The learning success our students experience comes from the interaction among multiple elements. How prepared students are to learn what we ask matters. How students think and feel about their learning matters. How we position ourselves as students learn matters. The learning path and choices we offer to students matter.
We also know that how we introduce new learning, the supports we provide, and the commitment we communicate to students that they will succeed all make a difference. We must create the supportive context students need to invest, persist, and succeed. However, in the press and pace of this time of the year, we can neglect some of the key practices crucial to the success of our students. Here are reminders of four key steps and strategies that can maintain learning momentum for our students and position them for success.
First, we need to spend time preparing students before introducing new learning. For example, we might revisit and refresh students’ prior learning that will be required for success with the learning that lies ahead. It can be tempting to assume that students will have retained and be able to recall past learning to support new learning. However, too often past learning fades with time and some reminding and practice is needed to make it available to support the next phase of learning. During the review we may discover learning gaps needing to be filled. Now is the time to address them. Deciding to overlook or ignore learning gaps now can make new learning even more difficult and require us to take even more time repeating and reexplaining new concepts and skills later.
Second, we need to discuss with students what they will be asked to learn and why the learning will be important and useful. Students are likely to be less anxious when they know what they will be learning. Students are more likely to engage when the path of their learning is clear. Further, when students understand the purpose and utility of what they’re learning, they’re likely to be more motivated and ready to engage.
Third, we need to draw on our knowledge of our students to anticipate aspects of what students will be learning that may generate misconceptions and confusion. We can mentally revisit past experiences with our students when they’ve struggled and stumbled in their understanding and develop plans and processes to minimize distracting and confusing elements. We also can point out comparisons and connections to prior learning that can help students stay on track. Our attention to preventing confusion and misconceptions is an important time saver. Having to go back and unravel misconceptions and reteach key concepts can be difficult, time consuming, and is not always successful.
Fourth, we need to remind students that we can’t be successful unless they are. Consequently, we we’ll be beside them as they learn, and they can expect our full support. Such reassurance may seem obvious, but when we tie our success to the success of our students, we position ourselves as partners in their learning journey. We become advocates and promoters of their success, not just dispensers of information and assigners of work for them to do.
Maintaining learning momentum during the winter months can be a challenge. However, our attention and commitment to the practices that make learning most accessible for our students can be the difference between “slogging” through the mid-year months and sustaining a rhythm of learning success.