challenges in teaching students with LDs.

 

The topic of focus for this study is “reviewing the existing studies on challenges in teaching students with LDs.”

2.0 Problem Statements

Teachers of students with LD face numerous challenges when carrying out their assistive roles. The assistive roles carried out by the teachers for students with LDs include teaching the students how to use assistive technologies, learning strategies instruction and direct instructions. Although various studies have identified different challenges experienced by teachers in teaching students with LD, studies are rare that take a comprehensive approach to address the challenges experienced by the teachers. The existing studies mostly focus on particular challenges (Manrique & Moreira, 2014). In the same vein, studies are limited that takes an all-inclusive approach to focus on the implications of the challenges. In this regard, there is a need to make a thorough analysis of the challenges faced by the teachers for students with LDs and the implications of those challenges, and this is the aim of the study.

3.0 Significance of Study Topic

The study is significant to the teachers of students with LD since it will provide them with a broad list of the challenges that they face in the teaching process and the impacts of these challenges on both the student and the teacher. An adequate understanding of the challenges and their consequences will enable the teachers to come up with strategies of addressing them. For instance, a teacher facing the problem of recognizing different LDs will know that this is a common problem that affects the ability to carry out the assistive role meritoriously. As such, the teacher will understand the need for taking remedial actions such as undertaking further training. Further, identifying the insinuations of the challenges will help the teachers realize the need for seeking the necessary support, in case of need, from school administration or government agencies to address the challenges. A comprehensive list of the challenges and implications will also be useful to school administrations and government institutions since it will provoke them to devise strategies of addressing the challenges. For instance, school administrations will understand the importance of implementing assistive technologies such as argumentative and alternative communication systems for students with LDs in schools that do not have them. Lastly, the study will provide useful, comprehensive knowledge to future scholars regarding the challenges experienced by the teachers of students with LD and their implications.

4.0 Current Research Findings

LD has only been recognized recently as a disability. Recent studies have found that LD is one of the critical factors that impair the ability of some students to achieve educational goals. The studies have shown that LD is a neurological disorder that affects the ability of an individual to organize received information and to express and remember it. The problem affects the ability of an individual to carry out basic functions such as reasoning, comprehension, writing, and reading. Teachers of such students teach them how to resolve the problem by adopting strategies that enable them to handle tasks more efficiently (Strobel, 2008). However, various studies have shown that the teachers are, in some cases, unable to carry out the assistive role due to innumerable challenges that they face. Some recent studies have found that some teachers lack the positive attitude that is needed to support the inclusion of students with LDs (Manrique & Moreira, 2014). Some teachers lack adequate knowledge and skills to identify different learning disabilities in students and to understand the assistance that should be given. Numerous studies have found that the teachers experience the problem of lack of adequate assistive technologies and other necessary resources in schools needed to support the students with LDs to learn more effectively (Arslan, 2010). The inability to use assistive technologies has also been found to be a significant problem (Fichten et al., 2009). Other studies have found that some teachers face the challenge of role ambiguity (Sachs & Schreuer, 2011). In some cases, teachers have expressed that they lack adequate support for training from school administration (Sachs & Schreuer, 2011). The studies have shown that challenges limit the ability of teachers to effectively help the students address their LDs. Also, the challenges affect the morale of the teachers (Alkahtani, 2013). In short, numerous studies have found different results about the challenges faced by the teachers of students with LDs. It is essential to note that many scholars have carried out thorough and in-depth research by addressing specific challenges. However, they hardly take comprehensive approaches, as mentioned earlier.

5.0 Research Questions

The study seeks to address the following research questions:

  1. Are there adequate assistive technologies in schools for students with LDs?
  2. Do teachers for students with LDs have adequate skills to use assistive technologies?
  3. How does attitude affect the ability of the teachers to support the students with LDs?
  4. Do the teachers for students with LD experience difficulties in identifying LDs
  5. What are the other challenges faced by teachers of students with LDs?

6.0 The purpose of the Review

The purpose of the review is to carry out an inclusive description and evaluation of the challenges faced by tutors in teaching students with LDs and to suggest the implications of the challenges. One of the challenges that the review focuses on is the lack of adequate assistive technologies in schools for students with LDs. Another challenge is the lack of skills by teachers to use assistive technologies. Thirdly, the review focuses on the inability of the teachers to identify LDs. In short, the review focuses on the challenges that are identified in the current studies.

7.0 Search Method

Several steps were undertaken to identify professional journal articles.  The first step was to come up with a list of keywords and phrases to be used for search. I used the following words and phrases during the search: learning disabilities, challenges in teaching students with learning disabilities and challenges in using assistive technologies for students with learning disabilities. The second step was to access internet databases that publish scholarly resources, such as ProQuest, EBSCOhost, PubMed, ERIC and PsycINFO, through the CSUSB Pfau Library. The third step involved searching for scholarly sources from the databases using the keywords and phrases. The quest was refined to the search for peer-reviewed journal articles that are not older than fourteen years and that are related to the topic to study. Reading the study subject and abstracts helped to determine the most relevant sources. The journal articles were only included for review if they had the key contents of professional articles, including abstract, author(s), the credentials of the author(s) and a list of references.

8.0 Description and Evaluation

8.1 Challenges in Availability Assistive Technologies

Although previous studies have identified other challenges that are faced by the teachers for students with LDs, most of them have focused on issues related to the availability and use of assistive technologies. The critical technology needs of students with LDs include audio devices, video devices, computer software, presentation media (such as PowerPoint projectors) and handheld devices (such as digital phones) (Strobel et al., 2007). Fichten et al. (2009) explored the availability of assistive technologies for students with LDs in colleges and universities in Canada. The researchers collected data from 223 students with learning disabilities, 33 e-learning professionals, 28 professors and 58 disability service providers in the higher education institutions using online questionnaires. The questionnaires collected information related to the availability of the needed adaptive technologies such as course materials via the e-learning sites, PowerPoint projections for use during lectures and digital and audio facilities. Also, the researchers collected information about the accessibility of learning/course management systems in the e-learning sites. All the groups of respondents indicated that there were no adequate assistive technologies. Although the study mostly focused on the impacts of the problem, the findings disclosed that higher learning institutions in Canada do not have adequate technologies to enable teachers to carry out their assistive roles effectively.

A study conducted by Sachs and Schreuer (2011) in higher institutions in Israel found similar findings. Sachs and Schreuer (2011) collected primary data from 176 students with LDs to determine whether there were adequate assistive technologies for use in schools. However, the researchers focused more on the extent to which the students with LDs are included in the extra-curricular and social activities. Despite this, the study revealed that there are no enough assistive technologies for use by teachers to support the students with LDs. Another study carried out by Arslan (2010) found that students with LDs are provided with computers and other information systems in schools. Arslan (2010) collected data for the study from 22 students with LDs from different universities in Turkey. Although the study focused more on the technology needs of such students, it revealed that the universities had not implemented critical facilities such as argumentative and alternative communication systems. In short, the previous studies have shown that important technological facilities for use by teachers of students with LDs are not adequate in learning institutions.

8.2 The Challenge of Lack of Adequate Skills by the Teachers

The previous studies have shown that most teachers for students with LDs lack adequate skills to use assistive technologies. Alkahtani (2013) conducted a study to determine the level of skills and knowledge of teachers of students with LDs in using assistive technologies. The researcher carried out the study on 127 teachers from different schools using a self-reporting questionnaire and interviews. The sample included teachers in both public and private schools. The results derived from the study indicated that most teachers do not have knowledge and skills on how to use assistive technologies to teach learners with LDs. Alkahtani (2013) suggested that teachers should be provided with in-service and pre-service training to improve their knowledge and skills on assistive technologies and how to apply them in teaching the students with LDs.

Fichten et al. (2009) found similar results on their study carried out in higher institutions in Canada. However, the main theme of the study was to explore the availability of assistive technologies in those institutions. Despite this, the results revealed that some of the lecturers did not have knowledge and skills on how to use the e-learning system. The disability service providers mentioned that most of the lectures and professions used the e-learning system poorly. For instance, most of the lecturers and professors were not efficient in distributing course materials in the required formats in the e-learning websites. The e-learning professionals stated that there were problems in accessing course materials via the e-learning sites. 35 percent of the professors, 36 percent of the e-learning professionals, 53 percent of the disability service providers and 67 percent of the students with LDs mentioned that at least one out of three problems that they encountered with the e-learning was not solved.  In short, the previous studies have shown that lack of adequate skills to use assistive technologies is one of the key challenges faced by teachers of students with LDs.

8.3 Attitudes of the Teachers and the Students

A positive attitude by teachers is essential since it determines the extent to which they support inclusion and provide support to the students with LDs.  However, some teachers have negative attitudes towards inclusion. Manrique & Moreira (2014) conducted a study on 65 mathematics teachers from different schools to determine their attitudes towards the inclusion of students with LDs in the classroom. The researchers used the interview method to gather the views of the teachers. Although the study did not show the extent to which the teacher’s attitudes affected the level of support they gave to students with LDs, it revealed that more than half of the respondents have negative attitudes towards inclusion. In the same vein, the attitudes of the students influence their ability to grasp the concepts taught in class. However, some studies have shown that some students with LDs have negative attitudes that affect their ability to benefit fully from the support given. For instance, the study conducted by Arslan (2010) showed that some students with LDs avoided using the available assistive technologies in schools. This affected their ability to learn.

8.4 Identification of Learning Disabilities

Teachers, especially those with experience of less than one year, experience problems when trying to identify LDs in students. The problem is more prevalent on the teachers who do not receive pre-service training on how to identify the LDs. Teachers are usually relying on the Response-to-Intervention (RTI) model when identifying the LDs. However, the experience is also needed to identify the LDs effectively. Recent studies have found that the RTI model has some flaws that lead to problems when identifying the LDs. A review carried out by Scruggs and Mastropieri (2002) on the flows of using the RTI model indicated that the model leads to problems in the identification of LDs such as specificity, variability, and over-identification.

8.5 Other Challenges

Busch et al. (2001) conducted a study that involved collecting the views of one teacher of students with LDs to determine her challenges and successes during the first year of service. The interviewee stated that she faced the challenge of role ambiguity during the first year. Precisely, she did not understand all her roles in assisting the students with LDs. Also, she stated that she encountered the problem of lack of adequate emotional support from the school administration and other teachers with more experience. Also, she explained that she often experienced a power struggle with the students.  As well, she experienced the problem of lack of adequate involvement by the parents of the students with LDs. Lastly, the interviewee faced difficulties in making learning programs for students with LDs (Busch et al., 2001).

9.0 Findings and Implications

The previous studies have identified several challenges that are faced by the teachers of the students with LDs. The first challenge that most of the previous studies have identified is the lack of adequate assistive technologies such as audio devices, video devices, presentation media (such as PowerPoint projectors), handheld devices (such as digital phones) and argumentative and alternative communication systems in some schools to support the students with LDs. This is evident in the findings of the studies conducted by Fichten et al. (2009), Sachs and Schreuer (2011) and Arslan (2010). The findings have shown that such devices and systems are available in some schools, but the teachers fail to use them properly to support the students with LDs. A review of two studies conducted by Alkahtani (2013) and Fichten et al. (2009) has shown that some teachers experience the challenge of lack of adequate skills on how to use these devices in teaching.

The review of the study conducted by Manrique & Moreira (2014) indicated that some teachers have negative attitudes towards the inclusion of the students with LDs in the general classroom. Similarly, the study conducted by Arslan (2010) indicated that some students have negative attitudes towards the use of assistive facilities. Although the attitude may not be perceived as a big challenge, it is likely to influence the level of support the students with LDs receive from the teachers. The fourth challenge identified by the study conducted by Scruggs and Mastropieri (2002) is the lack of adequate skills to identify LDs properly. The review of the study conducted by Busch et al. (2001) revealed several challenges that the teachers with experience of less than one year in dealing with students with LDs face. The challenges identified in the aforementioned study are role ambiguity, lack of adequate emotional support from the school administration and other teachers, a power struggle with the students, lack of parental involvement and difficulties in making learning programs for the students with LDs. In short, the previous studies have made significant coverage of the challenges faced by the teachers of students with LDs. However, there is a need for more current research that will identify whether changes have occurred recently. For instance, the more current research will identify whether schools have implemented more assistive technologies for students with LDs.

There are several implications for the findings derived from the review. Firstly, identifying the challenges that the teachers of the students with LDs go through is essential to facilitate a higher retention rate for those teachers in schools. If not properly identified and addressed, the challenges can have negative impacts on morale. Ultimately, low morale can lead to issues such as high stress levels, high rate of absenteeism and high turnover rate of the teachers of students with LDs. Identifying these challenges is also away of communicating to other teachers of students with LDs that they do not face the problems alone. Doing so is important in order to alleviate the feelings of isolation that may have may have a negative impact on motivation to work. Secondly, identifying the challenges faced by the teachers of the students with LDs is important since the information can be used to design effective comprehensive strategies to address the problems. For instance, information about the lack of adequate skills by the teachers to operate the assistive technologies can be used in designing training programs that address the challenge. This can be very helpful in enhancing the teachers’ ability and capacity to provide effective support to the students. As well, the information can be used by school administrations and other government institutions in devising effective pre-service training programs for the teachers. For instance, information about how to cope with the expected challenges can be incorporated into the pre-service training programs.

10.0 Reflection and the Final Comments

The review process has been very educative to me. At the beginning, I identified several challenges in the current studies. However, I identified more challenges later during the review process. As a result, I eventually modified the research questions and the purpose of the study slightly in order to fix the new information. I also identified more journal articles with relevant information and added them for the review. The thorough review of the current research enabled me to easily summarize the findings. Also, the implications of the research study became clearer after the review. Despite this, some of the relevant studies reviewed are older than five years, as mentioned earlier. This is the main weakness of the review. The weakness was caused by the difficulty in finding more recent studies focusing on the some issues. Future reviews need to try to focus on more recent studies in order to accommodate the changes that may have occurred. Despite this, the results of the review are very useful for the teachers, school administrations and government institutions, as explained in the study implications. However, the challenges examined can only be useful if they are properly addressed.

References

Alkahtani, K. D. F. (2013). Teachers’ Knowledge and Challenges in Use of Assistive

Technology for Students with Special Educational Needs. Journal of Studies in Education, 3(2), 65-86

Arslan, I. (2010). Assistive technologies for students with disabilities: a survey of access and

Use in Turkish universities. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 9(2), 40-45

Busch, T. W., Pederson, K., Espin, C. A. & Weissenburger, J. W. (2001). Teaching Students

with Learning Disabilities Perceptions of a First-Year Teacher. J Spec Educ, 35(2) 92-99

Fichten, C. S., Ferraro, V., Asuncion, J. V., Chwojka, C., Barile, M., Nguyen M. N. & Wolforth,

  1. (2009). Disabilities and e-Learning Problems and Solutions: An Exploratory Study. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (4), 241–256

Manrique, L.A., & Moreira, E. G. (2014). Challenges in Inclusive Mathematics Education:

Representations by Professionals Who Teach Mathematics to Students with Disabilities. Creative Education, 5, 470-483

Strobel, W., Arthanat, S., Bauer, S. & Flagg, J. (2008). Universal design for learning: Critical need areas for people with learning disabilities. Assistive Technology Outcomes and           Benefits 4(1), 81-98

Sachs, D. & Schreuer, N. (2011). Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education:

Teacher’s experiences. Disability Studies Quarterly, 31(2), 14-38

Scruggs, S. E. & Mastropieri, M. A. (2002). On Babies and Bathwater: Addressing the Problems

of Identification of Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly August, 25(3) 155-168


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