INFORMATION PROCESSING METHODS AND FUNCTIONAL APPROACHES FOR THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH MENTAL RETARDATION


Introduction


Information Processing Models divide the process of thinking into separate components that can be individually studied. They show not what the individual is able to do but how individual is able to do. The steps or the processes that are activated between the time the individual perceives the stimulus and responds to it.

Information Processing Model

One of the major issues in cognitive psychology is the study of memory. The dominant view is labeled the "stage theory" and is based on the work of Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968)
These include:
  • Sensory memory (STSS).different levels of mental retardation Sensory memory is affiliated with the transduction of energy (change from one energy from to another). The environment makes available a variety of sources of information (light, sound, smell, heat, cold, etc.), but the brain only understands electrical energy.
    The body has special sensory receptor cells that transduce (change from one form of energy to another) this external energy to something the brain can understand. In the process of transduction, a memory is created. This memory is very short (less than 1/2 second for vision; about 3 seconds for hearing).It is absolutely critical that the learner attend to the information at this initial stage in order to transfer it to the next one. There are two major concepts for getting information into STM:
    First, individuals are more likely to pay attention to a stimulus if it has an interesting feature. We are more likely to get an orienting response if this is present.
    Second, individuals are more likely to pay attention if the stimulus activates a known pattern. To the extent we have students call to mind relevant prior learning before we begin our presentations, we can take advantage of this principle.

    Short-term memory (STM)


    Short-term memory is also called working memory and relates to what we are thinking Sabout at any given moment in time. This is conscious memory. It is created by our paying attention to an external stimulus, an internal thought, or both. It will initially last somewhere around 15 to 20 seconds unless it is repeated (called maintenance rehearsal) at which point it may be available for up to 20 minutes. Major limit on information processing in STM is in terms of the number of units that can be processed an any one time. Miller (1956) gave the number as 7 + 2, but more recent research suggests the number may be more like 5 + 2 for most things we are trying to remember
  • Organization: A related issue to organization is the concept of chunking or grouping pieces of data into units. For example, the letters "b d e" constitute three units of information while the word "bed" represents one unit even though it is composed of the same number of letters. Chunking is a major technique for getting and keeping information in short-term memory; it is also a type of elaboration that will help get information into long-term memory. Repetition or rote rehearsal is a technique we all use to try to "learn" something. Researchers advise that the learner should not repeat immediately content (or skill), but wait a few minutes and then repeat.


    Long-term memory (LTM)


    Long-term memory is also called preconscious and unconscious memory in Freudian terms. Preconscious means that the information is relatively easily recalled (although it may take several minutes or even hours) while unconscious refers to data that is not available during normal consciousness. The two processes most likely to move information into long-term memory are elaboration and distributed practice. There are several examples of elaboration that are commonly used in the teaching/learning process:

  • imaging -- creating a mental picture; method of loci (locations)--ideas or things to be remembered are connected to objects located in a familiar location; pegword method (number, rhyming schemes)--ideas or things to be remembered are connected to specific words (e.g., one-bun, two-shoe, three-tree, etc.) Rhyming (songs, phrases)--information to be remembered is arranged in a rhyme (e.g., 30 days hath September, April, June, and November, etc.) Initial letter--the first letter of each word in a list is used to make a sentence (the sillier, the better).

  • Concept formation: One of the most important issues in cognitive psychology is the development or formation of concepts. A concept is the set of rules used to define the categories by which we group similar events, ideas or objects.
    There are several principles that lend themselves to concept development: name and define concept to be learned (advance organizer)

    a. reference to larger category
    b. define attributes identify relevant and irrelevant attributes (guided discovery) give examples and nonexamples (tie to what is already known -- elaboration) use both inductive (example/experience --> definition) and deductive reasoning (definition --> examples) Name distinctive attributes (guided discovery)


    FUNCTIONAL APPROACHES


    INTRODUCTION


    Individuals with mental retardation, by definition, perform below average on tests of intelligence and are slow and inefficient learners. Whether one subscribes to the developmental or difference model of the cognitive functioning of people with retardation, the practical issue of providing an optimum learning environment remains.
    Toward this end, a vast amount of research has been conducted in the area of learning and applied to those with retardation. Most theorists have concentrated their efforts on one aspect of learning, such as attention or memory. In generalizing the findings to educational programming, however, we must emphasize that implications from various theories relating to separate aspects of learning should be used in combination to offer learners who are retarded the best opportunities for realizing their potential Academic Outcomes:
    Several studies have documented academic gains for EMR children through the use of individualized "behavioral" methods of instruction. (Bradfield et al., 1973; Haring and Krug, 1975; Jenkins and Mayhall, 1976; Knight et al., 1981). In the instructional programs studied, work assignments were given on a daily basis so that the teacher rather than the child determined the pace of work; a mastery learning approach was used in which detailed and charts of progress (usually based on tests directly covering the curriculum content) were kept for each child; systematic reinforcement was used, and significant amounts of one-to-one instruction, sometimes by peer tutors, were offered. In general, these procedures resulted in larger amounts of time spent on academics work and in a heavy over-lap between what was taught and what was tested in the instruments used to assess academic progress.

  • Attention variables: In any learning situation, attention to the task at hand is critical for successful learning. Zeaman and House (1963) did much of the early work in the area of attention. The research by Zeaman and House continues investigations, drew implications for teaching students who are retarded; for example, that teachers should
    (a) present initial stimuli that vary in only a few dimensions,
    (b) direct the child's attention to these critical dimensions,
    (c) initially remove extraneous stimuli that may distract the child from attending to the task at hand,
    (d) reward the child for attending to the task, and
    (e) increase the difficulty of the task over time.

  • Mediational strategies: Once an individual has attended to a specific stimulus, he or she must organize and store it so that it can be recalled when needed. Spitz (1966) refers to this process as "input organization," and has conducted research to determine the functioning in this area of persons who are mentally retarded.
    Spitz's (1966) research led him to theorize that the input step in the learning process was more difficult for subjects with retardation than for other subjects, because of a deficiency in their ability to organize the input stimuli for storage and recall. This finding has generated a great deal of research into incoming data. Two such methods are grouping and mediation.
    Grouping: or clustering material prior to its presentation, is seen by Spitz (1973, 1979) as more beneficial to the learner with retardation than presenting material in random order.
    Restructuring the perceptual field for individuals who characteristically have difficulty at this stage of the learning process should facilitate memory and recall (Grouping is perhaps the simplest method of organizing information. Material may be grouped spatially, in different visual arrangements; temporally, with a pause or time lapse between items; perceptually, with certain items enclosed in a shape or configuration; or categorically, by content or commonality of items.
    Mediation refers to the process by which an individual connects a stimulus and a response. One approach to the study of verbal learning, paired associate learning, focuses on verbal mediation as a means of learning responses to stimulus words or elements. In this technique, the subject is generally presented with pairs of words. Then only the first word in each pair repeated, and the subject tries to recall the second. Verbalizing the connection between the two stimulus words seems to enhance performance.
    Several implications for teaching can be drawn from this research. First, materials presented to learners who are retarded should be familiar or have some relevance for them. Second, information should be grouped or organized into meaningful parts. Finally, such learners should be instructed in mediational strategies.

  • Memory, the ability to retrieve information that has been stored, is one of the most heavily researched components of the learning process. Most researchers contend that once learned, information is retained over the long term about as well by those with retardation as by those without (Belmont, 1966; Ellis, 1963). In the area of short-term memory, however, learners who are retarded appear to have considerable difficulty (Borkowski, Peck, & Damberg, 1983; Ellis, 1963).
    Ellis (1970) and his associates considered that the short-term memory problems characteristic of people who are retarded arise primarily from their inability to use rehearsal strategies or adequate rehearsal activities. The major rehearsal strategies noted by Mercer and Snell (1977) in their review of studies of STM were verbal rehearsal and image rehearsal. Verbal rehearsal relates to the concept of self-instruction and refers to labeling aspects of a task and verbalizing these labels aloud or silently while the task is being performed. For example, verbal rehearsal might be used to help a worker learn the steps of an assembly task: "Pick up one nut; pick one bolt; put the bolt into the nut," and so forth. Image rehearsal, a form of visualization, the individual is taught to associate aspects of a task with pictures of events that will help him to recall them. For instance, a youngster might be taught to tie shoelaces by making one "rabbit ear," then another, and tying the two together.
    Executive control and metacognition are terms applied to the process one consciously goes through in order to analyze a problem, anticipate outcomes of various actions, decide how the problem should be solved, and monitor progress towards the solution (Campione, Brown, & Ferrara, 1982). Researchers have noted that learners who are retarded generally do not spontaneously employee executive control processes (Brown, 1974: Sternberg & Spear, 1985), but that they can be taught to use them effectively (Borkowski et al., 1983).
    Other teaching techniques to facilitate recall include
    (a) organizing material into meaningful segments,
    (b) using reinforcement and incentives for remembering,
    (c) using repetition and drill,
    (d) reminding and encouraging the learner to use rehearsal strategies, and
    (e) using reconstructive elaborations. The short-term memory of mentally retarded individuals, that is, the ability to recall material over a period of seconds and minutes, has long been a topic of interest.
  • Transfer or generalization: Individuals with mental retardation have difficulty applying what they have learned to new settings, with different people, or in new ways (Stevens, 1972).


    Instructional Setting


    . In principle, any setting can serve as an appropriate educational environment for mentally retarded children if certain principles of instruction are observed.

    i. Educable Mentally Handicapped: There can be no denying the fact that organized education and effective guidance, control and supervision can help and make many mentally helpless to become self-dependent or at least to become less of a burden to society and lead more constructive lives. The whole direction of such a school should be towards the attainment of ends other than those of academic excellence. The method of individualization is advised as it facilitates every individual child to work in terms of his interest and ability. The principle "learning by doing" should be emphasized as their mental growth never permits them to learn relational and abstract materials. Academic work of the mentally handicapped should be started after knowing their level of maturation and learning readiness. The craft education like agriculture gardening, leather work, painting should get the place as it makes mentally handicapped economically independent. Concrete problems should be intelligently introduced in teaching-learning situation. Curriculum should be transacted through simple and interesting experiences.

    ii. Trainable Mentally Handicapped: Trainable mentally handicapped are so intellectually sub-normal that they are not likely to learn the academic skills (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic). They are trainable but not educable, marked delay in development, understands they spoken word, protects himself against danger, performs routine tasks under supervision. The programme meant for them emphasizes physical and social rather than intellectual skills. The methods used for them should be clearly related to the real-life experiences and everyday needs of the children.
    Some sort of habit training may offer beneficial result to such type of children.
    Group activities such as games, story-telling, simple dramatic work can train the child to work peacefully and co-operatively with others.
    The subjects like physical education, agriculture, physiology etc. are appropriate for imparting training to their senses. Story-telling, simple dramatic work and group discussion can foster their linguistic development.
    Simple crafts such as weaving basketry, rug-making, gardening, leather work should be introduced as these activities may enable them to achieve some degree of economic self-sufficiency in the future.
    Knowledge of simple everyday words and simple calculation in money, taken from real life situation, will be of great value to them in moving about in the society.

    EDUCATIONAL ADAPTATIONS


    Instructional Planning
    Once a child is classified mentally retarded, we must identify the student's individual characteristics that will help shape a special educational program with specific priorities and objectives. We use the individualized education program (IEP) to generate this information. The IEP lists assessment data, long-range objectives, measurable goals, the personnel needed to carry out the program, and evaluation procedures.


    Learning Environment
    Substantial attention in recent years has been given to the setting in which special education services are delivered. Strong emphasis on the least restrictive environment and mainstreaming has brought many retarded children in closer contact with their non handicapped peers. The major types of placements for these students are the augmented regular classroom, the resource room, and the special class.

    SUMMARY


  • Information Processing Model divides the process of thinking into separate components that can be individually studied. Levels-of-Processing Model includes Stage Model of Information Processing. This Model describes three stages of memory: Sensory Memory, Short Term Memory and Long Term Memory and Concept Formation. Functional approaches of mentally retarded include academic outcomes which focus on strategies for improving attention variables, also mediational strategies which including making them learn grouping which further includes physical similarity and sequential equivalence and mediation and also on making them learn few mnemonics devices such as Verbal rehearsal . Image rehearsal Executive control and metacognition. There are also techniques for social improvement. Instructional setting and educational adaptation necessary for mentally retarded children.

    LESSON PLANS FOR MRC
    PTC JANUARY 2012



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