Types of Learners
Since students are centers of teaching/learning processes, teachers must be able to identify the different types of learners in order to be able to help them.
According to Rasaq A. O. (2003), understanding the different types of learners will be of immense value in assisting the teachers in preparing suitable materials to cater for the varying learning needs.
There are mainly three categories of learners and they are:
• Slow Learners (Backward Learners)
• Gifted and Talented Learners (Fast Learners)
• Normal Learners (Average Learners)
The slow learners and the gifted learners are highly problematic whereas the normal learners need to be stimulated and encouraged to make maximum use of their potential and to develop their individual talents.
The fourth group of learners are those that are physically disabled. These disabilities have nothing to do with their intellectual capacity to learn. They are characterized by different types of physical deformities like deafness, blindness and lameness.
1. Slow Learners
Slow learners are the category of students who lag behind in virtually all that they do, and especially in their school work. They exhibit numerous learning difficulties that seem to defy all learning methodologies and procedures. This category of learners is made up of mentally retarded and the learning disabled (LD).
The Characteristics of Slow Learners
• The slow learners have a short attention span, that is, they cannot concentrate for long.
• They have short memory and they don’t remember easily
what they have been taught.
• The slow learners are always bored and generally have no interest in learning.
• They have poor communication skills. They are poor in both oral and written languages.
• They have poor eye-hand coordination. They cannot see properly nor even copy correctly.
• Their numeric ability is very low and they are very poor in calculation.
• They have poor social interaction and cannot get along with others easily. In fact they exhibit aggressive behaviour
most of the time.
• They score low in all types of tests and assessment.
Causes of Slow Learners
Out of the numerous causes of slow learners based on research findings (Rasaq A. O. 2003) the following stand out:
(i) Health Problems
A child’s mother might have had measles, venereal diseases etc that might have caused mental retardation in the child. Also the mother might be malnourished during pregnancy. The child’s health might also be affected after birth.
(ii) Psychological Problems
Mothers who experience intense and excessive anxiety, worry, stress and the like may give birth to disturbed children, since the mother’s state of health affects the child.
(iii) Genetic Problem
If slowness or dullness run in the lineage, inherited characteristics from parents may influence the general intellectual development of the child.
(iv) Home Based Problems
Broken homes and extreme poverty on the part of the parents may affect the child.
(v) School Based Problems
– Poor methods of teaching
– Poor teacher-pupil relationships for example when a child constantly experiences hostility from the teacher.
– Poor learning environment is not conducive to learning.
2. Gifted and Talented Learners
The gifted and talented learners are those whose intellectual abilities are exceptionally and constantly outstanding.
The Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Learners
• They rank high in academic achievement and cover a wide ground within a limited period of time.
• They are fast thinking, highly creative and imaginative with very high constructive abilities.
• They have very good cordial relationships. They make friends easily.
• They have outstanding leadership qualities and can work well under pressure.
• They are mostly invariably good in all subjects i.e. science, languages, arts and even sporting activities.
Outline four characteristics of a gifted child.
3. Normal Learners
Majority of learners can be classified as normal learners. That is to say that majority of learners are of average abilities.
Characteristics of Normal Learners
• They manifest average ability
• They have their own learning problems like lateness to school, truancy, wrong peer group etc
• They manifest giftedness when faced with challenges.
4. The Physically Handicapped Learners
This category of learners has physical deformities like blindness, deafness, lameness and paralysis. They need special provision to assist their learning, like schools for the Handicapped nationwide. Some special equipment may be necessary to facilitate their learning and movement such as wheel chairs, brail books, tape recorders etc.
The Characteristics of the Physically Handicapped Learners
• They have physical deformities that people can see
• They have sound intellectual powers
• Some of them may be gifted/talented
• They generally have feelings of inadequacy
• They generally have feeling of low-self concept.
Having been exposed to the different types of learners, teachers must be able to recognize them in the sense that they need special attention. This will aid their learning and offset their disabilities.
Methods of Identification of Various Types of Learners
Physical test and non-test instruments such as:
– case studies
– special dialogues with parents
– teachers’ daily observation in and outside class will assist in identification of types of learners.
According to Herbert J. Klausmeier (1961) the gifted and the talented are identified through the use of standardized intelligence tests, which are also referred to as Scholastic Aptitude Tests.
Help that Teacher can Render
• Good teaching should be structured in relation to students abilities, interests and needs.
• The teacher must be familiar with what he is required to teach and guidance to be provided.
• The teacher must help learners to make sense of their world and encourage creative and divergent thinking
abilities of the learners with the resources available.
• Teaching must build upon previous experience of the learner.
• Teachers must encourage them to learn using teaching
• The teacher must create conducive environment for learning to take place.
• Teaching methods to be used for the slow learners include role-play, demonstration and individualized instruction.
• Teachers should hold special classes to help slow learners catch up with others.
• A systematic and patient teaching of concepts using concrete items for slow learners.
• Special incentives and reinforcement should be given to them like acknowledging the little efforts they make i.e. the slow learners.
• Effective study habits must be taught and be instilled into them.
• Creative exercises should be provided to give the gifted and talented an opportunity to maximize his potential.
• Work load designed for three years may be condensed into two years for the gifted and talented.
• Keep the gifted and talented occupied by giving them leadership roles to play.
On the whole, teachers, counselors and psychologists must help all learners especially the slow and the physically handicapped learners.
In education, learners can be classified into different categories. The group one belongs to is not one’s making. However, to whichever group one belongs, help can be found in the teaching profession.