Don Johnston's "Building Wings"
Don Johnston Communities
Dyslexia & Dysgraphia
Universal Design for Learning
Learning is For Life
By Jason Kronewitter
For many students, classroom success isn’t something that simply happens. Struggles with reading and comprehension can leave students lost on a subject and behind their fellow classmates. As frustration escalates, a lack of self-esteem and confidence can create further setbacks for a student’s ability to comprehend the material. Fortunately, for both students and their teachers, rediscovering success in the classroom is possible. Achievement in higher-level learning comes down to finding new ways to teach and to learn.
Oftentimes in a classroom, student success can be too narrowly focused on grades. For your typical higher performing students, maintaining academic excellence can be a strong motivator. For students who are struggling with the material, however, too much of an emphasis on grades can have the opposite effect. A series of “bad grades” can lead to a lack of motivation or willingness to learn. While grades are obviously an important tool for evaluating a student’s education, there is a much better way to encourage it: goals.
If grades are an evaluation, then goals are a celebration. Students of all levels and abilities love a sense of accomplishment. Goals offer students a clear path to success — progress. When a goal stops being about end-of-year evaluation and starts becoming about something smaller and sooner, students are more likely to participate and, more importantly, enjoy learning. As psychology author and blogger Chase Mielke put it, when students “focus on their small victories, they increase their effort to achieve.”
When working with students who are struggling, the knee-jerk reaction is often to identify the areas of their education giving them the most problems and focus on supplementing those lessons. Unfortunately, lesson plans designed to “fix” what’s not working tend to lead to discouragement instead of improvement. Students who are constantly reminded of the things they aren’t getting right can find themselves overwhelmed with their failures instead of finding empowerment in their successes.
What if instead of correcting mistakes, educators could empower students by leveraging their strengths? Students with learning disabilities often know of their shortcomings in the classroom. They are self-aware (and even a bit self-conscious), so lessons that constantly remind them of their struggles are less effective. Successful engagement happens when a teacher can identify a student’s strengths and leverage them to build a lesson plan that works. By allowing these strengths to set the pace for learning, disappointment and disinterest are replaced with increased confidence and engagement. By building an educational foundation based on strengths, teachers can give students the encouragement to meet and exceed their scholastic goals.
Analyzing data is a big part of how a teacher is able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a student. That data can come from any number of sources, from the science-based — aptitude tests and grades — to the observation-based — engagement and social interaction. Each piece of data gives an educator more information about how well the student is retaining information in the classroom. The results of this data can be essential to creating a learning environment that works best for each student.
The relevance of data doesn’t have to be limited to student evaluation. Giving students access to data about themselves can help give them a better understanding of their progress in the classroom. Instead of grades as the only measure of success, this data provides a new way to assess their classwork to identify what’s working and what isn’t. With the ability to see actual evidence of their current performance, students are better able to set and reach their academic goals. By including them in the data analysis process, teachers can give their students the confidence they need to overcome challenges and continue to grow their education.
As mentioned earlier, when a student struggles, it’s vital to identify their strengths in order to provide them with the right tools to find success. uPAR (Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading), a cloud-based reading evaluation tool, analyzes students’ reading capacity to determine what methods work best for each student. This unique tool determines the level they can comprehend in three different situations — when they’re reading on their own, having the text read to them by a person, and using a text reader read to them. uPAR can help see where their reading strengths are and suggest some areas for improvement. uPAR can evaluate entire classrooms, freeing up time for teachers to provide one-on-one help to the students who need it.
For educators, it’s vital to encourage all students — not just those struggling with their work — to get involved with understanding their own data and setting their own goals. Armed with that critical knowledge and aided by evaluation tools like uPar, the sky’s the limit for their success.
For more information on uPAR and to request a free trial