Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Effects of Learning-Style Strategies on Special Education Students

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Effects of Learning-Style Strategies on Special Education Students

Article excerpt


This article describes the effects of research concerned with identifying the learning styles of Special Education (SPED) students and then teaching them globally, tactually, and/or kinesthetically with instructional resources that complement their perceptual strengths. It documents statistically higher achievement- and attitude-test scores when such treatments are provided, as well as behavioral and lateness improvements.


Educators have been quick to classify students who require special attention with a variety of negative labels--Learning Disabled (LD), Emotionally Handicapped (EH), Emotionally Disturbed (ED), Educationally Disadvantaged (ED), Educable Mentally Retarded (EMR), and so forth. Even positive nomenclature, like Special Education (SPED) or Gifted Education (GE), has taken on a negative aura because children so categorized require more attention from teachers than their Regular Education (REGED) counterparts.

Do SPED Students Learn Differently From Regular Ed Students? When considering why these youngsters require more attention, it becomes evident that they do not learn traditionally. Most SPED students are global processors with tactual- and kinesthetic-perceptual strengths (Kyriacou & Dunn, 1994) and most teachers teach analytically by either talking--which requires auditory skills, or by having their students read--which requires visual-print skills.

Do SPED Students Learn Differently From Each Other? Early correlational research examined the learning styles of LD students (Madison (1984), compared them with those of EMR students (Dean, 1982) and the gifted (Pederson & Askins, 1983), and found significant differences between those groups. Later, Brand (1999), Cowie (1987), Glaser (1994), Greb (1999), and Kyriacou and Dunn (1994) also synthesized the differences between SPED and Regular Ed (REGED) students. Later, Ignelzi-Ferraro (1989) and Snider (1985) contrasted the styles among various SPED classifications. Sinatra, Primavera, and Waked (1986) described the learning styles of reading-disabled youngsters. However, even after extensive differences in learning style had been widely documented, Lux (1987) reported that SPED teachers, who had not been taught to use learning-style approaches in the Teacher Education Programs they had attended, resisted using tactual, kinesthetic instructional approaches. More recently, Brand, Dunn, & Greb (2002) reported the unique learning styles of ADHD elementary and secondary medically diagnosed children.

Do Learning-Style Responsive Strategies Improve SPED Students' Grades? Despite the negativism associated with children who learn differently from their same-aged counterparts, practitioners have documented that many officially-classified LD, EH, and SPED students significantly improved their achievement after they were taught with approaches and resources that complemented their learning styles (Andrews, 1990; Bauer, 1987; Brunner & Majewski, 1990, Klavas, 1992; Perrin, 1990; Quinn, 1994; Stone, 1992). For example, after only two years of learning-style-based instruction, SPED students in New York State's Buffalo City Schools achieved statistically higher standardized achievement test scores than their counterparts who had not experienced learning-style-responsive teaching. Some achieved as well as the regular high-school students (Dunn & DeBello, 1999; Kyriacou & Dunn, 1994; Quinn, 1994).

Federal Government, Practitioners' and Researchers' Reports

According to the Center for Research in Education (CRE), the Dunn and Dunn Learning-Style Model contributed to statistically higher standardized achievement test scores for LD and EH SPED students across the nation during the 20-year period (1970-1990) covered by its investigations (Alberg, et al., 1992). Significantly higher gains were documented for multiple grade levels of poorly-achieving SPED students in urban (Braio, Dunn, Beasley, Quinn, & Buchanan, 1997; Brunner & Majewski, 1990; Dunn & DeBello, 1999; Quinn, 1994), suburban (Andrews, 1990; Dunn & DeBello, 1999; Elliot, 1991; Gadwa & Griggs, 1985; Klavas, 1993; Lemmon, 1986; Perrin, 1990; Orsak, 1990; Neely & Aim 1992, 1993), and rural schools (Koshuta & Koshuta 1993; Stone, 1992). …

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