May 12, 2017

It Looks Great on Paper, But Does it Work in the Classroom?

By Dr. Anna Boriack, Program Director for Core Courses | Education

Teachers are constantly offered new instructional strategies to try in their classrooms. Whether they are presented at a professional development session, a conference or social media, questions tend to start coming into teachers’ minds. Will this work for my students? Will it increase learning in my classroom? How do I know if it works? The Masters of Education program at Concordia University, Nebraska will not only present you with new instructional strategies, but also help you understand if those strategies will work for your students.

Here’s how to informally see if these new strategies will work for your students.

  1. Select a strategy. This probably seems like the logical place to start but you want to make sure that you select a strategy that is age-appropriate for your students and one you are comfortable with. You will want to make sure that you have, or can easily get, the supplies. Finally, make sure it is a strategy that you can use numerous times; it often takes several times of using a strategy before you see any changes in student learning.
  2. Take a baseline measurement. Before you begin using your new strategy you need to know where your students are starting from so you can see if any growth occurs. You could give a pre-test or just simply note what students’ grades are in that area before starting the new strategy.
  3. Make it your own. Every classroom is different and you might need to adapt the strategy to work in your classroom. This might mean changing the materials that are used or even the subject matter. You know what works best for your students, so don’t be afraid to adapt to fit them. The adaption might even need to occur after a couple of times of trying the new strategy and that is fine.
  4. Stick with it. It is tempting to try a new strategy once or twice and give up because it doesn’t seem to be working. It takes time for students and teachers to get used to a new way of doing things. Set a trial period for how long you want to try the new strategy before re-evaluating. This is going to depend on how often you use the technique. If you are using it every day, two or three weeks might be long enough. If it is only being used a few times a week, you might want to try for four or six weeks. If student learning is being hindered by the new strategy, then stop before the trial period is up.  Remember the new strategy is supposed to help your students, not hurt them.
  5. Re-evaluate. When the trial period is up, re-evaluate student learning. This could be done through a post-test or looking at students’ grades. Once you re-evaluate you can decide if the new strategy is something you want keep, adapt for your students or stop if it is just not working. It could also be that the new strategy is great, but only for certain topics or subject matter and you will use it once or twice a year. That is fine, too, and will become another great tool in your instructional toolbox.

To learn more about instructional strategies and research in the classroom, check out the fully online Masters of Education program at Concordia University, Nebraska.

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