How might a student's prior experiences and level of development affect his or her learning?

Each child develops in ways that are unique to him or her. According to child development expert Mel Levine, founder of "All Kinds of Minds," a variety of factors interact to influence a child's development.

Factual Information

Factors that interact to influence a child's development include:

  • Genetic factors - children inherit traits from their parents that affect development.
  • Environmental Influences - the type of physical and social environment in which a child develops can affect their development.
  • Family Factors - the type of family environment in which a child grows up affects the child's experiences and the amount of support they receive.
  • Cultural Values - the culture in which a child grows up can affect a child's neurodevelopment as different cultures value different types of thinking and learning.
  • Educational Experience - children's prior educational experiences affect their knowledge base, how they conceive of themselves as learners, and their level of motivation.
  • Physical Health - Illness or poor nutrition can affect a child's development, energy level, and ability to learn.
  • Influence of Peers - children have a need to belong. The values held by a child's peer group can affect the child's values and how he or she develops.
  • Temperament/Emotional Factors - a child who has unmet emotional needs or an emotional makeup that creates a great deal of anxiety may have difficulty learning.

Classroom Activities

Try to view a child about whom you have concerns though a new set of eyes. Set aside your current notions of the child and observe the child objectively. Record your observations of the child as he/she reacts to different situations. Try to look for the child's strengths as well as the areas in which the child appears to have weaknesses.


  • Consult with an appropriate person from your school or district about the best ways to proceed with your concerns about a child. They likely will be able to provide you with direction and additional expertise about the child's needs and what instructional and management strategies might benefit the child.
  • Invite a colleague with expertise in special education into your classroom to observe the child about whom you are concerned in different situations. After they observe, sit down with your colleague and discuss the observations.
  • If appropriate under your school's policies and procedures, invite the parents or guardians to a conference in order to share your concerns. Inquire about whether the behaviors you are seeing are similar to ones the parents/guardians observe at home.

Resources and Links

  • All Kinds of Minds is a non-profit institute founded by pediatrician Mel Levine that helps students who struggle with learning measurably improve their success in school and life by providing programs that integrate educational, scientific, and clinical expertise.
  • Schwab Learning is funded by the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Established in 1988, Schwab Learning was the first program area of the foundation and remains the largest. The site contains a variety of information on various aspects of learning disabilities.
  • National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) is a national center that serves as a central source of information on:
    • disabilities in infants, toddlers, children, and youth,
    • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is the law authorizing special education,
    • No Child Left Behind (as it relates to children with disabilities), and
    • research-based information on effective educational practices.