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Barriers to Learning

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Measurable and relatively permanent change in behavior through experience, instruction, or study, Hughes, M. and Vass, A. (2001). Learning itself cannot be measured, but its results can be. In the words of Harvard Business School psychologist Chris Argyris, learning is “detection and correction of error” where an error means “any mismatch between our intentions and what actually happens.” Research and practice highlights that young carers can face many barriers to their learning, both at school and at home. Psychological or emotional barriers, financial constraints, systemic barriers and societal barriers are some of the barriers that inhibit learning and they manifest in different situations. Anything that may stand in the way or prevent the learner to fully participate and learn effectively can thus be seen as a barrier to learning. It is important to remember that barriers do not necessarily exist all the time, but can arise suddenly, due to change in circumstances, emotional trauma and a variety of other factors.

Psychological barriers inhibit the learning process. Participants and pupils can be capable of working towards the same learning objectives as their peers but have difficulties arising from their particular physical, cognitive, or sensory difference which may prevent them from taking part in the lesson. Training and development department supported by human resources department authorities and others should actively seek to remove the barriers to learning and participation that can hinder or exclude participants with special educational needs. According to Hughes, M. and Vass, A. (2001), difficulties in learning often arise from unsuitable environment inappropriate groupings of pupils, inflexible teaching styles, or inaccessible curriculum materials – as much as from individual children’s physical, sensory or cognitive impairments.

There are a wide range of sensory, multi-sensory and physical difficulties which pose potential barriers to learning according to Haring, N.G. (1982). Sensory difficulties can extend from profound and permanent deafness or visual impairment through to lesser levels of loss, which may be only temporary. Physical difficulties can arise from physical, neurological or metabolic causes that only require appropriate access to educational facilities and needs, while some pupils will have more complex learning and social needs, according to Hughes, M. and Vass, A. (2001).

Moreover other psychological things that affect learning include salaries, work and life balance to mention but a few. One can not engage in active learning if one is not financially motivated by organisational rewards. Moreso one cannot learn is his or her family is starving. These and others are some of the psychological barriers to the learning process.

Societal barriers can differ from community to community. Although poverty is one of the central issues, more so the neglect of learners in wealthier households can also cause barriers to learning and development. The issues listed below are instrumental to a large variety of barriers experienced by many learners.

Severe Poverty
Late Enrolment
Gangs/Violence in neighbourhoods and at home
Gender Issues in cultural groups and society

Learners, their learning processes and the training and development are severely effected by sustained poverty. Under-nourished learners cannot concentrate. Their emotional stress increase and they loose their ability to effectively take part in the learning process. Poverty-stricken communities often have limited educational facilities where large classes are under-resourced and staff mostly inadequately trained.

The lack of early intervention programmes, this prevents learners from benefiting from intervention and stimulation, which will increase their capacity to learn. For example elderly people are not willing to develop their selves even to accept new ideas because they have not been exposed to that.

Moreso, according to, Engelbrecht, P and Green, L (2000), abuse, affect the learning process. When a learner is physically, emotionally or sexually abused, the emotional and physical damage could cause frequent absences from
school and eventually “drop-out”. most ladies especially in the mining industry are not willing to develop themselves because they have been exposed to abuse due to inequality. The lack of safety in a learning environment then becomes a barrier to learning and development.

Harmful, negative attitudes towards learners with differences in organisationslead to labeling, like “drop outs”, “slow learners” and many others. This has a negative influence on self-esteem. Learners with low self-esteem seldomly fully participate in educational activities. Harmful and negative attitudes mostly come from fear and lack of knowledge about how to deal with the learner’s particular needs.

Learners with HIV-Aids are often met with much resistance when enrolling in training and development programmes. Negative assumptions and lack of knowledge may exclude such learners from training. Many people still think that the mere physical presence of a learner with HIV-Aids can be a risk to others.

In the same way, learners with high abilities are often misunderstood and feared. They are regarded as a threat. This leads to denial of their considerable abilities. As a result of negative attitudes and low expectations, gifted learners from poverty stricken communities are often not recognised and given opportunities to reach their full potential. This is truly a workplace issue that needs to be addressed.

Systemic barriers also affect the learning process. The following problems in the training and development programmes can contribute to conditions that may cause barriers to learning. Lack of basic and appropriate learning support materials

Lack of assistive devices
Overcrowded learning rooms

The availability of educational resources plays a role in effective learning in the organisation. Organisations with fully equipped training schools
like Edgars and Econet are able to achieve their training goal because of resources while small companies are struggling to achieve their goals because of inadequate resources. According to Robertson, C. (2000) language of teaching and learning can be a barrier to learners who have to learn in a second and sometimes a third language. Low expectations, lack of cultural peers and discrimination experienced by these learners, contribute further to their breakdown of learning. Participants are more likely to absorb more when they are taught in Shona and Ndebele than in English because English is a foreign language while Shona and Ndebele are indigenous languages that are spoken everyday by workers.

Financial constraints, including lack of resources such as a computer, money for training and development can also act as a barrier to learning. It is encouraged to do workshops outside the normal working environment to motivate participants as well as too avoid disruptions. However most organisations cannot afford to hold training programs in hotels and other conference centres which therefore act as a barrier to learning. For example a training programme on gender can be held in the company boardroom and during a speech an emergency issue may arise which may force the programme to be adjourned.

In Zimbabwe companies are and even schools are struggling to develop learners to due financial constraints. In the world of work several seminars are being held countrywide to develop workers such as the IPMZ seminars and other short courses but the majority of workers cannot afford them but to financial constraints. Moreso the difference between the levels of competence between workers can also be attributed to financial constraints. For example if Econet sent its representative to a seminar, they are high chances that the person will be equipped with state of the art equipment as compared to others.

To conclude up, in order to achieve their full potential in training and development programmes, learners need to see and value themselves as potential learners and potential achievers in life. They should be helped to move beyond their own negative views of themselves, often created by an
exclusive focus on their difficulties. Organisation must work on identifying and understanding barriers to learning and development and adapting learning and assessment and organise learning in such a way that all learners can attain the outcomes.

Bonsal, M.R.(1996)Gifted learners and problems experienced in Classrooms National Foundation for Gifted and Creative Children. Los Angeles California Engelbrecht, P and Green, L (2001) Promoting learner development Preventing and working with barriers to learning Van Schaik, Pretoria Haring, N.G. (1982) Exceptional Children and Youth Third Edition Charles E. Merril Columbus, Ohio Hughes, M. and Vass, A. (2001) Strategies for Closing the Learning Gap. Network Educational Press, Stafford Tilstone, C., Lacey, P., Porter, J. and Robertson, C. (2000) Pupils with Learning Difficulties in Mainstream Schools. David Fulton, London:

National Department of Education 2001 White Paper 6 Special Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System. State Printers Pretoria

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