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McREL’s Cheryl Abla in Edutopia: Guiding young students to talk about their learning

January 7, 2022 | Neither silence nor unrestrained chitchat is ideal in an elementary classroom, McREL learning services consultant Cheryl Abla writes in Edutopia. Rather, teachers should guide students in discussing their learning with the teacher and with one another—building a foundation for mastering academic language. Teachers may be hesitant to encourage student talk because they fear chaos may ensue, and Cheryl admits the process can be noisy. But there are practices that teachers can easily implement and model to create conversational structures that support learning.

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Yes, you can motivate your students

All teachers are motivated to find a solution to unmotivated students, but is there anything that can actually be done? Recent research into cognitive sciences suggests two strategies, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin writes in ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine: cognitive interest cues and personal goal setting. Examples of cognitive interest cues that can be incorporated into classroom practice are real-life problems, personal connections to learning, and curiosity-provoking questions. While these techniques haven’t been studied in isolation, they have been incorporated into interventions that were associated with learning gains of several months to a year-plus.

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McREL consultant shares tips on Edutopia for engaging students with better questioning

December 6, 2021 | Traditional questioning of students in the classroom, with its emphasis on teachers eliciting a quick answer and moving on, winds up excluding many students and creating a lackluster learning environment. Better questioning strategies can help students deepen and extend their learning, and McREL instructional expert Cheryl Abla recently shared some ways to ask better questions in the classroom with Edutopia.

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Three considerations for launching mental wellness programs in schools

As educators begin to assess what long-term social-emotional effects the recent school shutdowns might have for students and educators, you could say that the mind is on everyone’s mind. Many schools are considering starting or expanding their efforts now that federal aid is available for this purpose. While we all feel a sense of urgency to keep schools operating and safe, school teams should take the time to familiarize themselves with the options so they can find (or create) the right program for their local context. Here are three considerations to help your team get started.

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A call for more research on restorative justice

There’s little doubt that traditional discipline practices are counterproductive for many students but considerably more people doubt whether restorative justice programs right those wrongs, Bryan Goodwin writes in Educational Leadership magazine. The concept of seeking reconciliation rather than punishment is rooted in Indigenous theories of trust and many schools have had success with it, but no solid definition of the term “restorative justice” has yet emerged, and very few empirical studies have been published.

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Evaluating teacher well-being with the Concerns-Based Adoption Model

“How are you?” is a tried-and-true conversation starter, but in our work collaborating with superintendents across Kansas recently, we picked up on a desire to develop a fuller picture of teacher well-being, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are educators adapting to changes in teaching strategies, but they are also facing other stressors, such as caring for their own families, that can lead to burnout and leaving the profession. Fortunately, we had a framework we could share to help leaders understand and support their staff through this challenging time: the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM).

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Back-to-school advice: Put a to-don’t list on your to-do list

As my colleagues have been visiting school districts lately, it’s been clear that educators’ back-to-school stress is at a whole new level. It’s bound to be emotionally taxing when ramping up a new school year while we’re also still dealing with past and present ramifications of the pandemic. Is there a way to help ourselves bounce back a bit, to regain our energy, focus, and confidence? I asked my colleague Dr. Karen Baptiste, a former teacher and school leader who also has experience in social services, for some counsel to share with teachers. Her advice? Know when to say no.

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McREL consultant shares ideas for a positive start to school with Edutopia readers

September 15, 2021 | McREL consultant Cheryl Abla always has tips for teachers and school leaders on creating a positive environment for learning. With all the anxiety and uncertainty accompanying back-to-school this fall, she’s doubling down. After meeting with hundreds of educators before the school year even started, she’s shared several tactics with the national blog Edutopia designed to immediately address little issues before they can get out of hand—or better yet, prevent them from happening in the first place.

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McREL contributes to ‘Kansas Can Success Tour’

September 8, 2021 | Kansas education leaders are touring the state to talk with thousands of parents, school board members, business leaders, and community members to gather feedback on the state’s “Kansas Can” vision for K-12 education and “brainstorm ways schools can better prepare students for the workforce,” according to a local news report. McREL will compile feedback gathered during the 50-city tour and prepare a report later this year for the Kansas State Board of Education and Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson.

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Collective efficacy: We can do this!

Does believing you can accomplish something help you to accomplish it? Actually, yes. After studying how groups work together in the 1970s, Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura coined the phrase “collective efficacy” to describe the sense of mutual trust and confidence that effective groups feel as they head into a challenge. He showed how the concept can lead to good things happening in all kinds of endeavors, including schools, where educators with strong collective efficacy have students who achieve at higher levels.

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