Technology Enablement for Personalised Learning of Slow Learner Children

Who is a Slow Learner?

There have been multiple attempts to explain the concept of a ‘slow learner.’ The IQ based definition has often been used to explain that a slow learner is one who is neither an average child nor with mental disability.

The slow learner issue enjoys a higher extent of universality that 6-8% of the school students could happen to be slow learners in any classroom. In addition, slow learners are children who perform poorly in schools and are still not able to receive special education. They are deficient in concentration, retention, and abstract thinking as compared to their age group. As a result, they are stranded to meet the average academic requirements and from developing a comprehensive cognition ability in the early academic years.

Identification

Slow learners have low IQ performance and will lag behind in both academic performance and other activities. The best way to identify slow learners is through the training of school teachers who may be able to gauge student performance early on in school through observation. The school teachers can then recommend parents to get the children tested so that in case special care is required, it can be provided early on in the child’s life. The following three tests are used for identifying slow learners:

  • Observation method
  • Achievement test
  • Personality inventory and case study

Causes

Slow learners’ learning difficulty may arise out of poor memory, unawareness about the importance of education, and lack of fundamental knowledge and psychological factors.

Asmita Centre – Sensitizing and helping parents pay special attention to slow learner children

Asmita center was founded in 1989 by Dr. Krishna Dutt- a clinical psychologist from King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, UP. Dr. Krishna Dutt, who was determined to do something good for society, felt motivated towards the cause when he came to know about this special group of children and the lack of amenities and facilities in India. Once while counseling a parent, they raise the question, “In western countries, there are schools for slow learners. Who will start schools in India?” This question reminded Dr. Dutt of his father, who also encouraged him to contribute to the welfare of society. And then he started school for this special group of children.

Targeted at slow learners, the center has helped more than 350 students since its inception in 1989. At Asmita, slow learner children are taught various skills such as article recognition, color distinction, reading, writing, and minor calculations, in a playful manner to habilitate them in higher education or work. Till now, 15 students have been shifted to regular schools.

The unique aspect of Asmita is the methodology it follows in admitting and its learning modules adapted to the assessment of the children. On admission, an IQ assessment is conducted, followed by a consultation with its committee to understand the child’s persona – overall behavior, speech, concentration, hyperactivity, toilet habits, and so on. Two types of lessons are then provided – behavior-based and educating based on abilities.

Leveraging technology for increasing the reach

World-famous scientist Albert Einstein had once said, “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide them conditions in which they can learn.”

Teaching slow learner children is a challenging process due to the additional attention required in understanding the students and providing personalized training to them. The training must be adapted to diverse slow learners existing knowledge, needs, and preferences. Personalized training through relevant and adapted information based on the child’s needs can increase their receptiveness to the training and increase retention.

User profiling

Current research on the subject can help categorize slow learner children into various profiles based on their ability, needs, and preferences. User profiles are a vital component that helps in designing a personalized approach to training various users.

Mapping of teaching model with the capability

Teaching models which are successfully personalized should be able to take into account the different characteristics of the user and all contextual situation. These teaching models focus on training students based on their strengths and inner talents, thus, providing positive reinforcement and enhancing their confidence.

Fig. 3: Mapping of the learning process, user profile with learning material

Technology enablement

Gamification

Game-based learning is a suitable way of using digital games for slow learners, especially for digital natives. Playing games creates interest as they are one of the most intentional, pleasurable, and interesting activities for children to develop their physical and mental health. For learning, games can be designed with goals and structure. Learning is achieved through trial and error by putting the learner to take up difficult challenges. Moreover, it also promotes motivation and engagement, thereby increasing students’ interest and confidence. A number of skills, such as decision making, co-operation, cognitive skills, and problem-solving, can be developed through game-based learning. These skills can help in developing practical skills making these children ready for the real world.

Continuous progress tracking and user profiling

An added advantage of having personalized and digital learning modules for slow learners is the detailed attention provided to their progress and capability building. The assessment modules can be continuously upgraded based on learnings from teaching other students and can be tested for success. Moreover, it is possible to keep track of user attention, progress, and interests in order to provide custom material and learning skills based on the child’s capability, interests, and needs.

Learning Adaptation based on capability

Pleasurable game activities can significantly reduce the time required for grasping learning concepts, thereby ramping up the learning curve and increasing retention as compared to traditional ways. However, it is also important that it is constantly upgraded as per user capabilities. As a result, user feedback forms an important part of the learning adaptation process. Gestures are frequently used for observing and understanding the learning of slow learner children. They serve three purposes: achieving, maintaining, and re-focusing on the problem to be solved; strengthening and expanding the meaning, and act as a vehicle to replace the cognitive understanding.

Three types of gestures are typically important:

  • Iconic gesture: using the fingers and toes
  • Representational gesture: not being able to answer a question with a clear rationale, being less able to explain ideas, but not being embarrassed to ask
  • Writing gesture: a student could write ideas after a given direction with slight errors

Concluding with a note…

Slow learning is not a disability or a lack of capability. These children just require additional support and personalized training in their initial academic years so as to be able to perform at par with others, adapt, and socialize with others without losing their confidence. In a nation such as India, where the education system is highly competitive, it is possible that the needs of these special children are neglected. Asmita Centre has been trying to work towards the welfare of these children through providing personalized training and creating learning modules that can be of help to other schools. However, it is the need of the hour that parents and teachers are sensitized towards the topic and feel associated with trying to understand the needs of their children. With various technologies available, it is now possible to codify the learnings in the domain and develop self-paced personalized modules for their learning, which map the teaching lessons to the student’s ability, needs, and interests. Such collaboration can provide a vast set of opportunities for these children and normalize life for them.

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