Jayne Davis, Ed.D. - Mentor Teacher

By: Jayne Davis

The Asset Model: an alternative college service model for students with learning disabilities

Jayne Davis Ed.D.

It all started with one student who wanted to know how his accommodation of extra time was going to help if he did not know how to study for the test. This simple question led to great things at Louisburg College where, like other colleges/universities, legally mandated accommodations have been common provisions for students with learning disabilities (LD). Yet, at Louisburg College it was becoming apparent that this was not enough. My qualitative study of Louisburg College students with LD confirmed earlier findings suggesting that successful students demonstrate the following strengths:

  1. They are knowledgeable about their LD,
  2. They apply meta-cognitive skills to their studies,
  3. They have great networking skills, and
  4. They persevere.

By listening to students in their own voices and by observing them in their own learning environments what students need not only to survive in higher education, but also to thrive there began to emerge. They need to see themselves and their learning disabilities from a different perspective. They need not to see themselves and their LD as a deficit. Instead, they need to see the assets inherent in their particular ways of viewing the world, themselves and their studies. This awareness led me to develop what I call the Asset Model and Louisburg Learning Partners - the manifestation of this alternative model (Davis 2000).

The students in this study valued teachers who respected and cared for them. Teachers, who not only saw students' potential, but encouraged and nurtured it in positive ways. Students recognized and appreciated teachers who were tolerant of their learning diversities - understanding them as abilities instead of liabilities. As they developed relationships with peers, students began to comprehend both their importance to the community and their responsibility to themselves and others for contributing to an environment promoting mutual learning. In other words, students with LD began to understand that their thoughts mattered, how they viewed the world mattered, and that they, themselves, could determine their futures. This kind of thinking dispelled any doubt about their place in academia. Students experienced a palatable excitement for creating and belonging to this community. They began a mission to tell other students with LD of their experiences - what it is like finally to understand how to learn and the joy that can follow intense struggle. As students experienced the care and respect, critical consciousness, discourse community, and empowerment (core components of the asset model) they became more self-reliant learners who began to understand that they, in fact, are capable learners aware of their power to redefine their own learning reality.

For the past two years, a comprehensive tutorial program called Louisburg Learning Partners (LLP) has very successfully guided the implementation of this asset model throughout Louisburg College. Louisburg College is a private, two-year, liberal arts school. Learning specialist faculty members hold masters' degrees in special education, learning disabilities, or related fields and are experienced teachers of students with LD. LLP students participate in an integrated living/learning environment and attend tutorials in addition to their general course of study. These students attend at least two weekly tutorials with their LLP learning specialist, have daily access to LLP learning labs from 8:30-5:00, receive academic counseling with their LLP learning specialist, and have access to three state-of-the-art LLP computer labs equipped with learning specific software and Internet access.

Amanda and Kathy

Generally, students enrolled in Learning Partners have benefited academically, socially, and emotionally. Students have consistently appeared on the Dean's and Honors Lists, received academic/achievement awards, and been involved in various campus life activities. Students have matriculated at a rate of over 70% for the past two years. Last year alone the program grew from 10 to 35 students, an increase of nearly 300%. After completing their two years of study at Louisburg College, LLP students have transferred to attend senior institutions such as North Carolina State University, Elon College, and University of North Carolina - Wilmington. The program has been so successful that Louisburg College plans to expand LLP so that it can offer services for students with ADD and extend its tutorial assistance to the whole student-body through the division of academic and learning services. For more information about LLP contact Margaret Medlin at 919.497.3236.

Jayne Davis, Ed.D., creator and first Director of Learning College Learning Partners, currently is in private practice as a counselor in college selection and transition to postsecondary school.

Contact information:

Educational Planning & Consulting
837 Pineview Drive
Wake Forest, NC 27587

Davis, J. "College Students with Learning Disabilities: Questioning The Deficit Model." Dissertation. North Carolina State University, 2000.

Jayne Davis (2001)