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Factors that affect Student Learning

Updated on May 24, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

By Dean Traylor
By Dean Traylor

Students between the ages of 5 and 18 years of age are expected to learn in school. It is their primary job in society, and its possibly the one thing that will prepare them to become productive members in their adult years. What they learn will also determine the choices they’ll make when they enter the workforce or continue onto higher education.

In order for students to learn there are several factors that must be considered. Most of these factors are external; they deal with social or cultural values. Also, it may be determined by the school’s environment as well as the teachers and administrators that teach them. Still, another important factor falls upon the student’s ability and willingness to learn.

Here are several factors that can affect the way a student learns during these formidable years

Socio-Economic Factors

Students come from various backgrounds. Some are poor while others come from affluent household. They may come from strong family structures in which the parents are professionals or are highly educated, while others students may come from a single parent household and/or have parents with limited educational background.

Students from affluent neighborhood will most likely have more educational support and resources to help them through school. Often, these neighborhoods have more tutoring companies, after-school activities, and education stores than the working class or poor neighborhoods.

Also, an affluent neighborhood will be filled with highly educated people. In many respects, students in these neighborhoods are expected to continue their education at college or university level. In struggling, impoverished neighborhoods, education may be seen more as a way to get a job after high school. In some cases, the idea of getting an education is secondary. Economically surviving is more important.

Parents' Education

Often, the affluent parents will have access to educational resources for their children. Also, the parents from this sector of society will most likely educate their children directly or indirectly. It is more likely that these parents will have higher regards for education and establish post-secondary educational goals.

Also, it is more likely that children whose parents have professional degrees (medical doctors, lawyers, or teachers) will pursue a similar educational path, than those whose parents’ educations stopped at a high school diploma level.

This is not to say that children's educations are predetermined by the parents’ education; however, it is merely one factor that can affect their desire to learn.

Having taught at a school that was once plagued by riots, student fights, and gang problems, this writer had seen what happened when student safety has been compromised.

School Structure and Resources

The condition and availability of resources at a school can play a major factor. One classroom this writer had comes to mind: It was small, cramped and its entrance was through another classroom. On top of that, it was near the train tracks on one side and the wood and metal shop on the other side. It was noisy, and students were easily distracted. Teaching in this classroom was equally tough.

A well-equipped class with space and the least amount of distractions will usually help students; especially those with learning disabilities to focus on instructions.

By Dean Traylor
By Dean Traylor

Safety

Safety, or the sense of feeling safe, can affect student learning, too. Having taught at a school that was once plagued by riots, student fights, and gang problems, this writer had seen what happened when student safety has been compromised. While some students sought refuge in teachers’ classes during lunch or when these incidents occurred, others simply stopped coming to school.

If the students feel safe, they will not have to worry about conflicts on campus. If they are the target of bullying, afraid of being caught up in an upheaval such as school-wide fights or riots, then they will be more worried about these problems rather than what’s being taught in English or Math class.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities can affect the way student learns. There are specific learning abilities (SLD) such as auditory or visual processing that will affect the way students process or recall information given to them both orally or in writing.

Other designations such as OHI (Other Health Impairments) -- such as attention deficit disorders or ADD/ADHD -- or emotional disorders (ED) will affect the students' abilities to concentrate or use self-control.

There several forms of disabilities that can have varying degree of effects upon the students. Autism Spectrum Disorders is just one example.

Either way, some students will have mild or moderate disabilities or moderate to severe (such as intellectual disorders).

In many cases, the disabilities can be identified. Students will need accommodation or modification in a general education classroom. Or will need to attend a self-contained classroom such as a special day class.

But, some of these disabilities can mimic one another and can be difficult to distinguish.

Language Barriers

If the students’ language abilities are affected, they will have trouble retaining the lesson. In many cases, students labeled as English Language Learners may not grasp the language well enough to understand what is being taught. Sometimes, this refers to students who have had the ability to acquire the language but have not learned the rules associated with it. Communication between the teacher and students can be greatly hindered by this particular factor.

Still, there’s another factor that doesn’t always get raised. In secondary schools (high school and middle school), in which teachers are expected to teach a particular subject and be an expert in it -- administrators will often place these teachers in unfamiliar subjects.

Teachers/Administration

A teacher’s skills, expertise, and willingness can help students learn. In the art of teaching, anything a teacher does is going to be scrutinized by the students. If the teacher serves as an ideal role model, demonstrates competence, as well as confidence, in the subject he or she is teaching, the students will respond positively. This rule applies to administrators as well.

Still, there’s another factor that doesn’t always get raised. In secondary schools (high school and middle school), in which teachers are expected to teach a particular subject and be an expert in it -- administrators will often place these teachers in unfamiliar subjects. Sometimes, a math teacher discovers one year he has to teach social science, or English teacher must teach Science. This can cause confusion and unfamiliarity among these teachers. On top of that, it can affect the students’ abilities to learn the subject if the teacher is not an expert in it.

By Dean Traylor
By Dean Traylor

The Willingness to Learn

Up to this point, most of the factors that may affect student learning dealt with external causes, language barriers, and learning disabilities. However, a very critical factor some may say the most important one is the student’s willingness to learn. If a student is eager, motivated, or goal oriented, the likelihood is that student will learn. If not, the student may regurgitate the education given to him or her but not retain it.

Student learning is a multi-faceted system. Students may prosper when several of these factors are in play. Even if one factor is missing, they will be able to learn. However, in the long run, the willingness to learn may trump all other factors, for it is up to the individual to overcome difficulties and reach the educational goal that they want.

by Dean Traylor
by Dean Traylor

© 2016 Dean Traylor

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