Those who learn things differently!
Team Careers, 14 Nov 2018

The Chief Academic Officer of Varanasi’s Sunbeam Group of Educational Institutions, Sandeep Mukherjee, busts the myth that slow learners have learning disorder…

Slow, as we know, is a relative term that essentially indicates the ‘speed’ factor of a ‘motion’. Now, critically speaking, motion has a direction but speed does not have any! When we try to measure ‘learning’ or ‘learning capacity’ in terms of these variables, it becomes really difficult to fix a learner with the tag of ‘slow learner’. A learner, if slow, compared to learners of peer age group, may be so because of his or her differential cognitive skills and his or her inability in striking a balance between what the learner has to learn and what he or she can learn. Learning slow definitely is not any sort of disorder, but yes, it is essentially a personal trait of a learner which a teacher has to identify in time so as to accommodate the learner differently in the learning environment.

Factors influencing slow learners

In many researches on human psychologies in the past, it has been found that slow learners are fond of making friends and being befriended but lack necessary preliminary social skills to maintain or foster relationships among those of the age group. Does this indicate that they feel intimidated by the ‘able’ ones or that they can’t understand complications of relationships as easily as the ‘average child’ does? So, peer influence is the most local social cause that affects the slow learners. Next is the duality of ‘I Can’ & ‘I Cannot’ – the constant war a child keeps fighting within. In the process, he/she does learn and recover nuggets of knowledge that is expected from him/her – but at a slower pace and to a lighter depth than others! Complexity of today’s learning environment, to a large extent, is also responsible for not allowing slow learners to pick up things at a faster pace. Reasoning skills being compromised, inability to comprehend multiple instructions, loosely knit coherence between cause and effect equations of tasks are few reasons why they learn slow and less.  

Is slow teaching an answer for slow learners?

Not exactly! If learning is slow, it principally establishes the fact that the learner needs to be illustrated, preached, handled and taught differently – not essentially slowly. Of course, this demands extra care and time from the teacher for the slow learners. Some schools make ability sections so as to bring in uniformity of teaching and learning among all in the group. Students of similar IQ level are grouped together and they are then taught the curriculum differently. This makes them learn things differently and sometimes opens up unfathomed depths of knowledge even for the so-called ‘slow learners’! Teachers teaching slow learners should regularly undergo refresher sessions of intervention programs designed to understand the needs of slow learners. Their approach toward the learners has to be motivating all the time, making alternative modules of learning available to them. Teachers and parents need to modify and calibrate their expectations from these children. Repetition, repetition and repetition is the only mantra that a teacher of slow learners needs to practice hard.

Is slow learning only an academic phenomenon?

It doesn’t matter just how slow you go so long as you do not stop…slow learners suffer from a meek pace of learning but not from any learning disorder. It is not a diagnostic category that needs special education or any special treatment. All it needs is a humble amount of special care and extended amount of attention span for these kids. In most cases, it has been observed that these kids fail to submit assignments in time or fail to reproduce the learned in the given format or are unable to think rationally and critically when exposed to analytical problem-solving exercises. All these symptoms are ubiquitous in an academic delivery system confined in teaching curriculum resulting in some testing modules. An academically identified slow learner may not essentially be a slow learner if exposed to other fields of performing skills, viz, sports, music, technology, art etc. It is so, because, when the learner breaks off the barriers of conventional learning patterns, he/she finds things more interesting and engaging for them. Appreciated with recognitions, these kids may do wonders, despite being slow learners, in fields other than academics.

How big a problem is slow learning for the NexGen?

If not a problem, slow learning surely is a cognizable deficiency that needs to be dealt with vis-à-vis the challenges that lay before the NexGen kids. When it comes to conquering horizons beyond limit and before time, slow learners surely are going to face bigger challenges in future. With the advent of man-machine interfaces, things are becoming easier for slow learners. Newer techniques and methods are being researched every day and the world is surely taking turns to bring in smiles on the faces of every learner. ‘Slow and Steady wins the race’ – thus goes the idiom! 

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