Monday, November 22, 2010

Cognitive Skills’ Outcome-Based Intervention Revealed the Latency Effect for Struggling Learners

Published October 22, 2010 by
The Special Education Advisor

What are the learning pathways? Research tells us that learners absorb new information through the primary sensory visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactile pathways, (VAKT: Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile teaching method, and these entrances must be in working order. They also should optimally function together, or integrate.

One or two pathways may be stronger than the others, and can compete with the weaker ones, creating an out-of-sync learning input structure. Visual processing speed may be faster than a lagging auditory (listening) processing speed, creating a conflict between the two. (Rumelhart & McClelland, 1986). Without auditory-visual integration, (Hessler, 1982) the result is a “slow, inattentive learner” although the student is highly intelligent (Erland, July 1983).

Parents, unaware of the foundational cause of their child’s learning problems, flounder with eliciting expensive tutors, which do some good. Practice “Drill and Skill” software training also helps to some degree, although it is like handing an energizing coke to a runner with a broken leg. Like information processing, the race can not be won until the leg is repaired and mended.

The Role of Cognitive Skills Measurement and Training. Cognitive skills’ retraining of Guilford’s select mental abilities (Guilford, 1984, 1967) can be elected so the student can absorb, learn, understand, and apply new information. Many cognitive skills training programs have been developed by private companies and textbook companies have not absorbed such programs into their product lines. Unfortunately, this sensory integration, or “opening up the learning pathways” should be trained before the child learns basic skills.

Not only does the average parent or young adult learner not understand the relevance of cognitive skills training programs, but locating an efficient one is difficult. Many programs exist, and vary in their testing-measurement, evaluations, and applied methodologies. Those in populated areas may drive miles to obtain training, pay large, ongoing fees for a program that takes years of application to see results. The solution lies in remediating cognitive skills in the classroom, like a teaspoon of sugar to raise student ability levels.

The Latency Effect Revealed. Learning improvement results may not be evident because there is a “Latency Effect” for problem learners to show academic achievement results on national standardized achievement scores. This latency effect was discovered with a two school, eleven classroom experimental, longitudinal study. (Erland, Fall 2000).

Intervention Training Results of Two Fourth Grade Classrooms. I implemented a cognitive skills intervention and measurement study of two classrooms of low-achieving fourth grade parochial school students, (n=44) tracking their test results for the subsequent two years, with minor attrition. (Erland, Fall 2000). The gains can not be attributed to the subsequent teachers’ instruction, because the students were dispersed between three different classes each following year, and their subsequent test scores were reconfigured as the original experimental group. Longitudinal studies are difficult to implement because of transient students. If the students are not present, they can not be subsequently tested.

Most of the students had auditory (listening) weaknesses, and a few had severe visual processing deficits. In other words, they had learning, information processing issues, and their previous the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS, Riverside, 2000) low scores reflected this, falling below the norms as individual classrooms (Erland, Fall 2000, table 1, p. 16). If would be a case where the teacher(s) could have been fired. But, they were, in fact, excellent teachers, and willing to apply a promising methodology that would possibly correct these student processing deficiencies.

The results showed a scaled variation of when, and at what point, the student began to “learn new information.” The fourth grade students in two classes in the ITBS subtests of Reading Comprehension, Math Total, Math Problems, Spelling, language, and Science (Erland, Fall 2000, pp. 32-34) revealed not only some immediate results, but also indicated a range of marked learning growth over a two-years of post-testing standardized measurements.

There was strong change for many at the one-year longitudinal point, and another group showed gains the second year following the intervention. This indicates that once the information sensory pathways are opened, the student can then begin understanding and applying classroom instruction. (Erland, Fall 2000)

Academic Achievement Results Now Expected. School administrators and districts are now increasingly demanding outcome-based academic achievement results. Unfortunately, the pressure is applied to the teacher, who may not have the necessary intervention tools at her fingertips. It is difficult to teach an entire classroom, where many of the students have info processing blockages, and can not, and subsequently do not, attend to instruction.

Administrators and school districts, eager to show academic achievement improvement, should recognize the problematical slow learner-latency effect even having strong classroom instructional input by the teacher. They also might consider accepting and adopting effective cognitive skill programs as a helpful classroom tool to raise the proficiency learning levels of the students. This would systematically raise achievement test scores without resorting to “teaching how to take the test,” which replaces hours of valuable classroom instructional-skills-learning time.

Classroom Partnered Learning. Consequently, with a room with many learning problems, teachers often resort to small group “partnering teams” in a differentiated classroom, where the slow learner copies the information from the more adept processing student leader. Unfortunately, the struggling student is not “learning”, but merely completing an assignment, to receive a grade, which will be an A or B to appease the parent. This student is subsequently, “passed through the system” with perhaps a limited career future.

Response To Intervention. Once students understand the teacher’s classroom instruction, it can be then applied; although this changing-evolutional process may be immediate or take one-two years. But, even with this latency effect, it is important that gains can be made by even the most problematical learner, rather than minimally or not at all, and then firing the teacher.

Erland, J. K. (Fall, 2000). Brain-Based accelerated learning longitudinal study revealed subsequent high academic achievement gain for low-achieving, low-cognitive skill fourth grade students. The Journal of Accelerated Learning and Teaching, 25, (3&4).

Erland, J. K. (July 1983). Methods and techniques of Cognitive Behavior Modification for accelerating both visual and auditory memory in learning disabled adolescents and young adult through inter-hemispheric specialization strategies. An instructional workshop session and manuscript.

Guilford, J. P. (1984). An odyssey of the SOI model: An autobiography of Dr. J. P. Guilford. Tokyo: Japan Head Office International Society For Intelligence Education.

Guilford, J. P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw Hill.

Hessler, G. (1982). Use and interpretation of the Woodcock-Johnson psycho-educational battery. Hingham, MA: Teaching Resources.

Riverside 2000. (1994). Iowa Tests of Basic Skills Integrated Assessment Program, Technical Summary I. Chicago, IL: The Riverside Publishing Co.(a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Rumelhart, D. E., McClelland, J. and the PDP Research Group. (1986). Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in the micro structure of cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

VAKT: Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile teaching method,