How do we accelerate learning? The US Department of Education Roadmap for Reopening Safely says that “accelerated learning provides opportunities for students to learn at grade level rather than through tracking or remediation….” Simply put, acceleration “builds on what students know as a way to access new learning.” (Roadmap p 18)
This report also says that the pandemic negatively impacted math and widened achievement gaps. There is little doubt that many amazing kids are struggling to reengage with their learning progress. We cannot be content to let a generation of kids fall by the wayside. This is our watch and our duty and we have to work to do what is best. So, while some advocate acceleration for gifted kids, we need acceleration for all kids. It isn’t about “catching up” right now education is about reaching every child's potential. We would love to see this generation transcend and rise above the many challenges of our world. To get there, we must reengage. Acceleration research says it is a way to do that.
Dr. Nancy Frey has researched Acceleration Research along with Douglas Fisher and shared their results in Rebound: A Playbook for Rebuilding Agency, Accelerating Learning Recovery, and Rethinking Schools.
This episode is a companion to podcast episode 768 with Douglas Fisher about schools that rebound. This episode focuses specifically on acceleration research.
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How Does Acceleration Research Help Schools and Kids Rebound?
co-Author - Rebound: K12
Show Sponsor: Today’s episode is sponsored by Advancement Courses and their Tournament of Teachers bracket challenge. Stay tuned at the end of the show to find out how to play and win up to $2,000 in prizes
Vicki Davis, This is episode 770. How do we accelerate learning in the classroom, and is part two of our rebound series? Certainly, societies over the years have had setbacks.
Countries have endured a war famine in play and have often found themselves in a rebuilding mode. Helen Keller was blind, but she became a great author and speaker, and she said although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming it. And such.
And such we must do as James Arthur Sherman's book Rejection said. You can't go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending in volume two of the COVID 19 handbook from the U.S. Department of Education.
They shared a few essential statistics. The pandemic has negatively impacted math and widened achievement gaps, and there is little doubt that many of our amazing kids are being left behind. Teachers, this is our watch and our duty, and we have work to do.
Vicki Davis: Simply put, acceleration builds on what students know as a way to access new learning. So while some advocate acceleration just for gifted kids, we actually need acceleration for all of our students. It isn't about catching up right now.
Education is about reaching potential. I know all of us teachers; none of us want this generation to be equal to their age group three or four years ago. We would love to see this generation transcend and rise above.
So today, we will learn about acceleration research from one of the experts in the business. And at the end of the show, I'll share something I've written for you that I have entitled. I refuse to watch it burn.
Enjoy. We have another popular guest from the last year 2020. Back on the show last year, Dr. Nancy Frey talked about successful distance learning for young children as coauthor of the Distance Learning Playbook. Nancy has co-authored another bestseller, Rebound grades K through twelve, a playbook for Rebuilding Agency, Accelerating Learning Recovery, and rethinking schools.
Vicki: Dr. Douglas Fisher was on the show as well. Nancy, we want to talk about accelerated learning. What is it, and what does the research say?
Nancy Frey: Well, thank you so much for having me on. And yes, you're exactly right. The focus this year, especially now more than ever, is on really addressing and implementing things that we know that are related to the acceleration of learning in particular.
We don't want to retreat to our remediation. We know that there's unfinished learning. So that's that we know that there's unrealized potential. But it's really important that we think about what the acceleration research says and how it is that we can turn that into our own practices.
And the good news is that the acceleration research is robust. So what does it tell us?
Vicki Davis: So many schools are overwhelmed with just how much they need to accelerate. How do we hit the gas pedal without stressing everybody out?
Nancy: Exactly. I totally understand that. And, you know, one of the interesting points in that acceleration research, which is drawn from the visible learning database that we often reference the first is to really focus in on what it is that kids need to know, not just what we need to know.
So, in other words, here would be a big mistake. A big mistake would be for a third-grade teacher to say, Oh, well, these students coming in, surely they have not mastered second-grade content. So I guess I need to spend the first quarter re teaching second grade.
No, no, no. Take a look at what your third grade unit of instruction is that's coming up and identify what are those skills and concepts that students are going to need right now in order to access that and assess based on that.
Where are my students at? We teach the items that they need and move forward. We want to make sure that students are accessing that standards-based learning that is so important, and we're not going to be able to move forward if we're kicking the can down the road and teaching last year's content.
Does that make sense?
Vicki: It does. But you know, I've had teachers say, What do I do if I can't start on page one because they didn't get all the way through the book last year?
Nancy: So let me share this example that I utilize and that Doug utilizes, let's say I'm a science teacher. My unit of instruction that's coming up is around volcanoes. I have a two-week unit that's coming up. That's a part of my seventh-grade science content.
The first thing that I need to do is do a little of that initial assessment work a few days before I start that unit of instruction. So I give all of the students an a b c chart, a vocabulary chart, and I invite them to write down A's and B's and so on.
What kinds of terms you would expect to hear in a volcano unit that actually gives me some really good feedback before I've ever even started my instruction about what it is that students already know?
If I see a lot of students that are saying I expect to hear about magma, I expect to hear about lava, then guess what? I don't need to teach all of that. I then engage in that unit of instruction about halfway through, redistribute those ABC charts and say to them again, add on to their terms that you associate with learning about volcanoes.
And now I look and I get some formative assessment for myself. Am I seeing that students are adding things like Rim of fire? Because I know that I've taught that and they're adding things like ash and so on.
I finished teaching my unit. I redistribute that same ABC chart one more time. And I ask them to finish that up. Add more terms that you believe are associated with that. And then guess what? That's your study sheet, because that's what it is.
It's going to be on the competency on the end-of-unit exam that we'll be doing next week.
Vicki: What do you do when you have students who are extremely prepared and ready for the unit and other students who don't know anything? Do the students who already know all of that content have to sit there and listen to you reteach?
Nancy: What a great question, Vicki. I appreciate that.
And for those students who already know much of the content, you employ those students to be able to support those who have some gaps in their learning.
As I noted earlier, identifying who are those students that are missing some things? Now I'm going to do some heterogeneous groupings with students, and I'm going to deploy those students who are knowledgeable already from time to time to serve as peer tutors.
The evidence on peer tutors is that the true value of peer tutors is to the person who's doing the tutoring. When you get an opportunity to be able to teach somebody else something, it solidifies what they know. What is that? It's a win-win situation.
Vicki: So that's a way to accelerate: peer tutoring?
Nancy: So that's one of the ways, yes. And I think it's really important to say that when we're talking about acceleration, we're not talking about pinning all of our hopes on one approach and one approach only.
I'll add a third one to that. The evidence on acceleration is that when students have learning goals, it speeds up their learning rate, taking one success criteria for the day or for the lesson and turning that into a goal and into a self-assessment speeds up the rate of learning.
And it allows students to be able to monitor their own progress. The evidence on goal setting versus not having learning goals is extensive. And another key to being able to accelerate learning while also helping students set learning goals.
Vicki: Is that something you do as part of the beginning of a unit? How do you go about doing that?
Nancy: You might be doing it at the beginning of the unit. I often do it daily. So articulating, first of all, what are our success criteria for today?
What does success look like?
And then based on that, what do you already know about this topic or what do you think is going to be easy or hard about this topic? I might be doing something like that at the beginning of the lesson as we come to the close of that lesson.
I go back to that success criteria again, and I ask them to look at their self-assessment. Was your self-assessment that you did at the beginning of this lesson? Accurate. Are there things that you still don't know?
Because that will give me as an exit ticket some great information about what it is I need to do tomorrow?
Vicki: How about this, this whole social and emotional learning aspect? Do you have a student who comes into class and you can tell that they are emotionally traumatized by the circumstances that they find themselves in or been in? How does that weigh in to acceleration research?
Nancy: I think that again, it's kind of a multi-pronged approach. First of all, I think it's really important to acknowledge that for students who are experiencing trauma, we need as teachers to immediately turn to the experts that we have available.
Are we, for example, making sure that a counselor or social worker is connected with that student? But let's set that to the side for a moment and talk about classroom practice for so many students; it's their confidence right now that is undermining their ability to progress.
We've got kids who have a damaged relationship with learning, and they're not quite sure that they can learn the things that are happening in your classroom. So some ways to build confidence include, as I noted earlier, setting some goals together encouraging that kind of self-assessment.
Take a look back on what it was that you thought was hard, what might be hard and what might be easy to do? How did you do? Were your predictions correct or not making sure we give lots of opportunities for students to be able to empty their heads?
So often kids are walking around and they're trying to keep everything in their heads instead of putting it down on paper, right? So that's a great time where we step in with those learning strategies. Let's talk about what it is that you already know.
Let's put that down on a graphic organizer or in your notes so that you're not carrying it in your heads. And then finally, make sure that you're celebrating their successes, not just successes at the end of the unit, but their daily successes as well.
Restoring that confidence in their own learning.
Vicki: So as we finish up, what's the number one mistake schools and teachers are making right now as they try to help students get back into forward progress.
Nancy: I think the number one mistake is what I started out this podcast with, and that is making an assumption that your students that you have in front of you now are not ready for the learning that you're going to be delivering. Make sure that you investigate. Make sure that you assess. Find out where it is that students are so that you can identify proactively who are those students that need that extra support so that you can deploy those extra supports in your classroom.
Vicki: So the book is Rebound grades K through twelve, a playbook for rebuilding agency, accelerating learning recovery and rethinking schools. Dr. Nancy Frey, thank you for coming on the show. You are always a delight, and I always just get so excited about the possibilities.
Nancy: Thank you. Thank you so much, Vicki. I really enjoyed this time together.
Vicki: Thank you for listening to today's show about acceleration research. Such an important topic. I'd also like to share with you something I have written for myself about how I am coping with this time.
Show sponsor: Thank you Advancement Courses for sponsoring today’s show. This month, Advancement Courses is kicking off their annual Tournament of Teachers bracket challenge where educators can win up to $2,000 in prizes.
This year’s “Mischief-Makers Edition” features some of the most incorrigible students from literature and film, including Draco Malfoy, Veruca Salt, Bart Simpson, and Ferris Bueller.
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5 Ways to Use Acceleration Research Now
Identify what are those skills and concepts that students are going to need right now. Prepare a pre-assessment, ABC chart or vocabulary chart to identify the words they need to know before digging into the unit. Then, at the end of the unit, pass it back out again and complete it and then you have a study guide.
Help students create personal learning goals (which speeds up learning) and self assess progress.
Create heterogeneous groupings and use peer tutors to ensure everyone is knowledgeable about the main topic. Peer tutoring is shown to improve learning, especially for the tutors.
Use Graphic Organizers
Help students get things down on paper that are in their minds so they can understand and retrieve the knowledge.
Celebrate learning and accomplishments in the classroom as students successfully learn.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, ED COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs Washington, DC, 2021. https://www2.ed.gov/documents/coronavirus/reopening-2.pdf
Nancy Frey, Ph.D., is a Professor in Educational Leadership at San Diego State and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High and Middle College. She is a member of the International Literacy Association’s Literacy Research Panel. Her published titles include Visible Learning in Literacy, This Is Balanced Literacy, Removing Labels, and Rebound. Nancy is a credentialed special educator, reading specialist, and administrator in California and learns from teachers and students every day.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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