Education Today: Good or Bad for the Child with Hearing Loss?

Education Today: Good or Bad for the Child with Hearing Loss?

imageEducation today is very different from when we were in school. We all know that math is being taught very differently. I see countless Facebook posts from parents who are unable to solve their 4th and 5th grader’s math problems (that itself can be a post–look out for it). But, this article is not necessarily about the content of what is being taught today. It is more about the newer approaches to learning.

When we were in school, much of the school day was spent sitting at our desks, listening to the teacher lecture about a topic. Then, there was some whole class discussion and homework to round out our learning.

I am fortunate to work for a high achieving public school system, where my children are lucky to go to school. And, part of my job is spending time in classrooms throughout the district, at all grade levels. What I observe is something which is very different from what we experienced ourselves and I am sure that it is not very different from what is going on around the country.

Learning has become more group-based and child-directed. At the elementary level, children are spending short periods of time learning during “mini lessons” and then moving immediately to group work. In middle and high schools, the trend is towards more cooperative learning with increasingly less teacher led instruction.

Today, there is very little lecture and teacher directed learning. Classrooms are becoming more like boardrooms, where students are teaching one another. Teachers gI’ve introductory lessons and then provide materials and direct students to go off to work individually or in groups to learn. The teacher circulates around the room listening to each group and further developing the discussions. At the end of class, there is a wrap up of what each group discussed.

Many districts now have initiatives to develop 21st century skills. Schools are more focused on developing students’ critical-thinking, creative, communication and problem-solving skills. They are also looking to develop work habits and character traits that are important to success in life. The use of online text books, video clips, and other non-traditional teaching methods is prevalent. A newer methodology of teaching called flipped classrooms has developed.  This is where students view video lectures at home, as homework. Then, class time is used for discussions and project work. It is also becoming more common for students to participate in a year-end “problem-learning experience” based on a real-world scenarios, instead of taking traditional final exams.

While I was gathering research for this article, I came upon information about one school in Europe which goes beyond what we see here as 21st century teaching. The Villa Monte School in Switzerland is a completely student-directed learning environment. Children, ages 4-18, go about their day deciding on their own what to do and learn. There aren’t any teachers, tests, or grades. However, there are adults on hand, both parents and staff, to provide support. They are expected to neither teach, nor praise or criticize. Reportedly, children from this school are very happy and have little worry or anxiety. The question is, are they prepared for life and a career? When alumni were interviewed, they reported “that they did face a knowledge deficit when pursuing apprenticeships or college studies, but that ‘content deficit’, is typically made up within six months. Every student learns social competencies, self-esteem, and how to learn independently — three important 21st-century skills — and graduates have gone on to become artists, engineers, and IT entrepreneurs.”

So how does it this new way of learning impact children with hearing loss?

The Good…
  • Students are provided with online texts to read and learn the factual information at their own pace. This allows for time to re-read and take notes on the material without worrying about whether or not they have heard the lecture.
  • Flipped classroom lessons allow the student to rewind or re-watch the lecture to ensure comprehension of the material.
  • During class time, students have time to work on and process the material, already having previewed the information.
  • During independent or group work, the teacher is available for asking questions and clarifying information.
  • There is less time spent “listening” to a teachers lecture, which might help lessen auditory fatigue.
The Bad…
  • With a lot of group discussion at once, the classroom becomes quite noisy, making it more difficult for the child with hearing loss.
  • Students who use an FM system may not be willing to have peers use the FM, even though it would be beneficial.
  • Other students are not as aware as the teacher about accommodations needed to help the child with hearing loss to listen and understand the discussion. Thus, greater self advocacy skills are needed. However, even some of the best advocates with teachers are unwilling to advocate with peers, as they are too embarrassed.
  • When students are learning from other students, it requires a greater ability to determine what information is important. Some students may even have trouble discerning between fact and opinion.
  • Peers may not be as concise with their language, making it more difficult to understand.
  • It’s easy for the child with hearing loss to sit back and allow the discussion and learning to happen without contributing and learning.
  • Sometimes the discussion might go off on a tangent. This might be difficult to follow for the child with hearing loss.

What kind of learner is your child? Is your child one that does well with this model? Some certainly do. If not, what accommodations can you set in place to help? Consider the following:

  • Technology (FM, pass around microphone, Roger Pen)
  • Moving the group to a quieter place
  • Work in smaller groups
  • Increasing advocacy with peers

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