continuing education hours or 3 graduate-level continuing education credits (as applicable).
  • Runs on the Thinkific platform. 

Pricing Options

Our standard and group pricing covers your course registration with Novak Educational Consulting, Inc. only. You may also choose to purchase graduate credits and/or clock hours (for Washington State teachers) at the time of registration. For questions regarding pricing or to request a purchase order, contact us.

Course Certificates & Transcripts

You will receive a completion certificate from Novak Education at the conclusion of the course. Please check in with your school or district to determine if this alone will be sufficient for salary points or advancement. Some states require additional proof of completion such as clock hours, contact hours, or credits. Graduate credits (3 continuing education credits) may be obtained through our university partners. Please check with your school or district to ensure these will satisfy their requirements prior to enrolling. Learn more about our graduate partners: Gordon College and Teachers College of San Joaquin.