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The influence of learning disabilities on students’ academic performance

influence of learning disabilities on students’ academic performance in
Northern Education Zone of Cross River State, Nigeria. (Education





to the study

Schools are established to equip the youths with
essential skills needed for functionality as useful and knowledgeable citizens
of the country. However, examination of school records shows that students’
academic performances have remained for long very unimpressive. Obviously, this
is not healthy for the growth of the country. 

In a study, Polom (2011) analyzed West African
Examination Council (WAEC), examination in Mathematics and English Language
administered in 2010, and discovered that only 27.40% of the students made at
least a pass and above in the two core subjects. He equally reported that the
number of those who had credit and above in a foreign Language like French Language
declined from 21.34% to 17.22% (WAEC Office Data base, Calabar, February,

Poor student’s performance in WAEC Examination has
for some time now been a matter of great concern to education stakeholders.
Concrete evidence of students’ poor performance in   examinations could be seen in the results
obtained each year in externally administered examinations like the WAEC
examinations. As presented in Table 1, for example, students’ results in
English Language and Mathematics provide a disturbing trend. In Mathematics
only about 25% of those who attempted the examination in 2006 had credit passes
and above. About 41% and 31% had passes and failing grades respectively.


of students’ performance in Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations in Mathematics
and English Language from 2006-2010 in Cross River State

          Year       No
of Candidate       Pass at Credit        Ordinary
Pass            Fail

                                           Who sat for                (Al-C6)                 (D7-E8)                  (F9)

         the Exam

Mathematics    2006      
    1,149,277                472,582                    357,31             286,744

                                                                          (24.95%)                 (41.12%)  

                         2007          1,249,028               583,920                   333,740           302,764

                                                                         (46.75%)                 (26.72%)             

      1,268,213              726,398               
   302,266            218,618

                                                            (57.28%)                 (23.83%)

     1,348,528              634,382                
   344,635            315,738

                                                                       (47.45%)                  (25.56%)          (23.41%)

     1,306,535             548,065                 
  363,920           355,382

                                                                      (41.95%)                  (27.85%)          (27.20%)

















































WAEC Office Data base, Calabar, February, 2012.

The situation improved in 2007 when about 47% of the
candidates had credit passes or above in 2008, 57.28% of the candidates also
had credit passes but the situation reversed itself in 2009 and 2010 when only
about 47% and about 41.95% of the candidates respectively had credit passes”.
Similarly for English Language those who had credits passes declined from about
32.48% in 2006 to 30.32% in 2008.The results improved to 35.02% in 2008, then
41.55% in 2009 but moved down to 35.13% in 2010. These unsteady but declining
trends are disturbing.

Apart from the concerns of parents, teachers and the state government,
the incessant failure of students in WAEC and NECO senior school certificate
Examination (SSCE) has always been a source of worry for the Government of this
country. In December 2012, Federal Ministry of Education organized a two-day
summit in Abuja to discuss the issue. In the summit, the then minister of
education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai, expressed the Federal Government displeasure
at the students’ poor performances. She noted with regret that less than 30 percent
of over a million students, who sat for the examination within the last six
years, obtained credits in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics.

The effect of this is that more than 70 per cent of
school leavers are always armed with school certificate result that do not
qualify them  for higher education.
Besides, the high proportions of school leavers are always unable to gain
employment as a result of poor academic performance. The result of persistent
poor learners’ performance in schools is always a serious disruption in the
overall manpower supply for the economy. Students who have poor academic record
would find it difficult to cope in a competitive society. Individuals who fail
in school may not be adequately and mentally equipped to face life squarely.

 In presenting a report at WASCE
monthly seminar, the Head of Research Division revealed that the percentage of failure
rate for English Language and Mathematics in the past five years surpasses that
of the percentage of credit level passes. In all these, the accusing fingers
from different quarters have pointed at teachers. That is why in looking for
solution, efforts had been directed at helping teachers to improve upon the
services they render in schools. Teachers have in synergy with Parents Teachers
Association (PTA) taken appropriate steps towards improving academic
performance of students in several ways. For example, they have been mounting
extramural classes to give students more time to learn than what official
school time allows. This apart, principals keep time book for teachers and
attendance register for students.

On its part, the Cross River State government has embarked on several
capacity building critical to successful teaching and learning improvement in
the following broad areas: policy, training and pedagogy, infrastructure
development, teacher welfare and empowerment. Essential facilities and
equipment that have implications for school learning like ICTs, laboratories
and collateral equipment cum libraries are now available in most schools. A lot
have also been spent on training and retraining of teachers to arrest the ugly

Despite huge government investment in education and
steps taken to improve performance of students’ in school, students’ academic performance
is yet to produce acceptable result. The researcher became interested in this
problem as a result of concern from education stakeholders and researchers
continuous search for solution to poor academic performances.

            According to Isangedighi (2011), the
amount and quality of learning the individual is capable of, his involvement in
learning activities; and the overall balance achieved in his development as a
person depends to a large extent on his personal status as a composite unit. He
also noted that, some of the difficulties some learners encounter that serve to
undermine their abilities to achieve as much as others, are classified as
learning disabilities. To that extent the researcher is of the view that
learning disabilities could be responsible for poor academic achievement of
secondary school students.

            Poor academic performance is a
serious problem that requires the attention of all stakeholders in education
from Ministry of education to the student themselves. Since learning disabilities
have been observed to be difficulties that could undermine students` ability to
perform well academically. The researcher is therefore interested in helping
the school system find a dependable solution to the problem of student poor
academic performance. This study is concerned at determining if learning
disabilities could be associated with poor academic performance among students.
Areas of learning disabilities considered for the study include; hyper distractibility,
eye-hand coordination, spatial awareness disorder, figure-ground relationship,
dyslexia disorder, hypo-activity and impulsivity.

            Learning disabilities as seen by
MacArthur (2009) is not a single disorder, but is a category of disorders in
any of seven specific areas: receptive language (listening), expressive language
(Speaking), basic readings skills, reading comprehension, written expression,
and Mathematic calculation.  These
disorders are manifested in a variety of ways including listening, thinking,
talking, reading aloud, writing, and spelling or in Mathematics calculation.
The broad question the study will answer is whether learning disabilities could
influence the academic performance of the affected students.

1.2       Theoretical

            Some theories were chosen to serve
as the framework of this study. They include:

1.         Cognitive learning theory by Max
Wertheimer (1942)

2.         Learning environmental theory by Pelton
(1981) and Garbasino (1987)

3.         Kurt Lewin’s field theory by Lewin (1946)


1.2.1    Cognitive Learning theory by Max Wertheimer

Cognitive learning theory is a conceptual framework
that describes how information is absorbed, processed, and retained during
learning. It was propounded in Berlin by a German psychologist Max Wertheimer
in 1942. Cognitive learning theory holds that humans generate knowledge and
meaning through sequential development of an individual’s cognitive abilities;
such as the mental processes of recognition, recollection, analysis,
reflection, application, creation, understanding, and evaluation.

The Cognitivists’ learning process is adoptive
learning of techniques, procedures, organization, and structure to develop
internal cognitive structure that strengthens synapses in the brain (Wolf, 2010).
When we say the word “learn”, we usually mean “to think using the brain” this
basic concept of learning is the main viewpoint in the cognitive learning
theory. The theory has been used to explain mental processes as they are
influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which eventually bring
about learning in an individual. The cognitivists posit that the memory system
is an active organized processor of information. They view learning as an
internal mental process (including insight) information processing, memory and reception.

            Learning disabilities are caused by
neurological dysfunction and that they are casually correlated with basic psychological
process. It is also believed that learning disabilities is as a result of minimum
brain destruction and dysfunction in the central nervous system owing to
neurological developmental lag resulting in clumsiness, restlessness and
inattention. And learning is a process by which neurons joined by developing
the synapses between them so, a relative influence of brain damage account for
ineffective cognitive process which manifest during learning. With reference to
brain damage, and neurological developmental lag, it can be deduced that they
are casually correlated with basic psychological process. The idea behind this
theory therefore is that a child who suffered from ineffective cognitive
process does not perform well academically.

1.2.2    Learning Environmental Theory by Pelton,
(1981) and Garbasino, (1987)

This theory was
propounded by theorist named Pelton (1981) Garbasino (1987). The focus is on
potentially dominant role of certain societal conditions and values. It takes a
look at a boarder structural and cultural abuse as emanating from lack of
motivation or skill on the part of the parents. The environment encompasses all
things around the individual that has influence or offer an impression.
Children are greatly inspired and motivated, as well as deterred by the
environment around them. Environmental learning theory is the understanding
that the child’s environment shapes learning and behaviour and it is also
thought that learning and behaviour
are reactions to the environment. This perspective encourages families,
schools, and educators to understand that the child develops and learns new
skills in reaction to items she finds around her. Environment according to
Julian B. Rotter in his social learning concept focused on the idea that
personality represents an interaction of the individual with his or her
environment, individual’s experience play a role because the individual and her
reaction encourage learning. The relative influence of environment on behaviour accounts for
many learning disabilities in an individual’s life. That is, a child who lives
in an environment which is not psychologically stimulating may manifest signs
of maladjustment and perceptual problem. In all these, it can be concluded that
unfavourable nature of some
environment such as illiterate home background, school where there are poor
facilities and child abuse etc. influence children academic performance which
may result in poor academic performance in school.

1.2.3    Kurt Lewin’s Field theory by Lewin, (1946)

This theory was
propounded by Lewin in 1946. The main point is that learning is a function of
the persons and his environments. This formular provides the foundation for
learners’ theoretical construct of life space (LSP), which refers to the sum of
all the personal and environmental factors in interaction. Such personal
factors may include illiterate home background and hereditary factors which
lead to some abnormal brain structure or functioning etc. Environmental factors
may include: poor and deprived environment, lack of psychological stimulation,
malnutrition, illiterate home background and school where there are poor
library facilities etc.

            The relative influence of environment
on learning accounts for many causes of learning disabilities in an
individual’s life. That is a child who lives in an environment which is not
psychologically stimulating, may manifest signs of learning disabilities. This
goes to confirm Isangedighi (2007) that learning disabilities are caused by
differences in brain structure and functioning and this differences which are
in themselves link with certain genetic, and environmental factors as the
factors could have brain damage arising from such factors as maternal poor
nutrition, illness, use of alcohol or any maternal condition that can lead to
reduced birth weight of the child.

The brain is the most incredible network of
information processing and interpretation in the body as we learn things, so
any little alteration by way of accident, injury or illness in infancy or early
childhood may negatively interfere with learning. With reference to
environmental factor, it can be deduced that individual living in an
environment devoid of adequate Language and sensory stimulation could have
learning difficulties which manifest during class activities.

1.3       Statement
of the problem

Parents, teachers, education authorities and
government agencies have over the years shown concern over observed increasing
rate of poor academic performance among secondary school students in Nigeria in
general and northern Cross River State in particular. Beneficiaries of
education no longer perform up to expectation. The colossal level of students’
failure in the country is a clear indication of the fact that there are
significant problems. Data from West African Examination Council (WAEC) and
National Examination Council (NECO) results in the last decade or so show that
less than 30% of the students who have attempted examinations had been able to
emerge with credit pass or above in Mathematics and English Language (Todaro and
Miles, 2012).

The problem of poor academic performance among students
has become an issue of concern to education stakeholders. Parents spend their
hard earned money despite the difficult economic situation to see that their
children are given quality education. The government on her own part has
trained and employed quality teachers with improved curriculum to ensure better
performance, all to no avail. The Cross River State Government in particular
has time without number, embarked on teacher training programmes not only to
help teachers’ update their knowledge and skill development but also to ensure
some improvement in the academic performance of students. In spite of all
these, the ugly trend of academic failure still prevails.

It is against this background that the researcher
being passionate about youth empowerment through education by helping the
system solve the problem of poor academic performance in school. The thrust of
the study is to investigate if learning disabilities impact on academic performance
of students in Northern Education Zone of Cross River State. The pertinent
question is; does learning disability influence students’ academic performance?

of the study

The purpose of this study was to determine whether
learning disabilities have any influence on students’ academic performance in
Northern Education Zone of Cross River State, Nigeria. The study also
determines if:

Hyper distractibility
influences students’ academic performance.

Eye-hand co-ordination
influences students’ academic performance

Spatial awareness
disorder influence students’ academic performance.

Dyslexia influences
students’ academic performance.

influences students’ academic performance.

Impulsivity influences
students’ academic performance. 


The following research questions were posed to guide
the study:

What proportions of the
students in Northern Education Zone were high in learning disabilities?

To what extent does
hyper distractibility influence students’ academic performance?

To what extent does
eye-hand coordination influence students’ academic performance?

How does spatial
awareness disorder influence students’ academic performance?

To what extent does
dyslexia disturbance influence students’ academic performance?

How does hypo-activity
influence students’ academic performance?

To what extent does
impulsivity influence students’ academic performance?  

of hypotheses

The following null hypotheses were formulated for
the study: