Shifting Educators' Mindsets to Support Children With Learning Disabilities to Lessen the Achievement Gap

Shifting Educators' Mindsets to Support Children With Learning Disabilities to Lessen the Achievement Gap

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8737-2.ch005
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A shift in educators' mindsets is needed to narrow the achievement gap for children with learning disabilities (LD). To close the growing gap, educators instructing children with a LD need to develop openness in supporting and providing meaningful assistance to their learners. Shifting teachers' mindsets could help decrease inaccurate assumptions, improve academic achievement, and narrow the achievement gap. Examples of expected shifts include establishing a growth mindset, developing a deepened understanding of learning models, showing an openness to mentoring and coaching support, and ongoing collaboration with families. The assistance of mentors and coaches can provide teachers with the emotional and instructional support needed to shift their mindset, attitude, and instructional practices. In addition, support and collaboration between educators and caregivers can lead to a shift in mindset that would support the learners' academic progress.
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There is an ongoing concern regarding the academic achievement gap, particularly among students who have learning disabilities (LD). A shift in educators’ mindsets is recommended to narrow the achievement disparity for children with LD. For learners with LD, there is an observable difference between their knowledge and test performance Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004). Discontinuities in children’s achievement can result when there are discrepancies between skill attributes and performance indicators. Basham et al. (2020) explained that gaps visible in our education system for students with disabilities would grow wider if no systems were in place to support current practices.

Thus, to narrow the growing differences, educators who are tasked with instructing children with LD would need to develop an openness to different teaching strategies that support and provide meaningful assistance to their learners. Prime examples of support can include establishing a growth mindset, a deepened understanding of learning models, an openness to mentoring and coaching support, and ongoing collaboration with families. When teachers have the correct tools, they might have a greater affinity for their work. Dweck (2016) stated that when individuals enjoy a task, such actions could evoke a shift in mindset that is positively framed. Therefore, with effective strategies, some educators can move away from a fixed mindset and develop new perspectives in their work with students with LD.

There are various ways teachers with a growth mindset could demonstrate practices that raise the bar and support learning for students with LD. Educators working with children with LD who have developed a growth mindset could implement models like Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in their classrooms. Implementing models such as UDL could support the work in narrowing the achievement gap for children with LD (Basham et al., 2020). However, to efficiently apply the various learning models when supporting children with LD, educators would also require assistance from mentors and coaches. Mentors and coaches could provide teachers with emotional and instructional support (Chapman et al., 2021; Glover et al., 2023). Educators can also foster solid partnerships with families to support children. Home-school relationships can also enhance academic achievement and social and emotional development growth for children with LD (Rusnak, 2018). As a result, these supports may benefit students by providing better learning outcomes.

This chapter highlights three issues associated with the widening achievement gap for children with LD. The issues include:

  • Inaccurate assumptions, misconceptions, and preconceived beliefs regarding students with LD and their academic potentials

  • The alignment of instructional models considering the unique needs of students with LD

  • The critical but overlooked role of home-school collaboration in educating children with LD

Key Terms in this Chapter

Growth Mindset: Dweck's mindset theory (2016) embraces challenges, persists in obstacles, sees students’ efforts as necessary, learns from criticism, and inspires success. Individuals who have a growth mindset believe intelligence is malleable and changing and look for ways to accomplish tasks despite difficulties in learning.

Students With Learning Disabilities: IDEA (2004) AU50: The in-text citation "IDEA (2004)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. termed an LD as a noticeable discrepancy between a student's scholastic ability and intellectual achievement. Learners with LD make up roughly 50% of the entire special education population whereby 5-15% of students are of school age ( Grigorenko et al., 2020 ). There are a variety of learning disabilities mainly dyslexia, dysgraphia, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD).

Achievement Gap: An achievement gap occurs when one group of learners outperforms another group and the variance in average scores for the two groups is statistically greater than the margin of error.

UDL: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a flexible approach to learning that uses a variety of teaching methods to reduce the barriers faced by some learners. UDL taps into students’ strengths and accommodates their needs and abilities by providing multiple options for engagement, representation, action and expression.

Differentiated Instruction: Wan (2017) described differentiated instruction as a necessary approach for the organization of teaching and learning when addressing individual students’ diverse needs. Educators use differentiation by incorporating tailored instruction in an equitable manner to address the individual needs of students.

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