Recent research confirms that we can teach students with learning disabilities how to learn. We can put them into a position to compete! Here are the strategies that work:
Lee Swanson (1999) and his colleagues found two major intervention practices that produced large outcomes. One is direct instruction. The other is learning strategy instruction.
Teachers who were applying those kinds of intervention:
- broke learning into small steps;
- administered probes;
- supplied regular quality feedback;
- used diagrams, graphics and pictures to augment what they were saying in words;
- provided ample independent, well-designed, intensive practice;
- modeled instructional practices that they wanted students to follow;
- provided prompts of strategies to use; and
- engaged students in process type questions like “How is that strategy working? Where else might you apply it?”
Something else that seems to make a real difference is the practice of scaffolding. Start out with heavily teacher-mediated instruction — explicit instruction – then as students begin to acquire the skill, moving down the continuum to more student-mediated instruction.
Whether the student is learning in a general education classroom or pulled out into a special education resource setting, be sure that activities are focused on assessing individual students to monitor their progress through the curriculum. Concerns for the individual must take precedence over concerns for the group, and over concerns about the organization and management of the general education classroom. Success for the student with learning disabilities requires a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning. This requires specific, directed, individualized, intensive remedial instruction of students who are struggling.