Raising Standards Together

Wrong learning pack? Change pack

MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Special educational needs and inclusion learning pack


Impact of the environment


Barriers to learning: what has an impact on learning?

When we consider learning in its widest sense, it is important to recognise that there are many barriers to learning, that can affect learning for all learners on a day to day basis. All learners have shared needs associated with:

  • the curriculum
  • cognition
  • the management of learning
  • motivational factors
  • personal factors
  • prior experiences and attainment
  • cognitive development and pace of learning
  • learning preferences, physical difficulties
  • motivation, attitude, effort, personality
  • interests, strengths, talents.

Welsh Assembly Government (2010)

These issues are relevant for all learners every day in every session/lesson.

Activity 2.2.1

Consider your capacity for learning today in terms of:

  • prior experience
  • pace of learning
  • learning preferences
  • motivation, attitude
  • interests, strengths, talents.


Additional barriers to learning can be caused by children’s learning needs and by their physical, social and emotional environment. Children’s learning can be affected by high incidence learning needs – the range of needs that are relevant have been referred to in Topic 4 and also in the Child and adolescent development 0–19 learning pack.

Frederickson & Cline (2002) indicate that the focus during special needs assessment is more often on ‘within child’ factors and not on the learning environment, task and teaching style. McKee and Witt (1990 cited in Frederickson & Cline (2002) suggested that professionals may focus on ‘within child factors’ as they lack the knowledge and confidence in other forms of assessment.

Key issues which are relevant (Frederickson and Cline, 2002) when one focuses on environmental demands include:


  • Individual differences matter too. Different children will respond to teaching in different ways. Individual differences must not be ignored in an environmentally focused approach
  • ‘Within child factors’ can be influenced by teachers, e.g. Frederickson et al 1991 refer to a range of intervention programmes which have an impact on improving children’s self-esteem
  • ‘Teachers do not believe environmentally focused explanations of learning and behaviour problems’. Croll and Moses (1985, cited in Frederickson & Cline (2002)) found that when asked to give explanations for learning and behaviour problems, in the vast majority of cases, ‘within child’ or home factors were cited. Teacher actions or school factors were rarely considered.

Activity 2.2.2

This activity encourages you to consider these issues. What do you think? What do your colleagues think? If Croll and Moses were to carry out their research this year in your school, what would they find?

Help us make the Digital Competence Framework better »

Use the form below to send us comments about this site or find out more about this beta version »

Need say more? Use the main Contact form »
Thankyou, your feedback has been submitted.
This is a Beta website.
Find out more »