DIVERGENT LEARNERS

WHO THEY ARE AND WHERE THEY COME FROM

01/24/2016
BETTER TEACHING
Dr.Doris Giles Layton and Dr. Randy Lee

(This is part three of a three part series.)

They Might Be A Divergent Learner If ... they are in grades PreK – College

They Might Be A Divergent Learner If ... they are Male or Female

They Might Be A Divergent Learner If ... they are Asian, Black, Hispanic, White

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They Might Be A Divergent Learner If ... they received subsidized lunch or pay full price

They Might Be A Divergent Learner If ... they attend a public, private or charter school


Life in school is one of the most significant factors that influence an individual. Two previous articles in SEEN have identified the personality traits and learning styles of divergent learners. This third and final article provides readers with some demographics of this population of students. Data reported in this article were collected from schools throughout the state of South Carolina.

The following graph shows the overall percentages of divergent compared to traditional learners.



Divergent learners now comprise almost 60 percent of students in all grade levels. In an article in Educational Leadership (Oct., 2015) Eric Toshalis, an independent scholar and education consultant in Portland, Oregon stated that “one of the surest ways to get students to disengage or misbehave is to make them feel stupid.” A real-life scenario can be used to relate situations that cause bright students to sometimes feel “stupid.” An elementary school child, when he first began taking medication for ADD, got into the vehicle with his mom and exclaimed, “I’m smart as all the other kids now.” Schools that recognize the traits and needs of divergent learners play a critical role in helping all students feel “smart.”



Additional graphs represent the percentages in terms of students’ grade levels, gender, race/origin and socioeconomic status.

Not only in the overall student population but in every grade level, divergent learners are a majority.

Today’s news and research too frequently report that males are falling more and more behind females in academic performance. Again, perhaps recognition by school leaders that over 60 percent of males are divergent learners might cause them to devote more time and resources to divergent needs of males. However, schools should not neglect females; a majority of them are divergent learners.



Not surprisingly, Asians have the lowest percentage of divergent learners and Blacks have the highest. These students represent some of the most traditional and non-traditional cultures. However, the graphs reflect that all four groups show a higher percentage of divergent learners than traditional.



An interesting statistic shows that divergent and traditional learners exist in all socioeconomic levels. While those students who are eligible for free or subsidized lunch through the National School Lunch Program have the highest incidence of divergence, the percentage of those not eligible is still higher than the traditional.

Local school districts, states, and the nation are struggling with changes necessary to effectively educate today’s youth. As these graphs indicate, divergent learners are found across all grade level, gender, race/ethnic and socioeconomic strata. It is imperative that educational stakeholders recognize that the majority of today’s students are divergent learners who feel left out in traditional education systems. Meeting the needs of these bright young people has tremendous potential for improving both academic development and classroom behavior.

Dr. Doris Giles Layton is Professor of Education; Director of M.Ed. Program in Divergent Learning at Columbia College.Dr. Randy Lee teaches courses in assessment, education and society, and research in the Divergent Learning Program at Columbia College.
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Issue 18.3 | Winter/Spring 2017

Southeast Education Network

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