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Identifying and Overcoming Learning Blockages

The primary and high school years can be stressful for children, particularly those battling academically. These children often feel that there is something wrong with them and that they can’t be helped. However, recent research results have indicated a significant correlation between levels of academic achievement in children and the learning blockages that they experience. These learning blockages are factors that hamper a learner’s school performance, for example study skills, fear about learning and learning from others. Fortunately, these blockages can be successfully addressed through intervention.

Research on the subject was initiated by Henk du Plessis, Managing Director of Edublox, a South African company that assists children and adults with reading and learning. Whilst visiting a number of schools in Phalaborwa, du Plessis realised that many learners were finding it difficult to successfully make the transition from primary school to high school level. This was largely due to the fact that parents often help their children with school work and studying in primary school but once they reach high school level the children are expected to take responsibility for their own school work and studies. Concurrently, the amount and complexity of school work increases as do sport and social commitments. Often the learning skills employed by parents are not transferred to the children and as such, they experience learning blockages.

Du Plessis compiled an online questionnaire by adapting an existing learning blockages questionnaire. The questionnaire, initially designed to assess tertiary students, was specifically adapted to suit Grade 7 and older learners. It was designed by Sue von Hirschfeld and Sylvia Downs (1993), specialists on learning strategies and methods.

Scientific research was conducted by Antoinette Rossouw, an Industrial Organisational Psychologist. “The questionnaire was completed by 70 high school learners and their responses correlated with their scholastic achievement,” says Rossouw. “The results showed that there is a significant link between the presence of learning blockages in children and their rate of failure. Learners with fewer learning blockages achieve better marks at school. More effective learners use a broader range of learning skills and choose learning skills appropriate to the subject whilst less effective learners have fewer learning skills and of these, some are inappropriately used. The learners that experienced difficulty with their learning skills, had worries and fears about learning and found it difficult learning from others displayed poorer academic results than their unchallenged counterparts,” Rossouw explains.

“Fortunately for learners facing these learning blockages, this is something that can be successfully addressed through intervention,” says Henk du Plessis. “It is important to create an awareness among struggling learners that these blockages could prevent academic success, that proper intervention can bring about positive change and that there are products and people out there that can assist them in addressing this distressing situation. Many learners mistakenly think that studying means revising material by reading through it repeatedly, but this is not the case. Study success and failure do not only depend on ability. An essential component is the extent to which learners are able to apply proper study methods and learning skills,” he explains.

Edublox Reading and Learning Clinics offer Studiblox, a course that includes brain training exercises, study methods, learning skills, writing essays and delivering speeches for learners from Grade 4 to 12.

“When my parents enrolled me at Edublox I was a little sad as it meant giving up three days of my holiday but the three mornings couldn’t have been better spent,” says Shivani Permaul, a Grade 9 learner at St Urshula’s School who attended the Studiblox course. “I’ve learnt from the mistakes I used to make while learning for exams. I would advise kids who are struggling to take it because you’ll see that you have all the potential in the world,” she enthuses.

The learning blockages questionnaire (English and Afrikaans) for Grade 7 and older learners is available free of charge for parents wishing to assess their own children. Access to the questionnaire is available online and will require a reference number which can be provided by Edublox. Questionnaire results are sent back to Edublox where an educationalist will be able to explain the results to parents and the learner and suggest a suitable course of action.