Into the Mind of a Slow Learner

With every tip-toe heard advancing towards the classroom, some heartbeats experience a dip, and no sooner does it become a whole teacher-figure crossing into the room, the same beat suddenly turns ominously crazy. This crazy throb of anxiety and disinterest characterizes the trauma all slow learners experience at school no matter what grade. With just a few exceptions in terms of subjects, these feelings of depression stay constant with these fellows across the whole range of curriculum. These students exhibit below-average performance in class activities, which ultimately reflects badly on their score cards too. The sad part is that this low grade performance recurs over time and renders these poor guys almost irrelevant in the whole process of education. They start living under a bad tag put on them by their smart peers, and endorsed by the daily deal of criticism they face from the unaccommodating teachers. Feeling utterly helpless and hopeless in this situation, they gradually turn complacent with their scanty learning outputs and lose trust in their capacity to learn at all.

So, what’s the definition of a slow learner? Well, it’s far less convenient putting a one-size-fits-all kind of a definition on such guys than awarding negative tags, which, obviously sounds a way cheaper deal.

What makes a slow learner a slow learner is the question that can help us cast an eye on the factors that breed this attitude towards learning.

Let us dive deep into the mind of a slow learner and see for ourselves the traces of reasons behind keeping this individual quite low on the learning curve. To this end, I will try to use my experience in teaching to help me imagine the implications of an intricate learning interaction experienced by this low performer.

In this particular case, let Wazir be the guy who happens to be in sixth grade. He is trapped in this so called uncanny situation, and has somehow accepted that he cannot improve. There are three perspectives that can be built for inquiry into his unsettled mind in the process of education. In fact, there are three basic questions that need to be probed.

1. The Missing Link

Education is basically a tool crafted and designed in order to bring about a change in our behavior towards our environment, the people, the world at large, and most importantly towards our own self. A good food recipe may render the final meal on your plate a bad taste if you compromise on the specificity of ingredients, let alone miss any essential item altogether. Similarly, what essentially precedes putting a child into a schooling system is the need to ensure the development of an aptitude towards this end. Home schooling, therefore, is the first benchmark to cultivate this orientation in the child before entrusting him to school.

Unfortunately, Wazir has carried wide gaps in his orientation, and has somehow reached the sixth grade now. These gaps have widened over time. He feels utterly baffled by the quantities of tasks he is expected to do, both at school and at home because he cannot simply catch up. Whatever minimum is learnt falls terribly short of any merit of satisfaction within him because of the gigantic part that remains un-understood. His learning shortfall is accumulating every day, partly because he has lost the courage to ask any question to address any ambiguities in his perception, and partly because of loop holes left in planning on the part of the teacher before the execution of the lesson.

Whereas parents can somehow be excused for putting things together for a wholesome learning environment at home, teacher’s unawareness of such a crisis occurring in the class may leave the child ignorant for life. Unless such a child is sufficiently and systematically brought within a learning loop, his progress will always be sketchy and incongruous. Besides staying in a consistent liaison with parents, a teacher should leave enough margin for differentiation on his lesson plans to make room for support needed by such kids. Differentiation is incumbent because different students have different learning aptitudes, and only a teacher knows where to invest more energy and attention to even out the spirit of the lesson to all and sundry.

2. Blending in with the Environment

Second missing link is the feeling of missing out in the overall learning environment built around you. Wazir, like many others of his type, experiences an aura of alienation with the guys around him besides feeling twice as distanced from the unintelligible sermons from his teachers. Since he is already failing to keep pace with his peers, he deems it fairly right to accept his fate as a mediocre. And that certainly rings the alarm.

Unless some wisely measured tactics are applied to put this guy back on track, there is likelihood that he will resort to framing excuses as his permanent defence. But the sad part is that he is already at play with excuses and finds it a perfect hideout from jeers and sneers from his fellow know-it-alls, and to a great extent from his teachers. Anyhow, this constant interplay of working, shirking and shaming precipitates a crisis situation.

Well, as a result, the child is in a fix. The school campus as a whole stands tall and grand around him with all amenities in place, yet he is feeling out of place. Why? The classroom walls are laden with boards oozing out information, yet he feels daunted by their unwelcome glare. Why? He is sitting in a mix-ability classroom culture with his age mates, yet he experiences utter alienation with them. Why?

He is simply failing to blend in with his environment because he is not at par with the pace at which the knowledge nukes are being set in motion. His predicament is great. A pertinent sense of association and belonging has to be the first measure taken in this regard to help the child restore his affinity with his environment and class community. Without the implication of some persistent remedial coaching and counseling, the prospects of recovery and restoration look ominously bleak. 

This crisis might as well have been avoided in its tracks if it had been timely diagnosed by the teachers in the first place and obviously by parents if they had shown some concern. Anyhow, the onus of neglect rests equally on both sides. The solution to this crisis, however, asks for a good team effort by all stakeholders in equation, and especially on the child himself to revamp his aptitude towards the repair work designed for him.

3. Mode of Knowledge Acquisition

Lack of awareness about the fitting use of different modes of knowledge acquisition is the third most disorienting factor that embitters the process of learning. Time tested methods of knowledge acquisition are comprised of the following faculties:


This is the primary portal of knowledge acquisition. Its mantra is believing whatever feels true. In this particular domain much of learning depends on guts, instincts and emotions. Although this approach runs contrary to the wise examination of facts or rational thinking, it has its own merits, especially when considered in specific reference to the working of a slow learner’s mind. Individuals with compromised learning curve may feel quite traumatized having to weigh alternatives or do deep analyses of facts. Teachers should priorities eliciting gut responses of such students during brainstorming sessions to make them feel engaged and involved.


This method implies the acquisition of knowledge by the aid of authority, which, however, does not necessarily mean the regimental authority instituted by the use of rod and punishment. Parents, teachers, media, government etc are all emblems of authority. Let’s single out the teachers to see how they influence a mediocre learner in this capacity. A slow learner’s mind is very sensitive to this authority figure. Whereas teacher’s authority in subject knowledge stands squarely granted, it should also ensure that whatever taught is fairly caught as well. Wazir, like all others is unquestionably open to this relay of knowledge and information, but teacher should also be able to read the eye brows twitching up into a knot of question in this process in order to ensure that no gaps are left in the output.


In this method, acquiring new knowledge demands the use of logic and reasoning. A premise is stated before an attempt is made to apply logical rules to reach any conclusion. For instance, if children are given the premise that all good schools have a student council, they will automatically apply reason to affect believability in this statement. This will be further concretized by their reading of literature about schools or by study visits to such schools, unless the ground facts prove the case otherwise. A good lesson, therefore, must ensure laying down believable premises for inquiry, and sustainable support must always be ensured in case of slow learners.


This mode of knowledge acquisition involves thorough observation and experience. Learning, in this particular domain, calls for an excessive reliance on senses and visual experiences. People believe that sky is blue as it appears to be blue. Anyhow the scientific inquiry dispels this visual illusion. This over reliance on senses and observations, therefore, is the limitation of this method of acquiring knowledge. However, empiricism constitutes the foundation for any advanced scientific inquiry, and students must be given good enough training to sharpen their observational skills. A fair consideration must be given to the slow learners’ observation of the world so that they may feel valued and on a level turf with others.


Scientific method is all about:

  • Making an observation
  • Asking a question
  • Gathering information
  • Creating a hypothesis
  • Conducting experiment
  • Analyzing the results
  • Drawing conclusion

In short, scientific method is the summation of all other modes of knowledge acquisition i.e. intuition, authority, rationalism, empiricism etc. This is the most desirable form of knowledge acquisition, but the only drawback is that it is not as such practicable because it requires considerable time and resources. Anyhow all students, mediocre or exceptional, must be enabled to adopt this methodology in their learning pursuits. This approach may sound terribly daunting to a slow learner’s mind, but this landmark can be achieved through patience and consistent encouragement by the teacher.

Post a Comment