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Information Processing and Learning Disabilities Essay

The body gathers information through five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. However, in order to use the data or information that has been gathered by these senses one must constantly put the senses into constant use. After the body has collected information through the five senses it is taken to the brain, which in turn recognizes it, interprets it, understands it, responds to it and stores it. This is a continuous process which can be repeated even a thousand times in any given day. Newell (1990)] Information processing is responsible for the coordination and performance of the tasks that we carry out in any given day, from taking a shower to learning in school or participating in a sport. Discussion Within the field of cognitive psychology, information processing is the thinking and reasoning about mental processes, envisioning them, in the same way as a computer software runs on a computer machine.

According to Ulric Neisser, who also goes as the father of the term ‘cognitive psychology’ human beings can be compared to dynamic information processing systems with mental operations that are identical to those of computer machines and that can be described in computational terms. [Neisser, 1967] The mind is the software while the brain is the hardware.

The human mind processes information through the application of logical rules and strategies, that like a computer, the human mind has got a limited capacity for the amount and even the nature of information it can process, and that just as the computer can be made to process more information through the change or overhaul of its hardware and software, learners can become great thinkers if changes can be made in their brains through the use of authentic rules and strategies of learning. [Hetherington & Parke, 199]

According to Atkinson and Shriffin in their ‘stage theory’ model, the human memory processes and stores information in three stages. Information is processed in a serial and discontinuous manner as it transits from one stage to the other. [Atkinson & Shriffin, 1968] Craik and Lockhart in their ‘levels-of-processing’ theory posit that learners make use of various levels of elaboration as they process information. This is achieved through a succession of levels beginning from perception, through attention, to labeling, and lastly meaning. Craik & Lockhart, 1972] Another theory posits that information is processed simultaneously by several different parts of memory system as opposed to sequential processing. [Goleman, 1995]

Lastly, Rumelhart and McClelland in their ‘connectionic’ model propose that information is stored in multiple locations in the form of network connections in the brain. It is grounded on the wisdom that the more connected an idea is the more the chances of it to be remembered. Rumelhart & McClelland, 1986; Scientific American, 1999] In a learning situation, the measure of receiving and organizing information, remembering it, and expressing it will obviously differ from one learner to the other. There will always be discrepancies in reading, writing, comprehension, and reasoning among the learners. Those learners who experiences difficulties in organizing, remembering, and expressing information will definitely experience difficulties in reading, writing, comprehension, and reasoning.

Such learners are considered as having learning disabilities: they tend to experience difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. They face difficulties in learning new skills, they have poor memory, and they tend to confuse basic words, experience difficulties in connecting letters and sounds, among other difficulties. Lerner (2000)] Since the process of information gathering occurs through the application of logical rules and strategies learners without disabilities are bound to organize, remember, and express information with great ease than those with disabilities. Learners with disabilities will experience difficulties in making use of various levels of elaboration as Craik and Lockhart reasons. They will experience snags in transferring information from one stage to another.

In a nutshell the process of information processing is complex and therefore it requires proper learning strategies to make it a success. It requires the best learning strategies that are tied to the needs and interests of students and that are based on varied types of learning styles to enhance maximum learning. [Ekwensi et al, 2006] For instance, before the process of learning begins, a teacher should always aim at gaining the learners attention by using cues to signal when you are ready to begin and keep moving around the class while using voice variations.

Always remember to bring to the mind of the learners prior learned content that is relevant to present content. This can be done through a brief discussion or a brief question and answer session aimed at forming a link with the present lesson content. This should be followed by a brief discussion of the main points of what is about to be learned. Learners may also be provided with handouts to get a deeper glimpse of the content. The teaching/learning process should now progress from what is already known to what is not known, from simple to complex. Bransford et al, 2000] The teacher should present the content in chunks while giving the learners opportunities to connect new information to information already known. In order to enhance maximum retaining of the learned content the teacher should also show the learners coding tips, e. g. , through the use of acronyms, simple songs, construction of silly sentences using the first letter of each word in the list and mental imagery techniques such as the keyword method.

The teacher should also provide repetitive teaching and learning: by stating important points many times using different methods; this helps to build Short Term Memory (STM). [Miller (1956)] Include item on each day’s lesson from previous lesson or even periodically review previously learned skills for building Long Term Memory (LTM). The teacher should also provide enough opportunities for learning and over-learning of important concepts and skills; methods such as daily drills may be applied for arithmetic facts. Huitt (2003)] The teacher should aim at building both STM and LTM. The STM will help to increase the amount of time the learners pay attention to external stimulus and form some meaning out of it. According to Miller (1956) individuals can process up to 7 plus or negative units at any given time, therefore the teacher should aim at helping the learners to identify the most important information to learn at any given time. This can be achieved through proper organization and repetition.

To achieve organization the concept of chunking can be applied whereby information will be presented in bits representing units that can be easily remembered. To achieve repetition, the teacher should try to making the learners repeat what they have learned, especially after some time – few minutes (when forgetting begins). The process of learning should also be made sequential, relevant, and transitional. On the other hand, the LTM helps in the recalling of information learned long time ago particularly when such information is arranged and organized using the declarative, procedural, and imagery structures.

The declarative memory will help in storing information about things that are talked about in classroom; [Stillings et al, 1987] the procedural memory will store information that touches on ways of doing things practically while the imagery memory will store information inform of images. This program helps to build ‘higher-order-thinking’ and self esteem. In order to build LTM the teacher should apply the ‘Direct Instruction’ method of teaching that provides constant interaction between the students and the teacher.

Nonetheless, teachers should make sure that they teach small amount of material in sequential steps, they should make it possible for the learners to use as many of their senses as it is practically possible and that the content material should seek to build on, and enhance the learners’ prior knowledge. The teacher should also make the instructional language more simple but not the content by reinforcing on the main ideas through paraphrasing, repeating, and the use of stimulating learning aids such as charts, maps, and pictures.

If possible, the use of technology should be encouraged as learners have been noted to feel free and productive particularly when they are working independently in front of a computer, rather than in crowded classrooms. [Singleton, & Terrill, 1995/96] Conclusions In order to address information processing problems among learners with disabilities, a teacher should understand the common difficulties that they face so as to be able to employ the appropriate learning strategies.

Learners with disabilities they experience the inability to manage their time well, they have spelling problems, they cannot follow if the teacher speaks too fast, they are slow readers, they have difficulties in recalling mathematical symbols, and sometimes they may portray impulsive behavior. This calls for a lot of patience on the part of the teacher when dealing with them. To achieve this, the teacher should watch, listen and talk to the learners to establish their strengths and weaknesses, and to use interest-arousing stimulus in the instructional process because learners are more likely to be attentive when the teacher uses a stimulus


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