Improving the Learning of Students with Special Needs in Hong Kong Using the Learning Study Approach
Dr KO Po Yuk (Director, CLS; Associate Professor, C&I)
Dr LAI Meng Choo (Senior Teaching Fellow, CLS)
There is a prevailing stereotype towards students with special needs, perceiving them as low achievers with limited ability to communicate, calculate, read, write, think and judge. This pessimistic view results in teachers having low expectations on students with mental handicap and hence hindering the improvement of teaching and learning in the special education context. This seminar reports on a program which aimed to equip teachers from special schools with the knowledge and skills in conducting Learning Study in their respective schools. The program rests on the rationale of bringing together the theory and practice of the Theory of Variation for strengthening teachers’ role in catering for learning diversity and offering students in special schools with experiences that optimize their learning. The seminar, illustrated with several case studies, reports on how numerical and communication skills of students with medium to severe mental handicap can be enhanced through the Learning Study approach. Data from interviews, lesson observations and pre- and post-tests were collected, triangulated and analyzed to understand student learning outcomes. The results show that the pedagogical approach based on the Variation Theory employed in the lessons has contributed to considerable improvement in students’ learning. The Learning Study program also provided a valuable opportunity for special school teachers to participate in inter-school collaboration which is found to be conducive to their professional development.