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Factors Influencing Learning

What causes learning difficulties/disabilities?

Seldom is one particular difficulty responsible for a child's learning problem. Indeed, sometimes it is impossible to identify any predisposing or precipitating factors. Gulliford's commented in 1969 that

'though slow learners and the socially disadvantaged often appear to have less to offer, this is a measure of their need rather than an indication of their limits'
Gulliford 1969:48

This comment is as true now as it was then.


Influencing Factors

If we look at the diagram below we can see the interlinking factors which influence learning.


The diagram by no means shows each and every factor but it does show us how physiological, environmental, school and affective factors all impact on the cognitive ability of a child. The impact of the various factors can vary from the most favourable to the least favourable. Learning difficulties can arise where the impact is less favourable.


  • Taylor , R.L. and Sternberg, L. (1989) Exceptional Children: Integrating Research and Teaching, New York : Springer-Verlag.
  • Gulliford, R. (1969) Backwardness and Educational Failure, Slough: NFER
  • Ireland, Department of Education and Science (1993) Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC), Dublin: The Stationery Office