Giving Students With Learning Difficulties Extra Time at Exams Is Counterproductive

Filed Under (UnLearning Difficulties With NLP) on 27-04-2010

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A client had undergone an operation of his shoulder.  When I saw him, he said something that inspired me to touch on an important point that not every reader will like.  He said I still have the sling in the car.  When I go out into the shops, I still put it on.  When people see me with it, they move away.  I don’t wanna get it bumped into just yet.”  Apart from the fact that he was referring to his motivation away from having the healing process disturbed by an accidental knock from someone, he [without realizing it?] highlighted another important principle which I’ll touch on deeper here.

Statements with a similar gist from folks in wheelchairs or with other handicaps I’ve heard in the course of my work include examples like: “We’re going to the O2 [a concert venue in London UK].  We’ll take the wheelchair.  That way we’ll get in the front row.”  This demonstrates the NLP principles that every behavior is purposeful, demonstrates a belief, and has a positive intention.  “Funny” how every person in a wheelchair I have spoken to [that excludes all the people who I haven’t spoken to, so I’m not saying that this applies to all people in wheelchairs!] has told me how s/he’d love to walk again and how much more liberated his/her life would be if s/he walked again.  Yet their statements similar to the one above fly in the face of these people’s desires to have liberated lives.  So how come?  What’s the positive intention of this? Why is not being in the front row not liberating?

And how does the above connect with learning difficulties?  Tell some of the students with learning difficulties that they will get extra time during exams and watch their reaction!  This is what labels [labels = I’m x or I have x] do.  Labels give some people security and denote their comfort zone [boundaries].  Labels encourage some people to be more complacent.  Sounds harsh?  Maybe.  But remains reality.  Labels give the cushion of explanation.  Once a person knows that s/he is x, s/he can justify why s/he has had y and z happening.  And labels draw attention – the labeled person gets more attention than s/he would without the label.  Labels are static: I’m x or I have x.  It’s in the language.  Static things give the impression that they can’t be changed = will stay the way they are forever.  And this is the root, because once something can’t be changed, where’s our need to question it?  Extra time during exams will not add any benefit to the student with learning difficulties, because once told s/he will get it, s/he will unconsciously adapt his/her thinking and working pace to the extra time which will result in the same end result arrived at over longer time.  Extra time will thus add the opposite of benefit to the student if we only look at the fact that all other students have now left the room to do something more pleasurable…  And there’re other people who will experience the same disbenefit – the judges, teachers, or school janitor… all have to stay around longer!  Extra time would add benefit only if our student didn’t adapt [adapt = slow down] his/her think-and-work pace to the extra time and was thus able to produce more  quality and quantity of the result.  But because of fast adaptability of human nature this happens rarely.  Again, I’m not throwing all people into the same bag. These rare cases prove the rule though.

The gist of this article is that human nature operates in ways that people get used to the “better” quickly, but reverting to the better [though not the more comfortable to achieve] in the long term then gets harder.  Of course, not all people who have learning difficulties will become complacent, but I’m getting at those who will, and there’ll always be a number of them.  And albeit the subject of whether giving students with learning difficulties extra time in exams is counterproductive will probably remain controversial for a few generations, findings from my work point to the fact that the truth is somewhere in the middle – specific to each person.  The fact that the society in general leans toward overaccommodation in this area is still valid and overaccommodation is usually as counterproductive as underaccommodation.

Contact me for more information about how students with learning difficulties could unlearn their difficulties and not need extra time at exams in future.

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