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Strategies to Help Students Retain Information


Children with disabilities are entitled to personalize learning curriculum. These programs are available in public schools and it is free of charge to any family. This rule lies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act department that oversees the governance of public schools. This federal ensures public schools are in a position to serve and treat learners with specific learning disabilities and other forms of disabilities. For this purpose, all public schools develop an Individual Education Program for each learner who has a disability.

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For these Individual Education Programs to be successful, the teachers must invest more in the teaching strategies that will enhance the performance of the programs. Several schools and teachers have concluded that active learning strategies help students who are on Individual Education Programs to retain the information learned. The adoption of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 increased the number of people accessing the curriculum. The programs make parents vital members of their children’s education panel as they can now work with educators to build up a plan. The main objective of IEP programs is to help children succeed in school and attain their educational goals on the same platform as normal children.

Active learning is a process whereby learners take part in activities such as writing, reading, discussion, and problem-solving actions. These activities help enhance analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content. Inactive learning, there are various approaches that the teachers employ in ensuring learners retain the information from class time. Co-operative learning, problem-based learning, and the application of case methods and simulations are examples of the approaches, which promote active learning. Individual Education Programs provide an explanation of the learning-disabled learner’s present proficiency levels depending on the recognized appraisal.

Teachers measure and observe goals for improvement in each area of educational need while at the same time setting objectives outlining specific skills required to attain IEP goals. Public schools rely on the programs to provide specially designed instruction, which will be useful in the students learning. Also, these programs determine when, where, and for how long the specially designed instruction will be offered. Individual Education Programs recommend subsidiary services that the learners will need to support the programs. Relating these programs to active learning strategies, one realizes that both play a major role in retaining information.

This action research focuses on whether certain instructional strategies help improve students’ retention of information in a fifth-grade math class. Eight students with Individual Educational Programs (IEP) are included. The test scores are used to determine their current information on retaining level and whether their grades improve with the use of active learning strategies such as simulation activities. Data is also collected from a student survey to get their opinion on the use of active learning strategies. The findings from my research suggest that the use of active learning strategies helps students who are on IEPs to retain the information and therefore, be a beneficial teaching method for use. The major question is who needs the IEP in public schools. Children struggling in school may qualify for support services hence allowing them to be taught in a special way using special approaches. Also, children with speech or language impairment, developmental delay, and vision impairment require special attention in the teaching process.


The main purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of active learning strategies on learners under Individual Education Programs in retaining class information.

Literature Review

Learners become meta-cognitive when they set goals for themselves. Before beginning this process, the learners need to have a sense of success. Students who are not successful tend to give up. Bonwell & Eison (1991) sum up the literature on active learning and bring to a close that it leads to better learners’ thinking. More so, these strategies lead to improvements in learners’ thinking and writing which are essential in achieving educational goals. On the other hand, McKeachie (1972) provides evidence on the benefits of one form of active learning, which is a discussion. In providing recommendations for instructional methods that are proficient, Felder et al included active learning.

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Active Learning

The major elements of active learning include introducing student activity into the long-established classes and encouraging student involvement. From a more general perspective, active learning mainly comprises introducing and adding student activity into conventional lessons. The most notable example of this practice is the teacher pausing too periodically to allow learners to clarify their notes with fellow learners.

For instance, in a one-hour class, the teacher can do this three or four times. According to researchers, this is the simplest procedure to introduce student activity because in the event the learner fails to understand a subject he or she can seek assistance. Teachers pausing during class time provide a baseline to study whether it is for a short time or informal, learners’ activities can improve the effectiveness of the lesson.

Ruhl & Schloss (1987), exhibit some significant outcomes of adopting this pause procedure. The study comprised 72 learners over two courses and the researchers investigated the effect of interrupting a 45-minute lesson three times with two-minute breaks. This break allowed learners to work in pairs as they compared their notes and seek clarification from their teacher. On the other hand, researchers examined another group that was for a straight 45-minute class without any breaks.

Researchers investigated the retention ability of these two groups to retain information. Short-term retention evaluation was through an exercise, which required learners to write down everything they could remember in three minutes. Long-term retention assessment was through a 65-question multiple-choice exam. The outcomes of this test were that the pause procedure had a higher score compared to the no pause class. The researchers relate this outcome to the students’ attention span while in class.

The students with learning abilities have short attention spans, thus, requires the teacher to constantly involve them in the class. Lack of teacher and student involvement in the class will result in poor class performance because of low levels of retention. During the class breaks, the teacher can be creative and introduce varied activities, which will juggle the learners’ memories. As identified, the discussion is one of the activities. Question-answer can equally increase the learners’ attention in the class. The teacher pauses to question the learners about the topics in discussion. Also, the teacher pauses to allow the learners to ask a question about the class.

This will increase the understanding of capacity and positively affecting their retention ability. The type of activity will determine the outcome of the pause procedure in teaching students with learning disabilities. To achieve this, the activities must be designed around significant learning outcomes and promote the thoughtful involvement of the student. The pause procedure employed by Ruhl encourages the students to reflect on whatever they have learned. Taking up teaching practices that involve learners is a participative process.

The significance of learner involvement is globally accepted and there is substantial evidence to support the effectiveness of student commitment on an extensive range of learning results. Astin (1993), reports that learner involvement is one of the most significant predictors of success in learning. Hake investigated all the test information in six thousand learners and established significantly improved performance. This applied to learners in classes with substantial use of interactive involvement methods. Redish, Saul & Steinberg (1997), in conclusion, stated that support exists for the core elements of active learning. Introducing activity into class can majorly improve the retention of information.

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Also, extensive evidence supports the benefits of student involvement in classwork, which improves their understanding of the class subjects. The instructors must consider involving students in these programs. Children with special needs require maximum involvement in classwork, which will enhance their classwork. The programs need to consider the kind of disabilities the learners are experiencing and provide the best possible activities, which will improve their retention of information.

Methodology/Data Collection

In research, information can be from primary or secondary sources. Primary sources of information involve first-hand information obtained using interviews, questionnaires, and observation. Secondary information is from books, electronic databases, and magazines among other records. In this paper, most of the information will base on the primary sources of information employed in the research. The first method was pre-assessment which refers to instructional strategy teachers employ to uncover what students know about the curriculum unit before they begin formal instruction. At this level, the research explored the various use of active learning strategies in public schools.

This had a focus on the learners under the Individual Education Programs, which were present in the different classes explored. The pre-assessment techniques involved included children’s observations, their profiles, and parents’ letters. These elements provide an overview of the learning process in the class and individual learning disability for the learners. The above items provided data on the school’s approach to teaching children with disabilities.

At this point, the research investigated the teacher’s teaching materials, which would provide a clear background of the activities, involved during classwork. Another model of the methodology employed in this research is the examination of classroom activities. The classroom activities equally provide a deeper insight into the teaching approaches employed by the teachers. Being present and observing the learners participate in the various classroom activities helped collect data at this point. The methodology allowed for examining and identifying of the classroom activities in the class. As a mathematics class, different classroom activities were employed and this could help in the retention of information learned.

While investigating the classroom activities, the research first established the information learners had concerning the topic. Fifth-grade learners were interviewed to gather information on what exactly they knew concerning the upcoming class. This was done before the commencement of every class and information recorded on the datasheet. The eight students gave different information before the start of the class.

Once the class started, the researchers were part of the class as they observed different classroom activities. There was an observation of the various approaches the teacher employed to enhance the retention level of the students. The observation method allowed the researchers to gather information on the teacher’s ability to engage learners in the classwork. The classroom activities employed need to be exciting and involving for the learners’ retention level to rise.

There was the post-assessment method, which allowed the researchers to assemble information affecting the classroom activities to the level of retention amongst the learners. There were questionnaires, which had a collection of questions regarding the class. The sample group of eight learners was questioned immediately after the class. The interview was carried out later, after a few hours and the children had taken part in other lessons and activities.

The immediate questionnaires had quick questions, which targeted to identify what the children remembered immediately after the class. The questions implemented after a few hours were more detailed and required students to provide lengthy information on the classwork. After this post-assessment, the following step was a student survey, which aimed to understand the learner’s understanding of the research objectives. To support this methodology, the paper collected two lesson plans the teacher used in the two classes observed.

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Analysis and Interpretation of Data

The data collected from the research indicated the positive impacts of active learning strategies employed in the classwork. The teacher employed major activities, which ensured the total involvement of the learners in their classwork. From the research, the teachers employed mainly group discussion, individual help, and hand on or engaging activities. These three methods seemed to improve the retention level of the learners.

Hand s-on or engaging activities included question-answer approaches, which allowed the learners to actively get involved in in-class activities. For instance, the teacher would pause in the course of the class and ask learners questions, which they were to respond to without help from the others. The teacher created activities, which called for the learners’ practical application of the learned information. Mathematics can be a practical subject, which allows the learners to think beyond the theoretical aspect taught in class. Mathematics teachers create play games, which incorporate the subject matter of the lesson, and hence learners can learn the games or mind games. These mind games are a good source of retention ability in learners under the Individual Education Programs.

Teaching strategies vary with the subjects being taught and the nature of disability the children face. However, the Individual Education Programs provide these various strategies, which teachers can employ. The implementation of the teaching strategies is the task of the teacher and this can be seen in the learners’ ability to recall the class content. Mind games and plays, which are mind juggling, can be a good source of retention ability.

Learners find it easy to remember subject matters through activities they find interesting to take part. For instance, during the observation, children seemed willing to participate in engaging activities such as singing or playing with concrete items. After using such methods, the teacher notices improved retention ability amongst the learners. The reason behind this conclusion is that the teacher only needed to remind them of the play or mind games and the learners recalled all the information immediately.

Another excellent active learning activity employed was discussion. Learners tend to understand more and better when their fellow students expound for then the taught content. During the class, the teacher gave the students a two to three-minute break to clarify their information with their neighbors. During this break, the learners all seemed engaged as they referred to each other notes and writings to ensure they had noted the correct information.

During this time, learners also made inquiries to the teacher on areas that they had not understood. Group discussions improve the students’ understanding ability, which is the objective of active learning strategies. Through this pause time in the class, the teacher can also identify the areas not understood by the class and therefore arrange to repeat. Also, the teacher can change the approach used in explaining certain ideas to enhance information retention.

The post-assessment revealed that the information the learners grasped was mainly from what they had acquired in the group discussions. Group discussions involve different students exploring the teachers’ content during class. This can be through assignments and topics, which need research. Group assignments, when taken seriously by learners, can be a major source of information that can be used later after the class. Questioning the students, most preferred doing their assignments in groups, as they believed it provides them more confidence to handle class matters.

Apart from the group discussion activity, the teachers employed individual help, which also posted positive outcomes in retention abilities. During class time, the teacher encouraged learners to approach him after class individually in the event of difficulty in understanding classwork. Giving learners under the IEPs individual attention boosts their morale and ensures understanding of the subject. Also, individual help allows the teacher to identify the learners’ weaknesses in classwork, which is the main aim of IEPs.

Having understood and identified the student’s weaknesses the teacher can then employ another approach that will ensure the students retain most of the things taught in class. IEPs programs are mostly student-centered and allow the teacher to focus on the learner’s abilities. According to the research, the level of retention increased in those learners who seek the teacher’s help. Individual attention has been in use for the better part of the education system as it helps create a good teacher-student relationship. With this good relationship, the learner can easily approach the teacher for help in his or her classwork.


This study was to establish the impact of active learning strategies on the learners’ retention ability. The focus was on the learners under the Individual Education programs, which aim at helping children with disabilities to excel in schoolwork. Active learning strategies help the learners to improve their reading, writing, and listening abilities. More so, these activities improve the learners’ skills when it comes to recalling the classwork information.

The research mainly dealt with learners under the IEP program because they have varied disabilities. According to various studies on this subject, discussion, which is an example of an activity learning strategy, enhancing the learners’ retention ability. In the research outcomes, this was the case, as learners seemed to remember more of what was learned under group discussion. The idea of discussion in class has been recommended for various students, as learners tend to understand some subjects better from their fellow students rather from the teacher.


Astin, A. (1993). What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited. Josey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. Washington: George Washington University.

McKeachie, W. (1972). Research on College Teaching. Educational Perspectives, 11(2), 3–10.

Redish, E., Saul, J., & Steinberg, S. (1997). On the Effectiveness of Active-Engagement Microcomputer-Based Laboratories. American Journal of Physics, 65(1), 45.

Ruhl, K., C., & Schloss, P. (1987). Using the Pause Procedure to Enhance Lecture Recall. Teacher Education and Special Education, 10, 14–18.

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