The ongoing reflective home of the New York City Social Studies CFG.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Struggles In Teaching Practice: When Students Aren't Learning

This school year I have fully implemented a grading system based on skills and learning targets.  It uses rubrics drafted in collaboration with my grade team and, more specifically, our 10th grade English teacher.  Due to this change, for the first time in my teaching career, I really feel I have a sense of my students’ knowledge of material, their standing within a specific skill, and ultimately, their progress in my course.  My special education co-teacher and I are able to pull up a student from our class and immediately recognize where they are with the material.  We have gathered so much meaningful data that it has changed the conversations we have about our students, made “kid talk” more productive, and allowed us to assess our students better.

The issue I’m struggling with in my teaching practice is what to do when students aren’t learning the material.  Now that we have this enlightening data, what do we do with it? 

Throughout my five years of teaching, I have always struggled with designing interventions to help students who aren’t doing well in my course.  But before, when grades were based on points given for the number of assignments completed, the issue seemed arbitrary.  If grades are based on assignment completion, then the obvious intervention for a student who is not doing well in class is to get him or her to complete more assignments.  However, if grades are based on something different, on actual student learning, the intervention is murkier.  A student may not being meeting proficiency in my course because of their attendance, because of struggles with reading or writing, or simply because they don’t eat breakfast. 

Students would need a tailor made intervention to their particular breed of struggle.

Sounds revolutionary, right?

I’m not opposed to this conclusion; however, needs-based interventions are outside the realm of what teachers have traditionally been prepared and trained to do.  I have great fears on what this entails in the expanding role of teachers and for the professional development and support necessary to confront this task. 

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