Take a look around your classroom. What do you see? Future scientists? Mathematicians? Writers and lawyers? Artists and singers? Each of your students comes to you with unique skills and talents and one of the best things about being a teacher is watching kids thrive as they are given opportunities to explore and learn within the realm of their own individual gifts.
But what happens when these individual differences lead to gaps in achievement? And is there anything teachers can do to make sure that each of their students—regardless of innate talents, socio-economic background, race or gender—stays on pace with the norm?
Our friends at VINCI Education asked the same questions as they worked to develop early-learning curriculum that effectively drove student achievement. But instead of just asking the questions, they decided to go out and get the answers. They asked the teachers in two-early learning education programs to utilize technology and game-based curriculum in a blended learning environment to explore how students of differing abilities were able to learn and achieve. Through these case studies, they learned some interesting tidbits about student achievement and were able then to adjust their curriculum to fit the differing needs of students everywhere.
Here are 5 Key Learning Concepts That Can Help You to Prevent Achievement Gaps:
- Students thrive when they are given access to creative but intentional curriculum.The Cheryl Andersen-Sorenson Child Center, one of the schools studied, is a play-based, early-learning center where kids spent most of their time in unstructured play and activities.When VINCI added just 15 minutes of structured curriculum time twice a week along with an additional 15-30 minutes of playing related real-world games, students showed significant catch-up on academic learning. This suggests that teachers who creatively but intentionally integrate technology, academics, game-based learning, and unstructured play into their curriculum help all students excel.
- Regular assessment facilitates learning. It’s probably not a good idea to hand out a pop quiz every time your Pre-K students learn a new skill, but there are many simple and effective ways to make sure no one is falling behind. Research shows that when teachers have the ability to pull assessment data reports after students play learning games, they are able to adjust their daily curriculum to support student needs and prevent achievement gaps.
- Use technology to supplement but not replace, curriculum.The case study done at EnCompass Academy showed significant improvement in student math scores when students were allowed to use VINCI tablets loaded with math games following their teacher’s math concept instruction.
- Be smart with technology. The aforementioned EnCompass Academy study also revealed that it’s important strike a balance between technology and hands-on learning, especially with early learners who need a variety of modalities to help them learn. For teachers, this means being smart about technology—making sure that time using devices is spent doing effective educational activities and that you provide a plethora of supplemental hands-on learning opportunities to back up online learning.
- Communicate with all stakeholders. When parents and teachers work together, children are given consistent input, creating an environment where learning is reinforced both at school and at home. By letting your students’ parents know where they are succeeding and where they are struggling, you give them the information they need to step in and help. Even better, research shows that if parents are given tools to utilize at home to help their kids learn, they are much more likely to join the teacher in helping their kids succeed.