An exploratory study of children with learning difficulties in mainstream classes in A.C.T. Primary schools

  • Margaret Bourke

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    There were four aims identified for the study. Firstly, to become familiar with current research concerning children with learning difficulties in mainstream classes in primary schools. Secondly, to ascertain teachers’ attitudes towards, and experience of, these children. Thirdly, to interview a sample of children identified by their teachers as performing in all academic areas at least 18 months behind the rest of the class. The purpose of the interview was to examine how they perceived their performance in reading and mathematics compared with the rest of the class, and to investigate their self-concepts. The final aim was to gain an understanding of the nature of the interaction between teachers and children with learning difficulties by observing a small sample of them, and a Control group, in class. Field work was conducted in three A.C.T. primary schools in 1984-85. The field work was divided into three stages. In Stage 1 a sample of 30 teachers volunteered to complete a questionnaire. In Stage 2 a sample of 30 children identified by their teachers as having learning difficulties was interviewed. In Stage 3, 6 of the previously identified children and 6 Control children were observed in class. Whilst the findings of these 3 stages of field work can only be presented tentatively due to the small sample sizes involved, there were some findings worthy of comment. For example, many teachers indicated a lack of pre-service training, or even in-service course attendance which could have provided a background to teaching children with learning difficulties. The childrens’ responses indicated that their perception of their performance in reading compared with their peers was that they were “not as good as the rest of the class.” However, for mathematics their perception was that their performance was more in the middle of the class. As a group their self-concept was low, as measured on the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory. From the observation it appeared that children with learning difficulties were on-task as much as the Control children. The teacher was twice as likely to interact with a child with learning difficulties than with a Control child, and the majority of these interactions were to impart instructions.
    Date of Award1985
    Original languageEnglish

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