Academic journal article Adult Learning

When Service Members with Traumatic Brain Injury Become Students: Methods to Advance Learning

Academic journal article Adult Learning

When Service Members with Traumatic Brain Injury Become Students: Methods to Advance Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explain which evidence-based interventions in study strategies have been successful in helping soldiers and veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) return to the classroom. Military leaders have specifically identified TBI as one of the signature injuries of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with over a quarter of a million service members diagnosed with a TBI from 2000 to 2012. From the perspective of developmental education practitioners, this narrative examination reviews available research and government documentation to offer an understanding of TBI, effects of TBI on learning, and recommended approaches to provide these students the most beneficial learning experiences. The incorporation of effective learning strategies and appropriate instructional methods are critical in maximizing the learning outcomes of students with this kind of injury. Despite the attention that must be paid to each individual case, it may be beneficial to incorporate methods that have been proven successful, such as the use of graphic organizers and direct instruction.

Keywords: adult learners, cognitive impairment, traumatic brain injury, learning strategies, graphic organizer, direct instruction

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Military leaders have specifically identified traumatic brain injury (TBI) as one of the signature injuries of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with over a quarter of a million service members diagnosed with a TBI from 2000 to 2012 (Church, 2009; Department of Defense, 2012). Owens et al. (2008) report the combat injury patterns of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) resemble those from previous conflicts in Vietnam and World War II, except for increases in head and neck injuries. Furthermore, approximately 80% of injuries resulted from blasts, the highest rate of any large-scale conflict, although not every individual exposed to explosions sustains a TBI (Department of Defense, 2007; Owens et al., 2008). If they have not already, adult educators will likely find themselves teaching brain-injured service members and veterans. From the perspective of developmental education practitioners, this narrative examines available research and government documentation to offer an understanding of TBI, effects of TBI on learning, and recommended approaches to provide these students the most beneficial learning experiences.

Method

The purpose of this paper is to explain which evidence-based interventions in study strategies have been successful in helping soldiers and veterans with TBI return to the classroom. As such, we conducted this literature review using an integrated approach, as defined by Whittemore and Knafl (2005). This integrative approach incorporates experimental and nonexperimental articles previously published in refereed journals and relevant government documents pertaining to the characterization of TBI. Primary search terms used in Boolean combinations were TBI; adult learner or soldier or veteran; study strategies or study skills, classroom or college or university; and teaching or instruction. We searched all available EBSCO (Elton B. Stevens, Co.) Host databases, JSTOR (Journal Storage), and Google Scholar.

We surveyed the results, selecting articles which appeared in refereed publications within the prior decade. Results of the literature search were categorized as educational or clinical/rehabilitational to ensure the ensuing review adequately blended the two fields. During the analysis phase, the authors deemed it necessary to search for additional relevant foundational writing on learning disabilities.

Military Assessment of TBI

Prior to teaching service members and veterans who have a TBI, it is helpful to have a general understanding of what the injury entails. According to the Department of Defense (2007), TBI is

   a traumatically induced structural injury and/or
   physiological disruption of brain function as a
   result of an external force that is indicated by new
   onset or worsening of at least one of the following
   clinical signs, immediately following the event: any
   period of loss of or a decreased level of
   consciousness; any loss of memory for events
   immediately before or after the injury; any
   alteration in mental state at the time of the injury
   (confusion, disorientation, slowed thinking, etc. … 
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