Every teacher acknowledges that their classrooms are full of students with differing learning abilities. Some students will be diagnosed and may have specific learning plans in place. But what happens to the students who are not supported this way? Through constant observation and assessment, most teachers are aware, or should be aware of the way each student learns best, and to create a learning journey to support this. But does this happen in practice?
Hopefully the answer is a resounding ‘YES!’ Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and many students and their families are frustrated at the lack of progress and engagement their child makes in class. So, how can teachers become more aware of the individual needs of students in their class, and how can they then transfer that knowledge and cater for those differences?
Here’s some simple steps to help:
The Learning Style
If we were to consider the way we prefer to learn, obtain new knowledge or consolidate existing knowledge, and then look at how a friend does, we may find that there is a difference in how this achieved. We are all unique individuals, with our own set of knowledge and experiences which mould and shape the way we view the world. With this back pack of experiences, then consider how we then differ in the way we ‘absorb’ knowledge. The way we learn, and retain that knowledge is vasatly different to the person beside us. Here is an example. I am morning person, I am more productive in the mornings as I move through my tasks. I write notes, like to make verbal notes, have checklists to remember the myriad of tasks, and work better though guided, hands on experience. My partner is also a morning person, he exercises in the mornings, he also makes notes of his to do list, but he can read (visual) and absorb and engage in the verbal. Our three sons are all very different as well. Therefore, it takes no great leap of imagination to determine that the students we teach, also have a range of back packs, and learning styles which differ.
So, how do we address this?
It can start with a simple learning style inventory quiz to be concluded in the first week of school, so that a techer can ensure all students are being engaged and immersed in authentic learning experiences catering to their students strengths. All you need to do is Google ‘learning inventory quiz’ to see the myriad of choices available to you, depending upon your classroom makeup.
Differing Learning abilities
Regardless of the learning style of students, and regardless of their learning abilities, difference doesn’t necessarily mean deficit. Even though each individual’s brain works differently, it doesn’t necessarily preclude one from being more or less intelligent than the other, they may just achieve their end goals or objectives differently. It is for this reason that I fervently believe that due care and attention needs to be focussed on these differences, to ensure that each student can:
Discover their potential
Deal with the challenges they face in their learning journey
Work towards their strengths and learning styles
What do we know about students who struggle in class either as a parent or a teacher?
They have difficulty maintain attention –teach them to focus. Give clear, concise instructions. When assigning a task, be explicit in your expectations
- Don’t leave room for interpretation.
- Include prompts visual, verbal, physical.
- Be open and available to support and answer questions and provide follow up.
They have difficulty organising or putting their thoughts on paper
- Help get students organised.
- Use visual prompts as well as verbal prompts.
- Use concept maps to help them organise ideas in written tasks.
- Use verbal strategies and higher order thinking small group activities to get ideas generated.
- MODEL how to organise ideas on paper.
They may have difficulty staying on task
- Poor attention and distraction is common in classrooms today.
- Break tasks down into more achievable, manageable tasks.
- Continually ‘check in’ on their progress.
- Provide a visual cue to support each individuals child’s progress. Eg. Writing process task management board.
- MODEL what you are wanting the students to achieve. Then have the students practice. Then Review to check for understanding.
Encourage a sense of pride and accomplishment
- Teach students to take pride in their work
- Create a folio of student work throughout the term.
- Compile completed and draft work so students can see their progress for different tasks.
- Encourage 3 way reporting in your school. This allows the student to take ownership of their work in the classroom as they are responsible for discussing their achievement with their parents/carers at reporting time.
- This gives them a clear understanding that they are responsible for their own work.
- Parents get to see and hear their child talking about their learning journey over a designated period.
- Learning goals can be created instantly with parent buy in to support their child’s learning
- The student is given some control over where they are heading.
Addressing these issues takes a lot of work. Addressing a pedagogical shift can be uncomfortable, but a rewarding one.
If deeper consideration was taken into differences in student learning styles, and in how knowledge is imparted and understood, instead of the ‘what’ of knowledge, and if we reflected on how we as adult learners prefer to learn,then our classrooms would become a hive of productivity.
This type of pedagogical shift to help students learn allows us to really consider and to rethink common sense. This is nothing new. This is not reinventing any wheel. It’s productive pedagogy 101. These are the goals schools need to make to ensure that all students strengths are being utilised to their fullest abilities. This will work to close the gap in improving each students learning journey by creating a positive model of reflective, common sense practice, instead of a deficit one.
Copyright © 2015 Sherry B Educational Consultants