Tuesday, October 7th, 2008...10:41 am

5 Teaching Tips to Optimize Students’ Performance

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By Kelly Kilpatrick, Guest Columnist

Being a teacher is a challenging job to say the least.  From compliance with NCLB to classroom management, the challenges a teacher faces in this day and age continue to grow in the face of many studies, developments, and policies aimed at improving the quality of education.   Broad, sweeping changes have taken place over the last decade regarding public education, and many pedagogical approaches have been touted as the way to meet these new educational criteria.

As with most things, however, a good blend of old and new approaches is most likely to achieve greater results than simply changing everything and hoping for the best.  What follows is a list of five teaching tips to help optimize your students’ performance.

Stay Informed.  Being in the loop is a big part of staying on top of current trends.  Subscribe to professional journals and read your periodicals sent to you by your teacher’s union.  Comb through the blogosphere and know what the latest trends are and how they are implemented.  Try new things and keep an active conversation going amongst colleagues for input.

Maintain Rapport.  Regardless of the reasons you originally started teaching, chances are things have changed significantly throughout your career.  More than ever, a good rapport with students and their parents is an essential component of high achievement.  Technology has made it more possible to keep all parties informed, so take advantage of that fact.

Analyze Data.  With NCLB came many different methods of tracking students and their achievement.  You must analyze your students’ data in order to make informed decisions as to the best way to approach lessons and address deficiencies.  Track patterns and areas of weakness and create custom lessons for those with the most need in order to bring them up to par with peers.

Authentic Assessment.  When assessing students, don’t arbitrarily test them using the old methods of multiple choice and true/false questions.   Dig a little deeper; have students explore topics and put things in their own words.  Encourage thematic and critical thinking.  After all, it’s far better for students to be able to explain why and how something happened—minute details are far less important and only show a low level of learning and retention.

Keep it Fresh.  It can be hard to develop engaging lessons, that’s for sure—but try your best to keep things new and interesting.  Although you may love teaching a particular unit and have done so for many years, see how it lines up with NCLB objectives.  Perhaps a newer approach to this material would be best.  Assess your lessons and make sure that they are a good fit for today’s student, not just something you like to teach.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of a Colorado Teaching Certificate. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

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