Sunday, May 8, 2016

Teaching for the Successful Life

Did you know that a better predictor of future health, wealth, and happiness for our students is not academic success?  There is research that says that it is “years in education”, more than grades or awards, that predicts what we’d generally call “success in life.”  And, it is most likely that it is in the 11-15-year age group (grades 5-9) that students decide if education is for them.  Think about that.

Based on this research, it seems paramount that students’ elementary education engage and reward them in ways such that they define learning and personal growth as a lifelong goal.  To do that, students must identify themselves as learners.  And how do we do that?

No doubt the answer to that question is complex and unique for each learner.  At its core, I suspect, is achievement, conscious achievement.  By “conscious achievement” I mean that students must spend a major amount of their time engaged in activities for which they can get a “score,” and that the score must typically be a good one.  We need to know we’re succeeding.

It is for that reason that I have regularly advocated the use of programs like Accelerated Reader (no, in spite of what it may appear, I own no stock in Advantage Learning).  I’ve supported A.R. in particular, because it challenges students with reading at their diagnosed reading level, provides them with a broad source of general knowledge, demonstrates to them over time that they are achieving, and reports scores along they way.  Not only is A.R. not alone in providing students with meaningful and rewarding feedback, I suspect that moving forward in our age of digital media, opportunities and refinements will continue to expand and be more personally adaptive.

The point here is that tasks need to be well chosen to accomplish two goals.  First, the task must be approachable by each student at their personal level of development.  Second, the task must provide clear and meaningful feedback which in some form, whether statistical or by teacher commentary, demonstrates what the student do well, how the student did that, and in what ways the student’s performance demonstrates that student’s learning.  Workbooks are typically not going to do that.

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