It’s taken generations, but classroom students are finally teaching their teachers how they learn best. As differentiation has made inroads upon territory where once only “one size fits all” was the norm, formative assessments are being used to actually adjust teaching to meet the academic needs of the student. Through a variety of means—social media, online training, and commercial programs—students are sharing with their teachers which parts of a lesson work for them and which parts don’t. But the best part is that teachers are listening. The results of this form of collaboration are better learning for the students and a greater level of professionalism for the instructor. With the rise of technology in the classroom coinciding with this change in learning, recent innovations are a good bet for more improvement.
A Factor for Preparation
It’s undeniable. Well prepared lessons and units dramatically affect classroom management. Instead of thinking of incorporating technology into the planning process as just one more thing to do, approach the prospect from what history shows us about technology when properly used. No successful technological advance ever made a job harder or longer to perform. Never. Are there up-front expenditures of time and effort involved in bringing technology on board? Sure. Still, the benefits of investing in better teaching and improved discipline would, it seems, outweigh initial costs. But what about all of those classrooms in which access to computers is, for whatever reason, very limited?
Remember, One Size Doesn’t Fit All
With student-teacher ratios growing in response to fiscal hurdles, teachers are increasingly turning to small group activities to affect more learning and to maximize resources. Formative assessments play a key role in both differentiation and flexible grouping activities in which groups rotate computer usage based upon their needs to acquire the skills being taught. Especially in over-crowded classrooms, purposeful, thoughtfully planned grouping give the teacher the opportunity for more one-on-one and small group instruction, while affording students time to use computers, do independent tasks and receive extra help when available.
Collaboration and Classroom Management
The use of on-going formative assessment, regardless of means, ultimately allows a teacher to better understand her individual student’s learning needs. By matching his or her instruction to the appropriate level of the student many, if not most, classroom discipline issues are also addressed. It is reasonable to conclude that when a student is able to communicate a need, which may be in the form of demonstrating mastery, therefore the need to learn at a faster rate and deeper level, or by discreetly indicating that learning my require extra support in the case where mastery is illusive, the resulting attention to meeting that need will lesson behavioral issues.
Putting It All Together
Good teaching has always meant meeting the learning needs of all students. Good teaching has always meant adequate preparation and effective execution of each lesson or unit. Good teaching only gets better when continuous, structured communication occurs between student and instructor, at which time the teacher adjusts their instruction based upon input. Technology makes this process easier and more efficient, though the use of Post-it Notes and the written response on a 3 X 5 still facilitates the exchange of information between a teacher and his or her student.
Photo Credit: Nazareth College via Flickr