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Learning Strategies and Diverse Learners (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Similarly in reading, apparent differences in effective strategy use between diverse learners and average achievers may be partly attributable to problems with more fundamental learning strategies. For example, the finding that diverse learners use passage context less efficiently than average achievers to learn the meaning of new vocabulary words may be the result of strategy difficulties in reading comprehension. Both Spear and Sternberg (1986), who examined the literature on the reading problems of diverse learners, and Weisberg (1988), who reviewed the research on reading comprehension, arrived at a similar conclusion: diverse learners do not use reading comprehension strategies effectively. Weisberg noted that diverse learners have difficulty using strategies to integrate their background knowledge with text material to better increase comprehension. Spear and Sternberg indicated there was strong evidence that diverse learners are less efficient at scanning text, more passive in their approach to reading, and less flexible in adjusting their reading strategies to suit varying purposes.

Spear and Sternberg (1986) made a critical point, however, in noting that even the apparent reading comprehension strategy deficiencies of diverse learners may be mediated by a more fundamental problem: generalized low word-reading skills. Part of what is interpreted as inherent strategy problems may be the result of reading failure itself. As Spear and Sternberg suggested, “because of their prolonged difficulty learning to read, these youngsters do not profit sufficiently from the experiences with text through which normal children seem to induce and practice strategies” (p. 9). Thus, in coming full circle, it may be that apparent strategy deficiencies on the part of some diverse learners have root causes in basic skill deficiencies. In reading, lack of strategy use in determining vocabulary meaning from context may stem from deficient reading comprehension strategies. Deficient reading comprehension strategies, in turn, may stem from more fundamental problems with basic word reading skills and the consequences of prolonged reading failure.

It is important to emphasize that differences between diverse learners and average achievers in their use of learning strategies do not stem from organic, “inside-the-head” problems. There seem to be understandable reasons why diverse learners sometimes use different learning strategies than average achievers. They may be focusing on more fundamental aspects of a particular learning task than other students, and thus using different strategies to solve the task. In some cases they may be more reluctant than average achievers to give up strategies they have learned for strategies with which they are unfamiliar but which are necessary to solve complex problems efficiently.

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