Facilitating the Learning of Diverse Students

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Facilitating the Learning of Diverse Students

  1. 1. Facilitating the Learning of Diverse Learners.<br />Description of Learning Issue<br />Factors <br />Learners<br />Learning Theories<br />Learning Environment<br />Application<br />
  2. 2. Description of Learning Issue<br />After taking placement exams which help to identify students’ knowledge and skill levels in key areas like math, reading and writing, many students entering community colleges must take remedial classes that help them build their skills before entering college level courses. <br />Although college placement exams assist in identifying students that need developmental classes, these exams are not as effective at distinguishing one student’s current knowledge and skill level from another student’s. For example, at Central New Mexico Community College, placement exam scores determine writing students’ placement into one of three developmental writing courses. <br />ScoresLevel<br />0-52 Lowest<br />53-68 Middle<br />69-84 Highest<br />Instructors must consider ways to help learners beginning at different knowledge and skill levels achieve learning objectives within specified time frames.<br />The lowest level developmental writing course accepts all students no matter how low their scores were on the placement exam, so the knowledge and skills of entering students differs greatly. The scoring system helps to bring into the middle and top level courses students within a similar range of knowledge and skills. However, students with scores at the lower end of the scale, like 69, often have greater gaps in knowledge and ability than students with scores at the upper end of the grading scale, like 84.<br />
  3. 3. Questions<br />How can instructors ensure all students meet course objectives despite the fact that entering students begin with significantly different levels of knowledge and skills?<br />How can instructors ensure that students needing more support receive what they need to learn while more advanced students also receive opportunities to continue to progress in their learning? <br />
  4. 4. Factors<br />APPLICATION<br />
  5. 5. Magdalena is a 56 year-old mother of five and grandmother of four. She completed high school in Mexico and, in her early twenties, moved to the states where she raised her family and learned to speak and write English through exposure to others. Her husband passed away last year, so she has decided to attend college to improve her English and writing skills.<br />At 24 years-old, Lisa is a single mom of three children under the age of five. She has received financial assistance that will help her attend college, but she often has difficulty finding childcare especially when one of the children is sick. The assistance she receives only pays for childcare needed for travel and class time, which means Lisa must be with the children or find other free help if she needs quiet time for homework. Lisa wants to learn but has little time for homework. <br />Who are the Learners?<br />
  6. 6. Peter is recently out of jail and on probation. As part of the requirements for his probation, he must enroll in a program at the college in order to develop an employable skill or trade. He has enrolled in the welding program and is not sure why he has to take this writing class.<br />Who are the Learners?<br />Alex just graduated from high school a few months ago. His parents insisted that he attend college. He really dislikes English and writing and would rather be outside shooting hoops or fixing up the car he bought last year.<br />
  7. 7. Sarah graduated from high school last year. She is very nervous about attending college because she has a learning disability, which makes it difficult for her to concentrate for long periods of time. She is also very intimidated by the idea of working in groups.<br />Who are the Learners?<br />John took the college entrance exam after working all night at Wal-Mart. His score was two points below the mark that would have placed him in the next level writing class. Early in the semester, his writing demonstrates his ability to clearly organize his ideas in writings that contain just a few writing errors.<br />
  8. 8. Learning Theory<br />Cognitive Orientation<br />Constructivist Orientation<br />Differentiated Instruction<br />Cognitive & Learning Styles<br />
  9. 9. Learning Theory<br />According to Bruner, the learner must acquire, transform, and evaluate new information in order to fully process and incorporate it within existing knowledge. (Merriam et al, p.286)<br />Cognitive Orientation<br />Cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget highlighted key influences on internal cognitive processes: “the organism’s interacting with the environment and being exposed to an increasing number of experiences” (Merriam et al, p. 285).<br />Ausubel stressed that “learning is meaningful only when it can be related to concepts that already exist in a person’s cognitive structure” (Merriam et al, p. 286).<br />Cognitivists assert that “learning involves the reorganization of experiences in order to make sense of stimuli from the environment,” and therefore, “prior knowledge plays an important role in learning” (Merriam et al, p.285). <br />
  10. 10. Learning Theory<br />Constructivist Orientation<br />Constructivists build upon the concept of learning as an internal cognitive activity and suggest that learning occurs when learners are challenged to move beyond current understandings in increments and with guidance from others.<br />Vygotsky termed this cognitive activity the zone of proximal development which he defined as “the intellectual potential of an individual when provided with assistance from a knowledgeable adult . . . ” (Jones and Brader-Araje).<br />Cues and scaffolding from the more knowledgeable individual allow the learner to “move through a series of steps” that lead to intellectual growth” (Jones and Brader-Araje, p 6). <br />
  11. 11. Learning Theory<br />Besides prior knowledge and experiences, learners’ cognitive styles and learning styles will also affect the processes involved in acquisition, transformation and evaluation. <br />Cognitive & Learning Styles<br />Cranton defines learning styles as ‘preferences for certain conditions or ways of learning’” (Merriam et al, p 407).<br />According to one cognitive style described as hemispheric dominance, learners may show a preference for the linear processing or examination of concepts from parts to whole (left brain) while others learners may prefer a holistic approach, the examination of ideas from whole to parts (right brain) (Hopper, p. 173). <br />While learners possess many different types of intelligence, some are more developed than others according to Gardner. He lists these types as linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic intelligences. Students can process information more efficiently when it is presented in ways that appeal to their intelligence types (Hopper, p. 179).<br />Learners may also have a preference for different kinds of sensory input showing “visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning preferences” (Merriam et al, p. 408). <br />
  12. 12. Learning Theory<br />Cognitive Orientation<br />Constructivist Orientation<br />Differentiated Instruction<br />Cognitive & Learning Styles<br />Differentiated Instruction is an instructional theory that integrates cognitivist and constructivist theories as well as aspects of learners’ cognitive styles and learning styles (Anderson, p. 50). <br />
  13. 13. Theory to Application<br />Since each learner in a classroom setting begins at a different level of understanding, the steps or cues and scaffolding will need to be slightly adjusted for each. <br />Cognitive Orientation<br />Constructivist Orientation<br />Differentiated Instruction<br />Cognitive & Learning Styles<br />All learners in a learning situation will come to the learning event with different knowledge and experiences. Instruction should be designed in a way that allows each learner an opportunity to build upon his or her existing knowledge and experiences. <br />Instruction should cater to different cognitive styles and learning styles so learners can utilize their learning strengths when acquiring, transforming, and evaluating new information.<br />
  14. 14. The Learning Environment<br />The School of Adult General Education (SAGE) at CNM encourages and supports instruction that accommodates “the different learning styles students bring to the classroom” and further suggests that instructors “design a combination of teacher directed, cooperative, collaborative, and individual learning experiences” (SAGE Developmental Reading Course Outlines)<br />SAGE ensures instructors have access to a variety of materials that promote differentiated instruction: lesson plan ideas for collaborative work, individual work and hands-on activities; supplies that encourage student use and creation of visuals; exercises and handouts that appeal to a variety of learner types; and access to computers to provide additional learning resources and activities.<br />Although instructors have a number of resources to support differentiated learning, they are constrained by college requirements to meet course objectives within the allotted time: 15 weeks. <br />
  15. 15. Learner Input<br />Recently, 23 students in a developmental writing class that uses a variety of instructional methods were asked the following question:<br />What kinds of instruction would you want more of in the class?<br />The students’ answers included the following:<br />Group work, lectures, handouts/exercises, visuals/sentences on board, hands-on activities, and writing time in class with one-to-one guidance from instructor. <br />
  16. 16. Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom <br />Determine students that show weaknesses in understanding after initial topic consideration and design small group meetings to “re-teach an idea or skill (Tobin, p. 159).<br />Use a variety of instructional methods that appeal to different cognitive styles: reading for main ideas, reading for details, analyzing, questioning, problem solving, cooperative learning, lecturing, and small-group discussion. (Sternberg and Zhang, p. 251). <br />Regularly provide students opportunities to work in groups and adjust these groups according to shared interests and skill levels. (Huebner)<br />During whole group instruction, model thought processes involved in reading and writing strategies. (Tobin, p. 165)<br />Use multiple teaching strategies including modeling, guiding, coaching, and scaffolding to fade instructor involvement and promote independence. (Tobin, p. 163).<br />Seek opportunities to validate students’ successes (Tobin, p. 167).<br />
  17. 17. Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom <br />Provide students with a choice of reading materials and assignments that appeal to varying interests and varying levels of reading skill. (Tobin, p. 159) (Manning et al, p. 147)<br />Regularly schedule in-class conferences during which the student can listen as the instructor takes the role of reader and provides immediate feedback. This allows for individualized attention to underprepared students and students with disabilities as well as more advanced students ready to be encouraged to progress further. (Edwards and Pula)<br />Get to know the students’ backgrounds and interests before deciding readings and assignments. (Tobin, p. 162) Build “individual student profiles to plan flexible groups and tiered lessons. (Anderson, p. 51)<br />Allow students’ “choices in working independently, with partners, or as a team.” (Anderson p.50) <br />Provide multiple ways students can demonstrate understandings. (Tobin, p. 160)<br />
  18. 18. Bibliography<br />Anderson, K. (2007). Tips for Teaching: Differentiating Instruction to Include All Students. Preventing School Failure, 51(3), 49-54. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.<br />Cusumano, C., & Mueller, J. (2007). How differentiated instruction helps struggling students. Leadership, 36(4), 8-10. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.<br />Edwards, A., & Pula, J. (2008). In-Class Conferences as Differentiated Writing Instruction: New Uses for Tutorials. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 74(3), 10-14. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.<br />Hopper, C. H. (2010) Practicing College Learning Strategies. (5th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.<br />Huebner, T. (2010). Differentiated Instruction. Educational Leadership, 67(5), 79-81. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.<br />Jones, M. G. & Brader-Araje, L. (2002). The Impact of Constructivism on Education: Language, Discourse, and Meaning. American communication Journal, 5(3). www/ackpirma;/prgjp;domgsvp;5oss3s[ecoa;kpmes/pdf.<br />Knowles, L. (2009). Differentiated Instruction in Reading: Easier Than It Looks!. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 25(5), 26-28. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.<br />Manning, S., Stanford, B., & Reeves, S. (2010). Valuing the Advanced Learner: Differentiating Up. Clearing House, 83(4), 145-149. doi:10.1080/00098651003774851.<br />Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007) Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive guide. (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.<br />Sternberg, R., & Li-fang, Z. (2005). Styles of Thinking as a Basis of Differentiated Instruction. Theory Into Practice, 44(3), 245-253. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4403_9.<br />Tobin, R. (2008). Conundrums in the Differentiated Literacy Classroom. Reading Improvement, 45(4), 159-169. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.<br />

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