Reciprocal Relationships & Empathy

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:As we continue our focus on the research into teacher-student relationships, we want to share some insights into two types of relationships studied: instrumental and reciprocal.Instrumental vs. ReciprocalArizona State University researcher Victoria Theisen-Homer analyzed relationship building in teacher-training programs. She found two relationship pathways that were prioritized in different programs:An instrumental focus involved a more one-way relationship between teachers and students. These programs trained teachers to acquire information about their students for the purpose of motivation and behavior management. Theisen-Homer described the relationships as a means to an end; they were primarily constructed to build compliance from students in the classroom. "Students learned that their value was tied to the degree to which they worked hard and behaved in line with what mostly white authority figures demanded."A reciprocal focus instead held teachers to a higher standard. In these programs, teachers were trained to acquire more in-depth information about their students. They also sought to understand their students more holistically and engaged in shared problem solving with them."These students not only learned to think for themselves, but also had adults who affirmed and responded to their thoughts and experiences."The differences in these two relationship pathways was clear. In the instrumental focus conditions, students felt valued only for their work and behavior--not as individuals. In the reciprocal focus classrooms, on the other hand, students developed stronger critical thinking skills. They also felt their own experiences were affirmed and valued.We work with our instructors to build reciprocal relationships with their students, not only because they drive deeper learning, but also because they teach students to engage and advocate for themselves with authority figures. These strong self-advocacy skills benefit our students in high school, college, and beyond.Reciprocation involves EmpathyResearch have repeatedly found that in order to build reciprocal relationships (that yes, manage behavior, but also drive academic engagement and support deeper learning and self-advocacy), teachers must build empathy for and with their students.Strategies for building empathy include:Analyzing your own perspective and how your own cultural background or experiences may influence your attitudes and actions.Modeling perspective-taking by putting yourself in the student's shoes. Teachers practicing this skill not only better understand the challenges students face, they also recognize their strengths more readily.Set high expectations for students and ensure they know how confident you are in their success.Tomorrow, we'll dive further into the broader implications these relationship-building pathways have on education.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-14T17:04:44+00:00July 14, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Reciprocal Relationships & Empathy

The Importance Of Teacher-Student Relationships

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:This week, we are focused on research on teacher-student relationships and the impact of those relationships on student achievement. This week also begins the first round of scores released for AP exams.AP score releaseStudents who took AP tests during the first window will receive their scores this week, beginning Wednesday for students in New York and Thursday for students in Illinois. Students can see the schedule and access their accounts here.Teacher-Student Relationships In our work with students, we know how important the relationship is between a teacher and a student; students spend an enormous amount of time with the teachers in their lives. A positive relationship can be essential to becoming a life-long learner, but a negative relationship can have serious long-term effects on a student's engagement in learning and school.Why are teacher-student relationships important?Education research often focuses on content or instructional strategies, and exceptional relationship-building may be overlooked. However, research dedicated to these relationships shows that they are not only essential for student satisfaction and enjoyment of school and learning, but that strong teacher-student relationships were associated with other essential academic behaviors and attitudes, both in the short term and the long term. These include increased academic engagement, higher attendance and grades, lower dropout rates, and fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions. Importantly, these effects were present even when controlling for a variety of factors that often correlate with these behaviors and attitudes, such as student and school socioeconomic status.Strong relationships aren't just essential for students. Teachers with strong relationships with their students experience more joy and less anxiety in the classroom; these relationships were a strong predictor of teachers' emotional experiences in the classroom.For these reasons and others, we prioritize and carefully cultivate mentoring relationships between instructors and students in our programming. In the days ahead, we’ll explore the research on specific types of teacher-student relationships, how those relationships vary across demographics, and what the significance of this research is in light of considerations around continued remote learning for students.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-13T16:21:50+00:00July 13, 2020|Academic Approach, Letter|Comments Off on The Importance Of Teacher-Student Relationships

ACT Announcement & Science as Reading

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:ACT released another announcement today--they are planning to delay the release of online testing this fall. Initially, ACT planned to offer students a computer-based version of the test at select national testing sites starting in September. They've walked that plan back to focus on increasing capacity for fall testing at national test centers. This follows ACT's announcement a few weeks ago that they were also postponing section retesting; both online testing and section retesting have been delayed until at least 2021.Along with that announcement, we’re wrapping up our focus on college readiness skills assessed on the ACT and SAT by diving into the ACT Science skills. Both the ACT and the SAT assess science, though only ACT does so in a dedicated section. Both tests focus on the skill of reading and understanding data, not on actual science content. Many students are put off by ACT Science, thinking they will be required to have an in-depth knowledge of a wide variety of science topics. The Science section, however, is really a test of reading—reading data, that is. See the item and associated data presentation below: Students don’t need to have any working knowledge of botany, vine length, or light exposure; rather, they need to apply skills to accurately read this graph and compare between constant and exponential rates. Like the critical reading skills we analyzed, the data reading skills of the Science questions will be immensely important throughout a student’s time in high school, college, and career. Ineffective data analysis skills aren’t just problematic in an academic setting; they can be downright dangerous if key life decisions are based on misinformation. We work with our students to prepare them to be effective at data analysis both on and beyond the ACT. We'll be back next week with some test-specific content.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-09T16:40:09+00:00July 9, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Announcement & Science as Reading

The Need For Creative & Flexible Math Instruction

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Next, we come to math. Many students first come to us with a learned dislike for math after years of struggling in school. The questions they then encounter on the SAT and ACT seem at first only to reinforce that predisposition. Take these algebra questions: Students might at first look at these questions in horror—they may seem far from the work they have done in any of their classes in school, and they don’t look too much like the algebra equations they’ve seen in class. Algebra is a core math skill that many students first encounter in middle school—but often, the questions on the SAT or ACT are much more challenging versions of those early skills.In the first of these two items (among the easiest on an SAT), you can see that students aren’t just required to do algebra manipulation or identify the elements of an equation in slope-intercept form—they are required to really understand the structure of a linear equation and what each value means in a “real world” setting. In this case, they need to understand that the y-intercept ($6.50) represents the “flat fee” cost of the mug, whereas the slope ($2.30) represents the cost of each refill.In the second (more challenging) question, these same skills are applied to a system of inequalities. Students must understand the functions of each variable and element and then convert what they read in the (quite long!) question into math language.We often work with students who do quite well in Algebra, Algebra II, even Calculus courses in their school but still struggle with questions like these. To solve problems like these efficiently and accurately, our approach is to incorporate in-depth understanding of the skills with relational thinking between mathematical concepts and creative methodology. With a strong basis in relational thinking, students often return to their high school and college-level math courses more confident as adept problem solvers with a flexible skill set.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-08T16:26:03+00:00July 8, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on The Need For Creative & Flexible Math Instruction

Supporting Claims With Evidence

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Today, we’re looking at one of the biggest challenges of the ACT and SAT: evidence-based reading. Among the more challenging reading tasks students will face on the SAT and ACT is not just making a claim about a text but also supporting that claims with evidence. Take the below two questions: Students often struggle with items like these. While they may be used to selecting evidence, the rigor of selecting the best evidence of many correct options is often unfamiliar. Each piece of evidence they can choose from in question 13 is loosely related to the particular claim in question 12, but a truly adept logical thinker will learn a process and criteria to assess the specific relevance of a section of text to the particular claim. They will then note that only choice (D) to question 12 is supported by the text, and only choice (D) to question 13 relates to that specific claim. You can see the evidence in this paragraph of the original text below: Becoming a critical reader and thinker is perhaps the most important achievement a student can accomplish in high school. The skills required here will help them analyze news and current events. Additionally, these efficient and careful reading skills will allow them to succeed in the challenging texts they’ll encounter at the college level.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-07T17:32:54+00:00July 7, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Supporting Claims With Evidence

College Readiness Skills: English

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: This week, we're going to be sharing some key insights into college readiness skills with you. We'll explore how these skills are assessed on the ACT/SAT, how they may differ from what students have seen in their high school coursework, and how these skills are important not only on entrance exams but also for success beyond the test. Today, we'll start with an ACT English skill that challenges many students: In this question, students are asked to apply a set of essential skills: knowledge of sentence construction and punctuation (dashes, semicolons, and colons) as well as the reading comprehension skill to understand compound, complex sentences. The correct answer, A, is an unpopular choice among students. Most students are tempted by B, the semicolon. Why? Rigorous instruction on core grammar skills can be under-emphasized in some school curricula. As someone who taught the Core Curriculum to freshmen at Columbia University, I get it: it’s more enjoyable to discuss Plato’s Republic than the difference between a semicolon and a colon; however, both need to be taught. Many of our students are unfamiliar with proper punctuation. Once we work with students on a clear understanding of the uses of punctuation, however, items like the above become easy—and our students’ writing becomes more precise and sophisticated. College readiness requires mastery of essential usage and mechanics skills in writing, and the benefits of grammar mastery positively impact essay writing in school, enhance college application essay writing, and prepare for the rigors of college-level writing. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-06T17:19:00+00:00July 6, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on College Readiness Skills: English

Preparing to be ready

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: As we head into the long weekend, we're thinking about many things: a different way to celebrate this year than the past, the legacy of the past on America's future, and the consequences on education and college readiness in the upcoming school year. As colleges grapple with how they can return safely--if at all--to campuses this year, we're thinking about the years to come, and how this year's rising juniors and seniors can best prepare to be ready when they do eventually arrive on campuses. Next week, we'll share with you what we mean when we describe a student as "college ready," and what that means in the context of the ACT and SAT. Both the ACT and SAT provide a set of benchmark scores for the test that predict success in freshman-level courses. We've done in-depth analysis of each test to assess the skills and rigor that are critical for students to meet and exceed those benchmarks. These critical thinking skills are the ones students will need most in college. We're excited to share these with you next week!Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-01T16:48:24+00:00July 1, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Preparing to be ready
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