Improving the Learning Processes for Students with Mild Cognitive Impairment
Cognitive impairment is a collective term for intellectual impairment that is used to refer to the people whose intelligence quotients (IQ) are below seventy of the mean of their age groups. The condition may originate from birth or it may be acquired through infection. For mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the IQ lies between fifty and seventy (Bentivoglio, 2014). The condition affects the way a person learns new things, concentrates, and even makes decisions. People with MCI condition may notice slight changes in their cognitive functions, but they may still be able to carry on with their daily activities. In this regard, children with this condition appear to be normal and it may even be hard to notice them before they attain the age of two years. However, their languages tend to be simpler than that of their peers and they tend to have difficulties expressing themselves verbally (Machado, & Botnarescue, 2010). In most cases, they might use body language or gestures to communicate with their peers. At other times, they might not be able to perform some cognitive functions properly. In spite of this fact, they may enjoy role-playing, playing with objects and even painting.
Based on the above understanding, it would be important for teachers to understand the above facts together with other facts that will be evaluated later on in this research paper. It would also be very important for parents to understand these facts as well because they play supportive roles in the learning processes for students with MCI conditions (Farrell, 2016). This research paper focuses its attention on the methods that teachers can utilize to help students with MCI conditions to improve their learning processes. The research paper establishes that with proper assistance students with MCI condition can improve their learning processes. All that students require is extra time, appropriate learning models and support to help them to master important learning skills.
The MCI condition can be caused by many factors. However, in most cases the condition occurs as a result of chromosomal or genetic disorder. In other instances, it may result from illnesses or injuries that occur during early infancy or during pregnancy. Other factors such as exposure to environmental toxin, inadequate medical care and extreme malnutrition can also cause MCI condition (Bentivoglio, 2014). With such probable causes, it would not be possible to attribute a specific cause to a particular individual unless one is sure about the cause.
The major characteristics
Most of the time, it is not possible to identify children with this condition especially when they are below two years of age. However, once they attain the age of two years they portray the following characteristics. First, in terms of attaining developmental milestones, children with this condition tend to lag behind their peers. For example, they delay in developing social skills and emotional intelligence. Second, they portray short spans of attention meaning that they lack attention (Wagner, 2009). Third, they have difficulties understanding social rules and even engaging in social activities. Fourth, they appear confused especially when they are in new places or introduced to new situations. Accordingly, teachers should be careful when introducing these students to new concepts. Fifth, these students tend to encounter challenges understanding consequences of their actions or even following processes. They also tend to have inconsistent communication skills meaning that they might not be able to express themselves fully. At other times, they lack age-appropriate self-care skills. Consequently, a lot of attention should be given to their learning processes. Sixth, they in most cases lack curiosity thereby it is usually important to create curiosity in them to improve their learning processes (Rachael, & Sean, 2015). Seventh, they have difficulties learning simple routines and retaining information. Based on these characteristics, it is usually important to support these students whenever necessary to enhance their learning processes. It is also important to incorporate family members in this process so that they can complement what teachers do at schools.
In terms of communication, students with MCI condition have problem expressing themselves verbally. In order to help the students, improve their learning processes, it would be important for teachers to focus their attention on different areas. First, it would be important for teachers to address speech issues through error analysis and phonological awareness. With regard to error analysis, it would be important for teachers to turn their attention to articulation exercises (Farrell, 2016). These exercises can remediate speech sounds. As for phonological awareness, teachers should focus their attention to teaching students new vocabularies and encouraging them to learn new vocabularies on their own as well.
Second, teachers should focus their attention to helping students to comprehend concept as they teach them. As teachers do this, they should teach students new mechanisms of listening and maintaining attention. They should also encourage students to signal when they do not understand (Anderson, Murphy, & Troyer, 2012). This way, teachers would be able to improve the way students understand concepts that are taught in classrooms thereby improve their learning processes. Third, teachers should focus their attention to developing meaning as they teach. Doing this may help students to improve their skills of understanding labels and it should be conducted through structured experiences that are aided by objects. Fourth, teachers should focus their attention to language use. They should also focus their attention to developing students’ conversational skills so that students can learn new concepts easily.
The pace is also an important factor in improving the learning processes for students with MCI conditions. While dealing with this issue, it would be imperative to acknowledge the fact that these students take longer than their peers to grasp concepts. Consequently, they should be taught at a bit slower pace than their peers. The slow pace helps students to understand concepts, over learn concepts and even consolidate the learning process. A balance between the slow pace and maintaining interest and enthusiasm towards learning should be struck so that students do not lose focus. In this case, teachers should try to establish a pace that would be appropriate for students (Farrell, 2016). A combination of both open and closed questions as well as introduction of new materials along the way can help teachers find the best pace. Such a combination would maintain enthusiasm and interest towards learning. Consequently, it is upon teachers to determine the mechanisms to use to when setting their teaching paces.
Classroom organization would also be an important aspect for helping students with MCI condition to improve their learning processes. As for this issue, teachers may organize students into small groups that can be managed easily. This helps teachers to pay attention to the needs of individual students especially when students require more attention. In special schools, this issue may be achieved easily because students are taught in groups. However, in mainstream schools it would be important for teachers to organize students into small groups. This may be done in separate rooms or within larger class setting. When handling students with MCI conditions in larger class setting, it is usually important to allocate students teaching assistants. The teaching assistants ensure that students understand concepts taught in classroom as the teaching process continues. At other times, teaching assistants introduce students to the concepts that will be taught later in classrooms (Farrell, 2016). If need be, teaching assistants may revisit lessons that have been taught to help students to grasp concepts. While doing this, teaching assistants together with teachers should ensure that both pre-teaching and post-teaching exercises do not deny students time to relax and meet their friends.
Although parents are not involved directly in teaching students with MCI conditions, they can play critical roles when it comes to improving the learning processes for these students. Firstly, they may involve themselves in academic learning for the students by following to know the topics that have been taught to their children. Parents may obtain this information from teachers or even inquire from their children. Secondly, after obtaining such information from teachers or their children, they should integrate learning at their homes (Boyle, & Scanlon, 2010). For example, when students learn about money, parents should take their children to shops and ask them to determine the amount of money they should pay to shopkeepers. When students learn to tell time, parents should ask their children to check time for them. If students are not able to do it, parents should help them and even appreciate them when they do it correctly. Doing this helps students to improve their learning processes because they apply their academic skills to real life situations. As a result, teachers should incorporate parents in their teaching processes by encouraging them to engage in such practices.
Curriculum and assessment
Although it is important to integrate students with MCI conditions into mainstream schools, it is also important to note that their levels of education attainment are usually lower than those of their peers. Consequently, their curriculum ought to be slightly different from the rest of students. In addition, their assessment also ought to be slightly different. The curriculums for these students ought to be subject-based with more literacy lessons. At the same time, communication, social development, numeracy and literacy subjects ought to be allocated more time than usual so that students can have time to develop their various learning skills. While doing this, curriculums should be structured carefully to ensure that reading materials and knowledge are presented in the right way (Farrell, 2016). They should also be structured carefully to help students to build conceptual understanding from the practical experiences that are integrated in the teaching processes.
Complex procedures and topics should be broken down into simpler steps and components for students to learn them easily. However, while doing this, the process should not distort the whole picture of learning through fragmentation. Instead, it should tie ideas into big ideas that can be used to improve learning. Concepts should also be revisited from time to time and they should be related to everyday experiences. This helps students to grasp concepts easily thereby improve their learning processes. Assessment processes should restrict themselves to curriculum contents rather than focusing much of their attention on application of the contents that have been taught (Farrell, 2016).
When teaching students with MCI conditions, it would also be important to utilize resources. Resources in this case refer to the various facilities that are utilized to help students learn with ease. In contrast to the resources that are utilized in mainstream schools, resources for these students ought to be real items rather than pictures. Real items help students to gain the true meaning rather than providing them with vague meanings (Boyle, & Scanlon, 2010). In terms of reality experiences, it would be important to take these students for tours so that they can learn through experiences. For example, when teaching them about geographical features, it would be important to visit areas with such features. The same case should apply to historical sites. Such tours give students cultural experiences they might not be familiar to. They also help them to conceptualize issues the way they are.
Relevance and generalization
While doing all that has been evaluated in this research paper, it would be important for teachers to link classroom concepts to real life experiences. This helps students to find relevance in their academic work. For example, when teaching students to make toys, teachers might talk about the toys they made when they were young. They might also dismantle one of the toys for the students to learn how to make them on their own. In terms of generalization, teachers should teach students the different names for the different parts of toys. This helps students to learn new vocabularies. Teachers should also teach students to measure the sizes for different parts of the toys. This helps students to understand the designs of toys and learn mathematics (Farrell, 2016). Given that students with MCI conditions tend to face challenges generalizing knowledge and skills, such activities would help them to achieve this objective easily.
General instructional strategies
At a personal level, it would be important for teachers to teach these students to self-regulate themselves. This would involve encouraging students to set goals for themselves as they tackle assignments and check whether they are able to achieve those goals or not. It would also involve encouraging students to develop their own problem-solving strategies so that they can deal with the challenges they encounter (John, & Lior, 2015). Given that majority of the students are not be able to self-regulate themselves, it is usually important for teachers to set develop contexts and classroom choices that encourage students to self-regulate themselves. Other methods that can be used to improve the learning processes for students with MCI conditions include making connection between various disciplines and language arts; providing visual materials; using semantic diagrams to help students draw connection between concepts; using songs; and maximizing students’ potential through various methods among other methods.
Overall, although students with MCI condition experience some challenges learning new skills, concentrating and even making decision, both teachers and parents can help them improve their learning processes. Teachers on their part can do the following to help the students improve their learning processes. First, they can provide students with the resources they require to improve their learning processes. Such resources may include learning objects such as toys. Second, teachers should encourage students to self-regulate themselves by setting their own goals. Third, teachers should organize students into small groups. Fourth, teachers should assist students to accomplish tasks that are known to challenge them. Fifth, teachers should use examples to help students to generalize knowledge and learning skills they acquire in classrooms. Sixth, teachers should embrace slow pace as they teach students to help them to grasp concepts. In terms of communication, teachers should help students to learn new vocabularies, develop meaning and learn to how to use language. While doing this, teachers should develop the right content for their curriculums and assess students appropriately.
For the parents who play supportive roles, they can improve the learning processes for the students by doing the following. First, they should look for ways that can help them to integrate learning at home and outside home. Second, they can get involved in the academic learning processes for their children. Social activities both at school and at community level should also be utilized to help students to improve their learning processes. Through these social activities, students can be encouraged to improve their social skills, have fun and model behaviors that would be similar to those of their peers. It would also be important to integrate these students into mainstream schools rather than exclude them to special schools. Integrating students with MCI conditions into mainstream schools help them to acquire social skills from their peers. It also encourages them to work hard as their peers even though their assessment is conducted at a different level.
Anderson, N., Murphy, K., & Troyer, A. (2012). Living with mild cognitive impairment: A guide to maximizing brain health and reducing risk of dementia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bentivoglio, M. (2014). Neglected tropical diseases and conditions of the nervous system. New York: Springer.
Boyle, J., & Scanlon, D. (2010). Methods and strategies for teaching students with mild disabilities: A case-based approach. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth.
Farrell, M. (2016). Educating special students: an introduction to provision for learners with disabilities and disorders. New York: Routledge.
John, W., & Lior, S. (2015). Recent insights into perceptual and motor skill learning (The computational and neural substrates of skill learning). Frontiers Media SA.
Machado, J., & Botnarescue, H. (2010). Students teaching: early childhood practicum guide. Stamford: Cengage learning.
Rachael, D., & Sean, K. (2015). A Multidisciplinary Approach to Motor Learning and Sensorimotor Adaptation. Frontiers Media SA.
Wagner, S. (2009). Inclusive programming: For high school students with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc.