Higher Education in America Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1634 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching

Higher Education Issue

As the pool of potential college students shrank over the last twenty years and as diversity of student populations increased, colleges and universities began accepting students who were otherwise qualified to enroll who had learning disabilities. This stance, which is also required because of federal laws that forbid discrimination based on disability, means that colleges and university must find effective ways to help these students succeed once they have been admitted.

But what do we mean by a student with a learning disability? These are students who are otherwise intelligent enough to attend college but who encounter some significant difficulty learning in some academic areas. The areas of difficulty can be in listening, speaking, reasoning, reading, writing, and/or mathematics. In addition they may have difficulty taking notes and with organization (Harrison, 2003). Since learning disabilities can be detected in uneven test scores from psychological testing, the underlying cause is assumed to be subtle dysfunction of the brain (Milne & Stage, 1996). By definition, learning disabilities are not caused by overall low intelligence, and their achievement in their areas of difficulty is less than their intelligence would predict (Clark & Parette, 2002).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Higher Education in America Assignment

The problem is far more common than many people realize as these students make up at least 5% of the general population. Federal law now gives protection to students with disabilities, including learning disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1977 requires that any school, including colleges and universities, that accept federal funds, must provide reasonable accommodations for otherwise capable students with disabilities (Milne & Stage, 1996). The students are there, and federal law requires that their educational needs be met, so it only makes sense for institutions of higher learning to put effective programs in place. These programs must be supported by the instructional staff in order for them to succeed (Heiman & Kariv, 2004), and in fact the cooperation and support of the instructional staff is required by Section 504.

Although each student with a learning disability is a unique individual, some difficulties are so common that instructors can expect to see them in their classrooms. For instance, over 70% have difficulty concentrating in a noisy setting (Harrison, 2003). Often such students take tests and exams in an academic center where the environment can be controlled. Over 60% will have difficulty with one or more of these skills: reading comprehension or speed; spelling, including recognition of misspelled words; displaying mastered knowledge on essay exams; mastery and application of grammar rules; and/or word problems in math (Harrison, 2003).

Many of these problems can be remediated or accommodated in some way, but this requires that the school have an effective program and that the school instructors understand how to apply that program for their students. Implementation of such programs is often complicated, however, because students with learning disabilities, fearing stigma, lack of respect from instructors, or that the label will be passed on to potential employers, do not seek the help they need (Harrison, 2003). These students struggle more than they have to, and it is likely that instructors will have such students in their classes at least from time to time.

Some experts suggest that colleges and universities should do what public schools K - 12 already do: create an individual academic plan for college students with learning disabilities. Such a plan could identify problem areas and make plans for remediation or accommodations as needed (Heiman & Kariv, 2004). In addition, career counseling might be included to help the student choose fields of study well-suited to his or her particular traits (Heiman & Kariv, 2004). Some researchers feel that in particular, student-athletes with defined or suspected learning disabilities may require special attention -- not only to make sure they remain eligible to play but to ensure that they get full value from their educational experience (Clark & Parette, 2002).

In addition, any plan for students with learning disabilities should include their self-empowerment. They should learn about the laws set in place to protect their right to an education, and they should learn to advocate for themselves so they can make sure that the accommodations they need, such as a quiet testing place, are honored (Clark & Parette, 2002).

Finally, researchers believe that since these students can and do thrive when their unique educational needs are met, instructors need to look at their pedogogical methods to make sure that their teaching style does not represent an unnecessary barrier to students who may have alternate learning styles (Harrison, 2003).

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education reiterated the requirement that schools receiving federal funds do not discriminate based on disability (Harrison, 2003), reinforcing the 1977. But in addition, students with learning disabilities are as intelligent as their classmates, and to deny them a college education when simple interventions could assure them of academic success makes no sense. Universities and colleges should whole-heartedly and enthusiastically accept the challenge of seeing to it that all their students have a chance for educational success.

Annotated Bibliography

Clark, Mark, and Parette, Phil. 2002. "Student Athletes with Learning Disabilities: A Model for Effective Supports." College Student Journal, Vol. 36.

Clark and Parette reviewed the literature and found that the needs of athletes with learning disabilities were not always adequately addressed by the colleges and universities the athletes attended. They presented an academic approach to providing support for student-athletes with learning disabilities.

English, Ron; Smith, Sheila Graham; and Vasek, Dae. 2002. "Student and Parent Involvement in the Transition Process for College Freshmen with Learning Disabilities." College Student Journal, Vol. 36.

The authors conducted a survey of college students with learning disabilities seeking assistance from their university's disability assistance office. They found that the general assumption that students entering college as freshmen were ready to negotiate the varied new responsibilities presented by college life was not always an accurate one, and that incoming freshmen with learning disabilities often needed help to acquire the new skills needed to be successful college students. One-third of the students had significantly depressed self-image, and over half were relying on parents to assist with decisions such as what courses to take and even what extra-curricular activities to participate in. The authors saw a need for the disability program to include support for developing self-reliance and good self-esteem.

Foley, Teresa E.; Madaus, Joseph W.; Mcguire, Joan M.; and Ruban, Lilia M. 2003. "Attributes Contributing to the Employment Satisfaction of University Graduates with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 26.

The authors surveyed one hundred and thirty-two graduates with learning disabilities from a large university to determine how satisfied they were with their post-graduation employment. Two-thirds of those queried responded. They found that personal perceptions of being effective in the work place along with the ability to use personal strategies and accommodations to help over come the effects of their learning disability were the best predictors of post-graduation success.

Gerber, Paul J. 2003. "Adults with Learning Disabilities Redux. Remedial and Special Education, Vol. 24.

Gerber looks fat the history of learning disabilities and summarizes its history, with attention to the growing body of information regarding adults with learning disabilities. He points out that at first the experts believed that learning disabilities disappeared in high school but that now they realize that learning style is a lifelong issue. The article would be a good overview for college and university instructors looking to understand the history of learning disabilities and how that history may affect their school's program as well as their students with learning disabilities.

Goss, Diane. 2001. "Chasing the Rabbit: Metaphors Used by Adult Learners to Describe Their Learning Disabilities."

Adult Learning, Vol. 12.

Goss addresses the particular difficulties faced by adults returning to college who have learning disabilities. They may not have as complete an… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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