This is a video of a presentation on issues related to academic self-help skills and how to develop them. This is especially important for students with special needs.
The sound quality is not what I want it to be but the slides may help make up for this. I intend to re-record this presentation.
In leadership class I studied the Lone Ranger approach to problem-solving. When a problem arose in an organization the boss would ride in and solve the problem. Afterwards he or she would ride off and the employees would be no better prepared for the next crisis or problem. The point of the analogy is empowerment – get the individuals to take responsibility for problem-solving.
The same holds true for the relationship between educators and students. All too often educators jump in to solve problems for the students without training students on responsibility. The students are not empowered or held responsible. This problem is magnified for students with special needs.
The most common example occurs during meetings with parents. When a student struggles the first suggestion is often asking teachers if there is additional time available to tutor or help the student individually (parents are not the only ones asking this). The original problem of poor self-help skills is not addressed and the adults shoulder more of the responsibility. As a consequence, the students’ belief that external forces will or are necessary to fix their problems is reinforced.
My suggestion is to look at how the student can be supported as he or she is trained to be more effective in employing self-help skills. Is he taking notes? Is she doing all of her homework? Do the students follow examples in the book or use other resources?
The following are anecdotes of how learned helplessness is developed.
- A student was having problems with a math problem. The para asked if he needed a calculator and walked over to get one for the student.
- A student had notebook organization as the focus of an IEP objective. Each week his PARA was organizing his notebooks for him.
- A special ed teacher started to copy a homework assignment for a student because he didn’t have a pencil.
- Many math teachers, when asked for help, will show students how to do a problem instead of pressing the student to find and follow an example.
The evidence is clear. Students learn to say “I don’t know” and the adults show them what to do as the students passively observe.
Unprepared College Freshmen Could Be The Cost Of High Schools
Huffington Post Education has a story about states considering action to hold school districts accountable for their graduates having to take remedial courses upon entering college.
Of course there are many factors that affect a student’s performance in college but high schools can do more to prepare students for post-secondary education or training. The current set of evaluation and accountability measures are actually counterproductive for preparing students for subsequent education and training. SAT scores, graduation rates, standardized testing and grades in general do not measure independent learner skills. Such skills are essential in a post-secondary setting that offers far less support provided in high schools.
This could have a major and very positive impact on students with disabilities. In lieu of the current approach of helping a student with special needs pass his or her courses to get a diploma the focus would be on training a student to be a more independent learner with competence in study skills such as maintaining and using a notebook.
I use what I call a table of contents notebook strategy. Each item (notes, handout etc.) that is to be placed into the notebook is dated and labeled with a “page” number. Each page is recorded in the table of contents. This helps students maintain work in chronological order. For example, on a single day a student may have a warm-up/do now, notes and classwork solving a 1 step equation (e.g. x + 3 = 9).
This helps the student because he or she can find the notes and classwork when he attempts homework. This helps the parent monitor the student’s work and organization efforts. Also, if a parent needs to help a student he or she can see the notes to assist with homework.