Posts filed under ‘Learning challenged’

Learning Difficulties

Genius has many dimensionsTeaching is the process of creating the most advantageous environment to facilitate learning. The teacher is the artist that designs, executes and appraises the environment. Previous posts have addressed these aspects of the teaching process. Teachers must be ever vigilant of obstacles to learning. Learning is an interactive process. That is, it involves our brain identifying sensory stimuli and processing that stimuli and then reacting to it. This is a key to understanding all theories of learning. This article deals with one of the many roles a teacher must perform: Identifying the child with special needs.

The scarecrow in the land of Oz searched for a brain. The irate mother screaming at her teenager “Use your brain!” The disappointed teacher telling the class to use their brains or it wouldn’t work.

Teachers have a general grasp of the Learning Theory. In order to appreciate the learning theories, it is important to understand the pathways of learning. A person views the surrounding world as if trapped inside a space suit. This external shell protects the tender gloo that resides inside. All the information about the world is provided through the mechanics of the senses. Eyes provide the visual sights of the world. Ears provide the sounds of that world. The nose provides the smells of that world. The nose in collusion with the tongue provide the taste of objects placed in the mouth. The skin provides the tactual feelings of the surroundings. All of these sensory devices receive a constant stream of information which is passed on to the brain. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings are steady flowing into the brain. The brain must sort and organize a response to the combination of all this sensory information. The response is transmitted to nerves that manage the appropriate body parts. The responses provide further stimuli that have to be processed while other responses are transmitted. It is an involved and complex process. Fortunately, teachers do not need a physician’s knowledge.

Learning is the intake of sensory data (stimuli) and processing of it. This is where Learning Theory begins. From basic education courses, some learning theories might spark a recall: Constructivism, Developmental Theory, Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, Social Cognition and so on. The processing of the input is the essence of Learning Theory. Any interference with the sensory input will affect learning regardless of the learning theory followed.

Learning difficulties can be categorized into five groups of malfunction: Sense organ, sensory transmission, processing , response pathways, motor organ. These failures of the nervous system can be minor or major and temporary or permanent. Minor, temporary conditions might be as minor as a cold. The runny nose interferes with the senses of odor and taste. The same running nose may cause the pupil to be more concerned about wripping his nose that listening to class activity. A major permanent condition might be an individual who is blind or mental handicapped.

Today’s teacher must be aware of disruptions in the brain’s processing system. The teacher will need to be able to sort the minor problems from the major and the temporary from the permanent. Teachers cannot be expected to be experts in identifying all the learning blocks that face pupils but teachers do need to be able to recognize when a difficulty exists. The teacher will also need to decide just how serious the problem is. School districts usually have protocols for identifying and testing suspected learning challenged pupils. The protocol most often originates with the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher bears the responsibility for the “front line” recognition of a problem that needs further study and intervention.

In this case, the teacher’s role is to flag the potential problem. Identification of the problem is left for others. The teacher follows the protocol, notifies the right people and provides the assistance as requested. Subsequent testing may include eye or hearing tests, neurological workup, EGG, MRI, physical exam, psychological profile, etc. The teacher doe not make a diagnosis! The teacher identifies a possible problem that may need further investigation. That is the extend to which teachers can proceed. Conversations with parents must be carefully framed so as not to prejudice any needed mental or physical tests nor create any greater anguish than is necessary.

March 28, 2008 at 12:28 am Leave a comment


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