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Learning Difficulties in EFL: ✅ How Can a TEFL Teacher Identify Them

Learning Difficulties in EFL: ✅ How Can a TEFL Teacher Identify Them | ITTT | TEFL Blog

It comes as no surprise that not all the students will sit quietly and be on their best behavior at all times when in a classroom setting. Teaching English as a foreign language comes with its direct issues, and throwing learning difficulties into the mix can make teaching even more tedious for both teachers and the students in the classroom.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Melaine W. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Definition of Learning Difficulties

Firstly, what exactly are learning difficulties? A learning difficulty, according to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, can be defined as a neurologically based condition that can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing, and/or math and also higher-level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory, and attention. Essentially, this condition hinders a student from giving their undivided attention in the classroom that would allow them to get the most out of the lesson.

A few of these learning difficulties could include the common ADHD (which consists of both Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Dyslexia, among many others. Having a student or students within the classroom setting with such learning disorders can pose as very challenging. The teacher may not be trained and equipped to deal with the difficulty. It can become disruptive to other students. The child with the learning difficulty may not know how best to deal with it, especially if they are unaware of having a learning disability.

How to Understand Your Student Has it

Now how do you go about identifying students in the classroom with such learning difficulties?From my own experience within the classroom as a teacher, it is not always easy to identify students with learning difficulties. Teachers often mistake these difficulties as just behavioral issues, which I have been very guilty of myself. They sum it up as the child just being rude or disruptive. However, many times, this “disruptive” behavior goes much deeper. I have seen where students have seemed disinterested in the lesson, or they randomly start roaming the classroom and ignore the study. Later on, a parent or colleague would make me aware that the child in question received a learning difficulty diagnosis.

The US Department of Health and Human Services highlights a few signs that teachers can use to identify if they are suffering from a learning difficulty. These could include problems reading and/or writing, poor memory, trouble following directions, clumsiness, problems staying organized, and difficulty paying attention. These are just a few signs; the list is much more extensive. Nevertheless, teachers can take into account these common signs to figure out if a student in the classroom has difficulties.

More than likely, there will be times when a student exhibits a few of these signs, as is the case with a few students who I have met, and the first thought will be poor behavior. Suppose it is that students are displaying these signs, and a teacher decides to utilize techniques that aid in tackling behavioral issues but do not produce successful results. In that case, it may be time to look into whether or not the child or children are suffering from a learning difficulty. The teacher should make it their mandate to speak with upper management or, if possible (although it should be done with as much care as possible to avoid embarrassment and discrimination), talk to the parent about the behavior, and all parties can make a decision to get the child some professional help. I want to emphasize professionalism because a teacher should not be the one to diagnose a student with a learning difficulty unless that teacher has a background in psychology.

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Teachers may not always have the time to give each student their undivided attention for a long time in their classroom. Still, teachers should always ensure that they pay close attention to specific behavioral indicators, such as the signs named above. These indicators may just be the key to helping a family (who was previously unaware) out. It would then guide the teacher in tailoring the lesson to adequately be productive for all the students. Teachers should also try to find the time to equip themselves with more information via research to notice the signs even quicker. The signs may not always mean that the student will have a learning disability, but it is better to have it checked out to be on the safe side.

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