February 6, 2012

Why Schools Struggle to Teach Differently When Each Student Learns Differently?

Posted in Reflection tagged , , at 2:50 pm by izzatrinbago

Throughout the years I have always felt that a student’s scholastic ability is not always apparent in the classroom because of how the curriculum is set up and how some teachers teach especially difficult subjects like Chemistry, Physics, math etc., so realizing there is specific phenomenon about this called ’intellectual cliques” and reading in the book “Disrupting the classroom about what the term means and represents further solidifies my thought process.

In a classroom with students with varying learning capacity and styles I feel this phenomenon does not consider the individual student and contributes to students who fall “by the side,  do not do well in tests and are label as “not smart”.  Garner‘s theory on Multiple intelligences spotlights different views on this phenomenon and makes how people learn the focus.  A Visual Learner  will not be receptive to a teacher who simply lectures/reads without incorporating some aspect that will be aligned with the way he/she learns. This  type of instruction will allow them to be disengaged, become easily bored and loose interest and not succeed in school.

Some teachers  teach based on their own intelligence strength and might not have the wisdom to reach students with different learning modalities apart from their own and it also difficult and more time consuming for them to produce customize lessons. However, teachers have a responsibility to consider all intelligences, not only those that are similar to their own or those that were considered the tradition in the past. Unfortunately, students who are more creative in nature or musically inclined, and process their learning in terms of sounds, pattern, and rhythms will have an “uphill battle because they are faced with a “cookie cutter” curriculum or teachers in classroom who have no concept of how to inspire learning in these students. This contributes to student having low self-esteem because they will be unable to keep up with the classwork, and this will negatively affect their performance.

The shared  pattern of thinking in this phenomenon does not provide various opportunities to other students to learn and does not even consider the strength of other intelligences that exists outside of this standardize way of viewing how students learn, which  has an impact on how the curriculum is developed. When certain students are able to do well in a particular subject under this type of standardize curriculum this is seen as working and successful and supports the idea for this type of curriculum in schools. Therefore, there is  no consideration for students with different intelligences that might need a curriculum that addresses their specific learning needs. For example allowing them more time to grasp a particular concept and a more individualize instruction.

The intellectual cliques showcases the fact that people in general have strengths in certain areas whether it is being able think logically, or they excel in language skills or other subject matters. This can be a motivating factor for them to select certain disciplines to focus on in schools and transpose them in their adult lives which can affect the type of occupation they enter. It also affects the way they teach which does not afford the best education for all students who according to Howard Gardner learns differently and it is the students who can relate to the type of learning will obviously be the one who excel.

We can all identify at one point in our lives with this phenomenon never realizing that the way how the subject is taught, the curriculum etc. conflicted with the way we learn. The subjects we excel were the ones easier for us to grasp and the ones we enjoyed, paid more attention to and felt “smart” in those classes. The ones we struggle with were simply referred to as “hard” subjects. Personally, I can relate to a total block on calculus and other math related subjects which left me frustrated and wondering how can I make sense of these equations regardless of how hard I tried or how much time and effort went into trying to understand the basic concepts.  It was not until I started to take extra lessons with an after school teacher I was able to associate the concepts and the logic in way that I can understand, and was I able to successfully pass these classes.  This I can refer to as my “light bulb” or “ah ha” moment.

I believe schools can address this phenomenon by providing differentiating instruction on various levels, so lesson will encompass a spectrum of multiple intelligences. There will be instances where there will be the need to differentiate the learning environment like in the area of math, chemistry, physics, while in others the content should be differentiated facilitating the different needs that exits in the classroom, and also using tiered level activities. (McKenzie, 2003)

Accommodating the different learning modalities in a classroom can be a challenge for teachers and a schools budget can limit the resources available to them. However, it is important for teachers to be aware of these differences, so their lesson can be customized to bring about the desired learning outcomes they would like students to achieve from the instruction. Educators should incorporate innovative measures to stir student “creative juices”, their interest and to be able to motivate them.

In addition, the lesson should be “student driven” enabling students to be active participants in their own learning process. Student should be able to think, ask questions collaborate and to participate in group activities that promote responsibility and accountability, and that parallels the work environment which will further develop the skills needed in the workplace.

To overcome this struggle and to prevent “surface learning,” instead of the teacher taking on the traditional role in the classroom, he or she should be the facilitator.  This gives students a voice and there is transformation in the method of delivery of instruction by incorporating the various experiences students bring into the classroom, and the instruction then becomes more students centered. There should be lessons that include problem based learning which utilizes real world scenarios to capture all students’ attention and interest. For example students can be required to design an experiment of their choice individually or work in teams to present to the class or in a science fair. This will definitely challenge them, cause excitement and enthusiasm to work on their projects and demonstrate their understanding of the task at hand. In addition, supplement instruction by trained staff should be provided who will work separately with students who are struggling with certain subjects.

To combat the problem that exits, educators can have Online Learning or Blended Learning to include a different dimension to students learning process and provide them with different pathway to learn. This allows for flexibility, enables students learning environment to be different than the norm and the lesson to be more structured. In addition, teachers are provided with another opportunity to reach some students outside of the traditional  and the regular delivery method. Students are also able to self-pace themselves and keep up with assignment and the lesson when needed.

Instructional technologies removes the limitation that exists in traditional delivery methods, and allows the lesson to be tailored to different leaning styles making it more interesting and a fun leaning experience. It provides a richer and more in-depth instruction and helps students associate better with concepts they may not understand. It can connect or address the multiple intelligences and enable teachers to incorporate it in the activities to match the multiple learning styles in the classroom as it is easier for educators to include different elements in the instruction that’s not limited to a classroom setting or because of time.

Instructional technology brings about a shift in the role of teachers allowing them to see the benefits of utilizing these tools and how they can add to the interaction in the classroom and aid in students’ discovery and learning. It can also bring about a change in attitudes, in the pedagogy of teachers, and educators believe system giving importance to the needs of students and their individuality, improving the desired educational outcomes. It also helps by bringing about reforms in assessments practices, administration, teacher development, curriculum, school policies etc.

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