Learning disabilities affect a person’s capability to comprehend a written or verbal language, perform calculations, and direct one’s attention. It also affects the ability to interpret, coordinate movement, and connect information from various parts of the brain (Gray, 2008). Teachers in inclusive classrooms face the challenge of dealing with mixed ability learners, namely, advanced, able, and struggling students. In order to deliver instructions effectively, teachers need the differentiation of instruction strategies. These strategies address the behavioral, educational, and social needs of struggling learners (Khalsa, 2005). Disabled students need different approaches to understanding diverse materials as compared to able learners. This assists them in developing their ability to its full potential. Teachers with disabled students realize how crucial it is to become flexible and open to change with the intention of responding to the educational requirements of disabled learners. Khalsa (2005) continues to say that in order to maximize the potential of learners, teachers have to use strategies that they might have had no knowledge of in the past, or which have been previously ignored. This paper identifies a direct approach as the perfect strategy to use in maximizing the learning potential of disabled students because it is a structured approach with precise instruction and the use of repetition for precise feedback and review. Direct instruction is an inclusion strategy that aids learners with disabilities and enables them to maximize their learning potential.
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Direct instruction and strategy instruction are the two most effective strategies in teaching learners with learning disabilities since they are both structured approaches that include repetition and explicitness (Gore, 2004). Differentiating between relevant and irrelevant information for a student with mild disabilities is difficult. The inability of a learner to discriminate information results in incorrect classifications of things, in other words, wrong identifying of something as part of a group when it is not, or excluding it all together while it is part of the group (Gray, 2008). Direct instruction is essential since it focuses explicitly on what is necessary. Therefore, learners do not have to deal with irrelevant dimensions which help to avoid confusion, memory, reasoning, and organization problems. Further, direct instruction enables students to distinguish the emotions of others, such as empathy. This enhances the relationship between able and learners with disabilities as both parties learn to understand each other. Previous research has proved that a large number of learners with disabilities have both auditory and visual perceptual problems. This means that although they see and hear well, their brains are slower at processing the information. Although direct instruction strategy does not fix their deficiencies, the strategy helps learners with disabilities compensate for their difficulties. The strategy is easy to apply and effective in assisting students with learning setbacks to succeed.
In teaching this strategy, teachers encourage actual hands-on experience, multi representational, and multisensory instruction (D’Amico & Gallaway, 2010). Students fall short of basic skills and the necessary cognition to engage in higher-order thinking due to the complexity of encoding information in their memory system. As such, teachers use repetition of instruction, frequent practice, and constant review (Gore, 2004). On this point, Gore further argues that the brain of learners with disabilities is not efficient in making neural traces. Neural traces make individuals do the right thing, such as going in the right direction. Learners with disabilities need to have their neural traces strengthened. The perfect way to do this is by using repetition through multi representational and multisensory input, practice, and frequent review. The previous research proves that students with learning disabilities have a propensity to be passive learners, and are usually unaware of the learning process happening around them. They do not examine their own learning. As a result, they have problems comprehending. Through the direct approach strategy, teachers can use techniques such as the pause procedure, which gives students time to grasp information and ask questions. In addition, teachers simply slow down when teaching learners with disabilities as compared to their able counterparts who grasp information quickly. Direct instruction also utilizes the cueing procedure. This process imparts the necessary information first and uses other information as supporting material. In addition, the direct approach uses illustrations from students’ lives as examples for easy understanding. If students receive examples of situations they have been through, it is easy to remember the points taken during the lesson as they recall the circumstances that are familiar to them. Lastly, giving a summary of a topic or subject of study before engaging in it gives learners with disabilities an opportunity to have a rough idea of what they are about to learn. This way, it is easy to grasp information slowly as it comes from the teacher.
As a teacher, it is my duty to measure the successful implementation of the direct instruction strategy in the academic life of learners with disabilities. In order to gauge the success of the strategy, I would come up with objectives to achieve. If we meet these objectives over a given period, for example, one month, then the strategy implementation is successful if not the opposite is true. Another method would be to observe the performance changes among students with disabilities in my class. Improvement means that the strategy is successful. If there are no improvements, the strategy is ineffective.
D’Amico, Joan., & Gallaway, Kate. (2010). Differentiated Instruction for the Middle School Science Teacher: Activities and Strategies for an Inclusive Classroom. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons. Web.
Gore, C. M. (2004). Successful Inclusion Strategies for Secondary and Middle School Teachers: Keys to Help Struggling Learners Access the Curriculum. Carwin Press: Sage Publications Company.
Gray, Jane. (2008). The Implementation of Differentiated Instruction for Learning Disabled Students Included in General Education Elementary Classrooms. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. California: University of La Verne.
Khalsa , SiriNam. (2005). Inclusive Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators. California: Good Year Books.