Teachers in rural Sri Lanka find it challenging to support students with Learning Difficulties (LD) in regular classrooms. As a result, students with LD often quit school early. Community- Based Rehabilitation (CBR) projects located in rural areas sometimes provide learning opportunities for students who are school dropouts.
Purpose: The research focussed on identifying an effective teaching approachthat Developmental Assistants (DAs) can employ when teaching students with LD.
Methods: An action research methodology with two action cycles was selected for this purpose. Each cycle consisted of four stages: analysing, reflecting, planning, and implementing and monitoring. Data collection involved semi- structured interviews and real-time observations. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was adopted for data analysis. Research participants included 11 students aged 8-14 years, their parents and two DAs.
Results: Outcomes suggest that students with LD actively engage in learning when an integrated approach that uses thematic units which reflect the students’ world, is in force. They also benefit when some elements of the behavioural approach to teaching-learning: explicit direct instruction, modelling, scheduled practice, reinforcement and feedback, are combined with certain components of the constructivist approach: independent work, group discussions and reflection.
Conclusions: The study demonstrates that students with LD can succeed when the teaching-learning process is modified to suit their needs. Hence, CBR project workers ought to be trained to plan and design lessons that meet the needs of students with LD. It further validates the role CBR projects can play in diminishing negative views on disability and in creating inclusive societies.
Limitations: The study’s illuminative design was appropriate within a limited sample of students. However, this sample is not wholly representative of the multicultural and multi-religious student population with LD in hard-to-reach areas of Sri Lanka.