Scholars have postulated different learning techniques to ensure every student succeeds academically, including those with learning disabilities. The debate on the best teaching strategy has been ongoing since some scholars argue that there is no teaching-learning theory that can address the needs of all students comprehensively. Some scholars recommend that educational institutions should encourage instructors to combine different learning models to improve students’ performance and comprehension levels. However, stimulating interaction and the learning process using a blended learning model is impossible since it would require an instructor to use different approaches to communicate with different students. Education policies such as “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)” and “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” agitate schools to look for the best learning theories for instilling knowledge in every student. This critical review is based on a peer-reviewed article authored by Dr. Vera Idaresit Akpan, Dr. Udodirim Angela Igwe, Ikechukwu Blessing Ijeoma Mpamah, and Charity Onyinyechi Okor. Overall, the study will argue that the constructivism learning theory is the most reliable instruction model for children with learning disabilities because it contextualizes learning while encouraging active interaction among teachers, learners, and other teaching-learning components.
Learning occurs in different environments and in distinct ways that influence the comprehension ability of students. As Akpan, Igwe, Mpamah, and Okoro (2020) highlight, learning theories are essential because they explain how students absorb, process, and retain information after learning. The most common theories widely used worldwide include behavioral, constructivism, and cognitive models. Behavioral learning theory treats students as empty vessels for teachers to fill with knowledge. Consequently, students are passive because they wait for instructors to give them the knowledge they are supposed to memorize. On the other hand, the cognitive learning model stimulates concept formation, reasoning, thinking, and problem-solving at an individual level. Lastly, the constructivism theory argues that learning occurs when students construct basic knowledge through active participation in an academic institution (Akpan et al., 2020). Therefore, the distinctiveness of the teaching approaches implies that the models are suitable for different groups of learners.
Humans understand worldly knowledge by experiencing and reflecting on the experiences. According to Akpan et al. (2020), new experiences either require individuals to reconcile with the new information or discard previous knowledge as irrelevant. Subsequently, learners acquire knowledge while attempting to understand their experiences. The learning model encourages students to hone practical approaches to gain knowledge. Thus, learners should create definitions and meanings of a concept based on the discovery they get from a situation. The model also emphasizes learners work as a group to exploit the strengths of diversified reasoning (Akpan et al., 2020). The aspect of emphasis on collaboration to acquire knowledge leads to the aspect of social constructivism.
Language and culture influence the ability of humans to understand, experience, and communicate. According to Akpan et al.(2020), “… learning concepts are transmitted by means of language, interpreted and understood by experience and interactions within a cultural setting” (p. 50). Thus, language is critical to executing the constructivist learning theory since speech helps students communicate what they have learned; teachers also use language to direct learners. In the same vein, the cultural setting of learners shapes how they understand and interpret academic concepts. In 1968, Lev Vygotsky theorized that language and culture create the framework that humans understand, communicate, and experience reality. Social constructivism encourages students to discuss and accomplish group activities in a learning environment that builds their skills. The teachers in a social constructivist classroom encourage students to engage actively in the learning process and come up with unique ideas. The instructor also encourages learners to collaborate in class to boost each other’s knowledge. On the same note, the teacher guides students’ collaboration and brainstorming process. To that end, instructors using the social constructivist learning model provide timely scaffolding support, foster group interaction, ensure students feel secure when asking or answering questions, and encourage students to give their opinions (Akpan et al., 2020). The bottom line is that students participate actively in developing and looking for knowledge in a constructivist classroom.
Reliable learning models should ensure the intellectual functioning of all students irrespective of their IQ levels. According to Algahtan (2017), students with learning disabilities have IQ levels ranging between 50 and 70. Subsequently, these people have intellectual functioning challenges because they find it hard to remember and generalize skills. Others also tend to be less motivated in learning (Algahtan, 2017). Akpan et al. (2020) emphasize that constructivist learning theory overcomes learning disabilities by triggering curiosity in less motivated learners. Besides, the model concretizes knowledge and learning because low IQ students are more likely to retain facts they construct by themselves than information teachers feed them. Furthermore, practical and group activities among learners create episodic memory that improves learners’ recall and retention capacities, which are necessary for effective learning among individuals with mental challenges (Akpan et al., 2020). Overall, the constructivist learning model provides incentives, episodic memory, and self-driven learning capabilities, which students with low IQ need to succeed academically.
The constructivist learning model encourages students to work in groups consisting of individuals with different learning capabilities. Drawing on Akpan et al. (2020), students work in groups to explore, solve, and investigate problems. Adak (2017) and Fairbanks (2021) agree with the findings by highlighting that collaboration of students ensures that high IQ and less brilliant students learn from each other. For that reason, instructors help point students to construct appropriate knowledge. The bottom line is that the constructivist education model is a promising learning technique for realizing the goals of the ESSA because it gives students with learning disabilities a level playing ground with their high-IQ colleagues.
Knowledge develops from social experiences as opposed to the misconception that it is an individual possession. Akpan et al. (2020) underscore that social constructivism shapes learners’ comprehension through adaptive interaction with the physical world and human connection to culculturel world that is made possible by language. Fernando and Marikar (2017) add that the constructivist model is unique because it prioritizes teaching students learning to accumulate knowledge systematically. The researchers inform that the learning model replaced the 1960s behaviorist learning approach that required teachers to provide suitable stimuli to encourage students to learn. In turn, social constructivism is a suitable learning model for students with learning disabilities because students approach learning as a meaning-making process instead of a product for memorizing.
Constructivist learning lacks a definite structure to guide students in their learning process. According to Boelens, Wever, and Voet (2017), many students learn effectively in a structured learning environment. Consequently, the laid-back principles of the constructivist model mean that it is unsuitable for students with learning disabilities and in need of a system offering extensive guidance. Therefore, future studies should investigate whether teachers can successfully help students that are heavily dependent on structured systems adapt to learning in a relaxed environment.
The constructivism education model is a reliable learning technique for children with learning disabilities because it contextualizes knowledge acquisition while facilitating interaction among teachers and students. Subsequently, the constructivist theory encourages students to build knowledge in their personalized experiences. The unstructured learning environment designates instructors as course facilitators to ensure they provide students with the resources and assistance they need to attain maximum success in their academic pursuits. Besides, the model allows students with disabilities to learn in real-world environments so that they can exercise reasoning distinctiveness and practical solutions to problems.
Adak, S. (2017) ‘Effectiveness of constructivist approach on academic achievement in science at secondary level’, Academic Research and Reviews, 12(22), pp. 1074-1079.
Akpan, V. I., Igwe, U. A., Mpamah, I. B., and Okoro, C. O. (2020) ‘Social constructivism: Implications on teaching and learning,’ British Journal of Education, 8(8), p. 49-56.
Algahtan, F. (2017), ‘Teaching students with intellectual disabilities: Constructivism or behaviorism?’ Educational Research and Reviews, 12(21), pp. 1031-1035.
Bloniasz, P. (2019) ‘Case study: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and National Service – A review of educational support needs and curricula development,’ SSRN Electronic Journal.
Boelens, R., Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017) ‘Four key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature review’, Educational Research Review, 22 (1), pp.1-18.
Fairbanks, B. (2021). ‘5 educational learning theories and how to apply them,’ the University of Phoenix, Web.
Fernando, S. and Marikar, F. (2017) ‘Constructivist teaching/Learning theory and participatory teaching methods, Journal of Curriculum and Teaching, 6(1), pp. 110-22.