We need a new approach to student assessment

Key points:

  • End-of-year statewide assessments are vital, but are flawed in several ways
  • A “through-year” system administers shorter tests throughout the year that can give teachers immediate feedback
  • See related article: 3 new trends in student assessment

All around the country, school has ended for students and summer break is underway. In many schools, students spent the last few weeks of the year sitting for standardized tests to assess the year’s instruction. Unfortunately, those tests will be locked away until they’re graded at some point this summer, with parents and educators not learning results until late in the summer, or in some cases, after students start school next year. By that time, students will have a new set of teachers, and these teachers a new set of students with different learning styles and needs.

There is no question that assessments provide useful data. Historically, these tests have been used to help direct resources to schools and districts around the state. Republicans have declared it’s a good check on a system we pour our valuable taxpayer dollars into. Democrats have asserted that this information is the most impactful tool for advocates, communities, and families to ensure that every child is being served by the school system. And while these are important metrics, these tests don’t always suit the immediate needs of kids.…Read More

4 resources to differentiate computer science instruction

Differentiating instruction is not a new approach to bridging the varying learning styles of students with different backgrounds and learning abilities. For years, educators have strategized how to differentiate instruction in math, ELA, and science. Countless articles and books offer best practices for differentiation in those subjects, but comparatively, very little has been written about differentiating computer science instruction. 

I believe computer science is more important than ever. In the age of artificial intelligence, the study of computers and computational systems—including their theory, design, development, and application–represents a new frontier in science. 

New fields in computer science seem to emerge each day and now include computer systems and networks, security, database systems, human computer interaction, vision and graphics, numerical analysis, programming languages, software engineering, bioinformatics, and theory of computing.…Read More

This school year, align teaching strategies with student learning styles

The COVID-19 pandemic created an educational environment that had never been seen before. Many students –– and instructors –– were abruptly forced to transition from traditional classroom learning to adopt a new remote format. It accelerated the emergence of a new dynamic learning environment, where students learn in innovative ways far different from how education systems were originally designed. With advancements in technology and the rise of remote learning, classrooms are being remodeled and redefined to fit the evolving needs of modern digital learners.

But if there’s one thing that educators have learned over the last two years, it’s that a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction doesn’t work when you want to empower everyone to succeed in the classroom. Many educators were forced to rethink how to keep students engaged, and pandemic-era learning has only further highlighted the importance of differentiated instruction.

The forced disruption was also the catalyst for students and teachers to quickly acquire digital skills that are ripe to be amplified, taking them from consuming skills to creating skills. As teachers integrate technology into their lesson plans, they’re discovering various classroom tools effective in reaching and enriching the minds of all types of students—from visual and auditory to kinesthetic learners.…Read More

6 practical tips to help students manage post-pandemic screen use

The coronavirus pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for schools. Teaching became a juggling act. Educators were forced to navigate the never-ending stress of new local, regional, and national rules and the ongoing adaptation of their classrooms. A dizzying amount of flexibility was required. Materials, strategies, and techniques needed to reach students in-person, online, and in hybrid settings had to be adjusted on the turn of a dime.

As always, educators had to take into account different learning styles and preferences. Some students took to online learning well, but many didn’t. Teachers had to find creative ways of making school material interesting, engaging, and relevant (a task that is difficult enough during normal circumstances). 

On top of the pedagogical demands, the emotional connections that are so central to meaningful teaching and learning shifted and changed as well. Teachers had to find new ways of developing and maintaining personal relationships with their students.…Read More

5 examples of personalized learning in action

As technology becomes more and more ubiquitous in classrooms across the nation, it is easier than ever for students with different learning styles and needs to create personalized learning environments.

A new report from iNACOL gives educators, parents, and policymakers a platform to learn about and advocate for personalized learning in their schools.

The report makes the case that, due to a large opportunity gap, not all students enter college or the workforce with the digital skills they need to succeed. Advocating for personalized learning and involving stakeholders and community members in conversations about personalized learning helps make those learning opportunities more accessible for all students.…Read More

10 steps for making your online courses accessible for all students

New report highlights 10-step plan to applying Universal Design for Learning online

universal-UDL-learningAccording to a new report, incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in online courses not only benefits students with disabilities, but can have significant benefits for all students, ultimately increasing retention and improving learning outcomes. UDL is tough enough in a face-to-face environment, but the real challenge might be how to implement the principles in an online world where students’ abilities and learning styles differ drastically.

The recent report, written by three professors at Montana State University, aims to help educators involved in online learning implement UDL for teaching both general and diverse populations, including students with disabilities.

The authors note that while, ideally, UDL allows students with disabilities to access courses without adaptation, it can also help to improve learning—and, therefore, retention—among all students.…Read More

Five myths about learning

The human brain is always growing and changing.

Neuroscience offers an exciting glimpse into how the human brain develops and changes over time. And while theories on the brain and its development abound, brain research can help to clear up a handful of myths about how students learn and develop.

The human brain—a biological organ that weighs about 3 pounds—develops as a result of a combination of the genetic program children inherit from both of their parents. Out of about 70 watts of power, the human brain uses only about 15—similar to what an idling laptop or the light inside a refrigerator use.…Read More

Study questions learning-style research

Learning styles, including visual or auditory, have become widely popular in education.
Teaching to different learning styles, such as visual or auditory, has become widely popular in education.

As educators struggle to define effective 21st-century instruction, one practice that many have viewed as fundamental to teaching and learning has come under new fire: catering to different learning styles.

According to a new review of existing research, scientists have yet to show conclusively that students learn better when they are taught according to their preferred modality—and the study’s authors say it’s time to stop funding a technique that hasn’t been proven effective.…Read More