All posts by McREL.org

Inquiry-based learning session draws educators at Michigan high school on Election Day

McREL STEM/GreenSTEM consultant Laura Arndt spent Election Day at Marian High School, a private Catholic school for young women in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, delivering an interactive workshop on inquiry-based learning to faculty and administrators. The session, highlighted in an article in the local news outlet Hometown Life, focused on teaching strategies that promote reasoning and evidence-based problem solving across content areas. Arndt modeled these strategies as participants worked together to analyze text, synthesize data, and participate in learning scenarios that promote reasoning and the use of evidence to make decisions.

Read the article here.

 

From cornfields to classrooms: Why am I doing this?

For five summers as a teenager growing up in Iowa, I worked as a corn detasseler, walking up and down rows and rows of corn, finding each tassel, grabbing it, pulling it off, and throwing it to the ground. When I applied for the job, I didn’t know why the corn needed to be detasseled, I only knew that I would earn $3.35 per hour. After I was hired and given good direction, I learned that it was extremely important for me to do my job correctly or the plants would not cross-pollinate and the crop would fail. While this might seem like a simple objective, it made my job more meaningful and provided me with both the information and motivation I needed to help the crops flourish.

Similarly, our students need to have clear objectives in the classroom so that they understand what they should be learning and why it is important.

It’s crucial that teachers communicate clearly with students about learning objectives. In the Framework for Instructional Planning found in the second edition of Classroom Instruction that Works (CITW) (2012), Setting Objectives is one of the non-negotiables within the first component, Creating the Environment for Learning. CITW offers four recommendations for setting objectives.

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McREL training in Guam helps teachers and students “reach for the stars”

To spark student interest in STEM, the Guam Department of Education and McREL are working together to train teachers on astronomy and planetary science, including how to build rovers that can travel to different worlds throughout the universe. The CosmoQuest Project, which is supported by NASA, offers teachers first-hand experiences in order to get them engaged in STEM and “take that energy and excitement back into the classroom and be truly inspiring to their students,” said McREL consultant Whitney Cobb.

Read the article here.

 

Model lesson plans offer a lifeline to new teachers

The learning curve for first-year teachers is notoriously steep: Not only are they having to keep up with the content they’re teaching, but they’re also figuring out how to deliver it well, assess it right, manage the classroom and their students’ behavior, and design effective lesson plans. Striking just one of these things from their list, research shows, can go a long way toward supporting and retaining novice teachers.

In the latest Research Matters column in Educational Leadership, McREL’s president and CEO Bryan Goodwin shows how providing well-designed lesson plans is a simple yet powerful way to improve teacher performance—among both new and struggling teachers.

A 2016 study of middle school math teachers, for example, found that when one group was given model lesson plans along with webinars and opportunities to network with other teachers and the plans’ developers, their students showed higher achievement—a 0.08 effect size, or the equivalent of moving students from a classroom with an average teacher to one at the 80th percentile of quality. Moreover, these effects were doubly beneficial for weaker teachers.

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Article highlights Balanced Leadership work in the Bahamas

An article in the Abaconian highlighted McREL’s Balanced Leadership work with school leaders throughout the Bahamas, including the Abaco Islands. The article focuses on how Balanced Leadership supports the Abaco district’s theme for the current school year, “Educate Students to Create Long Time Learners,” by providing training sessions that will help school leaders adjust to the shifting, more demanding expectations placed on them. According to Superintendent Dr. Lenora Black, principals cannot meet all of these expectations alone, and the district’s goal is effective leadership at all levels, from teachers and teacher leaders to district administrators and national education leaders.

Read the article here.

McREL study finds link between school climate and literacy achievement

October 3, 2016

A study taking a closer look at the relationship between staff survey results and student performance at elementary schools across the state of Victoria, Australia, found a statistically significant link between school climate and achievement in literacy at the 5th grade level.

The predictive validity study, conducted by McREL researcher Tedra Clark and Roger Goddard of Ohio State University, focused on the effects on student achievement of five vital areas of school functioning: school climate; school leadership; professional learning; staff safety and well-being; and teaching and learning.

Teachers at 82 elementary and secondary schools across Victoria were asked about these five areas on a school staff opinion survey that McREL developed for the state’s Department of Education and Training. Further investigation showed that, though all five areas were highly interrelated and positively connected to student outcomes in literacy and numeracy, the most significant finding was that staff perceptions of school climate were predictive of 5th grade literacy achievement.

Using various statistical models, the researchers were able to “unpack” this relationship and found that the link occurs on a mediated path: Strong leadership at the school level led to better teacher collaboration and academic optimism, which led to literacy achievement. In other words, school leadership predicts student literacy scores through greater teacher collaboration and academic optimism.

This connection explained over 75 percent of the school-to-school variance in literacy achievement, said Clark. “This model is not only statistically strong,” she said, “but also holds up in different contexts and with different student populations.”

According to McREL Chief Program Officer Robin Jarvis, these findings also support the value of using multiple measures, such as climate surveys, not only to understand the factors affecting student achievement but also “to measure changes in those leading achievement indicators in order to intervene, when necessary, to ultimately improve student achievement.”

For more information on the school climate survey and results analysis, please visit www.mcrel.org/success-stories.

About McREL International

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that helps educators flourish by turning research into solutions that transform teaching, learning, and leading. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado and with regional offices in Honolulu, Hawaii and Charleston, West Virginia, McREL provides research, evaluation, consulting, and training services to school districts, education agencies, and higher education institutions across the U.S. and around the world. Learn more at www.mcrel.org.

Contact: Roger Fiedler, sr. director of communications and marketing, 303.632.5579 or rfiedler@mcrel.org.

Career Readiness: What does it really mean and how do we get there?

School systems across the country are being pushed to re-think their approach to Career Technical Education (CTE) and what it means to be “career-ready.” Job markets are continually changing, and it’s become more critical than ever that secondary students are prepared for college and career upon graduation. While many educators have equated career readiness to college readiness, others have begun to take a more nuanced approach, understanding that not all careers—like students—fit the same mold (Conley & McGaughy, 2012; DeWitt, 2012).

In 2015, ACT refined its definitions of the types of academic skills required for work: Work readiness skills are the academic skills required of all students to be prepared for the workplace; career readiness skills are those particular academic skills needed to work in a given industry; and job readiness skills are the particular academic skills needed for a specific job.

At McREL, our review of CTE-related certifications, standards, curriculum documents, and textbooks in nearly a dozen industries and career pathways has confirmed that the academic content required by various industries and jobs can differ greatly.

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Four tips for using nonlinguistic representations

Today’s learners are continually fed linguistically presented information, such as lectures, videos, directions, math chants, and reading assignments. Most opportunities for students to interact with peers happen primarily with words.

It’s all too easy, while employing various aspects of instructional design and delivery, to overlook ways that students might also engage in learning through nonlinguistics.

When used intentionally and consistently, nonlinguistic representations are powerful instructional tools that can have a positive effect on student achievement. They provide varied ways for students to process new information without solely relying on language.

McREL’s analysis of research for the second edition of Classroom Instruction that Works (CITW) provides these research-based classroom recommendations for use of nonlinguistic representations:

Use graphic organizers.
Use physical models or manipulatives.
Generate mental pictures.
Use pictures, illustrations, and pictographs.
Engage in kinesthetic activities.

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Today’s “high tech” students need “high touch” learning environments

We’ve all seen it: A group of teenagers sitting together, perhaps at a restaurant or the mall, but all of them glued to their phones, barely interacting with the friends right next to them. As common as this sight has become, it still gives us pause. What, you may wonder, is this doing to our kids?

In September’s Educational Leadership, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin takes a look at the effects of our “plugged in” culture on students and their teachers. One clear effect, he finds, is how students relate to others: One analysis of more than 70 student surveys, for example, found that empathy among college students is at its lowest level since 1979—a whopping 40 percent lower.

Not surprisingly, researchers and educators alike have noted a loss in the ability of students to have deep, empathic conversations. In an article for The Atlantic, one such teacher in Kentucky described how, in a classroom interview activity, most of his high school students were unable to move beyond the scripted questions and engage in more spontaneous, authentic dialogue. His solution? He asked his students to record their conversations on their smartphones, watch them later, and self-assess their conversation skills.

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