4 Scaffolding Strategies To Improve Literacy Skills

As an educator with 30 years of experience in North Dakota’s public schools, I’ve witnessed students enter my classroom with varying degrees of readiness. In an effort to create more equitable instructional opportunities, I have started to integrate scaffolding into my regular classroom activities.

According to Pauline Gibbons (2015), a scaffold is a temporary support a teacher provides to a student that enables the student to perform a task he or she would not be able to perform alone.

The goal of scaffolding is to provide opportunities for accommodating students’ individual abilities and needs as they learn and grow. It is important to note that scaffolding is fundamental to all effective and equitable teaching, and that the edtech resources many educators currently have access to support the integration of scaffolding into instruction.

Here are four scaffolding techniques I use, and some of the resources that support them

If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times. Robert Marzano found that it was critical for teachers to expose students to the same word multiple times to enhance students’ vocabulary. When exposure is coupled with an explicit comment about the word and its meaning, vocabulary acquisition doubled.

1. One technique I’ve used to design supportive instruction in the areas of vocabulary and reading is practice, repetition, paraphrasing, and modeling. If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times. Robert Marzano found that it was critical for teachers to expose students to the same word multiple times to enhance students’ vocabulary. When exposure is coupled with an explicit comment about the word and its meaning, vocabulary acquisition doubled.1. One technique I’ve used to design supportive instruction in the areas of vocabulary and reading is practice, repetition, paraphrasing, and modeling.

2. Teacher modeling is another great scaffolding technique. Model thought processes (think-alouds) and skills every time you teach new vocabulary or critical thinking. This includes reading aloud to your student picture books and novels (including texts above grade level), so you can model correct pronunciation of new words and reading with prosody.

I like to use Flipgrid when using paraphrasing with teacher modeling. With Flipgrid I can record myself instructing students and giving directions, as well as provide written instructions. Another nice feature of Flipgrid is that I can attach files, upload video from digital platforms, link from Google Classroom, Wakelet and more! Finally, I can group students as needed by topic or readiness and invite co-teachers to my grids and topics.

3. Integrating digital content into lessons is another learning scaffold that I use regularly. I use Discovery Education Experience regularly, and one of the best things about its high-quality digital content is that you know students are accessing safe digital assets that are multi-modal (audio, pod-cast, text, video and more). This provides students multiple ways to experience the content.

Even more exciting than the vast number of assets, is the convenient way they are organized in Channels curated by topic, asset type and more. Frequently-used channels in my planning for students include: English Language Arts, Audiobooks, and SOS Instructional Strategies. To model paraphrasing with students, I love to use the SOS Instructional Strategies Six Word Story and Tweet Tweet. Once we use these together several times, students can be gradually released to use them for repetition and paraphrasing of new learning, vocabulary, and to summarize text.

4. Also, I like to use augmented images and video to further scaffold instruction. One tool you may find helpful to support this is ThingLink. This tool makes it possible for teachers to share content by augmenting images and videos with information and links. ThingLink makes it easy to create audio-visual learning materials that are accessible in an integrated reading tool. All text descriptions in an image or video hotspots can be read in over 60 languages. Finally, it is an easy-to-use platform for students to show their learning and understanding as a creative productivity tool.

With all the diverse learners in our classrooms, there is a strong need for new scaffolding strategies and with the latest edtech resources, it really is easier than ever to do. But most importantly, at the end of a scaffolded lesson, the educator has created a product that promotes educational equity, delivers a higher quality lesson, and built a learning experience much more rewarding for all involved.

By : Jessie Erickson, District Assessment Coordinator, Grand Forks Public Schools

Jessie Erickson is the District Assessment Coordinator for Grand Forks Public Schools, and holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Specialist Diploma in Educational Leadership. She is the NE Director and President Elect for the North Dakota Association of Technology Leaders, is a Discovery Education DEN Ambassador, a member of the DEN Leadership Council. She is certified educator, trainer, or ambassador for several edtech platforms including Flipgrid and a Breakout EDU.

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Decolonising Study Skills & The Role of Learning Development

At Newcastle this year, we’ve been beyond fortunate to have an incredible Student Union exec, a team of formidable and inspiring Sabs who have not only worked their hardest to support their fellow students through what they couldn’t have known would be one of the hardest academic years ever due to the pandemic, but who have also somewhere found the reserves of energy to engage with another critical and timely issue, decolonizing the curriculum. Their Decolonise NCL campaign has to date included a series of online events attracting a seriously impressive array of speakers, as well as pulling together resources and pushing the University to pledge a commitment to decolonisation and anti-racist work at all levels. It’s simply awe-inspiring.

Their work has got me thinking about the place of decolonisation in what’s commonly called ‘study skills’, and how it impacts on the role of Learning Developers. I wrote a while ago about coming to understand the related and tricky value of emancipatory practice, a related concept, which I feel is the defining Learning Development value, but even at the time felt I was only just beginning to get a handle on it. Since then, my Leeds colleague Sunny Dhillon has written eloquently both about his ambivalent feelings about emancipation in LD as well as questioning whether universities can feasibly decolonise themselves. Working on projects around student induction this year, at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests, I’ve also examined ways in which an uncritical approach to inducting students to our academic community could be oppressive. The Student Union campaign has prompted me to further this thinking and tie these disparate threads together in the context of my own profession.

To this end, I offered to contribute a session to their programme of Decol NCL events, NOT because I have any expertise in this area, but because I wanted to pick up the challenge they had thrown down and explore how this ‘well-meaning middle class white woman’ might begin doing her own anti-racist work within her professional context. I’ve since taken this discussion to a meeting of my own profession of Learning Developers in Scotland (ScotHELD). This post draws together some of the questions and avenues I explored in those sessions. Our NUSU sabs talk about brave spaces as well as safe spaces, about the need to let people take risks to step outside their comfort zone, and I’d like to take that idea up and step out.

“…universities remain white middle-class spaces. They require students to adopt particular ways of being and doing – those which conform to middle-class practices that define success in higher education – ways of writing, speaking and the use of academic language. Universities measure a particular type of success that is possessed by those from white middle-class backgrounds.”

(Bhopal, 2018)

As I’ve written before, my role is often understood as teaching students to write ‘properly’. Implicitly, that means as white, middle class and male. I’d extend this understanding of ‘academic literacy’ also beyond just academic writing to other practices covered by a Learning Developer, from seminar participation to independent study, reading to critical thinking, time management to revision, which are equally situated in socio-cultural expectations of what it means to be a “good” student – the default norm being a white, middle class, male student with all the resources, privilege, cultural capital and opportunities they possess.

“Academic practices are usually presented as neutral, decontextualised sets of technical skills and literacy that students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are seen to lack”

(Lillis, 2001). 

These practices are not neutral, and those of us who teach them must interrogate what it is that we are doing, and whether it is reinforcing a colonial, oppressive education system rooted in white, middle class, western norms of how we should think, act and communicate at university, thereby positioning Black, Asian, working class etc students in terms of deficits to be remediated. While it may be true as Bourdieu says that ‘academic English is […] no one’s mother tongue’, it’s a language closely related to my own RP middle class English, and one I can learn with greater ease and inhabit more comfortably without challenge to my identity and sense of belonging.

“Through taken- for-granted academic practices, constructions of difference are formed, often in problematic ways. The tendency is to project a pathologist gaze on racialist bodies that have historically been constructed as a problem, and as suffering from a range of deficit disorders (e.g. lack of aspiration, lack of motivation, lack of confidence and so on’)”

(Burke, 2015).

What I’ve learned from the speakers at NUSU’s events so far: Decolonisation is not synonymous with other concepts such as diversity, inclusion, equality or widening participation, laudable as those initiatives may be. They imply an extension of the status quo, an affirmation of it, additive rather than transformational. Decolonisation, while related to these concepts, demands a fundamental change, a dismantling, decentring, disruption, a relinquishing, restitution, restoration. It has a revolutionary quality. “Decolonisation”, we are told, “is not a metaphor” (Tuck and Yang, 2012). Moreover, decolonisation cannot be achieved simply through inclusion or widening participation measures, as the structures and processes of an oppressive system are ill suited to fundamentally dismantling its underlying issues: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” (Lorde, 18984). To decolonise the HE curriculum means

an underlying transformation from a culture of denial and exclusion to a consideration of different traditions of knowledge. To diversify our curriculum is to challenge power relations and call for deeper thinking about the content of our courses and how we teach them.

James Muldoon

How does this relate to Learning Development? Well, by extension, to decolonise the curriculum means not only what we teach and how, but also how we expect students to learn. Lea and Street’s tripartite framework of approaches to the teaching of academic writing offers us a lens to examine our practice. The second level, the academic socialisation model, maps onto ideas of inclusion and widening participation: “ [it] is concerned with students’ acculturation into disciplinary and subject-based discourses and genres. Students acquire the ways of talking, writing, thinking, and using literacy that typified members of a disciplinary or subject area community” (Lea and Street, 2006). These ways also typify the ideal or assumed white, middle class, male member of that community, for whom that system was created and in whose interests it operates. This is Academic Literacy as The Thing That We LDers Teach to students.

A Learning Developer whose primary guiding model is an academic socialisation approach is upholding this status quo. No matter how welcoming the gatekeeper, no matter how wide we throw open those doors and how helpful we are in orientating those we admit within the walls, we are still insisting that students enter on the terms of a white, middle class academy. We are also closing our ears to our students’ experiences; what is just a surface feature and linguistic or practice quirk to us is a troubling challenge to their identity or weighty burden to enact, for some students.

Colonialism assimilates or destroys; this is Learning Development as colonial assimilation. Become like us, or fail. We don’t want the bits of you that don’t conform. But not only does a predominantly academic socialisation approach assume that “once students have learned and understood the ground rules of a particular academic discourse, they are able to reproduce it unproblematically”, it also assumes that those ground rules are unproblematic.

‘Inclusion tends to be more about fitting into the dominant culture than about interrogating that culture for the ways that it is complicit in the social and cultural reproduction of exclusion, misrecognition and inequality.’  

(Burke, 2015)

The third model identified by Lea and Street maps more closely onto the decolonisation agenda. It not only notes that academic writing is not homogeneous but a multiplicity of practices or meanings, but also acknowledges that these meanings are bound up with epistemology and identity, that they consist of socio-cultural practices situated within hierarchies of power and authority and are therefore contested on unequal terms. I’d like to raise an observation I’ve frequently made when listening to or reading accounts of Academic Literacies as a model, both in Learning Development and EAP. Very often, these accounts focus on one implication of Academic Literacies, that academic writing is not generic or monolithic and therefore our work needs to differentiate multiple discipline-specific discourses and tailor provision, at the expense of the other: that these discourses are situated in hierarchies of power and authority. That critical, radical observation is right there in the model, and yet is frequently downplayed or overlooked.

Similarly, it positions study skills not as surface tools to be adopted at will, but fundamentally entwined with identity, and therefore belonging. Education is supposed to change you, but not to the extent that you can only learn if you become someone else entirely, or fragment your identity, your self. And if Learning Development’s defining value is its emancipatory practice, then it is these more critical implications that we need to foreground, or what we have is a tailored academic socialisation model (Ivanic’s 2004 four tier model acknowledges this better perhaps than Lea and Street’s, separating out writing as a contextualised event from writing as a sociocultural and political practice).

The principal function of student writing is increasingly that of gatekeeping.

(Lillis, 2001)

Due to the nature of our work, Learning Developers have a special relevance to the project of decolonisation in Higher Education. Decolonisation is often spoken of in terms of adding a more diverse range of authors to a reading list, or including broader topics in a module, mostly applying to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Put a few Black authors on the English Literature curriculum, hire a couple of BAME lecturers and be done with it. But decolonisation applies to the whole system of how we teach, the way we expect students to learn, and how we recognise and assess that learning, a system which, if it’s not designed for you, makes everything harder, if it doesn’t exclude you outright. It forces you to learn on someone else’s terms, and ‘Study Skills’, the core remit of Learning Development, cross-cuts and underpins all aspects of the curriculum at every level, in every discipline.

It’s our role to not only to help students better understand their curriculum, institution and discipline better, but also to negotiate it successfully. Negotiate – it’s a wonderful word in this context, meaning both to find your way through obstacles, but also to bring about a desired outcome through discussion between parties. Negotiation demands dialogue and change on both sides to progress. I’m not sure decolonisation is something Learning Developers can really choose to disengage from or remain neutral on.

How should we respond to decolonisation? Do we need to decolonise study skills? I think it’s clear that we must, and that Learning Development has a key role to play in this. I’ll look at how we might do that in my next post…

By: RattusScholasticus Head of Writing Development Service and Learning Developer at Newcastle University. View all posts by RattusScholasticus

Related

Decolonising Learning Development: Doing the WorkIn “LD Values”

Emancipatory practice: the defining LD value?In “LD Values”

A Manifesto for Learning DevelopERs

SOAS University of London

Dr. Meera Sabaratnam and SOAS students talk about the university’s efforts to decolonize the curriculum and provide a more global education. Our blog: https://www.soas.ac.uk/blogs/study/de…​ Study at SOAS: https://www.soas.ac.uk/admissions/

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How Educators Can Master Working In a Hybrid Learning Environment

Unfortunately, time management is far more difficult now versus pre-pandemic. The findings from Doodle’s “Time Management in Education” study support this, with over a third of the surveyed college students (37 percent) saying it has been harder to manage their time and stay productive now that lectures have moved online. This is a serious issue, as a majority of students (66 percent) say that time management is extremely important in regards to their ability to meet their academic goals.

On top of this, nearly half of students (42 percent) say that they’re working more now that classes have gone virtual. And they’re very concerned about the long-term impact on their academic success, with 71 percent of students saying that they’re either extremely worried, or somewhat worried, that the shift to online-only education will negatively impact their academic success.

On the surface, these stats might seem like they paint an abysmal outlook for the future of education in a COVID-19 world. But I think there’s a way to right the ship and technology will play a huge role in doing so. This is a great opportunity for academic institutions to change their processes and implement new technologies. It’s not about stripping away all existing processes and systems that have been in place for decades.

Rather, it’s about making small, impactful changes. It’s also about implementing the right technology solutions to facilitate the kinds of change that will allow academic institutions to deliver the best experience possible to students, faculty members and administrative staff, while helping them to be highly productive, focused and successful in achieving their goals.

For students who are already digital natives and accustomed to using upwards of 15 digital tools/apps daily, technology can be tremendously useful in cutting down on administrative tasks like coordinating office hours with their professors, 1:1 guidance sessions with faculty advisors and group study sessions with classmates. That’s time that can be refocused and reinvested into studying, writing papers and devising their graduation strategy.

Not only does technology make learning more flexible and convenient as 55 percent of the surveyed students reported in the Doodle study, but it also creates a more engaged and collaborative environment. For example, 16 percent of students say they value how technology makes it easier to collaborate with classmates and 13 percent see it as being useful in increasing access to their professors and faculty members.

Now consider introverted students who may have once shied away from speaking up in front of their classmates. They can be more active participants in their online classes in the safety of their homes and with the option to turn off their camera to reduce their anxiety and shyness of being ‘seen’ while participating. It takes some of the pressure off, allowing them to focus on learning and excelling in their classes.

Technology can also add efficiencies for busy educators by cutting down on context-switching. For example, using a scheduling tool that is integrated with video conferencing software like Zoom will eliminate the need to toggle back and forth between both solutions. It can also address the all-too-common problem of forgetting to create, copy and paste a Zoom link into each calendar invite. If it’s integrated into your scheduling tool, then the Zoom link is automatically populated and added into each calendar invite. That’s less tedious work for educators and more time spent on guiding students to academic success and achieving their own goals.

To help, I have outlined some useful tips for professors, faculty, administrative staff and students.

Tips for teachers/professors, faculty and administrative staff:

  • Use a communication platform, like Slack, to interact and pass essential messages on to students, fellow professors, faculty members and administrative staff. Answering questions in a way that all can see means you won’t be asked the deadline for that paper 40 times. Having an open, real-time communication link between students and professors means more questions are likely to be answered online, rather than during lengthy one-to-one meetings, while students get answers when they need them.
  • Schedule one-to-ones with individual students whom you teach or advise. Use this time to gauge how they’re feeling. Don’t talk about the class curriculum, their grades or academic performance. Focus on their emotional wellbeing.
  • Set up group meetings with your department heads and administrative staff to understand how everyone’s workload is being affected. Does anyone have concerns? Are everyone’s needs being met? Does everyone have the necessary resources and tools to be effective educators? Asking these questions is critical to empowering your faculty and staff to do their jobs well and support your students.
  • Record key sessions so students can revisit them when studying for exams, catch up on them if they missed a lecture and even use the recordings for future study groups.

Tips for students:

  • Slice and dice projects into smaller, manageable chunks.
  • Focus on one task at a time. Don’t switch back and forth between assignments. Only move to a new task once a single task has been completed.
  • Automate administrative tasks, like scheduling study sessions and office hours with professors, so time can be better spent on engaging in class, studying and getting feedback from professors.
  • Pay attention to your productivity flows and energy levels. When your productivity is highest, use that time to focus on a larger, high-priority assignment.
  • Use time blocking to make yourself unavailable for meetings, activities or anything else and dedicate that time to important tasks/projects. So if anyone tries to book time in your calendar, it will appear as unavailable.
  • Set up assignment/project deadlines in your calendar so your grades don’t suffer simply because you forgot a deadline.

By: Renato Profico

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Digital Education: How AI Can Help Reach Students Online and Offline

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Renato Profico is the CEO of the leading enterprise scheduling tool, Doodle. A qualified executive with 20 years of professional experience in digital companies, he most recently held the position of CEO for four years at a leading job platform network in Switzerland, JobCloud. In addition to his extensive leadership experience, Renato is an expert in B2B sales, marketing, business development, customer relationship management, as well as organizational structure and development.

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The Future Of Jobs And Education

The world of work has been changing for some time, with an end to the idea of jobs for life and the onset of the gig economy. But just as in every other field where digital transformation is ongoing, the events of 2020 have accelerated the pace of this change dramatically.

The International Labor Organization has estimated that almost 300 million jobs are at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of those that are lost, almost 40% will not come back. According to research by the University of Chicago, they will be replaced by automation to get work done more safely and efficiently.

Particularly at risk are so-called “frontline” jobs – customer service, cashiers, retail assistant, and public transport being just a few examples. But no occupation or profession is entirely future proof. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), even tasks previously reserved for highly trained doctors and lawyers – diagnosing illness from medical images, or reviewing legal case history, for example – can now be carried out by machines.

At the same time, the World Economic Forum, in its 2020 Future of Jobs report, finds that 94% of companies in the UK will accelerate the digitization of their operations as a result of the pandemic, and 91% are saying they will provide more flexibility around home or remote working.

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If you’re in education or training now, this creates a dilemma. Forget the old-fashioned concept of a “job for life,” which we all know is dead – but will the skills you’re learning now even still be relevant by the time you graduate?

One thing that’s sure is that we’re moving into an era where education is life-long. With today’s speed of change, there are fewer and fewer careers where you can expect the knowledge you pick up in school or university to see you through to retirement. MORE FOR YOUThese Are The World’s Best Employers 2020The Value Of Resilient LeadershipEmployers Must Act Now To Mitigate The Impacts Of The Pandemic On Women’s Careers

All of this has created a perfect environment for online learning to boom. Rather than moving to a new city and dedicating several years to studying for a degree, it’s becoming increasingly common to simply log in from home and fit education around existing work and family responsibilities.

This fits with the vision of Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of online learning platform Coursera. Coursera was launched in 2012 by a group of Stanford professors interested in using the internet to widen access to world-class educational content. Today, 76 million learners have taken 4,500 different courses from 150 universities, and the company is at the forefront of the wave of transformation spreading through education.

 “The point I focus on,” he told me during our recent conversation, “is that the people who have the jobs that are going to be automated do not currently have the skills to get the new jobs that are going to be created.”

Without intervention, this could lead to an “everyone loses” scenario, where high levels of unemployment coincide with large numbers of vacancies going unfilled because businesses can’t find people with the necessary skills.

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The answer here is a rethink of education from the ground up, Maggioncalda says, and it’s an opinion that is widely shared. Another WEF statistic tells us 66% of employers say they are accelerating programs for upskilling employees to work with new technology and data.Models of education will change, too, as the needs of industry change. Coursera is preparing for this by creating new classes of qualification such as its Entry-Level Professional Certificates. Often provided directly by big employers, including Google and Facebook, these impart a grounding in the fundamentals needed to take on an entry-level position in a technical career, with the expectation that the student would go on to continue their education to degree level while working, through online courses, or accelerated on-campus semesters.

“The future of education is going to be much more flexible, modular, and online. Because people will not quit their job to go back to campus for two or three years to get a degree, they can’t afford to be out of the workplace that long and move their families. There’s going to be much more flexible, bite-sized modular certificate programs that add up to degrees, and it’s something people will experience over the course of their working careers,” says Maggioncalda.

All of this ties nicely with the growing requirements that industry has for workers that are able to continuously reskill and upskill to keep pace with technological change. It could lead to an end of the traditional model where our status as students expires as we pass into adulthood and employment.

Rather than simply graduating and waving goodbye to their colleges as they throw their mortarboards skywards, students could end up with life-long relationships with their preferred providers of education, paying a subscription to remain enrolled and able to continue their learning indefinitely.

“Because why wouldn’t the university want to be your lifelong learning partner?” Maggioncalda says.

“As the world changes, you have a community that you’re familiar with, and you can continue to go back and learn – and your degree is kind of never really done – you’re getting micro-credentials and rounding out your portfolio. This creates a great opportunity for higher education.”

Personally, I feel that this all points to an exciting future where barriers to education are broken down, and people are no longer blocked from studying by the fact they also need to hold down a job, or simply because they can’t afford to move away to start a university course.

With remote working increasingly common, factors such as where we happen to grow up, or where we want to settle and raise families, will no longer limit our aspirations for careers and education. This could lead to a “democratization of education,” with lower costs to the learner as employers willingly pick up the tab for those who show they can continually improve their skillsets.

As the world changes, education changes too. Austere school rooms and ivory-tower academia are relics of the last century. While formal qualifications and degrees aren’t likely to vanish any time soon, the way they are delivered in ten years’ time is likely to be vastly different than today, and ideas such as modular, lifelong learning, and entry-level certificates are a good indication of the direction things are heading.

You can watch my conversation with Jeff Maggioncalda in full, where among other topics, we also cover the impact of Covid-19 on building corporate cultures and the implications of the increasingly globalized, remote workforce. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Bernard Marr

 Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?

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World Economic Forum

The Future of Jobs report maps the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change. It aims to shed light on the pandemic-related disruptions in 2020, contextualized within a longer history of economic cycles and the expected outlook for technology adoption, jobs and skills in the next five years. Learn more and read the report: wef.ch/futureofjobs2020 The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change. World Economic Forum Website ► http://www.weforum.org/ Facebook ► https://www.facebook.com/worldeconomi… YouTube ► https://www.youtube.com/wef Instagram ► https://www.instagram.com/worldeconom… Twitter ► https://twitter.com/wef LinkedIn ► https://www.linkedin.com/company/worl… TikTok ► https://www.tiktok.com/@worldeconomic… Flipboard ► https://flipboard.com/@WEF#WorldEconomicForum

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We Can Stop Kids From Cheating in School By Eliminating the Need

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As a high school teacher, I’ve seen a lot of cheating. So much, that I’ve concluded most adults don’t realize how many kids, even otherwise good and honest kids, cheat in school.

If you think of cheating as simply acting unfairly or dishonestly to gain an academic advantage, many people reading this column might remember their own experiences cheating. Whether you actively sought to cheat, or the opportunity simply landed in front of you, many of us can recall at least one occurrence with vivid detail. Your heart raced, your palms sweated, and you felt that undeniable sinking in the pit of your stomach, all due to the fear of getting caught. Yet you still did it.

But why? Why continue the act even when the body sends all the signals identical to a near-death fight-or-flight response? For some, it may be for the sheer thrill. But I argue most people who are tempted to cheat choose the better of two evils, both connected to failure.

Today, more so than when you and I were teens, the pressure to excel is unbearable. From the parents who demand it and the peers competing for it, the colleges that require it and the “influencers” who embody it, the pressure to be perfect has become the driving force for many students. And when the need to maintain perfection trumps the actual learning that occurs, you’ll begin to override your body’s natural warnings.

Our kids cheat because they fear the consequences of failing. So many are raised in a bubble, completely protected from failure. Any time it may have approached, those around them, who love them very much, happily deflected that failure for them. So a disproportionate number of adolescents truly feel they are geniuses, that they can do no wrong.

Unfortunately, an educator’s job is to confront his or her students with challenging obstacles to overcome, and they won’t deflect that failure. This forces our inexperienced youth into a corner, and many react by ensuring their success by any means necessary.

I’m one of these educators, and I absolutely challenge my kids, but I made a decision a few years back that completely changed the culture of my classroom: I eliminated the need to cheat.

I made the decision that the goal of my science class was to learn and appreciate science. From that day, I recognized that to pull these anxious kids from the corner they’ve been trapped in, I had to entice them back to the center. I had to establish an environment that eliminated the fear of failing, and I did it with a few very basic but powerful methods.

First, I eliminated due dates within a unit and moved to a mastery grading model. There are many varieties of this, but in my model, the kids receive a list for the unit describing the tasks to be mastered by test day. For every activity, the kids were encouraged to copy from each other and work together, but their grades came from 30-second conversations I had with each student, when I’d ask a variety of questions to gauge their mastery on the topic. Completing an assignment meant nothing if it couldn’t be verbalized, so the kids quickly learned that copying without understanding was a waste of time in my class.

Then, I encouraged cheat sheets. I let students write or draw anything they’d like on the front and back of a 3-by-5 notecard. The card had to be hand-written and turned in with the test. Many teachers may argue that doing so would invalidate their tests, to which I say, if your kids can write the answers to your tests on a notecard, you write bad tests.

We’ve worked hard to build high-level questions that require students to expand beyond the basic content from a notecard, and the sheer process of internalizing and paraphrasing an entire unit into such a small space encourages that level of critical thinking for our kids; moving beyond comprehension and into application. Plus, I save their notecards and return them before semester and state exams, providing the most personalized, hand-written summative reviews they could ever create.

Finally, after taking the test once on their own, I let them take it again, this time in groups. After grading the exams, I assign them in homogeneous groups; As in one group, Bs in another, etc., but I don’t tell students their scores. Then, I hand them back their original exams to take again. They don’t know which questions are correct, so the intellectual debates that happen over each question are incredible. When they resubmit, the group score is averaged with a student’s individual score.

Of course, there are those who say we need to teach our kids responsibility, to prepare them for the real world by not allowing late work, cheat sheets or group corrections. But it’s these classrooms where cheating is rampant, and it’s specifically because no recovery is possible.

As for tests, consider what every major exam over the course of someone’s professional career has in common: SAT, ACT, CPA exams, MCAT, LSAT, teaching certifications. You can take all of these multiple times for full credit. So where did this fallacy begin that somehow my biology exam is more pertinent to their lives and future success?

In a world that’s constantly demanding risk-taking and creativity, we cannot continue to produce robots of compliance and task completion. As a young gymnast develops her technique, she rehearses in an environment developed to safely take risks, with balance beams low to the ground and foam pits into which she can fall.

So, too should be the goal of every classroom. When kids see that failure is recoverable, the demand to succeed the first time, by any means necessary, is eliminated, and they finally have the freedom to take a leap.

By: Ramy Mahmoud

Ramy Mahmoud is a lecturer at the University of Texas at Dallas Teacher Development Center, a high school science department head in Plano and a two-time TEDx speaker. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/

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