University Business November/December 2019 - 58

PROFESSIONAL OPINION

Making learning outcomes achievable
for neurodiverse students
Students who learn differently succeed when diverse learning styles
are embraced in the classroom

E

ducators must work harder to
help neurodiverse students succeed. Graduation rates for such
students at mainstream colleges are low.
The 2011 "National Longitudinal Transitional Study" put the four-year graduation rate for neurodiverse students at
about 16%, while a 2014 study claimed
34% of neurodiverse students ultimately
complete college.
At Beacon College in Florida-now
celebrating its 30th year serving neurodiverse students-the 10-year average for
students completing degrees in four years
is 70%. Like Beacon, by implementing
research-based practices in instruction,
schools can watch graduation rates soar
for students who learn differently.
Offer declarative, procedural and
metacognitive knowledge
Professors are generally adept at nourishing students with declarative knowledge-discussing the facts and concepts
of a discipline-but that's not enough.
Since students must verbally store declarative information, those with linguistic
processing disorders have trouble storing
and retaining the information.
If professors also added procedural
knowledge-applying declarative knowledge through a classroom activity-
many students would benefit. Procedural
knowledge is stored differently, giving
students with linguistic processing disorders a better chance for understanding
and recall.

UBmag.me/neurodiverse

58 | November/December 2019

By implementing
research-based
practices in instruction,
college graduation rates
can soar for students
who learn differently.
To ensure that students have a deeper
understanding of course material, professors should also fold into the mix
metacognitive knowledge, or examining one's own thinking. When students
plan, draft, monitor, revise and reflect,
they retain information better. We also
know that the confluence of declarative,
procedural and metacognitive knowledge
spurs critical thinking and deep understanding of the course material.
Implement research-based strategies
There are several other learning techniques that professors can incorporate
for student success. Modeling critical
thinking, for one, is recommended and
transformative. Educators should lead
demonstrations of reasoning that support or refute student logic. They improve student learning. Professors create
meaning for students when they invest
time in making connections between existing knowledge and new information.
Providing feedback is essential to
learning. Students benefit when larger
assignments are broken into smaller
chunks, and they are given feedback
along the way. Using formative assessment shows them the gap between their
work and the required standard, so they
understand how to improve and succeed.

By Shelly Chandler

Using authentic assessment is another
key to student success. Professors should
employ a variety of assessment measures.
Dump the true-false, multiple-choice
and other objective tests because they require all students to respond in the same
way. These tests do not promote realworld applications or critical thinking.
Ideally, an assessment challenges students
to solve "ill-defined" problems, which do
not have one right answer. An authentic
assessment should allow students to use
their different talents and learning styles.
Create the right learning environment
Classrooms brimming with cooperation
and mutual respect prepare students to
perform up to their potential because
they feel free to act without fear, to express ideas and to ask questions.
By recognizing students' diverse talents and strengths, professors can design
assignments that students can complete
effectively in different ways.
Higher education holds great potential to assist neurodiverse collegians
by preparing them for graduation and
the world of work. By integrating three
types of knowledge into each course,
using research-based practices, and
fostering a learning environment that's
conducive to cooperation and respect,
neurodiversity shrinks as an issue impeding graduation.

Shelly Chandler is a licensed mental health
counselor and provost of Beacon College in
Leesburg, Florida, the first baccalaureate
school to educate primarily students with
learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other learning differences.
Contact her at schandler@beaconcollege.edu.
UniversityBusiness.com


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University Business November/December 2019

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