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What Does Successful Learning Look Like?

The lesson was perfectly planned and executed.

It's certain that students gained everything that was taught.

Every objective was clear and every skill practiced...

Or were they?

How do you know?

Sometimes despite our greatest efforts, what we hope will be accomplished and what actually gets through aren't the same.

So we have to make sure that we find out what actually got conveyed and if it wasn't, in fact, all that we had hoped, how can we ensure that all students do actually learn in our spaces?

Most teachers understand that although intention and planning are essential elements of creating great learning environments, they are only a part of the equation.

Since every child learns differently and at a different pace, what success will look like for each of them is different and we need to honor that, as well as monitor that they are in fact progressing.

Here are some tips to make sure all students are moving forward:

  • First, we need to know what students know and can do at the start. Developing relationships with our kids personally and as learners is necessary to gauge the growth as they go. At the beginning of the school year, ask students to engage in some kind of benchmark assessment suitable for your content area and make notes on where they are starting. It doesn't hurt to talk to their prior teachers as well if access is available.

  • Once we know where every child is, we need to track their progress or even better, teach them to track their own progress as he/she goes. 

  • Differentiation techniques, as well as individualized learning plans, must be put in place for every child, to ensure the greatest growth possible.

  • Real measurable progress should be tracked throughout the year - ongoing, not just at the end. Students need formative opportunities to try and fail and practice and try again. If we build in revision and multiple assessments, this too, provides students the opportunity to continue to grow in need areas.

  • Feedback must be provided all the time as a loop. The teacher gives feedback, the student replies to feedback, a dialogue about learning ensues and we begin again.

  • Opportunities for students to show what they know at the end of each lesson should be provided. If possible a short reflection in the notebook or a post on a blog or an exit ticket to ensure what you said or what you provided actually got in. And if it didn't, then it allows time to troubleshoot before the next lesson.

Real student learning happens differently for all kids and success is also unique. Allow students to be a part of the process and truly listen when they share their learning with you. Kids will tell us everything we need to know, if we let them... so let them.

What does learning look like in your space? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in March of 2015

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