In a recent blog we posed the question “Have My Students Learned What I Taught Today?“. In it we discussed how gathering evidence of student understanding is key to effective classroom instruction. In addition, we should be asking ourselves How have I acted upon (as a teacher) what my students learned today?
Research shows that instructional adaptations based on evidence of student learning can improve the achievement of students at all levels.
In 1991, John R. Bergan, an assessment and education expert, and some colleagues investigated the impact of a measurement and planning system on 838 kindergarten children. Fifty-six teachers (27 control and 29 experimental) participated. The experimental teachers were trained to use detailed information about students’ skill level to provide meaningful, customized activities. The results indicated that the use of this program led to higher math, science, and reading achievement and reduced the probability that students were referred and placed into special education. (Bergan, J. R., Sladeczek, I. E., Schwartz, R. D., & Smith, A. N. (1991). Effects of a measurement and planning system on Kindergartners’ cognitive development and educational programming. American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 683–714.)
But it’s not just enough to gather and read the information, there has to be a process in place to utilize it. In 1986, Douglas Fuchs, Head of Special Education at Vanderbilt University, and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 21 studies of frequent assessment activities (two to five times per week). The studies included students from preschool to grade 12, and the meta-analysis yielded 96 effect sizes with a mean effect size of 0.70. The authors found that teachers who set rules about the review and use of student learning data produced higher mean effects (0.91 compared to 0.42). Additionally, those teachers who graphed student learning data rather than simply recording data also produced higher mean effects (0.70 compared to 0.26). This data here clearly shows that a well-defined, formal process of using the information gathered produces better results. (Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (1986). Effects of formative evaluation: a meta-analysis. Exceptional Children, 53, 199–208.)
Teachers need to become the students in their own classes by listening to what their students tell them everyday about what they have learned – and about what they have not learned..
A program like NWEA’s Keeping Learning on Track helps teachers learn new techniques that help them adapt instruction to meet students’ immediate learning needs, ,minute to minute and day by day. This improves student learning by providing instruction that is more in tune with the needs of student in that moment.