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Learning and Learning Difficulties

A handbook for teachers

Learning and Learning Difficulties by Peter Westwood
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In writing this book I have attempted to place the phenomenon of learning difficulty within a much wider context than is usual by exploring a variety of learning processes, learning theories, and concepts about learning. An understanding of the way in which learning occurs is fundamental to an understanding of how and when problems in learning may arise. By painting this broader canvas I hope to help teachers and others appreciate that problems in learning are not all due to weaknesses within students or to lack of motivation on their part. Indeed, many learning difficulties are created or exacerbated not by factors within the students but by influences within the environment in which they live and learn. Many such factors in the learning environment are amenable to modification and improvement, whereas deficits within learners are not so easily changed. Two of the most powerful influences in the learning environment are the school curriculum and the approaches to teaching. It is argued here that teaching methods and materials must be selected carefully to suit the types of learning involved in specific lessons, and to accommodate the learning characteristics of the students. Many learning problems are prevented or minimised by matching teaching methods and lesson content to learners’ current aptitude and prior experience. Of course, some learning problems are indeed due to deficits or impairments within students themselves; and discussion focuses on such causes in later chapters of the book. However, the point is made that some commonly observed weaknesses or ‘deficits’ (for example, poor attention to task, limited concentration, poor retention and recall of information) are often the outcome from learning failure, not the cause. The impact of inappropriate curriculum, insufficient teaching, and persistent failure is discussed, with particular reference to the detrimental effects they can have on students’ affective development and motivation. Readers will identify a number of recurring themes running through the chapters — including the need to catch and maintain students’ attention, the importance of explicit teaching and guided practice, and the value of teaching students effective task-approach strategies. Also emphasised in many chapters is the importance of addressing students’ personal and emotional needs, as well as working toward cognitive and academic goals. I have drawn widely from international literature to support my arguments and to present contemporary perspectives on learning and learning difficulty. There is universal agreement that early prevention of learning failure is much more effective than later attempted cures.
Australian Council for Educational Research; Read online
Title: Learning and Learning Difficulties
Author: Peter Westwood
 

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