Case Study Of A Learner Education Essay
Literacy is one of the most difficult subjects for the majority of students to learn. In primary school children are read to by their teachers and are encouraged to read as much as possible to build their literacy skills before moving into high school. There are many underlying reasons why some children learn literacy skills faster than others. Intellectual ability, motivation, information processing and socioeconomic background are some of the reasons behind the slow development of literacy skills. Teachers are at the forefront of the child's development in literacy skills. Even thou teachers try their best to teach every student the literacy skills they need to achieve later in life, there are still some students who move up through the grades without them.
Demographics, Beryl, aged 69, female, retired teacher-business owner, Diploma in teaching. Beryl was a high school teacher for forty years on and off, teaching English and other subjects. Beryl was an avid reader from a young age and states that set her up with good literacy skills, "an asset forever"! As a child she never had any problems with literacy and states that her only hurdle at school was numeracy. Beryl also identified there is a link between the positive connections she had with several of her teachers at high school and her becoming a teacher.
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Beryl reflects on her years of being a high school teacher, she recalls literacy hurdles were much lower when teaching in selective high schools compared to comprehensive high schools where a wide range of literacy problems based around intellectual ability excited. These students have "a tendency to oversimplify concepts, a limited ability to generalise, smaller memory capacity, shorter attention span, an inclination to concentrate on only one aspect of a learning situation and to ignore other relevant features, an inability to formulate learning strategies that fit particular situations, and delayed language development" (Snowman, Dobozy, Scevak, Bryer, Bartlett & Biehler, 2009, p.198). Beryl over came these hurdles by grouping more literate students with students that had poor intellectual ability and literacy skills in mixed groups. "the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peer" (Vygotsky, 1934, p.86. Shabani, Khatib & Ebadi, 2010, p. 238). All thou the group work helped the students with poor intellectual ability and literacy skills, it restricted the progress of the more literate students said beryl. Also grouping students by intellectual ability can build or sabotage their intellectual growth and motivation (Hallam & Ireson, 2007).
Another hurdle beryl spoke of was with senior students in preparation for the HSC. The problem was their ability to read the questions, understand the vocabulary, spelling and grammar. Beryl had many ways to get over these hurdles, some she learnt during her teacher training and others she had developed over the years of teaching. Such as detailed analysis of individual answers plus "model" approaches. Her main goal was to educate her students not teach for exams. So, much of the extra research the students did was course relevant, involved material which would interest and stimulate the students and develop literacy skills. This type of constructivist strategy develops the cognitive learning abilities of the students. Wittrock suggests "that meaningful learning is a generative process in which the learner must actively engage in cognitive processing rather than passively receive or store information" (Wittrock, 1990, Reynolds, & Miller, 2002) p.8). If the learner receives and stores information in their short term memory without having any meaningfulness to them, the information will not be actively engage in cognitive processing and could be discarded before becoming part of their long term memory.
Beryl also spoke of a literacy program her and other high school teachers implemented. The majority of the students from year 10 were the real hurdle, Beryl acknowledged that they were from low socioeconomic families and at reading ages of 7 to 11 year olds and also lacked motivation. Bradley and Corwyn (2002) looked at many studies and noticed a connection between poverty, low levels of parental education, and lower levels of school achievement in their children. Parental education appeared to be a strong precursor of student performance. Another contributing factor is poor nutrition which affects brain growth and cognitive functions such as long-term memory (Krause, Bochner, Duchesne, & Mcmaugh, 2010). The inability for these students to reach a higher level of literacy could also be related to a theory called avoidance learning. This theory is based on the premise that an individual learns a behavior or response to avoid a tense or unpleasant situation. This type of learning disorder could have started from a stressful situation that happened at home with a parent during guided reading or at school in a class test (Gall, Beins, & Feldman, 1996). The above factors explain why these students are still reading at such a low level of cognitive development. By looking at Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development, these students are at the concrete operational stage. The literacy program will hopefully bring them into the formal operational stage where they should be (Atkinson, Atkinson, Smith, Bem & Hilgard, 1990). To overcome their difficulties, the students were taught life skills. Such as finding information in directories, filling in forms and answering work ads. These skills would inadvertently build both literacy skills and self-esteem which will lead to higher motivation and a better outcome for the students.
Education of literacy is a shared undertaking between the student, the parents/guardians and the teaching staff. A student's intellectual ability governs the amount of new knowledge they can understand and use to build their literacy skills. Every child should be encouraged to learn and strive for excellence and perform to the best of his/her intellectual ability. Teachers should model, guide and nurture every child while giving him/her the appropriate skills, attitudes and behaviours to achieve success. Mimicking the teacher and other students is a good place to start for students, however students need to be motivated, have high self esteem and confidence in one's own abilities. Teachers should strive to develop each child's intellectual, social and emotional development through creative, exciting and stimulative lessons. Students should be able to engage in the learning process, if they can't the information delivered by the teacher will be forgotten or misplaced in their memory. Every student should be catered for, showing regard to multicultural, gender equity, learning style differences, slow learners and socioeconomic background. Many students for low socioeconomic backgrounds struggle with the day to day lessons at school, there is a strong enthesis on the teacher's ability to understand and help these students. The competent student can go on to function fully in society and to fulfil his/her potential as an individual. Teachers should hope that education and self actualization would become a way of life for each student and give each one order, hope in the future and enjoyment of life.
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