Many educators ponder this question: “How do I get my students to want to learn?” Some students do not necessarily want to come to school every day and be challenged to achieve high standards. Traditionally, motivation has been applied with a simple input-output model. Teachers praise students for their hard work and support their motivation to persevere through difficult situations. This cause-and-effect model could very well work in many instances; however, educators and researchers alike need to understand that student motivation is more complex than that. Cause-and-effect may be easily replicated within a laboratory, but not necessarily in a classroom. Why? Because students come to schools with a host of social contexts, including religious backgrounds, family dynamics, race, socio-economic status, and other factors, which all affect motivation.
Washington State ASCD recently published the article below, written by Duane, on their Critical Question Blog.
Why does it seem like everything in education is changing? And, is there a way to think about the work that could make the work more manageable?
As a first-year teacher, I thought entry tasks had one primary purpose: to keep the students quiet and occupied long enough for me to take attendance. During my first two years of teaching, I tended to assign a lot of simple, skills-based activities as entry tasks. I was an English teacher, so my students typically had grammar or vocabulary exercises during the first five minutes of class. However, as I observed other teachers through my STAR training and grew stronger in my own instructional practices, I began to look for ways to raise the level of thinking and application in my lessons. As my lessons began to demand more from my students, so too, did my entry tasks. Although I still started one or two lessons a week with skills-based practice (there is always a place for that!), I began to focus more on activities that asked my students to think critically and to make connections from the moment the bell rang. Here were three of my favorite entry tasks.
When I first entered this job I had no idea what to expect from observations. I have held teaching jobs before and I am fairly comfortable at the front of the room, but observing was something else. Becoming this stealthy person who sits, invisible, at the side of the classroom and writes down what is going on is a lot harder than it sounds. Do not get me wrong. I love doing it. I love being able to see places in Washington I never knew existed before. I love watching enthusiastic teachers do what they were born to do. I love seeing students really engage and be part of their own education. But, there are sure some awkward times when you are trying to be an anonymous, invisible, fly-on-the-wall observer as well as many moments that make it very special.
We read about it all the time – students of lower socioeconomic status (SES) do not perform as well academically as those from higher SES. SES refers to the mix of economic, educational, and social factors that encompass the differences in economic wealth (such as educational opportunity and attainment), social status, and the ability to control aspects of one’s life. Both laboratory and societal research point to early enriched environments as essential to success. They also show that stress, which is often found in households of low SES, can adversely affect cognitive function. Given the wealth of information on the cycle of reduced opportunities for enriched experiences and stress effects on cognitive development, a seemingly basic question would be, “Can we change this cycle? And, if so, how?”
We cannot expect to improve student achievement without addressing the issue of poverty head on, and this work has to include families and communities. In Washington State, 46.1% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In many school districts, this percentage is much higher. Poverty can impede children's ability to learn and can contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty. Research suggests family engagement promotes a range of benefits for students, including improved school readiness, higher student achievement, better social skills and behavior, and increased likelihood of high school graduation. Involving parents, integrating the teaching of social and academic skills, and creating continuity among settings that a child negotiates on a daily basis are all crucial for launching a successful academic career. Our goal has to be to work with families to enhance their children's education and ability to learn, working around the barriers poverty might present. One clear way to navigate around these barriers is to focus on families as partners.
Student achievement is higher when the Essential Components of Powerful Teaching and Learning are evident in classroom practices. These components include Skills, Knowledge, Thinking, Application, and Relationships. In observations I have conducted, Application has usually been the lowest scoring component. This means that students are often not given the opportunity to make relevant and meaningful personal connections to their learning. Teachers can quite easily provide opportunities for students to make these connections by incorporating student culture into the classroom.
One of the main services provided by our research team is program evaluations. Clients who have never engaged in a program evaluation often contact us and report that they have just received a grant for which a program evaluation is required and they are unfamiliar with what a program evaluation is and why they would want to do one. I will address these questions first and leave you with five tips for planning a successful program evaluation.
What is a Program Evaluation?
When we perform a program evaluation, we are critically investigating a program’s activities, characteristics, and outcomes. Evaluations typically require us to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to inform program implementation, to improve program effectiveness, and to monitor program outcomes (Patton, 1987).We conduct different types of program evaluations, including formative and summative evaluations.
Fans of the sitcom hit, Seinfeld, will remember the episode where George decides his instincts are always wrong and he makes the pledge to "do the opposite" of his instincts. Consequently, he gets a girlfriend, a job with the Yankees, and moves out of his parent’s house. In George’s case, doing the opposite led to a host of positive outcomes, could this same concept be applied to some common strategies used by educators to improve teaching and learning?
Over the last eight years, we have provided professional development around teaching and learning to educators around the country. Essential premises of the training include simple, but often counter-intuitive strategies that often fly in the face of methods typically used by educators. The following brief identifies and describes five effective strategies for improving teaching and learning as identified by our research and consulting teams.
In today’s fast-paced world, it is crucial to outfit students with the tools needed to succeed in a competitive global economy. Teachers, administrators, and caregivers play an essential role in preparing students to be knowledgeable life-long learners and responsible, contributing citizens. While educators are under an insurmountable amount of pressure to educate students, we beg the question, “Why not have a little bit of fun while you’re at it?” The Project Based Learning (PBL) approach helps teachers and students to expand their skills, supports standards-based curricula, aligns with school and district goals, and promotes an atmosphere of exploration, relevance and, wait for it. . . fun, in the classroom!
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