Students might have difficulty learning for a number of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with innate intelligence. If you are cognizant of these reasons, then you will know what you can do to help your students succeed in class. Getting to know your students as individuals will help you to learn which factors might affect their learning.
Of all of the factors that can affect how people learn, motivation might be the most important. Someone who is motivated to learn a particular task or bit of information generally succeeds, even if she has to work long and hard to do so. When teaching a concept, always consider how the material is relevant to your students' lives, because when individuals see the reason for learning, their motivation increases. Provide feedback on students' learning to help them maintain their motivation.
Intellectual ability also affects learning. For example, some people have an easier time remembering information than others. Some students can readily understand abstract concepts, while others need concrete examples. Everyone has different intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Once you get to know your students, you can help them understand the information you want to get across by teaching to their strengths. People who have overall low intellectual ability -- an IQ lower than 70 -- often need special help learning basic information and tasks.
Attention spans vary among both children and adults. Some people simply prefer to be on the go and have difficulty attending to a lecture or task for any length of time. Since the most popular method of teaching requires students to listen and read, often while sitting still, students who have a short attention span might have difficulty learning. You can help these students by incorporating hands-on activities into your lesson plans, allowing for frequent short breaks and breaking large blocks of information into smaller chunks. Keep in mind that students who are experiencing upheaval in their lives may temporarily suffer from shortened attention spans.
A student could have the highest IQ in the room, but if he hasn't been exposed to basic information that relates to the lesson, he will have difficulty learning. For example, imagine that you were placed in a chemical engineering class without having been taught the periodic table. You'd likely not learn a thing. The same is true for a student who is being asked to solve algebraic equations but does not know his multiplication tables -- a scenario that is all too common. Activate students' prior knowledge before beginning a lesson. You will find out what information you need to pre-teach before jumping into the actual lesson.
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