What educational issues and trends do you see developing in 2017?
The achievement gap between the multitude of learning styles is the most pressing and puzzling public education issue of today. For years the most abundant and consistent fact about every classroom that I have had the pleasure of teaching is that there were many different students of vary levels, learning styles, socioeconomic levels, ethnicity, and interests. In 2017, I see our biggest issues relating to this achievement gap and using techology, research based practices, and just plain good, diligent teaching to close the gap.
What is an achievement gap? Does it really exist?
The cause of achievement gaps in different ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, learning styles, and interests of students predicate on the lack of understanding of differentiated instruction by teachers. The impetus of differentiated instruction is to really understand the students in a classroom.
I believe that teachers that form positive learning relationships with consistent feedback loops are substantially more successful than those who do not. Some teachers will attribute growing class sizes, economic restrictions by the state and local school boards, the lack of predisposed knowledge that students have before arriving in the teacher’s classroom, and the lack of time in addition to a multitude of others reasons for not developing useful and practical differentiation strategies for closing the achievement gap amongst students.
Every child, every day should be the mantra of exceptional teachers. This means that even if it is a clipboard that a teacher carries every day with their students’ names on them, the teacher could write at least something anecdotally about each student that could benefit their instruction in the future. (This is great evidence for your evaluation, by the way!)
Differentiated Instruction....no longer a dirty word, but THE word.
The effects of differentiated instruction are outstandingly clear. Students who have teachers that can diagnose a weakness in their learning can prescribe a solution or solutions to guide the student in the direction of success.
The resolution of utilizing differentiation throughout targeting, explicit instruction contains teachers that are willing to put in the extra mile and effort in learning the personalities of their students. Students who have timely and precise commentary on their work will know what it is that they need to improve on. Utilizing groups within a classroom composed of students based on mere achievement is one dimensional and statistically ineffective.
Why not try to group students based on similar interests? Learning styles? Multiple intelligence? Preferential learning? Teachers need to assume the role of a manager in customer service. What will be the vehicle to the teacher’s students’ success? What outcomes do the parent, student, and teachers expect? What is a teacher to do with the expectations? How relevant is it to teachers to define a culture regarding setting goals and reaching them based on the student? Differentiation should be a reflective practice of teachers that inspire a sense of proactivity in defining appropriate and effective measures of instruction.
More Professional Development?
The key to amending the achievement gap is professional development, networking with other teachers, and knowing your students. It is a strong and steadfast belief of mine that listening to other teachers instead of constantly talking would alleviate many issues regarding the developing achievement gap amongst varying students.
Speaking of Professional Development---exciting news!
We officially participated in our first professional development event with Chattooga County Schools this December. We were honored to present to their teachers on Differentiated & Integrated Instruction in the Science and Social Studies classroom. Here's hoping for more PD presentation opportunities in 2017!
Note: Dana was 38.5 weeks pregnant and handled presenting 5 sessions like a champ! We were just hoping we could finish the day and get back across the state before she went into labor. We ended up meeting our family at Bass Pro Shop, seeing Santa, and enjoying the evening. She didn't deliver baby Hadley until the 21!
Real music recommendation: Robin Thicke – “Ain’t No Hat for That”
James & Dana
A husband and wife teacher team who love integrating social studies and science into other subjects for diverse elementary classrooms.
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