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Unfortunately "motivated, determined, self-reliant" are not typical
characteristics of the group in question. Try "willing to try" or
"greatful for help" if you really need to balance with positive comments.
 
One characteristic that my developmental math students almost all
share--a serious dislike of math. Nearly all are able to relate traumatic
experiences with a math subject sometime in their younger years. They
also tend (again: as a group--there are many exceptions) to spend less
time on homework, they are less likely to have a reasonable expectation
of what their goals should be (Math 001 students declare as pre-med).
When they come to the tutors, their first words are "I'm completely
confused!" or "I can't understand any of this!"  Upper level students
have learned to explain their problem, developmental level students
typically cannot. Upper level students usually understand when a clear
explanation is given; developmental students typically do not and need to
be told several times or in different ways. Upper level students are more
likely to go to their instructors for help. Developmental students are
less likely unless the instructor is very inviting and non-threatening.
Upper level students are often motivated by challenge. Developmental
students are usually paralyzed by hard problems.
 
I have seen a few "developmental students" change into "upper level
students" and take on the typical characteristics of that group. It's an
interesting transition.
 
True: there are a few bright spots, students who have a good attitude
toward math and school and have just been away from school so long that
they have forgotten math and need to start over. But they are a distinct
minority in my experience. Most of our developmental students suffer from
math anxiety, learning anxiety, low self-esteem, poor time management,
and lack of strong dedication to educational goals compared to main-stream
students. Perhaps others have a different experience, but those are the
problems that we must try to help our developmental students overcome.
 
(I am sometimes bothered by what I believe is a characteristics of
educators to try to insert positive comments when a diagnosis of trouble is
what is necessary in order to solve problems. I just got back from a
physical exam during which the doctor told me what was wrong with me. She
didn't add (Thank God!) "but you have a lovely voice." There is a time
for accentuating the positive, but it is not during troubleshooting. Just
my tuppence.)
 
John Flanigan
Math Resource Instructor, Learning Assistance Center
Kapiolani Community College, Honolulu
 
On Tue, 16 May 1995, Gail M. Zimmerman wrote:
 
>> --- Lonna Smith wrote:
>> I need to make a presentation to some
>> non-developmental educator colleagues about the characteristics of
>> developmental reading and writing students. I'd appreciate any help I can
>> get!  A partial list of characteristics includes:
>>
>>         Easily frustrated
>>         Limited vocabulary
>>         Narrow base of experience
>>         Gaps in learned knowledge
>>
> --- end of quoted material ---
> I would encourage you to include positive characteristics as well:
motivated, determined, self-reliant are some that come to mind.
>