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Effective Self-Management Strategies  

Lisa A. Rafferty and Kristie Asaro-Saddler

There are many benefits to developing self-management skills in children, especially in inclusive classroom environments; individuals with effective self-management skills who work as part of a larger team can improve not only their own overall performance but also that of the group as a whole—inside and outside of the school setting. Teaching students self-management strategies can free teacher time to focus on other essential tasks, which is especially important when working in a classroom environment with children with a variety of learning strengths and needs. Moreover, such strategies can be used to increase students’ opportunities to practice and respond to knowledge and academic skills in the curriculum, as well as support their behavioral needs. Although there are many benefits to developing self-management skills, students with and at risk of disabilities often need explicit instruction to learn about and implement specific strategies to help develop these skills. Fortunately, teaching just a small set of strategies can have wide-ranging benefits and help students regulate many behaviors; additionally, research results suggest that people with a variety of learning strengths and needs can learn to implement and benefit from being taught self-management strategies. Therefore, it seems worthwhile to focus on such skills. Despite these encouraging benefits, however, there are still several areas within self-management research that need to be further explored and discussed. For instance, identifying the appropriate level of teacher involvement in teaching these strategies, determining the potential differential effects of various self-management strategies on the behaviors of students embodying different characteristics, and the potential structural variability and the impact on student outcomes all require further investigation. Given these unresolved questions in the field, it is unclear as to how such variables impact students’ mastery and generalization of self-management strategies. This is especially important since it has been argued that self-management is the most significant goal of education; individuals who can effectively self-manage contribute to society in impactful and meaningful ways.

Article

Problem-Based Learning  

Sofie M. M. Loyens, Lisette Wijnia, Ivette Van der Sluijs - Duker, and Remy M. J. P. Rikers

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered instructional method, with roots in constructivist theory of learning. Since its origin at McMaster University in Canada, PBL has been implemented in numerous programs across many domains and many educational levels worldwide. In PBL, small groups of 10–12 students learn in the context of meaningful problems that describe observable phenomena or events. The PBL process consists of three phases. The first is the initial discussion phase in which the problem at hand is discussed, based on prior knowledge. This initial phase leads to the formulation of learning issues (i.e., questions) that students will answer during the next phase, the self-study phase. Here, they independently select and study a variety of literature resources. During the third and final phase, the reporting phase, students share their findings with each other and critically evaluate the answers to the learning issues. A tutor guides the first and third phase of the process. PBL is based on principles from cognitive and educational psychology that have demonstrated their capacity to foster learning. More specifically, four principles are incorporated in the PBL process: (a) connection to prior knowledge, (b) collaborative learning among students, but also among teachers, (c) gradual development of autonomy, and (d) a focus on the application and transfer of knowledge. Research on the effects of PBL in terms of knowledge acquisition shows that students in traditional, direct instruction curricula tend to perform better on assessments of basic science knowledge. However, differences between PBL students and students in direct instruction classrooms on knowledge tests tend to diminish over time. There is, however, a lack of controlled experiments in this line of PBL research. Directions for future research should focus on combining the best of both direct and student-centered instruction, explore the possibilities of hybrid forms, and investigate how the alignment of scale and didactics of an instructional method could be optimized.

Article

Exceptional Learners  

Daniel P. Hallahan, Paige C. Pullen, James M. Kauffman, and Jeanmarie Badar

Exceptional learners is the term used in the United States to refer to students with disabilities (as well as those who are gifted and talented). The majority of students with disabilities have cognitive and/or behavioral disabilities, that is, specific learning disability (SLD), intellectual disability (ID), emotional disturbance, (ED), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The remaining have primarily sensory and/or physical disabilities (e.g., blindness, deafness, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy). Many of the key research and policy issues pertaining to exceptional learners involve their definitions and identification. For example, prior to SLD being formally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1970s, its prevalence was estimated at approximately 2% to 3% of the school-age population. However, the prevalence of students identified for special education as SLD grew rapidly until by 1999 it reached 5.68% for ages 6 to 17 years. Since then, the numbers identified as SLD has declined slowly but steadily. One probable explanation for the decrease is that response to intervention has largely replaced IQ-achievement as the method of choice for identifying SLD. The term intellectual disability has largely replaced the classification of mental retardation. This change originated in the early 2000s because of the unfortunate growing popularity of using retard as a pejorative. Although ID used to be determined by a low IQ-test score, one must also have low adaptive behavior (such as daily living skills) to be diagnosed as ID. That is the likely reason why the prevalence of students with ID at under 1% is well below the estimated prevalence of 2.27% based solely on IQ scores two standard deviations (i.e., 70) below the norm of 100. There are two behavioral dimensions of ED: externalizing (including conduct disorder) and internalizing (anxiety and withdrawal) behaviors. Research evidence indicates that students with ED are underserved in public schools. Researchers have now confirmed ADHD as a bona fide neurologically based disability. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes three types of ADHD: (a) ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type; (b) ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type; and (c) ADHD, Combined Type. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes two types of ASD: social communication impairment and repetitive/restricted behaviors. The prevalence of ASD diagnosis has increased dramatically. Researchers point to three probable reasons for this increase: a greater awareness of ASD by the public and professionals; a more liberal set of criteria for diagnosing ASD, especially as it pertains to those who are higher functioning; and “diagnostic substitution”—persons being identified as having ASD who previously would have been diagnosed as mentally retarded or intellectually disabled. Instruction for exceptional children, referred to as “special education,” differs from what most (typical or average) children require. Research indicates that effective instruction for students with disabilities is individualized, explicit, systematic, and intensive. It differs with respect to size of group taught and amount of corrective feedback and reinforcement used. Also, from the student’s viewpoint, it is more predictable. In addition, each of these elements is on a continuum.

Article

Theories of Educational Leadership  

Gabriele Lakomski and Colin W. Evers

From its beginnings in the 1940s, leadership research has been conducted as a scientific activity, with the aim of discovering the essence of leadership that, once found, would provide social–organizational benefits. However, no essence has been discovered, and research continues undeterred. Leadership theories old and new rely on the conception of science, known as logical empiricism, to support their claims. The identification of logical empiricism with science, however, is a mistake as empiricism is no longer considered valid, a mistake perpetuated in contemporary education leadership theories that present their accounts as alternatives to science. A better account of science, “naturalistic coherentism,” is able to advance the theory and practice of education leadership by growing knowledge, not by denying it.