Observational Case Study on Learning Difficulties
Based on my observation and participation in the session, I feel that it went well and was beneficial to me as well as to the students. In particular, I selected to study a six year old boy named J, who was part of the class since my key objective was to understand learning difficulties and how to cope with them. Throughout my observations, I realized that J had various challenges operating in the classroom setting. He was unable to follow instructions or to focus on the assigned tasks. Moreover, he became aggressive when corrected –even warning him of potential self harm. Based on my observation, I can say that J’s main problem was that he approached every task with a perfectionist attitude and completing the task successfully was his priority in spite of his inability to focus on his task. This was challenging not only for him, but also for the teacher and to his classmates.
Based on the difficulties exhibited by J, I can say that he suffers from a learning disorder, probably linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This was more apparent when I realized that in cases where he could not focus independently, he tried to gain the attention of others through interference, aggressive questioning and even self harm. At the same time, his behavior did not hinder him from participating effectively in verbal activities. His understanding of language was exemplary, indicating the potential in him. This kind of challenge can only be addressed through positive psychology as described by Rao and Donaldson (2015). The positive psychology approach involves recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of individuals in the classroom and emphasizing the strengths rather than the weaknesses. In this way, a student is encouraged to develop their positive qualities while also downplaying the negative qualities.
In order to help J, I observed the actions of his teacher and tried to implement an alternative approach. I decided to use a reactive approach to problem solving. I attempted to teach J that harming himself and others through aggressive behavior was wrong by administering on him the same pain he transmitted to others. For instance, when he punched his fellow students, I also punched him. In my mind, I believed that he acted the way he did because he could not understand the impacts of his actions on others. As such, the only way to make him understand was to make him go through the same pain. I however realized this approach was not working when he grew more hostile towards me in the class as well as outside the classroom setting.
In my efforts to make him understand his mistake, I had used a wrong approach which made him feel that I disliked him. Instead of focusing on his strength, I had focused on his weakness in an effort to make changes. Not only did this affect J but it also scared his classmates. For instance, it became somehow common for students to threaten to report each other to me after every incidence. Based on my experience in this, I realized that it was not the best approach to tackle J’s learning difficulty.
From this experience, I can say that as much as my approach was wrong, the way in which I engaged in it was also wrong. I could have applied the same approach but in a better way. As a form of negative reinforcement, I could have applied some interpersonal relationship tactics such as explaining to the students the implications of aggressive behaviors and the punishment that would follow such actions. I could have explained to J specifically the reason why he kept getting wrong answers or giving wrong responses to questions. I could have told him it was because he did not pay attention when the teacher was issuing instructions. I could also have explained that it is for this reason that he was always getting into problems with the teacher and with other students. This could have helped him understand in case I decided to punish him for his actions.
Although the group was mostly cooperative during the class durations, J seemed to be the major stumbling block in the achievement of the group objectives. The lesson plan provided an effective management tool for the other group members, but a more personal approach was required to address the case of J. In particular, all the challenges that came with group management including disorganization and aggressiveness came about due to the behaviors of J. I thus determined that helping him solve his problem could result in better group management and I could do this by employing a behavioral and positive psychology approach. In applying the positive psychology approach, I was attempting to solve the extant problem in the shortest time possible. This approach could help the child to attain positive growth through understanding his strengths and dwelling on them instead of distracting the entire group. For instance, I informed J of his great capabilities in communication and encouraged him to use this capability more. In addition to this, I also made him aware that I would award every positive action with praise by encouraging him to engage more in the positive activities. I came to realize that this was a better approach towards behavior change as compared to the reactive approach.
Based on the description of J’s background as given by the teacher, I concluded that his problem probably arose from lack of recognition by his classmates and the lack of appreciation of his strengths. I therefore aimed at encouraging him to talk more about himself and to share with the teacher in case he had any problems. Furthermore, I encouraged him by making it clear that he could use his communication strengths to make an impact on the lives of others as well as his own. In this activity, the response was positive and by the end of my observational study, I can say that there was observable change in the student and in the group as a whole as exemplified by greater cooperation and less aggression. Adherence to group tasks and objectives also became easier resulting in compliance with the lesson plan.
Through my activity, I can deduce that the process was successful and that as opposed to the reactive procedure, the positive behavioral process was conducted more efficiently. Besides helping the individual, I was also able to run the class more efficiently and more productively.
Rao, M.A., & Donaldson, S. I. (2015). Expanding opportunities for diversity in positive psychology: An examination of gender, race and ethnicity. Journal of Canadian Psychology, 56( 3) 271- 282.