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Developing classrooms that work
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HOISINGTON — After years of preparing students for state exams, USD 431 educators are being reminded of the higher levels of learning such as analysis, evaluation and creating, to teach their students, as compared to rote memorization.
One aspect of that is letting students be responsible. “Kids have to be accountable for their own learning,” said Bill Lowry, superintendent.
So, with an emphasis on using technology, each USD 431 teacher has received a book called “Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement” and gone through a workshop prior to school starting this month. In addition, every building is doing a book study.
The district is already implementing the Common Core and working on making students career ready by graduation. Common Core is a set of expectations designed to ensure all students achieve college and career readiness. There are about 46 states that have adopted these shared standards to compete in a boundryless world.
Each of the Hoisington school principals has done a quick walk-through of classrooms-not to evaluate teaching, but to take data and help teachers use the concepts of higher level learning.
“It’s better, effective instruction to help students learn,” Lowry said, regarding the research based strategies. The teacher evaluations are done on iPads and measure what level of learning is occurring in the classroom.
Teachers are included in the process. “We want teacher input,” the superintendent said. “The teachers have to do self-evaluation and goal-setting.
“We continue to stress the (classroom) environment, including feedback, goal setting and good cooperative learning,” he said.
Good objectives are used to communicate to students and parents to help them understand and become engaged with what their children are learning. Good objectives are age appropriate. They name what the students are supposed to learn.
Also, appropriate feedback addresses whether the students are learning and allows them to reflect on it, which allows them input the process. Appropriate feedback encourages students who are struggling.
Also important are the parents. “We need parent involvement,” said Lowry.Rewarding effort and encouraging internal motivation requires parents and teachers. It helps students to become tenacious and resilient.
There are an additional six strategies that will allow students to learn patterns of instruction that will lead to success after completion of high school. They are: using cues, mental images, summarizing and note taking, homework, similarities and differences, and generating and testing hypotheses.
“We are excited about implementing these strategies,” said Lowry. “They take students into 21st century learning and are a giant step forward in preparing our students for real world work and study.”