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Friday / September 22

Creating an Impact: So Much More Than Strategy

Without question, Dr. Hattie’s research has made a very significant contribution to the quality of instructional decision-making. Knowing the effect sizes of a variety of instructional practices can help us to focus decisions and strategies in the direction most likely to build academic learning. But instruction that builds lasting learning requires more than applying a set of strategies shown to be more effective than others.

The best instruction we can offer builds the skills of students to be self-regulated, motivated, independent learners. The old adage: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime, presents a useful metaphor for examining what learners experience every day in schools. Unfortunately, for too many students their daily learning diet features unappetizing offerings that serve little useful purpose from their perspective. In fact, they see the learning diet as so unattractive and lacking in relevance that they often choose not to participate at all unless forced to do so.

For other students the learning fare is comprised of fish the teacher places before them that gets them through the day but builds little capacity to be a better learner the next day. These students see their job in response to the daily fare they are given as finishing the meal, but not building skills and gaining knowledge that will help them to grasp significance, expand their understanding, make connections and guide their own learning efforts.

For still other students, their learning diet is filled with what they see as attractive and nutritious content and features the added benefit of learning to “catch” their own learning food. The strategies and skills necessary to learn are given at least as much and, at times, even more attention than the daily fare. Learners are given ever-increasing opportunities to catch and consume their own learning food.

The most important difference in these three scenarios lies not in the intentions of educators, but in the experiences of learners. The instructional actions may have been well intended, but from the perspective of the learner the value of the experiences vary widely. So what are the keys to moving from instructional fare that often generates unpredictable learner responses to those that hold a high degree of predictability for increasing their capacity to become independent learners? Here are three examples that will make a difference and get you started.

First, there is a difference between good practice and effective practice. It is important to remember that learning is most likely to occur at the intersection of learning readiness and the right amount of challenge. Instructional activities that have been shown in research to be good strategies become effective strategies when they tap readiness to learn and rigorous, but reachable challenges from the perspective of the learner. Strategies that have been shown to work under a variety of circumstances with a range of learners represent an appropriate place to start, but to reach the full potential of the strategy you must match appropriate instruction with each learner‘s readiness to learn.

Second, attracting the attention and tapping the learning energy of students is easiest and most consistently effective when we focus on “why” over “what” and “how.” Help learners to grasp the value and purpose of their learning and they will be far more likely to invest in the search for “what” will be necessary for learning success and “how” they can approach the process so they can learn what is needed to satisfy their “why.”

Third, rather than making every significant decision about the timing, strategies, activities and demonstration of learning, find ways to give learners opportunities to be active agents in the process. Learners are far more likely to commit to their learning when they play an active role in setting learning goals, building action plans, planning and managing schedules, monitoring progress, engaging in self-assessment and providing input regarding how they can demonstrate what they have learned.

In short, effective instruction starts with the learner, not with educators or the next topic in the curriculum guide. Join me on July 13th at 2:30 PM to learn more strategies, steps and secrets to making visible learning viable learning for all learners.

Image: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / michaelmill

Jim Rickabaugh will be presenting at the National Visible Learning Conference.

Session Description:

The research is clear – Visible Learning is an effective strategy for improving teaching practices and generating increased learning. But many educators struggle with effecting lasting change for all students in a traditional educational environment. This workshop will share a way to bring Visible Learning to a higher level – to reach all learners by creating an ecosystem where the learner is at the center. Join Dr. James Rickabaugh, Director of the Institute @ CESA #1, as he shares an innovative educational model based on personalized learning that more than 900 educators and 14,000 students are currently experiencing. Participants will explore ways to support students to become their own best teachers. Strategies will be shared to actively involve students in the learning process, from goal setting and monitoring their own progress to determining their unique learning path and advocating for their own educational growth.

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Dr. James Rickabaugh is currently Director of the Institute @ CESA #1 and former Superintendent of the Whitefish Bay Schools in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, a north Milwaukee suburb. Previously, he served as Midwest Regional President for Voyager Expanded Learning of Dallas, Texas. He also served as Superintendent of Schools for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District in Burnsville, Minnesota, a south suburb of Minneapolis.

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