Education

by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

On of the qualities of an excellent educator is the belief that every student can and must learn at high levels. High quality teachers also know that some students need more time or support in order to reach expected levels of proficiency and that it is their role to provide the learning experiences necessary to produce student growth. One of the biggest challenges of teaching is that in a typical classroom, the students have a wide range of abilities, interests, backgrounds and readiness for learning the content.

There are a multitude of techniques that excellent teachers use to ensure that they meet the needs of the wide variety of students in their classrooms. Here are just a few strategies for educators to consider as they develop plans to meet the diverse needs of their students. Of course, all of these strategies have a time and a place and are not appropriate on every occasion. Similarly, some of these strategies can require additional work on the part of the teacher and so they should be used as time permits.

Focus on Student Interests

Great teachers take the time to know their students both on both an academic and personal level. It’s important to understand a student’s interest beyond the classroom. What do they enjoy doing in their spare time? What motivates them outside of school? One of the most powerful ways to motivate students in the classroom is to incorporate their interests into what they learn. Determine methods and times to allow students to choose the topics that they want to talk about. When possible, incorporate their interests into the content or assignments. A focus on student interests can also be a powerful relationship builder. It matters to a student that the teacher has taken the time to understand their passions and interests.

Increase Student Choice in Assignments and Assessments

Students can demonstrate an understanding of content in a number of ways. Many teachers successfully use student choice as a method to increase engagement and motivation. Consider offering a variety of options for an assignment. If the purpose of the assignment is understanding of a key concept, why not let some students write about it, allow others to present to the class or have a one on one conference with the teacher. If the learning goal includes written communication, offer choice in terms of the topic or area of research.

Technology as a Tool to Enhance Instruction

Students are digital natives and often feel more comfortable working with technology than adults. Some students are more likely to be more engaged when they use electronic devices in class or to complete homework. It is important to note that technology should not be utilized for the sake of having a device in front of the student. It should enhance the lesson and the content rather than becoming the sole focus.

Student Collaboration in Groups

Students often benefit from collaborative work with their peers. There are a number of ways to group students in order to maximize the learning experience. Some teachers prefer to allow students to choose their own groups so that they are able to work with friends. Others prefer to arrange students into mixed ability groups so that stronger students have the opportunity to re-teach or provide leadership to struggling students. Still other teachers use a variety of groupings so that students have experience working successfully with a variety of peers.

Focus on Equity versus Equality

If we truly believe it is our role to ensure that all students learn, then our focus should be on equity versus equality. A focus on equality would mean that every student has the same instruction and amount of time to learn. However, we know that some students need more time or support and so our focus should be to ensue equitable outcomes. If a student needs more time to learn and demonstrate mastery, then it should be provided. If a student needs more support then the teacher should work both individually and with his or her colleagues to provide it as well. Learning is not a race. Those who master a concept quickly should be provided opportunities to deepen and apply their learning but students who take more time should not be left behind.

 

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by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

Over the course of my career, I have blogged and written extensively about the need for all students to succeed at high levels. By now, most understand that success in an economy driven by technology, innovation and service will require both content knowledge as well as a set of underlying skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Both our own common sense and research tell us that our students must be prepared for learning beyond high school in college, job training and apprenticeship programs. But how do we ensure that all students are ready when they are only with us in schools for a few years? The answer lies in both effective classroom instruction as well as effective intervention.

We know that all students can learn, however, some students need more time and more support. In the past, many school systems waited for students to fail or fall far behind to intervene. Summer school was offered when students failed a course and the student needed to repeat the entire course regardless of content that had been previously mastered. Special education was sometimes offered as a last resort when frustrated staff didn’t know what else to do. In contrast, imagine a school system where student outcomes are clearly identified, where there is high quality instruction in every classroom and where TIMELY intervention is available for EVERY student at the first sign of a struggle. What if students didn’t have to wait for help until they had already failed?

The best intervention is prevention and so our most important work actually begins with a strong core instructional program in every classroom for every student. Approximately 80% of students who receive a well instructed, research-based curriculum should experience success as a result of initial instruction in the classroom.

In order to ensure that all students learn at high levels, it is also necessary to create intervention plans to assist students who need support.  Plans should have the following characteristics:

  • Tiered support – some students need a little help and some need a lot of help. Our interventions offer various levels of assistance based on the needs of the student.
  • Directive – interventions must be mandatory. We can’t claim that our mission is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and then allow our students to “choose” to fail.
  • Administered by trained professionals – systems must be in place so that the professionals with the most expertise in a given area are able to deliver intervention. This notion is based on a medical model. If you have the flu, you can see the physician’s assistant, but if you have cancer, you need the oncologist.
  • Targeted – intervention is very specific to the student and the standard in which he or she needs assistance. Using a reliable system of assessment in the classroom ensures that we identify specific areas of intervention.
  • Timely – effective intervention occurs promptly, not after an F grade has been given for the course. Also, interventions should only be as long as needed, a student should not have to languish in intervention past the point where it is helpful.

If you would like additional information on effective intervention:

An easy to read article –

“The Why Behind RtI” by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct10/vol68/num02/The-Why-Behind-RTI.aspx

A great book –

“Simplifying Response to Intervention”

by Austin Guffu, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber

 

 

 

 

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Character Education Holistic Approach

A lot of people suggest that the best way to implement CE is through holistic approach or an approach that incorporates character development in each aspect of the student’s school life. Several characteristics of the holistic approach are as follows:

  • Everything in the school gets set to student, staff and community relationship development.
  • The school is a caring hub for learners who access a solid bond that connects students, staff and the school.
  • Social and emotional learning is encouraged in the same enthusiastic style academic learning is emphasized.
  • The collaboration and the cooperation amongst students are sensitized over competition.
  • Values including respect, fairness and honesty are everyday lessons that are taught inside and outside the classroom.
  • Classroom management and discipline are fostered together to champion problem­solving platforms as opposed to a rewards and punishment module.

The Benefits of Character Education

Fortunately, character education is not just centered on an all or nothing enterprise; there is plenty that teachers do to grant meaningful character building experiences to their students.

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Laurie Kimbrel at Tamalpais Union High School has a well documented website. Visit Dr. Laurie Kimbrel’s website and access the latest’s facts, news, information and images not forgetting a complete biography.

Character education (CE) is everything that has influences on the characteristics of the students a teacher teaches. Character education is the concentrated effort to help students understand, comprehend and take action on core ethical values.

Character education is portrayed in the way the teacher talks, behaves, the conduct he/she tolerates, which morals and deeds the teacher encourages and the expectations transmitted.

The question is, what sort of values are teachers passing along to their students?

CE remains as an extremely controversial subject, it’s dependent on personal desired outcome. A lot of people including some educators believe that getting children/students to do what they are being told to do is character education.

With this line of thinking, rules get set and imposed and a rewards systems are setup. Punishments are introduced although they produce temporary and limited behavioral changes.

Punishing students as it has been observed does very little to nothing to affect the student’s underlying characteristics. There are other individuals who argue that teachers should focus on creating independent thinkers who commit to moral principles.

Develop students who can do the right thing even when faced with difficult circumstances that demand that they use a different approach to tackle them. CE initiatives can as well be modest and can include one teacher doing several things the right way. Character education can teach students to be elaborate, be inclusive of all and everything that is at their disposal.

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View everything you want to know and learn about Laurie Kimbrel superintendent at Tamalpais Union High School. Dr. Laurie Kimbrel observes every student preparation step to ensure that students are ready for the next stage.

 

Brain­based learning helps the brain remain intimately involved in, and connected with all teachers and students learn and do in school. Brain­based learning is best understood in three ways; engagement, principles and strategies.

Teachers are asked to engage their students and engage them in strategies that are real science based.

How Reputable Is Brain Based Learning?

Harvard University believes that brain­based learning is an excellent course and now runs master’s and doctorate degrees programs in this niche. Play for students which translates to physical education, recess and movement are all vital steps of learning.

Scientists remind us that we grow new neurons all through our lives that correlate highly with memory, mood, and learning. Growing new neurons is a process that gets regulates by our daily activity and behaviors that also include exercise. Educators are well aware that early childhood movement keeps the brain wired up to make efficient connections. To better students, schools should use brain­based learning for the purpose of influencing these variables.

Practical school applications such as classroom movement and recess help raise the right thinking chemicals, learning, and memory, and focus on students. It’s proven that students need about 30 to 60 minutes every day to lower stress response, boost learning and promote neurogenesis. When students enrol in school for the first few weeks, it’s important that they get exposure to several types of physical activities.

Afterwards, they are offered a choice; this is critical as a voluntary activity is more efficient than a forced activity that can lead to cortisol overproduction!

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