4 Ways We Can Increase Student Achievement Today-And No, Homework is Not One of Them

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me. “

-Philippians 4:13 ESV

One of the biggest undertakings and most rewarding part of our careers is helping students become well-rounded individuals. We are trying to develop students who can become critical thinkers in today’s ever-changing world. This means we need to be getting the most out of our students in the limited time that we have them during the day and the school year. We want the most bang for our buck when working with students to increase student achievement. We do not have the luxury to waste our time and the student’s time with strategies or activities that will not help them reach their full potential. Luckily for us, John Hattie, educational researcher, and author of the book Visible Learning have put years of hard work and research into helping teachers across the world get the most out of their students in the precious time they have them in their classrooms.

John Hattie’s research is phenomenal. His team used a meta-analysis approach of other studies that were already in place. Hattie’s most recently updated version of the book in 2015, now uses 1200 meta-analyses to determine what works the best for students to make the most growth over time. From this research, Hattie now has roughly 150 effects that can impact student learning. The average effect size that an average educator has on a student making typical growth in a year’s time is .40. In order to have a higher impact on student learning and achievement, educators and students can incorporate many of the research strategies in Hattie’s list of 150 to help students make more than typical growth in a year. Of course, you as a teacher are probably doing a number of these things each day without know it. The table is a great way to see how what you are already doing in your classroom is affecting your student’s performance. If you are looking for the biggest bang for your buck, take a look at these strategies:

The Jigsaw Method-Effect Size: 1.2

The Jigsaw teaching strategy is a great way to break up a large amount of information into smaller chunks. For example, let’s say you assign a 6 paragraph article for your readers. Rather than having each student read the entire article, you could break the student table groups up into groups 6 six-with each student reading a different paragraph. All of the students in the class reading paragraph one would form a subgroup, and so on until all 6 groups were talking about their respective paragraphs. Then, those experts would then report back to their “home group” and be the expert in that paragraph. This way, each student has the job of reporting out the main idea or concepts and they are having to teach others and function within a cooperative learning group. Below is a video that shows this strategy in action:

Response to Intervention (RtI)- Effect size 1.29

Response to Intervention (RtI) has been around for quite some time now. It is a buzzword that is used in school districts throughout the country to help identify students that are struggling with academics and behavior. You would identify these students through screener benchmark assessments at the beginning of the year. From there, teachers will notice who is at grade level, above, and below grade level. You could team up with the special education department and/or the school psychologist to come up with some interventions to try.

The data you collect over time (progress monitoring) will tell you if your intervention is closing the student’s achievement gap or helping to increase the desired behaviors. The reason why the effect size is so great is that the data is driving the decision making. You may need to try a few different interventions, but using the data you are collecting will tell you if your team is on right track or if you need to try something else. Here is a great resource containing a multitude of interventions for both behavior and academics.

Self-Reported Grades- Effect Size: 1.33

Self-reported grading helps students to give input on where they think they are in regards to meeting the standards or learning targets presented to them. In the video below, Hattie says that “Students are unbelievably accurate when asked to give themselves a grade on the content in which they are being tested.” Students in the beginning of the unit, or even the beginning of the lesson can rate themselves on how well they understand the lesson on a scale of 1-4 (1-being the lowest and 4-I could teach others around me). This is great formative feedback because it can allow you, as the teacher, to group students accordingly, enrich when needed, and students will be able to see progress throughout the unit because their self-reflection after the lesson or unit should be higher when they started out. Here is another article that gives examples on what self-monitoring could look like in different subject areas.

Collective Teacher Efficacy- Effect Size: 1.57

This is the one that in Hattie’s research gives us the highest impact on student learning. Collective teacher efficacy is the belief that all students can and are able to learn no matter where they have come from, socio-economic status, or family pedigree. Inhereiently, as educators we all believe this individually. As a team of educators, we must rally with each other to lift up each student we see in the hallways and in the classroom to reach their highest potential. If you believe in your students and raise the level of expectations for them to the highest standards each and every day, they will rise to your expectations. Here is an example of this.

For the past 8 weeks, I have been monitoring a student that was being looked at for potentially needing special education services. I was already team-teaching in this classroom, so I decided to benchmark this student using Aimsweb to get a nationally normed baseline before we began. His reading and math were both in the high-risk range and right around the 14th-16th percentile in each subject area. This student comes from a dysfunctional home, does not receive a lot of attention and craves it. The student frequently acts out in class and does not complete homework. Do you want to know what the magic intervention was that got him to the 50th percentile in both subject areas was? Time. I simply spent time with this student each week, making sure he was getting his work done, but also trying to establish a relationship and have some fun along the way. I showed him his graph at the beginning and I said to him, ” I know you can do better than this, now it’s time for us to prove them wrong.” He sure did. He still does not complete a lot of homework, but he walks around with a little more swagger knowing that he can reach a goal that he has set for himself.

Now that we know there are over 150 strategies that have an impact on student learning, give one or two of those top four a try this week. The great thing about these strategies that give the highest impact, they’re free! It may take some planning or using your resources like special education staff or school psychologists to get the ball rolling, but use those resources. By the way, Hattie says that homework has an effect size of 0. Not that we will be stopping homework altogether, but trying to make it more meaningful is always the goal. I hope you have a great week!

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