Identifying Individual Learning Needs
As one gains experience as a teacher or trainer, it quickly becomes clear that not all students are created equal. There is spectrum of learning ability pertaining to each subject, and a student can fall into any part of this spectrum. This is why identifying individual learning needs is so important.
In its simplest form, individual learning needs could result from a poor grasp of a particular subject. For example, a student may be adept at analysing literature but would have great difficulty understanding advanced mathematics. However, individual learning needs can be a lot more serious as well, and if they are not identified and addressed they can result in a dramatically less effective learning experience for the student or trainee.
Some of the more obvious impairments are auditory and visual. If a student has impairments in either of these areas, they are going to require special attention in order to learn properly. Additionally, there are several disabilities that directly affect a student’s ability to learn. One such disability is dyslexia, which makes it difficult for a person to make sense of written language in spite of an average or even above average intelligence. Autism is another disorder that is specifically related to learning, and those suffering from this tend to have difficulty relating to others and interacting, and often have difficulty communicating as well. Another disorder that can cause difficulties in learning is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which impairs a student’s ability to concentrate.
As far as these specific disorders are concerned, each should be treated with special care. If you suspect that a student might be having difficulty due to a disorder such as dyslexia, it is firstly important to get the parents involved. Additionally, you must take special care to realize that these disorders are not the fault of the student. It is important to keep this in mind because students suffering from dyslexia, autism and particularly ADHD might disrupt the class due to their learning impairment. Antisocial behavior is one of the most obvious indicators of special learning needs. Often, teachers respond to this antisocial behavior by singling the student out and excluding them. This is counterproductive and will only cause these students’ conditions to get worse.
The same is also the cause with mixed learning abilities. If a student is good at a certain subject and not so good at another, this does not mean that they are unintelligent or that they are not trying hard enough. It is very possible for a student to be more adept at certain subjects and less adept at others.
Hence, in order to accommodate the individual learning needs of each of your students, one of the most important things that you can do is create an atmosphere of inclusiveness. This means that it is not enough for you to be accepting of the special needs of certain students. You must foster this sense of acceptance and inclusiveness in your other students as well. If a student who is dyslexic or has a low learning ability pertaining to one subject, has the support of their classmates, it can allow them to improve significantly. In essence, it would help if they are made to feel like they are still ”part of the group” as it were, so it is important that you foster this atmosphere in your classroom. Encouraging peer support is possibly one of the most important and useful ways in which you can help students that have special learning needs.
You can also attempt to use varied teaching styles. Try to make your class more active rather than passive. If you notice that a student is having difficulty learning when the style of teaching involves dictation and note taking, try to teach through more active methods such as using practical demonstrations and the like. This is, in general, a much better way to get knowledge across to your students, so it could be an effective technique to use all round.
In summary, you must first identify the presence of a special learning need via diagnostic assessment, by noticing antisocial or disruptive behavior or poor academic performance. You must tackle this by providing emotional support and making the student in question feel included in spite of their individual learning needs. Vary your teaching methods, and if a student needs special attention don’t hesitate to give it to them.