Do Learners Acquire Knowledge?
order to acquire new knowledge, students need to be able to make
sense of new information. Often, students need specific skills that
can help them do this. These skills or learning strategies (e.g.,
note-taking, outlining, learning information from a text, library
reference skills) are "technical methods of studying"
that help us process, and ultimately retain, information. (Bos &
Vaughn, 1998, taken from Lock, 1981 (p. 305).
also benefit from teacher intervention and instruction that models
the use of learning strategies and helps make new information more
accessible to all students. Teachers can use instructional techniques
that will complement the strategies students are learning to use
on their own. This combined approach will reinforce concepts and
foster the confidence all students need to continue meeting the
learning challenges they face.
can I adapt my instruction to help students acquire knowledge more
are several ways that teachers can adapt or modify instruction
to accommodate students with disabilities or other learners who
need assistance "learning how to learn." Often, these
techniques are extensions of or variations on good instructional
practice teacher routinely employ.
techniques may require more planning and deliberate actions on
the part of the teacher, but the result is more structured and
accessible curricula for all students.
general approach for teaching a learning strategy to students
includes the following steps:
students on the strategy and gain their interest in learning
generalization (i.e., find many and various opportunities for
students to use the strategy, across different classes and environments.
N., 1997. NICHCY News Digest, July, 1997, pp. 7-10)
following are general instructional methods that can be used together
or in isolation. Remember it's helpful to combine these approaches
with some of the learning strategies you are teaching students
to use in the classroom or on their own.
instruction (aka mediated scaffolding or cognitive scaffolding):
is a structured method of instruction that uses procedures (i.e.,
sequence of steps), explicit tasks, and personal support. Scaffolding
begins with intensive support and structure, then tapers off
as the child becomes more adept at using the learning procedures.
This means teachers should gradually remove instructional supports
as students gain skills, grow to understand the complexities
of the content, and become more active and self-directed learners.
Prompts and guides (to remind students to use the techniques
or learning tools they have been taught to use) are examples
of scaffolding tools that a teacher can use after she removes
other, multi-layered supports. Eventually, when learning becomes
self-directed, the teacher relinquishes control.
of scaffolded instruction include lessons that begin with
simple ideas and concepts with which students can relate,
and build on those ideas with more challenging content through
individual or group questioning and graphic or other aides.
Teachers who scaffold are careful to relate the new or compounding
ideas to a student's prior experiences, or provide a chance
for students to become familiar with a concept if he or she
hasn't had the necessary experiences. Bos & Vaughn (1998)
describe specific programs that involve scaffolded instruction,
such as Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing (CSIW) (Englert,
Raphael, Anderson, Anthony, & Stevens, 1991), and the
Early Literacy Project (ELP) (Englert et al., 1994; 1995).
Also known as collaborative learning, cooperative learning is
more than just physically placing students in a group to accomplish
an assignment. It is a method of instruction that calls for
each student's direct and active participation in acquiring
knowledge by working collaboratively and interactively within
a group of 4-6 people. In some collaborative learning models,
students can also work in pairs. Teachers instruct students
in cooperative learning procedures and provide opportunities
to acquire and practice skills that lead to successful group
interactions as well as successful studying skills, such as
taking notes, prioritizing, organizing information, communicating
with peers, and sticking to timelines. Cooperative learning
targets the development and refinement of at least the following
five areas, according to Johnson & Johnson (1990a):
interdependence (individual success is dependent on group
positive interaction (e.g., sharing, understanding, and
developing group knowledge);
and small-group skills (e.g., communication, conflict-resolution,
(both of academic and social processes).
from Wood, Woloshyn, & Willoughby, 1995)
should provide students with many opportunities to use cooperative
learning before academic content can be successfully acquired.
Furthermore, the skills level of students within the group should
be assessed (are all student performing at the same level, or
is this a heterogeneous group?). Another recommendation is to
post or provide outcomes expected of the group. This helps to
guide students and keep them on task. For specific activities
to enhance the five Johnson & Johnson elements above, refer
to other articles by Johnson & Johnson listed in Models
& Classroom Instruction References.
Also known as cooperative teaching and co-teaching, collaborative
teaching occurs when a special education teacher works collaboratively
with a general education teacher to teach a diverse group of
students in an inclusive classroom setting. For example, a middle
school special education teacher may work collaboratively to
prepare and deliver lessons with a science teacher whose portion
of a class is made up of students with learning disabilities.
According to Bos & Vaughn (1998), cooperative teaching consists
of the following:
and general education teachers work together to broadly
plan general goals and desired outcomes for the class as
a whole and/or for specific students in the class.
see the special and general education teachers as figures
of equal authority during the same instruction period and
don't label one teacher as "the teacher for the special
one teacher may provide instruction to the class as a whole
from time to time, usually instruction involves teachers
working with small groups or individual students.
a heterogeneous classroom, the special education teacher
works with many students, including those receiving special
education and related services. It should be noted that
this teacher should not be restricted to working with special
education students only, but should also work with general
education students as well.
involves co-planning and instruction. Both special education
and general education teachers determine complementary instruction
and supportive learning activities, based on their strengths
as instructors in specific content and process areas. For
example, one teacher may bring expertise in a particular
content area and the other may bring expertise in the organization
or use of aids for delivering that content.
How can students gain skills that will help them acquire knowledge
can learn study strategies and learning tools designed to promote
learning and retaining knowledge. Examples of these strategies are
materials/alternative reading materials
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