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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Analyzing Learning Success?

Last year many of my students had wonderful success and growth in specific curriculum areas. One child in particular did not achieve the same success in one area. I tried a number of approaches, but still success with those subject goals for that child did not come. I wondered if there was some underlying learning issue going on since others were succeeding with similar learning/teaching measures.

Then this year, that child, with another teacher, has made tremendous growth. The other teacher and I have somewhat different styles, but what I believe to be equal commitment and overall success with our work.

So, why did this one child do so much better with this year's teacher in that subject area than with me?

I can point to many possible factors to examine if we want to look deeply at this issue, factors such as class make-up, time-on-task with the subject, project work vs. explicit teaching, type of homework, feedback and response, age and readiness for learning, extra help, at-home supports, classroom organization, and teaching style.

More than worrying about why one child succeeds with one teacher over another, I think this story points to some important truths about teachers and students:
  • No teacher is the best teacher for all children.
  • Every year is not a child's best year of learning.
  • Children thrive under different kinds of teaching/learning endeavor--it's not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to teaching children well.
  • One year's struggle may turn to another year's success by putting the right learning structures and tools in place.
  • As educators we need to collaborate with one another and discuss the ways we gain success with specific students. We can learn from each other in this regard. 
As I watch and listen to my colleague, I think that some of the factors that may have helped this student this year were the following:
  • A class make-up that supported independence.
  • Greater explicit teaching which I think this child responds to.
  • More "Response to Intervention" support given the struggles last year.
  • More repetition with skills for daily practice and at-home practice.
  • More direct feedback to daily efforts--I want to query my colleague more about feedback patterns in this regard. 
  • More time-on-task and attention to the subject given the different structure of this year's grade level teaching than last year's structure.
As we continue to collaborate to support one another with teaching well, it's important that we consider who succeeds under our direction and who continues to face challenge and why does that happen. Conversations like these can be sensitive, but when fostered with right direction and support, the conversations can help us all to develop our skill and craft well.