Academic Diversity: Ways to Motivate and Engage Students with Learning Disabilities

A part of a series of info sheets that looks at the particular attention needed to motivate students with learning disabilities 

Beverly Weiser, PhD
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Council for Learning Disabilities
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

Students with learning disabilities often become frustrated because they see themselves as being incompetent in many areas of school, thus generally making them unmotivated and unexcited to read, write, and complete tasks for fear of failure, embarrassment, and disrespect. As competence in a subject or task improves, however, motivation typically increases, generating a cycle of engagement, motivation, and competence that supports better academic achievement for students with varying abilities (Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007). Because motivation leads to engagement, motivation is where parents and teachers need to begin, especially for students that are experiencing learning disabilities (LD) in reading, writing, spelling, and mathematic problem solving. In this InfoSheet, answers to frequently asked questions about how to motivate and engage students with and without LD will be discussed. Additionally, many effective strategies and instructional routines will be provided that may help students increase their motivation and engagement across content areas, and ultimately their learning, their academic performances, and their self-efficacy. While it is unfortunate that many of the suggestions and strategies that follow have not been included in a wide range of experimental research investigations, the theory and reasons behind using these types of activities have been well documented and have shown to be effective with students of varying academic abilities.

What the experts say

The field of education and special education (Learning Disabilities) make up the theoretical framework of the resource.  Two topics are the focus of this work: student motivation and student engagement. Many effective strategies and instructional routines are provided that may help students increase their motivation and engagement across content areas, and ultimately their learning, their academic performances, and their self-efficacy. The resource is based on one or more recognized theories relevant to the field of adult education and specific theories are cited.

The author of this resource developed it with professionals from the K-12 audience in mind, but it is very applicable for those who work with adult learners. The information on motivation and engagement can be used for adult educators as a professional development topic and can be considered by adult program managers when coaching and evaluation of teachers. The resource can also provide ideas for designing programs and in developing instructional techniques for struggling students.

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