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College students with learning disabilities: a developmental perspective on conceptions of learning, learning disability, and others in learning

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Title: College students with learning disabilities: a developmental perspective on conceptions of learning, learning disability, and others in learning
Author: Pacheva, Daniela Jivkova
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Special Education
Copyright Date: 2007
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2008-02-15
Subject Keywords college students; learning disability; conceptions
Abstract: A call for the design of programs focused on the development of self-awareness skills permeates the field of research and practice on postsecondary students with learning disabilities (LD). Important components of self-awareness are students' advanced understanding of learning, LD, and the social context (peers, instructors, classmates) of college learning. This study explores students with LD's conceptual understanding of learning and LD by situating it within developmental theoretical frameworks delineating the form and content of adult reasoning. Twelve female and five male college-students with LD participated in two-hour interviews. Students' thinking about others was explored by asking participants to reason about the behaviors, intentions, feelings and traits of the characters in two scenarios depicting typical dilemmas faced by students with LD. Students' conceptual understanding of learning and LD was elicited by means of open-ended questions followed by prompts. Students' responses were scored for level of cognitive complexity and coded for conceptual content. Overall, the students reasoned abstractly about learning and LD at a level of complexity expected from college-age population. They demonstrated well-developed understanding of others' expectations and motivations especially as they relate to the themes of self-identification, seeking accommodations, and understanding of LD. Students' conceptions of learning and LD presented qualitatively different variations on main themes. These variations paralleled the increase in complexity and were associated with experience(number of years of education). The overarching understanding of learning as acquiring knowledge transitioned from understanding learning as an external, given task to learning as an internal, personal-development process. The common understanding of LD as a difference transitioned from a difference related to an external label and an imposed constraint, to meaning of "difference" as a special ability, an asset, and a source of identity. These results indicate a possible progression in the evolution of the concepts of learning and LD throughout the college career of students with LD. The approach to this conceptual content and its description can inform and serve as starting points in the development of programs that foster the conceptual understanding of learning, LD, and the social-context of the educational enterprise, as a way of building these students' self-awareness skills.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/366

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