Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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Differences in learning between younger and older students
Alcino Silva
Learning of reading and writing
Secondary School
Students with learning difficulties
Some inborn disabilities - students’ learning difficulties
A learning disability (LD) is a problem that exists in the processing of different information and that can be considered a "non-apparent disability", since it shows no outward signs.
The most common learning disabilities include dyslexia - severe difficulties with reading, dyscalculia - serious trouble with math, and dysgraphia - a serious difficulty in written expression. There are other causes that can lead to learning disabilities, such as visual impairment, hearing or motor disabilities, mental retardation, cultural, or emotional disorder.
Generally students with learning disabilities have the capacity to learn and perform different types of tasks, even those which are superior to their age levels, compensating the lack of skills with the development of several alternative methods of learning.
Learning difficulties can be the most challenging of all groups in the school environment, because despite the difficulties experienced by students, many of them are able to succeed and achieve success far beyond the minimum level they started at.
We all have strengths and weaknesses in the learning model. Thus, also students with learning disabilities, visually impaired or others, need to find alternative ways to accomplish their learning. We can therefore state that any student uses the model of learning that best suits their capabilities. For a student with a disability it is not different. For this reason it is also normal for a student with LD to seek to develop unconventional methods of learning, adjusting their skills and / or needs because traditional methods do not work effectively for them. We can easily find students with LD who are creative or talented in music, art, dance, athletics, mechanics, computer programming, or other matters. Often, however, their special skills and talents are overshadowed by traditional school results. Whenever these special skills are recognized and encouraged, they can help alleviate the school frustrations and motivate them to capitalize on their strengths rather than concentrating solely on deficits.
A student with a learning disability does not mean he is incapable of learning, but he needs to use adaptive methods to properly process the information so that learning can take place.
The existence of a learning disability manifests itself when the information that is absorbed through the senses inaccurately is transmitted to the brain inadequately.
I believe every child wants to learn, and I believe that there are no exceptions. That is why when I hear people say that the student is "lazy", "refuses to learn", "makes no effort", "does nothing to learn," etc. , I refuse to accept it, because I believe that every child wants to learn, but not always can the educators and / or parents find the most appropriate ways. When this happens, they are denying and unintentionally obstructing the learning of children, which makes them begin to build defenses to protect their self-image when they are around others who are important to them.

With regard to my teaching experience with students with Special Educational Needs (SEN), with specific learning difficulties, it has allowed me to observe and understand that there are significant differences in the learning success of pupils aged 7 and 8 years old compared to students aged 16 and 17. For specific learning difficulties I mean unidentified problems in processing information. These students are often bright in many areas, but are sometimes misunderstood and mistaken for being lazy or careless. Actually suffering from some kind of problem in sensory processing, they require a different kind of education that suits their processing model. In some situations, specific therapeutic intervention can greatly alleviate this difficulty, and allow students to achieve remarkable progress.
António: Over two school years I worked with a student with learning difficulties; I'll call him António.
The student had expressed many learning difficulties since primary school. These difficulties had been noticed at the beginning of his school experience. In fifth and sixth grade, he began to reveal behavioral problems, which increased over the years.
The first year I worked with this student, he was 16 years old, in the 8th grade and unable to read.
The family had low expectations regarding the educational success of the student, first because they thought he would never be able to accomplish learning, since “the period of failure" was long. The parents became very permissive, fulfilling all his wishes, perhaps trying to compensate the difficulties / failure that their son was experiencing at school. They kept him at school until he concluded compulsory education, attending a specific individual Curriculum.
At the first meeting with his mother, I realized the obvious lack of expectations and commitment regarding a possible change in her attitudes towards the son, but merely to agree to the measures defined in the curriculum.
Antonio expressed very serious difficulties in writing and reading words. Over the time, and until that moment, all efforts and strategies used by teachers throughout his schooling to encourage different opportunities and structure so that he could be successful had had little or no progress at all.
The student had become disruptive, demonstrating an inappropriate behavior, and for that reason he was being penalized and aggravating the learning difficulties.
After analyzing all the individual process of the student, my first concern was to understand the bad behavior and I realized that the reason for this behavior had much to do with the presence of other colleagues and the way he faced his problem. I started working with him individually, in an office, and I showed him I could understand his difficulties and praised all his tiny steps, both in reading and writing words and phrases.
Given his age, the student was more and more aware of the differences between him and other colleagues and because of fear he continued to fail, especially when in the presence of other colleagues. Over the time he had been creating severe blockages which led him to manifest disturbing and improper behavior, because he felt threatened in a learning situation in the classroom, especially when he needed to read or write.
This led me to conclude that the older a student is, the more complicated the situation gets, because when a student grows and failure keeps throughout schooling, he eventually gains awareness of his disability and starts behaving badly as a way to protect himself whenever threatened in learning situations.
For this reason it is essential to find the best educational responses in situations of LD students, and the sooner the better, because in younger children, simply because they have not taken the time to gain the experience of failure and inadequacy, they are more willing to believe they can succeed.
With my understanding of the problem, the student became much better both in reading and basic writing. To achieve this, we worked just words and phrases from real life context and the student’s interest, as for example, reading and writing restaurant menus, traffic signs, words he text to his friends, writing and reading various automobile components and small advertisements in newspapers and news magazines specially cars.
Also note that this student liked mechanics and had a reasonable knowledge in this area, a situation that led me to believe that confidence in one’s capabilities is critical for learning. Children facing problems for a long time, as António, become less confident. Younger children can quickly regain confidence.
This event allowed me to conclude that many children who sometimes fail to achieve educational success do not always have intellectual disabilities, but rather the inability to participate in the learning process, often because of fear of the consequences, such as shame, ridicule, or being seen as different, which increases as they get older.
Comparing learning difficulties and the success obtained with other students of different ages, has led me to understand that when a student has difficulty learning over the time he develops bad behavior in the classroom. These situations should be carefully analyzed and procedures have to be adjusted. The sooner this is done, the better results can be achieved by the student, because the older he gets, the more difficulties in learning he will reveal, associated with other problems, such as trust and misbehavior.

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20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.