July 22nd, 2008

High Impact Instruction

Robin Fred
The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

A great teacher has more impact on a student’s success than perhaps any other factor.  I’m sitting in a presentation that my colleague Rachel Porter is leading at North Carolina’s Summer Conference for Career & Technical Educators.  She’s talking about the different types of learners and how to best reach them.  A primary concept here: teachers have to vary their approach if they want to engage everyone in their classroom.

Rachel started the presentation by asking participants to classify their own learning styles based on how they would approach traveling to a new place:

  1. Those in this category would call a friend, and find out other things to do while there.
  2. This group would make step-by-step directions, find out road names and numbers.
  3. These people would draw their own maps, highlight your route on the map, and refine their directions.
  4. Those in this group say they would just head in the right general direction, and might be easily side-tracked by things of interest.

Most of the teachers in this room - and everywhere else I’ve seen this done - identify themselves as ‘2’s.  Their favorite question is “what” and they approach things in a very focused way.  Traditional schooling is built around this approach, and people of my generation have learned to think in this way.  For a teacher, it’s most natural to approach assignments and activities in this ‘linear’ way.

But MOST students are not 2’s.  They’re 1’s who are very social, or 3’s who like to analyze and deconstruct things, or 4’s who need to be directed and engaged, need time and freedom to explore.

How can a teacher address these various needs?  That’s a complicated question, but use of research-based teaching is the direction to take.  Some examples:

  • An understanding of brain-based learning - how students think, how they can best understand and remember content - can be very strong in helping teachers craft a classroom strategy.
  • An awareness of multiple intelligences - from Howard Gardner’s model - interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, visual-spatial, logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, kinesthetic, musical.  If you’re most comfortable in the linguistic approach, you may lean heavily on that.  Doing that all the time not only leaves out students who are musical or naturalistic or intrapersonal, or those who learn best with but it prevents the linguistic learners from engaging in a different way.  
  • Inquiry-based learning.  Have students learn by asking questions and finding their own (correct) answers rather than hand-feeding everything to them.  Today’s students are used to active involvement.  My generation grew up on television - a passive form of entertainment or information gathering. Today’s students may watch television, but many if not most are more excited by more active engagement.  Whether it’s social networking or video games, they are used to being actively engaged.  That’s a strength.  But it’s also a challenge. 

Some ways to address these concepts in the classroom:

  • Incorporating reading and writing, including lecture, discussions, storytelling;
  • Engaging students in problem solving, experiments, number games;
  • Drawing pictures or use videotapes;
  • Incorporating music into instruction;
  • Providing numerous hands-on experiences;
  • Having students work individually, in pairs, in small groups, and as a whole class;
  • Providing opportunities for self-reflection;
  • Creating connections to the natural world.

One of the most important factors: incorporating the use of technology.  Not only do they need to learn how to use tech tools, if they don’t already know, but they’re very likely used to use it and engaged by it. 

Does your own learning style or background determine the way you teach?  It’s natural for that to happen, but it’s a mistake to let it happen all the time. 

I could only cover the surface of the discussion today in a blog post, but you can see Rachel’s presentation by clicking here.

May 28th, 2008

Changing Futures

For young Americans entering the workforce, competition is tough and getting tougher as technology and globalization change the landscape. But a segment on National Public Radio’s “Day to Day” program suggests many of those who are now beginning their careers are ready to rise to the challenge.

The segment (hear it by clicking here) focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs. Several 20-somethings can be heard talking about starting their own businesses - facing all the challenges that entails and prepared to success, or to try again if they fail.

But the highlight of the segment to me was a conversation […] Continue Reading…

March 1st, 2008

21st Century Ain’t What It Used To Be

Harold Brewer
QTL Senior Vice President for Programs

Over the last few years we have all been working to answer the question as to what a 21st Century classroom would look like. We have heard much discussion as to the talents and characteristics of a 21st century learner and the state board has adopted characteristics of a student product of the 21st century. To me, those characteristics sound very familiar. They are very much like the kind of education we have pursued over the last 30 years. Critical thinker, problem solver, team player, financially literate, effective communicator, self-directed responsible worker….to […] Continue Reading…

February 22nd, 2008

Avoidable Losses: How High Stakes Accountability Rewards High Schools for Pushing Kids Out

David L. Boliek
CEO, The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

The system spawned by No Child Left Behind can and has led to schools encouraging low performing students to drop out. Say what?!?!? If you dump low performers, school scores go up.

Yep. A study released Jan 31, 2008 and viewed only 2150 times in the ensuing 22 days (the date of this post) found that the kinds of systems that reward schools and let principals keep their jobs when test scores go up actually result in students who don’t contribute to those rising scores being […] Continue Reading…

February 19th, 2008

Collaboration Gains Student a National Award

Dave Boliek

The great leveler in education is innovation in a context of collaborative, high quality teaching that focuses on meeting identified student needs. When educators work toward that goal… things change and change bigtime.

More often than not teachers work in their own silo… their own content area… their own classroom. It’s the system. They work hard. They teach the best they know how. They get results, but perhaps not the broad-based results that are expected more and more these days. Collaboration is not a common practice. True collaboration, it’s probably […] Continue Reading…

February 11th, 2008

Failure to Invest in Teachers Carries a Heavy Price Tag

David L. Boliek
CEO, The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

Where can we find $15 billion dollars income for North Carolinians? Or better yet, where is $15 billion dollars going, every year?

North Carolina’s newly released dropout figures show that the state has blown - thrown away - $15,296,399,200 in income by the simple act of 23,550 students dropping out of school. After years and years and millions and millions of dollars, the number of North Carolina students who dropped out in 2006-07 is virtually the same as the number who dropped out eight years ago in 1999-2000.

The difference […] Continue Reading…

January 28th, 2008

Making Writing ‘Click’ with Students

Shantele Raper teaches eighth grade in Osceola, AR. Her middle school is in an impoverished area of the Arkansas Delta, but she has a great story of student achievement to tell. This month one of her students won first place in the Invest Write national stock market competition sponsored by the Council for Economic Education. She says the strategies and work she did in QTL helped her prepare David Cole for the competition. Here’s how:

Shantele Raper
Osceola, AR

Implementing math and literacy into a vocational class can sometimes be
daunting. The students expect something out of the ordinary […] Continue Reading…

December 12th, 2007


Diane Ross
The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

One of the hottest topics I hear from educators is about Inclusion; integrating Special Education students with regular students. This past week, I visited a school in South Carolina, where I observed an inclusion math class. The math teacher and the Special Ed. Teacher taught the lesson for the day, but I am hard pressed to say it was team work. While one teacher taught, the other walked around the room helping students, then they would switch. It was a model lesson in futility. Educators end up […] Continue Reading…