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Include Students in the Learning Process

By: Landmark Outreach Staff

The Landmark School Outreach Program's mission is to empower students with language-based learning disabilities by offering their teachers an exemplary program of applied research and professional development.

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Many students assume there’s a “normal” way to learn and study. They don’t know that people use various approaches to gain understanding and demonstrate what they have learned. Helping students understand their individual learning processes is one of the most important steps we can take as teachers. So often, we teach our students the way we ourselves learn best. In doing so, we may be missing opportunities to empower their learning. Essential to being a good student – and to good teaching – is awareness of our individual preferences for thinking and learning.

Landmark’s sixth teaching principle calls educators to include students in the learning process. We contribute to their academic success when we help them understand that people learn in different ways and guide them to identify their own learning styles. Additionally, we enhance their motivation when we invite students to participate in planning how they will learn and how they will demonstrate their learning.

Students come to class with their own frames of reference. Their unique experiences and knowledge affect them as learners and should be taken into account. Therefore, during every exercise, teachers should consider constructive student input as much as possible by justifying assignments, listening to suggestions, soliciting ideas, and providing ample time for students to share their ideas. Furthermore, teachers should include students in assessing their own progress by reviewing test results, written reports, and educational plans. Creating and improvising opportunities to involve students in the learning process allows students to become aware of how they learn and why certain skills benefit them. As a result, students are motivated and more likely to apply those skills when working independently. In short, an included student becomes an invested student who is eager to learn.

Formative assessment of learning is commonly associated with including students in the learning process. Pared down to its basics, formative assessment asks us to assess students while they are learning, rather than waiting until afterward, as summative assessment does. Why? Ongoing assessment such as this keeps students and teachers focused on the learning objectives and gives them clear evidence of where their strengths and needs lie before it’s too late to do anything differently. Formative assessment for learning necessitates more teacher‐student interaction than is commonly found in a traditional classroom. It also happens to be a powerful approach to ensuring success for students with learning disabilities.

Here are some general thoughts and suggestions about how to include students in the learning process:

What to do Why to do it How-To suggestions

Engage & Observe: Plan in‐class activities that engage students with the content and force them to interact with language.

Allows you to document your observations of individual students’ strengths and needs relative to the learning objectives.

Try using debates, simulations, group projects, collaborative note‐taking, student‐led discussions, and games.

Feedback Give & Take: Provide students with daily specific feedback about what they are doing well and what they need to do next so they can achieve the learning objectives.

Offers you the opportunity to answer specific questions and receive feedback from students about what they need in order to be more successful.

Accomplish this as you observe and interact with each student while they engage in class activities or by formally surveying students about their classroom experience.

Confer Frequently: Meet briefly with each student throughout the unit to discuss their progress toward demonstrating mastery of learning objectives, and suggest needed steps.

Provides an opportunity to document student progress in writing, and makes sure each student has a clear focus for his or her efforts.

If you’re prepared and you keep your eye on the clock, 2 minutes per student should suffice. Confer 1x per week if possible, especially for longer units.

Design Unit Assessments: Ensure that summative assessments actually measure the knowledge and skills you’ve targeted in the learning objectives.

Encourages you to design your assessments prior to teaching the unit so that you can focus on the essentials in your teaching, and test on what you’ve taught.

Organize assessments according to key knowledge areas and key skill areas you’ve covered in class. You might also ask students to help you develop these assessments by sharing their ideas for possible  test questions, projects, writing prompts, etc.

Teach Self‐Evaluation: Teach students how to analyze their performance on summative assessments and set goals for future learning activities.

Empowers students to assess their own performance with a teacher‐like eye. Self‐evaluation, and goal‐setting are critical executive skills that can be taught.

Try using reflections, portfolio review sheet,; test analysis sheets, and rubrics that are tailored to the assignment and assist in the post-assessment reflection process.

Free Landmark Teaching Strategies

For more specific subject-area strategies to include students in the learning process, please see the attached strategies that aid with self-evaluation.

Landmark Outreach Staff (2017)