Howie, my partner in Dyslexia Victoria Online and I were at his mother’s house for dinner recently. His sister, a marine biologist was also there chatting with us. We were talking about education and how it can be made more effective.
She talked about a personal experience when she was taking a physics course in college. She told us physics was not particularly interesting or easy to comprehend for a group of fellow biology students and herself especially as they were also older students. They couldn’t relate to the study of how things move such as rolling little wood cars down inclines or into each other to demonstrate the physics concepts of “joules and work“. The teacher was brilliant in her field but these biology students could not understand what the class was about and how it related to them.
Howie’s sister was sitting with these students studying in the library when the physics teacher came by. The teacher asked them their impressions of the class. The students told her they felt lost and had difficulty comprehending physics. However they were comfortable with biology courses and could easily relate to the information. They suggested she attend one of their biology classes to see the world they connected with.
The teacher took them up on their recommendation and showed up for the biology class the next day. They were studying force and leverage in the jaws in animals and had some crocodile skulls to demonstrate with. Interesting, physics occurring in biology.
Howie’s sister and study group were delighted to discover the physics teacher had brought the crocodile skulls into the next physics class to use as a physical example of force and leverage. The biology students were excited, engaged and getting physics in a meaningful way. The complex theories were now much easier to understand.
So how does this relate to Dyslexia? This type of teaching style using concrete or real examples of a new subject and especially concepts that are already familiar to a Dyslexic student can be very effective and productive. If it is also possible to use demonstrations that are of interest to the student these can become the “icing on the cake”. So if the student loves trains or whales or Star Wars try using these when teaching an abstract concept such as physics. For example what kind of force would the pod racers in Star Wars need to fly? How does a train use steam to move or how do whales jump out of water? The Dyslexic student has a tendency to grow, achieve and bloom when presented new material this way. As far as Howie’s sister, force and leverage are “a piece of cake” now.
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online