Tip #10 of the 13 tips for online learning identified in a study conducted by the Marzano Research Laboratory (MRL) is about helping your learners do more than complete a reading or listen to a lecture. It is important that learners truly understand a new concept and can practice their newly gained knowledge.
About the study
The study, A Study of Best Practices in Edmentum Online Solutions, evaluated the relationship between student learning and effective teacher pedagogical practices in online learning. The study specifically looked at Edmentum’s online solutions in three instructional settings—pure virtual, blended, and classroom/lab—across four purposes: original credit, credit recovery, intervention, and Advanced Placement®.
Tip #10: Providing help to understand and practice new knowledge
This is why we teach—to help students acquire and master new knowledge. It’s perhaps the most fundamental part of the job. That being said, it might also be the most complicated. Whom do you help? When do you help them? How? Even veteran teachers struggle with these questions. And there is no shortage of pedagogies to try to make sense of these practice.
What are the best ways to help learners understand and practice new knowledge?
Most teachers prefer some sort of gradual release model, variations on “I do, we do, you do.” It’s here where pacing and formative assessment take precedence. There is, of course, the process of delivering a lecture to present the new knowledge and then using homework to help students practice. Most forward-thinking teachers want to get away from that. There are also approaches that are completely different, like flipped learning.
In a flipped classroom, students acquire the new knowledge at home using videos available online or made by the teacher. Then, they come to class in order to practice those skills and receive help from the teacher. The theory is that class time is used for what’s important—practice—rather than rote memorization.
When do learners need help understanding and practicing new knowledge?
If the curriculum is paced correctly and mastery has been achieved by everyone before moving on, students shouldn’t need help with the next topic. Of course, that’s rarely the case. That’s why it’s important to perform some sort of formative assessment or pretest before every major topic or unit, with more informal assessments coming at the beginning and end of each lesson. You should have the pulse of the class during a lesson as well. It sounds like a lot of work, but a deep understanding of informal formative assessment strategies can be your best friend.
What is the most difficult part of helping learners understand and practice new knowledge?
The first barrier to effective practice of new knowledge is simply time. Benchmarks have to be met. Tests have to be prepared for. A lot of administrative minutiae cut into class time. Many times, the lowest performers need to move on for the sake of the rest of the class.
The other barrier is a question of differentiation. How do you know where everyone is? Who needs more time? Who’s working ahead, and how far? For many, small groups and online learning can solve these challenges.
Want to see more of the instructional strategies the Marzano Research Laboratory determined in the study? See all 13 Marzano best practices in online learning here.
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