In this qualitative study, it identifies and describes the instructional strategies and practices in the virtual public school setting for the students who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. The literature review begins by providing a theoretical framework, which supports virtual public schools, and the practices that are ideal to enhance the learning process of students with disabilities. The literature review section provides a description of the virtual public schools, special education and instructional practices that can be applied in the learning classroom. In addition to that, it provides students parents and teachers perspective of the virtual education and its impact on academic progress for students with disabilities.
Vygotskys Theory (Sociocultural Theory of Learning)
This theory is based upon the idea that a learners environment plays a critical role in helping him or her achieve learning development. Vygotsky proposed that the learning process normally involves three essential themes: culture, language, and the zone of proximal development.
Vygotsky held the view that culture formation is based on the use of tools and symbols and it is the key distinction that separates humans from animals. A learner becomes intelligent when he or she gains the skills that can help him or her use these symbols and tools that exist in his or her cultural setting (Fani & Ghaemi, 2011). On occasions whereby the tools that exist in a certain cultural setting evolve or new tools emerge, the learners ability to grow individually and increase or improve his or her knowledge base broadens. Therefore, in the sociocultural learning theory, it proposes that it is important for instructors to be able to understand the human mind both from a historical and cultural point of view.
Based on what has been stated in the cultural theme, proponents of the sociocultural learning theory feel that language is a direct result of the symbols and tools that exist within a certain cultural setting. An individual is able to learn a certain language based on various factors such as social events, scenarios, and processes. In sociocultural learning theory, it states that a learner has to undergo three stages in order to be fluent in a certain language:
They have to engage in the social environment, which is popularly referred to as social speech. For a child it normally begins at the age of 2.
The next step for a child to learn a certain language is private speech, whereby the learner is able to voice his or her thoughts aloud, and it normally begins at the age of 3.
The last stage is normally referred to as inner speech and it takes place when a learner is able to formulate ideas which remain within his or her mind. The ideas that a child normally formulates will remain in his or her mind, and it will have a direct impact on the childs behavior or thoughts. This stage begins at the age of 7.
Zone of Proximal Development
It is the distance that exists between a learners possible educational development, and the development, which is actually taking place. It is important to note that during the learning process, there are various skills in which a learner can perform independently (without the assistance of a teacher or a mentor). However, there are other skills, which a learner is only able to achieve them if the individual is provided with some form of assistance (Lantolf & Poehner, 2014). These skills that can be performed only when a learner is provided with a certain form of assistance are described as an individuals zone of proximal development (ZPD). The ZPD is considered to be the theoretical basis of scaffolding (Murphy et. al, 2015). It ensures that the instructors or the teachers determine what a student is not yet capable of doing but can be able to achieve it if he or she is provided with the proper instruction.
Application of the Sociocultural Learning Theory
Sociocultural learning theory is important for the 21st century teaching process because it takes into consideration how a students capability to acquire a new skill or knowledge is impacted by his or her peers, and the social scenarios that they are regularly exposed to. Therefore for the instructors or educators who apply this theory in their instructional design can become aware of how learners impact each other in the learning process, and assess how a students cultural norms affect his or her learning behavior. It will assist them to create a learning plan, which integrates the principles of sociocultural learning, and therefore ensure that they enhance the effectiveness of their curriculum. It is also important to point out that the instructors who use this theory realize that the student in the learning process is more important than the teacher in terms of determining what is appropriate for learning.
Application of Vygotsky Theory of Learning in Special Education
It is important to point out that in special education, understanding the nature of an individuals disability, and the means in which the educators can compensate for it is the core of that system. It is what will make a certain system to be successful over another. It is the reason why Vygotskys approach to learning is viewed as unique. He promotes the understanding of a disability as not being a biological impairment that is only limited to various psychological consequences, but it should also be viewed based on its socio-cultural developmental phenomenon.
He argued that a disability is only viewed as an abnormality when it is placed in a social context. When one looks at the different body parts of an individual such as eyes, ears, and even the human brains, they are not just physical organs, they serve unique functions, and therefore when there is an impairment of any of these organs, it normally leads to the restructuring of social relationships, and displacement of the systems behavior (Smagorinsky, 2016). It is also important to note that a defect will vary from a psychological perspective in different cultural and social environments (Smagorinsky, 2016). This means that the way deafness will affect a student living in a sub-urban community in the United States is not the same way it will affect a student who lives in a rural or low-class community in the US.
There are also arguments as to the severity of different impairments. For instance, from a survival point of view, blindness is considered to be a more severe impairment than deafness. However, in the social world, deafness can be seen to be more of a severe disability than blindness because; it prevents an individual to be able to master speech, therefore acting as an impediment to verbal communication. One can therefore bring about the argument that being deaf in reality can disrupt an individuals social connections in a more severe manner than blindness.
Therefore, Vygotsky provides the argument that any form of impairment should be perceived based on its social implications because it affects the way a person interacts with the world. Therefore, when a teacher is dealing with a student who has certain impairment, he or she should not deal with the biological factors that are a result of an impairment, but also on the social consequences. For instance, when dealing with a blind student in the classroom, the teaching process should not only address the physical aspects that have been brought about by blindness, but also its social aspects.
In terms of the social nature of disability, Vygotsky introduced the following core concepts- primary disability, secondary disability, and their interactions from a social and education point of view. He then defined a primary disability as being an organic impairment that is as a result of biological factors that affect such organs (Smagorinsky, 2016). On the other hand, a secondary disability is described as the distortions of the higher psychological functions, which are as a result of social factors. When a child has a primary disability it acts as an obstacle in terms of a child mastering various social skills, and acquisition of knowledge in an acceptable manner, and rate. In some cases, a child who has a certain disability will take more time than children who are at his or her age to grasp a certain concept that is being taught in class. However, Vygotsky points out that it is a childs social milieu, which will determine his or her course of development, and can eventually lead to distortions or delays. Therefore, he emphasized that from an educational perspective, the primary problem of a disability is not in its organic impairment, but on its social implications.
This means that an organic defect is normally observed from the societal context as a social abnormality to behavior. The negative attitude of the society on children with disabilities limits their access and opportunities to help them develop and improve their psychological tools. Secondary developmental complications are brought about by parents and teachers who because they feel pity for a child, will go out of their way in order to help or assist them (children with disabilities) perform a certain task. They view them as being helpless, and this limits or hinders their zone of proximal development leading to secondary disability. Therefore, one of the primary goals of the special educators should be to change the negative societal attitude towards children who have disabilities. It is important for the society not to look at a disability as a form of tragedy; instead it should be viewed or assessed from a point of strength leading to positive differentiation. In order to assist students with disabilities to learn and develop mentally, there is the need to provide them with space, ensure that they have a sense of independence, instead of constantly providing them with assistance.
Vygotsky also was against the notion of the society viewing a disability as a static process, concentrating only on its symptoms. In his view, disability needs to be considered as a developmental process. He provided the following argument in order to support his perspective of disability as a developmental process. He began by stating human development is as a result of socio-genetic processes, which are as a result of various social activities. One of the primary social activities that promote development especially for a child is education. Education will lead to development because it helps a child internalize his or her cultural values and social relationships. However, he was quick to point out that contrary to popular belief development is not a straight path of quantitative gains and accumulations. Instead, it is a qualitative and complex process of both integration and disintegration.
From a development point of view, there are two classes of psychological functions- lower (natural), and higher (cultural). The natural class includes things such as memory, attention, and elementary perceptions; while in the cultural class it includes things such as abstract reasoning, logical memory, language, voluntary attention, and decision making. The development of these two classes is brought about by the education levels in which an individual is exposed to on a regular basis. For instance the development of an individuals consciousness will improve through his or her constant interactions with other people.
Therefore it is important to note that a childs or a students psychological function will appear on two levels- social and individual level. If the social level is affected (which is the case for most of the students with disabilities), then their individual level will also be affected. As has been stated before, one of the primary reasons that leads to a student with a disability psychological function, from a social l...
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