By: Eileen Delaney, Resource Coordinator
“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same thing, Fairness means that everyone gets what he or she needs to be successful.” -Rick Lavoie
This is one of my favorite quotes and hangs on a wall in my room. It is a reminder of the important work that is necessary to make sure every learner reaches her full potential. If I need glasses to read, I would not be able to demonstrate by knowledge or ability without them. It does not mean that to be fair everyone in my class should also be given glasses. The glasses example is an easy one to conceptualize. It is harder to understand when someone needs extra time or content read to them or directions explained. “Wouldn’t anybody benefit from that?” is a comment I hear often. The right question though is does everybody need it?
Learning is a complicated process. It takes auditory and visual skills. It takes attention, focus, memory and organization. Each individual brain with its unique connections and neural pathways process and remember information in a unique way. Sometimes these unique pathways can result in processing problems that interfere with classroom learning.
Learners who rely on visual memory need to find a way to visualize information. They may attach pictures when they make flash cards or color code information. Learners who have strengths in auditory processing need to hear information. Some learners study their notes by reading them out loud or songs may be a useful memory tool. Students are asked to think about how they learn and develop study habits that will make use of their relative strengths. Sometimes however a student may have a unique style and that style requires unique accommodations.
If a learner is experiencing failure in the classroom close examination of the learning tasks she is being asked to do or the way information is presented may provide answers to promote success. This may take the form of providing a bigger font or more writing space on a paper. Or it could be a quiet, distraction free environment for assessments. Some students are more successful when they make outlines before completing an essay and therefore need more time to produce a finished product. And some students need checklists to complete tasks in order. Providing pathways for each student that address her learning style no matter how unique or different that style may be will lead to success. Now, isn’t that fair?