Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Help Your Students Reach Their Potential

A Post on Student Achievement Best Practices

By Dr. DJ Skogsberg, Assistant Director for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

There are key components to helping a student realize his or her potential that are supported by research that increase student achievement best practices
image courtesy of freefoto.com
"How to help your students reach their potential"? Talk about a loaded question…  Frankly, I think there are key components to consider that are all supported by research. 

Let’s start with best practices for an effective school and an effective teacher.  Bob Marzano’s research indicates there is as much as a 93% differential between students’ academic performance in a highly effective school with a highly effective teacher versus a highly ineffective school with a highly ineffective teacher (What Works In Schools).

So, the real question is what do highly effective teachers and highly effective schools look like?  Some would argue that a highly effective school empowers students to take ownership in their school community, build the school culture, and positively redirect peers to make better choices.  I would agree with this assertion.  In order to have this type of scenario, however, the adult stakeholder groups must acquiesce and relinquish some of their authority to demarginalize students – regardless of the students’ ages.

The resulting factor, supported by research, is a strong and supportive school environment.  This factor then builds toward greater buy-in on the part of the students and staff, enhancing their personal/professional relationships leading toward improved student growth.

In addition, we can look to the best practices indicated by the research done through the Assessment Training Institute (Stiggins, Chappuis, Chappuis & Arter).  Effective use of formative and summative assessment data and tools is key to a teacher being highly effective.  This is supported through additional research conducted by Marzano (Classroom Assessment & Grading That Work) showing that homework, classwork, quizzes, tests, performance assessments, etc. each have a specific purpose, and to deviate from those respective purposes is detrimental to students.  Timely, specific, and descriptive feedback being given to students is not only good, but it is absolutely necessary for students to have if they are going to be active users of assessment data (and they should be) in order to gauge where they are at in relationship to the learning target.

This last point reiterates the importance of demarginalizing students as active stakeholders.  If students cannot see a target, they cannot hit it.  If students do not know where they are in relationship to where it is they are going, how can they plan their learning journey?  Some might argue that the teachers should plan solely.  I, however, would disagree with this assertion.  Frankly, if we are to ensure students are College and Career Ready, they must be self-directed learners, quality producers, collaborative workers, complex thinkers, and community contributors.  If students are marginalized in anyway, they will be lucky if they master even one of these five components leading to being a 21st Century learner.

The bottom line here is that there are a number of venues from which educational practitioners can find general information on any of the aforementioned topics.  I would point out that, other than PD360, I have yet to find anyone location with a collective series of supports and resources that house key reference information from the experts I mentioned above.

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