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The purpose of this paper was to present current literature in terms of motivating learning disabled students to learn in a 'hands-on' inclusive environment. Learning disabled (LD) students' academic challenges and underachievement frequently result in the student giving up on learning altogether. Hands on strategies can stimulate motivation and learning. A school wood shop teaching environment is one strategy discussed. The keyword search strategy using ERIC, ProQuest, PsycINFO, and Education Periodicals was used for this review. The electronic databases were accessed through Liberty University. Peer reviewed journals were selected for this literature review. Government publications were also searched for special education statistics and trends.
Keywords: learning disabilities, special education, hands-on learning,
motivation, intrinsic, wood shop education, and accommodation
Hands-On Shop Class for Learning Disabled Students:
A Positive Impact on the Motivation to Learn
It can be a challenge to comprehend the unique needs of LD students. How can a child with average or higher intelligence and a healthy motivation to learn begin school, experience repeated academic failure, develop a low self-esteem, and a learned helplessness? LD students are frequently teased or neglected by peers and teachers are oftentimes frustrated with the "underachieving" LD student (Sideridis and Scanlon, 2006). The LD student loses interest in learning and gives up in trying to "fit in" with his peers. LD students rarely experience the feelings of accomplishment and success during the course of everyday school like their non-LD peers. Repeated failure can result in a loss of motivation for the LD student. From the perspective of learning, the loss of motivation, especially intrinsic motivation, is considered a tremendous barrier to academic success and more important, to lifelong learning. Educational strategies or settings that can promote or positively influence the student's motivation to learn are critical to pursue. One such strategy, hands-on wood shop class, does have a positive impact on the extent to which LD students are motivated to learn. This paper presents literature related to the importance of hands-on education, motivation theory, inclusion and accommodation, and teaching strategies for learning disabled students.
Organization of the review
The literature review is organized as follows: (a) learning disabilities law and statistics (b) inclusion and accommodation, (c) motivation, (d) importance of hands-on education,
(e) wood shop, (f) summary and conclusion.
Law and statistics
The U.S. Department of Education, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA 2004) defines specific learning disabilities as "a disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language". Skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and/or mathematics may be negatively affected. Almost 3,000,000 LD students are enrolled in public schools today (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). This number reflects a 250% increase since 1975. The 23rd Annual Report to Congress (2001) testified that "over 27% of LD students drop out of school even though most are of average or above average intelligence". The National Institute for Literacy (2009) reported that most LD students do graduate high school, but the experience was such a struggle that they lost interest in learning altogether. Most LD children do not appear to have a handicap and it might take one to two years or more of academic failure before the child is identified with a disability. Public law (IDEA, 2004) mandates that a significant gap between intelligence and achievement must occur in order to determine if a learning disability exists. By this time, the LD child is oftentimes already labeled as lazy, dumb, and is harassed by other children. When the child finally is identified, an individualized education plan (IEP) can be established.
Inclusion and accommodation
Public law (IDEA, 2004) requires students with disabilities to be taught in the least restrictive environment. The IEP directs whether or not the child is in fulltime special education class, mainstreamed into regular rooms for one or two classes or is included in the regular class for all or most of the day. Inclusion means that a child is in a regular classroom for most or all of the day and will typically require some sort of accommodation. There are numerous forms of accommodation to assist the LD student. The way in which material is presented, the timing and scheduling of tests, the setting, modified teaching techniques, and technical devices are all examples of accommodations or modifications to give LD students an equal opportunity. Some methods prove more beneficial than others.
Bouck (2009) conducted research to determine the value of calculators as an accommodation for students with learning disabilities. The data showed that the use of calculators actually helped prevent students from indicating that they know how to solve the problem by sometimes producing an incorrect answer because of a calculation error. Calculators were shown to provide a minimal level of assistance to both students with and without disabilities, but only subsequent to gaining/learning the mathematical concepts necessary to successfully work through a given problem. Computer software programs to enhance the writing skills of elementary school age LD students have proven to be a beneficial intervention (Cullen, Richards, & Frank, 2008).
Lazarus, Thurlow, Lail, & Christensen, (2009) conducted a longitudinal analysis of state accommodations policies to identify changes and patterns that have occurred to state
accommodations policies since 1993. Assessment accommodations for students with disabilities have evolved from merely providing assistance with test participation to being used as a more valid measurement of skills and knowledge of a student. The details and specificity of accommodation implementation instructions have steadily increased throughout the 12 years covered by this study. As technology has continued to progress, one might expect an impact on types and use of certain accommodations. An example would be the use of spell check software on a computer. In the early 1900's few states included the accommodation as part of their state policy. Ten years later in the early 2000's, states that did address it, tended to prohibit its use. By 2005 its use was more widely accepted, as only two states prohibited its use at that time. The use of extended time has gained popularity and is often viewed as a good testing practice. Which accommodations states seek to prohibit, allow, or allow with restrictions is a bit of a moving target as states often change from year to year what their official position is on a given accommodation. State education departments are constantly reviewing and considering the public perception, the reliability, and the validity of each accommodation. Thus, as has been the case with the read aloud accommodation, its use, acceptability, and range of implementation vary from state to state and year to year. When considering approved accommodations and techniques utilized for their implementation, a higher level of consistency throughout the country may prove beneficial as our school aged children find themselves growing up in a more mobile society it may be helpful to know that the application of accommodations will be similar as they move from state to state. Although the accommodations are intended to assist the student maintain or achieve "academically" with non-LD peers, they are still reminders of the disability.
Teachers use a variety of motivational techniques with their LD and non-LD students. Mostly these techniques foster extrinsic motivation. An example of extrinsic motivation might be giving students rewards for a particular behavior or action. However, it is intrinsic motivation that is most helpful for the LD student. Intrinsic motivation is "motivation derived from a genuine interest or desire to learn on the part of the student" (Gabrielle, 2003). Keller (1979) wrote about the relationship between motivation and instruction resulting in the creation of four elements; Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (ARCS). This theory has become a model for educational design and intrinsic motivation. Keller explained that the teacher must create an environment that arouses the student's interest and the student is aware that the learning has value or means something. The tasks must be viewed as doable and the child feels a sense of satisfaction upon completion of the tasks. Once engaged in this type of experience, the LD student finds reason to stay engaged and the learning turns to "incentive motivation" (Margueratt, 2007). Similar to Keller, Small (1997) maintained the student must value the task and must believe he or she can succeed at the task to develop intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation to learn sets the stage for lifelong learning. Hands-on classrooms are examples of students seeing a task as doable, valuable, interesting, and can feel a sense of satisfaction upon completion of the task.
Importance of hands-on education
Dr. Frank R. Wilson (1999), a leading neurologist in the U.S., researcher, and medical director at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco published, The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. This book explained the relationship between the hand and the brain. Specifically, the connection between the hand and the brains capacity for creative thinking and language beginning in infancy and continuing as the child grows. Dr. Wilson wrote, "If the hand and brain learn to speak to each other intimately and harmoniously, something which we call autonomy begins to take shape." He went on to explain that for children to fully develop intellectual, emotional and social capacities, finger and hand projects are essential. The connection between hand and brain is such that by using and manipulating the hands, various parts of the brain are stimulated or activated. This theory is consistent with National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2009) report on learning disabilities being a neurological disorder affecting the brain. Common treatment therapies for neurological disorders and strokes involve projects and crafts using finger and hand manipulation. These tasks are not to improve the hands, but to improve the brain.
Hands-on education curriculums are not new. Hallstrom (2009) described technical education in Sweden being based on the Sloyd Educational approach. This approach dates back over 100 years and uses woodworking and crafts as necessary components of general education to develop "the character of the child, encourage moral behavior, greater intelligence, and industriousness."
Traditional wood shops in the U.S. can provide the ideal environment that promotes Keller's four key elements for developing intrinsic motivation. Shop classes can also balance the aesthetic and conceptual use of wood as a form of personal expression and create an environment for personal growth, success, and lifelong learning.