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Mystery: Posing curious questions to spark student interest in learning

Curiosity is a compelling mental and emotional force that can propel students to ever-greater educational achievement. And of all the great ideas in Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, I’m really drawn to the Mystery tool [free tool download] because of its connection to curiosity.When we talk about trying to solve a mystery, we’re really talking about fashioning a hypothesis: Why do you think something happened, and can you prove it? While the word “hypothesis” is often associated with science, we can prompt students to phrase and answer such questions in all academic subjects—and, I would add, in all aspects of our lives. As discussed in Classroom Instruction That Works, hypothesizing pushes the brain into using one (or both) of two thought processes: deductive and inductive reasoning. And for our students, acquiring knowledge through active participation is often more engaging and effective than listening to a lecture.

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McREL talks about the science of learning at international education conference in Qatar

McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin presented at a large international conference in Doha, Qatar, in April, and the Gulf Times took note. The paper noted that Goodwin, under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department, traveled to the Fourth Annual International Education Conference of the Qatar Ministry of Education and Higher Education to share McREL’s findings on applying the science of learning to instructional design, as well as what school leaders can do to support effective schools. The conference, themed “Education That Makes a Difference,” drew 1,000 educators from the Persian Gulf states and beyond, the paper said.

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The value of classroom walkthroughs: One district’s perspective

In Millville Public Schools, we’ve been conducting informal classroom walkthroughs for more than 10 years to gather meaningful data about what’s going on in our nine schools. We use McREL’s Power Walkthrough app to record our notes and collect data on the instructional strategies we see (or don’t see) being used in classrooms. This gives us great, actionable information we can use in conversations with teachers and school leadership teams about needed professional development supports related to our instructional and professional goals. These walkthroughs are definitely not about evaluating teacher performance—they’re truly about instructional collaboration and professional learning.Getting into a long-term habit of routinely conducting and reflecting on our walkthroughs has helped us set and achieve a variety of key goals: determining a clear focus, developing a common language for instructional and leadership conversations, creating greater visibility for our principals and administrators throughout their schools, and establishing an open-door culture in all our schools. We want to share a little more about each of our results related to the goals we set, in case it sparks ideas for how walkthroughs can be used in your own school or district.

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Debunking a myth about educators’ professional growth

McREL International CEO Bryan Goodwin and his counterpart at Community Training and Assistance Center, William J. Slotnik, dug into the research related to a commonly held belief that teachers’ professional skills reach a plateau early in their careers and then barely budge. Their reexamination of the research found this conventional wisdom to be a fallacy, as they outline in the April 2019 issue of Phi Delta Kappan. The authors then present key ways that districts can set aside these past beliefs and encourage a lifetime of learning with a smarter approach to talent development.

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Personalizing Professional Development: How Empowered Teachers Can Take Charge of Professional Learning and Growth (2019)

McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin teams up with ASCD authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral in this white paper to tackle a question of urgent interest to teachers at all career stages: Can professional learning be better? It can, they argue, if the profession recognizes that large PD sessions—while an appropriate starting point to share foundational practices—should be followed up with a highly personalized plan of action. Reflection holds the key to identifying and addressing problems of practice as teachers advance in their skills. Also important to bear in mind: Teachers are most effective when they develop an understanding of why certain techniques work, not just what they are.

Goodwin, B., Hall, P., & Simeral, A. (2019) Personalizing professional development: How empowered teachers can take charge of professional learning and growth. Denver, CO: McREL International.

Why we love to hear a common instructional language

Frequently after working with a school district, we hear teachers and leaders say that one of the most valuable things they learned from their time with McREL was “a common instructional language” to use with one another and with students. You might be wondering: What exactly does this mean? And why would educators ever have felt they were deficient in their professional vocabulary?

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The Science of Learning: What’s memory got to do with it?

Imagine a student who is well adjusted socially but . . .

• Is reserved in group activities; rarely contributes to classroom discussions or activities.
• Has difficulty completing tasks.
• Appears to not follow instructions.
• Is reported as not paying attention, having a short attention span, or “zoning out.”
• Makes poor academic progress.

What could be causing these problems?

One might not initially consider memory, particularly working memory, as the mechanism at work in these types of young learners’ struggles. However, research has shown that working memory problems, even in the absence of diagnosed developmental disabilities, can result in learning challenges for students (Dehn, 2008; Gathercole, Lamont, & Alloway, 2006; Gathercole & Alloway, 2007; Holmes, Gathercole, and Dunning, 2010; Willingham, 2009).

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Raz-Plus Users Show Higher Achievement and Interest in Reading According to Ed-Tech Evaluation Efficacy Study by McREL

Our partners Learning A–Z have released the following news about an ed-tech evaluation efficacy study McREL performed on their reading program Raz-Plus®. With our background in research on student achievement, McREL is now a leading evaluation provider to the ed-tech industry.


Students Whose Teachers Use Raz-Plus Blended Learning Platform Show Higher Achievement and Interest in Reading According to Efficacy Study by McREL International

DALLAS. Jan. 29, 2019—As elementary schools look for effective ways to develop students’ reading skills, findings from a new efficacy study by McREL International suggest that Raz-Plus is an effective supplemental resource to improve elementary students’ reading achievement and interest within high poverty and high racial/ethnic minority schools.

The McREL study, which was conducted in the spring of 2018, involved 662 students from 39 classrooms in three rural elementary schools in the southeast United States. All three schools serve predominantly low-income, minority student populations. Teachers used Raz-Plus, a blended learning platform for K-5 reading from Learning A-Z , as a supplemental resource three to five times per week for a total of 60 to 90 minutes per week, on average.

Pre- and post-assessments show statistically significant differences between the treatment and control groups in this randomized controlled trial. Students whose teachers used Raz-Plus had higher reading achievement scores than students in the control group, as measured by the STAR assessment. In addition, students whose teachers used Raz-Plus showed a higher level of interest in both academic and recreational reading than students in the control group, as measured by the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (ERAS).

“Building a strong connection between reading instruction and practice is key to improving student outcomes. It’s also important to provide an engaging environment that makes reading practice rewarding and keeps students motivated to read,” said Patrick Marcotte, president of Learning A-Z. “The McREL study findings support what teachers tell us they see in their classrooms each day—that Raz-Plus is making a positive difference in reading outcomes and helping students develop a love of reading.”

Raz-Plus provides effective teacher-led instruction, developmentally appropriate reading practice, formative assessment, and data-driven reporting to improve the reading skills of every student, at every level. It combines teacher-led whole-class and small-group instruction with technology-enabled resources for personalized reading practice. All resources are accessible online and available in printable, projectable, and digital formats to strengthen the connection between what is being taught and what students independently practice.

For a free trial or to learn more about Raz-Plus, visit https://www.raz-plus.com.

About McREL International

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world. For information, visit www.mcrel.org.

About Learning A–Z

Learning A-Z is a literacy-focused PreK-6 educational provider of technology-enabled learning solutions. Our products blend traditional teacher-led instruction with robust online resources to make teaching more effective and efficient, practice more accessible and personalized, assessment more strategic and automated, and learning more informed and proactive. Our suite of products includes: Raz-Plus, Reading A-Z, Raz-Kids, Headsprout, Science A-Z, Writing A-Z, and Vocabulary A-Z. Learning A-Z products are used by more than 7 million students in more than 170 countries. Learning A-Z is a business unit of Cambium Learning® Group, Inc.

For more information, please visit www.learninga-z.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

About Cambium Learning Group, Inc.

Cambium Learning Group is an award-winning educational technology solutions leader dedicated to helping all students reach their potential through individualized and differentiated instruction. Using a research-based, personalized approach, Cambium Learning Group delivers SaaS resources and instructional products that engage students and support teachers in fun, positive, safe and scalable environments. These solutions are provided through Learning A-Z (online differentiated instruction for elementary school reading, writing and science), ExploreLearning (online interactive math and science simulations and a math fact fluency solution), Voyager Sopris Learning (blended solutions that accelerate struggling learners to achieve in literacy and math and professional development for teachers), and VKidz Learning (online comprehensive homeschool education and programs for literacy and science). We believe that every student has unlimited potential, that teachers matter, and that data, instruction, and practice are the keys to success in the classroom and beyond.

Come learn with us at www.cambiumlearning.com.

 

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Technology journal highlights McREL’s role in student safety grant

The education technology publication THE Journal reported on a grant project of McREL International and the Global Grid for Learning to disburse $25 million worth of safety solutions to as many as 500 schools, and then study the effectiveness of the technologies deployed. The 16 participating vendors focus on a wide variety of safety-related issues, from emotional well-being to managing sports injuries to keeping in touch with parents. McREL’s role will be to build “a better evidence base that helps educators and parents make informed decisions about which approaches will work best for their students and schools,” CEO Bryan Goodwin said.

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