Dare to Take Risks to Find Your Purpose!

We all have a very special purpose in life regardless of who we are or from where we come.

by Stephen J. Hopson

"We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe:

can we not take the leap?"     — Ralph W. Emerson

We all have a very special purpose in life regardless of who we are or from where we come. I truly believe each of us has a special calling in life even though it took me over 30 years to find mine! What follows is a series of events that have changed my life as a result of my willingness to take risks in the face of absolute uncertainty and trusting my instincts. Continue reading “Dare to Take Risks to Find Your Purpose!”

Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps

(Comment by Al Siebert: This letter from a college student with mental problems that I counseled is a useful reminder to instructors that some students have invisible handicaps that they may not reveal. "Gil’s" letter also shows that some "challenged" students show amazing resourcefulness and courage in their determination to succeed. Here is his letter…) Continue reading “Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps”

Personality Traits and Learning Styles For Divergent Learners

A study was conducted to examine the relationship between specific personality traits and learning styles and academic achievement in gifted students to determine whether or not these factors resulted in their becoming “at-risk” in the educational system because of their divergence.

Dr. Carol Johnson, Dr. Joe Pitts, Dr. Jim Lane

Presented at the National Conference on the Adult Learner 2000, Atlanta, Georgia.

Abstract of Presentation

Having taught a variety of students with a wide range of abilities, Johnson (1996) became aware that certain personality traits and global learning styles were placing students in a crosswind with traditional teachers and classroom environments, and these factors were contributing to underachievement in academic performance. Therefore, a study was conducted to examine the relationship between specific personality traits and learning styles and academic achievement in gifted students to determine whether or not these factors resulted in their becoming "at-risk" in the educational system because of their divergence.

Results of the study showed that there were significant correlations between ten personality traits and academic achievement, and these findings were consistent with the review of literature that suggested that personality factors and learning styles may be related to academic achievement.

In the final analysis of these data, a set of descriptors was developed to more clearly delineate the personalities of achievers and underachievers (Johnson, 1996). A summary of these descriptors compares achievers with underachievers this way: achievers were found to be more introverted, abstract-thinking, emotionally stable, mature, able to face reality, serious, conscientious, moralistic, self-assured, secure, self-satisfied, self-sufficient, resourceful, prefer their own decisions, socially precise, relaxed, tranquil, and composed. Whereas underachievers appeared to be more extroverted, warm, kind, willing to participate, concrete-thinking, affected by feelings, enthusiastic, spontaneous, expressive, cheerful, expedient, apprehensive, insecure, self-blaming, group oriented, more willing to listen to others, and not bound by social rules. Both groups of students exhibited global perceptual tendencies, but the achievers were highly flexible. Although they were more global in thinking, they could easily adapt to analytical situations whereas the underachievers could not adapt.

Divergent learners are endowed with a unique variety of personality traits that separate them from the general population, and many of these traits are related to their academic achievement and effective leadership. Since personality traits are expressed in learning styles and preferences, teacher education programs should concentrate on making pre-service teachers more aware of personality traits and global learning styles and provide extensive training in how to best accommodate these individual differences in students.

Through in-service and staff development, experienced teachers need to be equipped to utilize learning styles and preferences in their instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Teachers need to be more knowledgeable in identifying reasons for discrepant achievement on the pan of students, assessing the needs of these students, and utilizing appropriate strategies for remediation, circumvention, and intervention. If teachers are to accommodate these differences, there must be a departure from the traditional teaching styles and classroom management approaches, and that departure needs to be understood and accepted by administrators.

Changes in teaching strategies and classroom management should be accompanied by restructuring classroom environments through peer interaction, cooperative group learning, collaboration, and modifications in seating, lighting, and student mobility whenever feasible and possible. Many of these students are visual learners, need a variety of models and involvement with manipulatives and hand on experiences. They resist direct instruction and prefer to solve problems and discover answers using their own methods and techniques. Time preference is a critical factor relating to truancy, and this learning style needs to be addressed whenever possible. Scheduling activities and tasks to coincide with the time of day when certain students are more attentive can have significant positive results in their academic performance and motivation to learn. In addition, many students have a need for high calorie intake during intense study, and ignoring this factor may have a tremendous adverse effect on their engagement in learning.

Classroom instruction should incorporate certain skills and learning styles whenever possible and as often as possible. Students need reading and writing in all content areas and need to be taught how to transfer and apply skills and knowledge from one subject area to another. They need time to brainstorm, share ideas, and have opportunities to express themselves creatively and in multiple representations such as reading, writing, art, music, and dance. Many students need external organizers such as cognitive maps, matrices, outlines, spatial arrays, models, diagrams, graphs, images, and pictures. Research skills need to be developed by allowing them to make observations, gather data, analyze their findings, draw conclusions, and determine implications of results. Students need to be engaged in social interaction, working cooperatively with others, sharing ideas, and valuing others’ points of view.


Johnson, C. B. (1996). Personality Traits and Learning Styles: Factors Affecting the Academic Achievement of Underachieving Gifted Students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S. C.

Posted with permission.

Making Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities in College Classrooms

The purpose of this article is to show how proper accommodations in college classrooms can lead to more students with learning disabilities being successful in more courses.

Dr. Joseph Pitts

Presented at the National Conference on the Adult Learner 2000, Atlanta, Georgia.


The purpose of this presentation is to show how proper accommodations in college classrooms can lead to more students with learning disabilities being successful in more courses. The presentation will center around choosing modifications of traditional ways to do course work so that students are able to bypass obstacles caused by the learning disability, yet at the same time be able to show the professor the material is mastered.


  • To understand what role accommodations play in the college classrooms;

  • To become familiar with the advantages of accommodations;

  • To understand the difference between a proper and improper accommodation;

  • To be able to list accommodations that might be appropriate for your classroom;

  • To develop strategies to help students to become successful in your classroom.

What is the role of accommodations in the college classroom? Specifically, this presenter thinks that the role of accommodations is to let the professor know just what it is that the student knows. A better approach might be to define what are reasonable accommodations. Although reasonable accommodations may be viewed differently by different professors, it would seem that reasonable accommodations are based on the premise that the students with learning disabilities are given an equal opportunity to determine what they have learned, but not an advantage over others in the class. This does not mean lowering course expectations, but it may mean having students learn and express knowledge in a different mode. The basic advantages of reasonable accommodations should be academic success, better motivation, and more confidence. These would continue in an upward spiral if the reasonable accommodations were doing what they are supposed to do. If we try to determine the difference between a proper accommodation and an improper one, this presenter has found the following guidelines helpful: proper accommodations allow the student to present content in a different format. They still have to show the professor they know the material. An improper accommodation would give the disabled student an advantage over other students. In general, support services do not give disabled students any advantage over others; they merely enable disabled students to overcome the disadvantages with which they would otherwise begin. Some of the more common accommodations might include the following: untimed test, notetakers, taping the lecture, readers and scribes, test-taking alternatives, providing the students to check his/her notes for accuracy with those of faculty or another student, or providing sufficient time for copying information from transparencies and the chalkboard.

What are some other general guidelines or suggestions that are important to consider when making accommodations?

The recommendations that follow are taken from the Faculty Guidebook used at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Maybe they will be helpful.

  1. Talk to students with disabilities early in the semester– during the first few days of classes. If they don’t approach you, don’t wait- approach them yourself after class.

  2. Do not single out students for special attention in class because this could embarrass them. Speak to them privately about problems or issues related to the disability.

  3. Discuss course issues related to the disability and identify potential problems. Talk about what the student can do in your course and discuss what adjustments or modifications you might make in your teaching style and in your evaluation procedures.

  4. Encourage students to keep in touch with you during the term so those problems can be solved as they arise and so those crises can be averted. Let students know that you are available to meet with them.

  5. In matters where the disability is not an issue, treat the students as you would any other students.

  6. If the student is failing because the disability makes it impossible to meet certain course requirements, examine the importance of the problematic requirements in your course. If the problematic requirement is not essential, you may want to adjust your grading scheme so that the student can show mastery of course material in equivalent ways. Note: this is not the same as simply waiving a requirement– it is replacing it with one of equivalent importance and level of difficulty.)

  7. If it is essential that the student be able to complete all requirements, let the student know early in the semester what course requirements will not be modified.

  8. If the student fails for the "usual" reason, allow the grade to stand. Do not pass students with disabilities just because they tried hard. This is unfair to all of your students.

  9. Talk about assistance that the student may need from classmates, tell the student about resources for your course that you know of, and discuss what kinds of modifications to your regular routine would be helpful e.g., seating arrangements, format of exam, grading issues).

  10. Make adjustments in your teaching style which would make it easier for the student to learn (e.g., allow audiotaping, say aloud what you write on the chalkboard, hand out assignments and reading lists early.)

  11. Be flexible with exams (time needed, format) and with deadlines on assignments (there may be problems getting articles in a readable format for the student or in finding assistants to help with library research). Do not, however, grant unearned grades.

  12. Make a special effort to be well organized, to make assignments clear and to communicate effectively.

  13. Talk to students about the impact of the impairment on their ability to do well in your course and about adaptations that you can make to help them do well.

  14. If the student’s impairment interferes with writing ability, allow extra time for exams and be flexible with the modality in which the student provides answers (e.g., oral or audiotaped rather than written answers).

Posted with permission.

Help for those with Learning or Physical Disabilities

— (Pages 11, 55). A list of links and resources for college students with learning or physical disabilities.

Personal Experiences:

Dare Take Risks! A personal narrative on using your physical limitations to find your purpose in life by Stephen Hopson. Essay also appears in Chicken Soup for the College Soul.

Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps – “Gil Meyers” story – a first person experience from someone with a learning disability.

Tips for Students on Medications – Hints compiled by recent adult student Kate Stephens.

Disabled Student Resources Online

Visit the Resources for Persons with Learning or Physical Disabilities section of our links page. Below are some of the resources that have alternative contact information:

Attention Deficit Disorder Association
Site is full of great stuff, specifically, search on  “College Tips.”
15000 Commerce Parkway, Suite C
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Phone: 856-439-9099 (toll call to New Jersey).

US Government Disability info (US Department of Labor):
Current Federal iteration of its public information site.

Learning Disabilities WorldWideEnriching the lives of individuals with learning disabilities around the world
Landmark College
79 Bear Hill Road Suite 104
Waltham, MA 02451

Landmark College – The college of choice for students who learn differently
19 River Road South
Putney, VT 05346

Job Accommodation Network – Ask JAN
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
(800)526-7234 (V)
(877)781-9403 (TTY)

Program for Advancement of Learning from Curry College (PAL):
“The nation’s premier support program for college students with learning disabilities.”
PAL Program
Curry College
1071 Blue Hill Avenue
Milton, MA 02186
617-333-0500 (Toll call to Massachusetts)

LD Online Technology Resources:
A ton of resources. Also use their search box and enter the term “college.” Sponsored through WETA Public Television of Washington, DC.
LD OnLine
WETA Public Television
2775 S. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22206
703-998-2600 (Toll call to Virginia)

Learning Differences:
Provided by the Richard Cooper and the Center for Alternative Learning. Check under “Learning Tools” for some good memory hints and articles.
6 E. Eagle Rd.
Havertown, PA 19083
610-446-6126 (Toll call to Pennsylvania)
800-869-8336 (toll free)

National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs: “an e-community that offers members a centralized hub of information, professional development, technical assistance, communication on issues and trends, and advocacy initiatives on behalf of adults with special learning needs.”
c/o KOC Member Services
1143 Tidewater Court
Westerville, OH 43082
Toll free: 888-5-NAASLN (888-562-2756)

National Center for Learning Disabilities
Life with LD: Navigating the Transition to College
381 Park Avenue South Suite 1401
New York, NY 10016
212-545-7510 (Toll call to New York)
or, toll-free: 888-575-7373

National Center on Workforce and Disability – OneStops.info
National Center on Workforce and Disability
UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

Older Sites / Archives:
Literacy and Learning Disabilities Archive
National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy Archive
Resources for Adults with Disabilities (PDF, 2004) produced by: A publication of the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities as viewed via the WayBack Machine

updated: 09/09/19