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The power (and limits) of student-led discussions

Hollywood often presents teachers as swashbucklers, swooping in to right wrongs and save the day with powerful speeches delivered to the class. When it comes to actual classroom discussions, however, the truth is a little less dramatic and a lot more complicated, according to the latest research column by McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Max Altman in ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine. When it comes to effective student learning, some of the best discussion happens among students themselves. But leading students to have productive conversations with their peers is quite a bit different than playing the leading role in a fictitious classroom.

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Students can help improve schools . . . if we’ll listen

School leaders often overlook an obvious source of information on how they could serve students better: students. The “student voice” movement seeks to remedy this by showing administrators productive ways to solicit student input on such matters as school climate, graduation rates, and even teacher turnover. And researchers have identified methods that are particularly effective, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Samantha E. Holquist write in the March 2020 edition of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine.

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Cracking the reading code

In his latest contribution to Educational Leadership magazine, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin calls for an end to the “Reading Wars.” If we’d all just heed the research, he argues, it would become clear that children don’t learn to read by being surrounded by books and encouraged to love them, but by learning to decode symbols and by practicing relentlessly. Crucially, it is time to set aside the notion that decoding and comprehension are somehow in competition, he writes. Rather, they are part and parcel of the same process, one that simply does not come naturally and must be taught by teachers who are, themselves, educated in the science of reading.

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McREL ed-tech partner wins Award of Excellence

Tech & Learning Magazine’s 2019 Award of Excellence announcement included a McREL ed-tech partner: Discovery Education. The magazine gave the company a top nod for its product Discovery Education Experience, the latest iteration of their popular Streaming Plus service, in the Best Re-Invention of a Classic Legacy Technology category.

In Discovery Education’s press release about the award, they mention that the instructional strategies they offer within the product are “aligned to McREL International’s 6-Phase Model of Learning.” This model uses research and science on the brain and memory to explain how students learn, retain, recall, and apply information in the classroom, and provides a sequence of instruction that teachers can use to maximize learning.

Discovery Education is “laser-focused on creating innovative, educator-centric, digital experiences that support educators’ efforts to improve student achievement,” said Pete Weir, Discovery Education’s chief product officer.

Discovery Education Experience’s standards-aligned content is assignable and can be bookmarked and saved for later use and remixed to meet the varying needs of diverse student populations in a safe and secure environment. The service’s ever-growing digital content collections, as well as a library of immersive virtual field trips, are drawn from trusted partners.

Read the Tech & Learning announcement

Read the Discovery Education press release

Learn more about McREL’s 6-Phase Model for Learning

New Book Gives Teachers 21 Ways to Harness the Power of Curiosity in Every Grade and Subject

December 4, 2019 | Denver, CO—Tools for Igniting Curiosity, co-published today by Silver Strong & Associates and McREL International, gives teachers 21 ways to turn students’ natural curiosity into a self-sustaining force for lifelong learning.

Designed to be used in all grade levels and subjects, the book’s tools are aligned with cognitive science to help teachers capitalize on key levers proven to pique student curiosity—levers such as mysteries, controversy, missing information, personal experiences, and emotions. The tools also show teachers how to sustain curiosity over the course of lessons and units so that students actively transform classroom content into deep understanding. By tapping into the natural power of curiosity, teachers increase engagement and help students learn how to learn—and how to love it so much that they want to keep learning.

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An engaging consultant describes an engaged classroom

For thousands of educators and school leaders around the world, the cheery presence of instructional expert Cheryl Abla ensures that McREL professional learning is engaging as well as rich in content. That’s fitting, since student engagement is one of Cheryl’s professional passions. Cheryl is a former classroom teacher and education program director, and a co-author of the influential Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works. Now she’s co-authored a new white paper about student engagement (with researcher Brittney R. Fraumeni—available now on the McREL website) so we thought we’d ask what she looks for in an engaged classroom.

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Student Engagement: Evidence-Based Strategies to Boost Academic and Social-Emotional Results (2019)

Researchers have been refining their thoughts on student engagement for decades, and teachers who familiarize themselves with this history have an advantage in identifying opportunities to make their own work resonate with students, according to McREL’s Cheryl Abla and Brittney R. Fraumeni. The authors present McREL’s definition of student engagement as “A condition of emotional, social, and intellectual readiness to learn characterized by curiosity, participation, and the drive to learn more.” Research shows engagement is correlated with academic success and reductions in antisocial behaviors and substance use. And thankfully for teachers, there are evidence-based tactics that can be used to assess and improve students’ engagement, several of which are detailed here.

Abla, C., & Fraumeni, B. R. (2019). Student engagement: Evidence-based strategies to boost academic and social-emotional
results. McREL International.


 

McREL to evaluate Discovery Education’s nationwide STEM initiative

Discovery Education recently announced the creation of the STEM Careers Coalition and has contracted McREL to perform a multi-year evaluation of the initiative’s impact. In this news item published by Yahoo Finance, Lori McFarling, Discovery Education’s president of corporate partnerships, explains that the project aims to provide free digital content to 10 million students by 2025 to prepare them for the science, technology, engineer, and mathematics work that will be ever more significant in the future. The coalition, which includes some of the biggest names in American business and industry, is reaching out to families in public, private, charter, and tribal schools to build support for STEM education and careers.

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Peer coaching can make professional learning stick

The researcher who identified a now-common instructional strategy—wait time—also made a secondary discovery that has had an equally profound influence on teaching and learning. Whether it’s wait time or any other new technique, teachers are liable to set that new practice aside before giving it a fair chance—unless they have a peer supporting them in their experimentation. In the November edition of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Meagan Taylor explain how this insight led to a particular form of support that can close the “knowing-doing gap” in professional learning: peer coaching.

Multiple studies have found that teachers who learn new teaching strategies and then return to the classroom to implement them on their own retain much less of what they’ve learned than those who also get a peer coach.

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