UNDERSTANDING BARRIERS TO LEARNING – ANY COMMENTS?


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    Des Squire
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    UNDERSTANDING BARRIERS TO LEARNING

    A complex and dynamic relationship exists between the learner, the centre of learning, the broader education system and the social, political and economic context in which they are all part.

    By emphasising the notion of “Barriers to learning” the policy of inclusive education is clearly moving away from the individual, deficit approach. This past approach diagnosed certain learners as having special needs that required specialised teaching within specialised contexts.

    In the South African context this approach is problematic. Facilitators and teachers need to recognise the wide range of barriers experienced by learners. They need to understand that poverty, lack of experience of formal education, the concept that everyone learns in the same way, learning in a language other than ones home language needs to be addressed by the way in which they teach, plan activities and assess learners. The facilitator needs to ensure that all learners participate fully in the learning programme.

    In South Africa, barriers to learning will include the following
    • Systematic barriers
    o Lack of access to basic services
    o Poor teaching methods
    o Lack of basic learning and teaching support
    o Inadequate facilities
    o Overcrowded learning areas and classrooms

    • Societal barriers
    o Poverty
    o Late enrolments
    o Urban and rural disparities
    o Racial discrimination
    o Gender
    o Language
    o Disability

    • Barriers rooted in inappropriate pedagogy
    o Insufficient support from facilitators and teachers
    o Inappropriate and unfair assessment procedures
    o The language of instruction
    o Inflexible classroom management
    o Inappropriate attitudes

    • Factors linked to disabilities
    o Neurological
    o Physical
    o Sensory
    o Cognitive

    The NQF approach accommodates all inclusive of those learners who experience such barriers top learning. It allows for flexibility in accommodating learning diversity. Inclusively (inclusivity) means more than just a physical presence, it also means that all learners are equally regarded and valued in their own unique way. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to promote this value.

    Managing diversity

    Learners have diverse backgrounds, needs, preferences and challenges. Some barriers may be located within the learner. In some cases they may be located in the facilitator, institution or learning environment. Addressing barriers to learning and development is dependent on an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners and of the arrangement within the institution. It is important that learning opportunities be created for all learners.

    In addressing diversity in learning the facilitator and/or assessor should consider

    • Diversity in learning styles within the group and plan so as to cater for all. Different or optional activities should be considered when planning.
    • Managing the pace of learning means that facilitators must pace the lesson to allow for the slow and the fast learners.
    • Difference in the level of achievement and development must also be considered. This is why it is important to be aware of prior learning. Performing some form of baseline assessment will assist the facilitator in establishing prior learning and will also assist in establishing both physical and cognitive development. This may result in a need for extra support, coaching and/or mentoring.
    • Language diversity – allow for a variety of assessment methods and instruments. Language should not be a barrier.
    • Gender diversity must not lead to gender bias
    • Cultural diversity must be recognised and the facilitator must be able to recognise and be sensitive to such diversity.
    • Vision and hearing impairment must also be considered when supporting or training the learners. A buddy system may be used to assist the visually or hearing impaired.

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