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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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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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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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10 ideas for maintaining pandemic-era adaptability in teaching

A recent McREL white paper co-authored by high school students highlighted student voice and perspectives during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the students’ most compelling observations was that teachers who were engaging before COVID continued to be engaging during online and hybrid instruction, and vice-versa. The difference between the two kinds of teacher, the students observed, wasn’t content mastery, but adaptability. In talking with teachers over the last year, it became clear to me that the most effective ones were able to transition their instruction to a virtual or hybrid format by being flexible and open-minded. Here are some of the things they learned, that all teachers might consider as school resumes.

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Why we’re all hearing about ‘accelerating learning’ as in-person school resumes

The phrase “learning loss” came under criticism shortly after it started being used to describe what students experienced as a result of remote and hybrid learning during the last 18 months. With the pandemic already exacerbating a long list of educational inequities, the thinking goes, the last thing kids need is to be told they have lost something that it was not in their power to gain. I’m among those who think the phrase “learning loss,” along with its purported solution, “remediation,” can cause more problems than they solve. They epitomize deficit thinking, which can be perceived as accusatory by those on the receiving end—an impediment to engagement that can lead students and families to turn their backs on school. There’s also ample evidence that remediation is terrible at helping students learn and progress. This is why we’ve all been hearing about “accelerating learning” lately.

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What to do with instructional coaches? Let them coach!

As schools make plans to return to in-person instruction in the fall, many are having crucial conversations about how to best use their staff resources to support students. One of these conversations centers on how to use instructional coaches in the upcoming year. As many coaches are considered “teachers on special assignment” and occupy a teacher’s salary, school leaders have begun to ask if there are better uses for their coaches. But coaching is an investment that benefits the quality of teaching throughout an entire school or district.

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