15+ Tips That Will Change The Way You Approach E-Learning

To support teachers transitioning from in-person lessons to virtual instruction, we've compiled some of our best practices to develop and deliver lessons to keep your students engaged and learning. Lesson Planning Break learning into smaller chunks (10 minutes or less) and focus on essential information. Establish a clear structure for each class to maintain student engagement. Prepare visible step-by-step virtual learning procedures in your slides. Script out questions and display them visually in your presentation. Plan varied and specific student actions throughout class (e.g. annotation, breakout rooms, writing reflections, online polls, independent work, etc.) Setting Expectations Acknowledge that virtual instruction may be a new experience for both you and your students. Patience will be needed on all sides. Adapt your class expectations to the online classroom (e.g. respect, engagement, participation). Model and practice classroom procedures using your online platform (how to answer/ask questions, how to show agreement or give praise, how to submit assignments). Engagement Emphasize student actions: Consider how much time students will spend just looking at their screen. Create additional student actions to eliminate extended periods of inactivity. Highlight real-world connections: Students may be more prone to distraction during virtual instruction. Be sure to plan an effective hook for the lesson and utilize multimedia. Make it personal: The fact that you can’t meet in person means you need to make your lesson even more personal. Some ideas: use your webcam, add music and graphics, etc. Student-to-student interaction: Use “breakout rooms” feature if available in your online platform and have students respond to one another in the chat window. One-on-one interaction: Send private chat messages with specific feedback, questions, and praise. Questioning Continue to ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions, but include instructions for how to respond. It’s appropriate to cold call once students are comfortable using tools to respond. You may wish to start with gentle questions the first few times you cold call. Have all students send their responses to you in a private message. Then share select responses and ask follow-up questions. Differentiation Some platforms allow you to place individual students or small groups into breakout rooms. Provide differentiated assignments to each individual or group, and enter each breakout room to provide targeted feedback and support. Provide “Choose Your Own Adventure” assignments—multiple options with different degrees of rigor, preferably with some overlapping tasks. Send individual students direct messages with alternative problems or assignments. You can later share the answers and explanations publicly or privately.

By |2021-12-18T13:45:53+00:00March 27, 2020|Academic Approach, Covid-19 Resources|Comments Off on 15+ Tips That Will Change The Way You Approach E-Learning

The Move to Online Testing

The Necessary Move to Online Testing With schools moving to remote learning in the last few weeks, more and more education activities previously thought to only be effectively delivered in-person have moved online. On Friday, College Board announced the first-ever at-home administration of the AP exams. Critics have questioned the validity of these new exams, though students overwhelmingly wanted the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the material they’d spent the year learning. With the limitations put in place by necessary social distancing and stay-at-home measures, these at-home tests likely provide the best possible option in the next few months. Accelerating an Already Growing Trend The online AP exams won’t be the first online tests College Board or ACT have offered—they’ve provided online (though not remote) administrations of the SAT and ACT for the last several years. The test organizations have increasingly used this option in the last decade to increase security for international testers as well as provide another testing option for district and state-funded mandatory, school-day tests. ACT recently announced the first online testing option for national test date testers, signing up individually on Saturdays, as an option (at available testing sites). The move raises some big questions: Who benefits from online testing options? Are the scores comparable to pencil and paper testing? How can students prepare? Who has Access? Taking the ACT and SAT won’t typically be the first-time students will encounter technology in an educational setting. Indeed, the use of ed tech has increased significantly in recent years, as devices and high-quality tools have become available in more and more schools. Ultimately, students with increased familiarity and comfort working through computer-based assessments benefit from the online testing option. Access to those tools in schools is not distributed equally. Predictably, higher-income students have more access to educational technology tools and devices in their schools. New Schools’ recent survey found that while about 8 in 10 students have access to either devices on shared classroom carts or in classroom libraries (and around a third of students also have 1-to-1 devices available in their schools), there was variability in student groups. Students from low-income households, black students, students attending urban school districts, and students in the south were the least likely to report having their own device to use in a school setting. The decreased familiarity and experience for high-need students raises questions of equity in using online testing in a high-stakes setting like college entrance exams. The remote, at-home testing option may exacerbate issues of access and equity. Around 10% of Americans don’t use the internet at all, with higher quantities in low-income and rural areas. College Board is working to offer options to those students for AP tests, though the extent and success of those options is not yet clear. Does Test Format Matter? After considering equity and access, it’s worth digging into the validity of these online exams. The AP tests this year will take a very different format than they have in the past (only 45 [...]

By |2020-03-23T16:33:19+00:00March 23, 2020|Academic Approach, ACT, SAT|Comments Off on The Move to Online Testing

The Role of Social-Emotional Learning in Academic Success

Can Social-Emotional Learning Support Performance on College Entrance Exams? Education research has focused extensively on the role of social-emotional and noncognitive learning (SEL) in recent decades, broadening the scope of the role of schools beyond building academic skills to include social skills, learning strategies, and mindsets. The ultimate goal of SEL programming is to face challenges in college, career, and life, including challenges in reaching academic success. Moreover, this programming can play a role in providing more equitable education to students in low-opportunity, high-challenge situations by better equipping them to overcome obstacles their higher-opportunity peers may never face. Evidence supports the idea that SEL programming in schools can improve social, learning, and mindset skills in students (Durlak, et al. 2011)—but can SEL programming also improve academic results for students? In order to assess whether SEL programming in schools would improve student academic performance and growth, it’s necessary to first analyze what SEL programming is attempting to do. Typically, SEL programming seeks to achieve two goals: To improve students’ skills in areas incorporating self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship management (Elias, et al. 2008). To foster the ongoing development of those skills through the creation and maintenance of a safe, caring learning environment in the classroom and school. How does Social Emotional Learning relate to academic performance? Theoretically, these skills should apply directly in an academic setting. Indeed, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) meta-analysis of SEL programming in schools investigated this very question (among others). In their analysis of 213 studies covering the experiences of more than 270,000 students, they found that SEL programming in schools showed significant effect (to varying degrees) on student attitudes, positive social behavior, conduct problems, emotional distress, and academic performance (Durlak, et al. 2011). Further study at the University of Chicago Consortium for School Research (CSR) seeks to operationalize the pathways of SEL, or noncognitive factors, in terms of impact on academic performance. They hypothesized that certain SEL factors, specifically learning strategies and academic mindsets, contribute to the development of academic perseverance. This perseverance, along with social skills, contributes to the development of academic behaviors, which then improve academic performance. These behaviors include attendance in class, doing homework, organizing materials, participating and studying for class, and other engagement in instructional activities (Farrington, et al. 2012). CSR has found some support for this hypothesis. In particular, they found that the pathways from academic mindsets to the other noncognitive factors (social skills, academic perseverance, and learning strategies) were statistically significant. The impact of social skills and learning strategies on GPA was also statistically significant. This leads us to the conclusion that excellent SEL instruction should focus on the development of academic mindsets: those critical beliefs about a student’s own capabilities in the academic world (Wanzer, Postlewaite and Zargarpour 2019). How do we do SEL programming to maximize its impact on academic performance? And more specifically, can the effects of SEL programming improve growth on college entrance exams? These exams assess student mastery of [...]

By |2020-03-04T16:01:56+00:00March 4, 2020|Academic Approach|Comments Off on The Role of Social-Emotional Learning in Academic Success

ACT Superscoring Means Major Shift in Student Test-taking

June 2020 Update: ACT has announced that the launch of section retesting has been postponed to fall of 2021. The postponement was to accommodate the larger number of students needing to take the full test in the fall after COVID-related test cancellations in spring of 2020. One Thing is Constant: Change  ACT is introducing three major changes: 1) providing superscore reporting; 2) allowing single section retesting; and 3) administering test sections on computer, not on pencil and paper. These changes are controversial, and I’ll summarize the pros and cons of each change below.  First, however, I want to provide some context. After twenty years of preparing students for standardized tests, I’ve learned when it comes to ACT and SAT, one thing is constant: change.  Since its inception in 1959, ACT has undergone significant changes. In the 1980s, the “enhanced” ACT increased focus on problem-solving skills through the introduction of Reading and Science Reasoning sections, replacing the previous version’s Social Studies and Natural Science sections, and in 2005 ACT appended a new Essay section. Unlike previous, more structural changes, the forthcoming 2020 ACT changes affect only how the test is administered, not constructed.  While these upcoming ACT changes will be significant, they are trivial compared to the identity crisis that ACT’s rival SAT has experienced. Since it was introduced in 1926, the SAT has changed its name four times, and its construct has undergone eight significant revisions. It was originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, then the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning Test, and now simply the SAT. These name changes have paralleled shifts in the test’s identity. Initially designed as an adapted version of an IQ test, the first SAT was intended to give a snapshot of intrinsic academic promise. Early adopters included the then-president of Harvard University, who appreciated that the SAT measured intelligence rather than quality of high school education. Over time, the SAT has changed radically in content, construct, and purpose. One revealing way to see this shift is through analysis of number of questions and time per question on the SAT, at its inception in 1926 and today.  Test Questions Minutes Seconds/Question 1926 SAT 315 97 18 Current SAT 154 180 70 From a student’s perspective, the current SAT allows 289% more time per question than initially provided in 1926—a shift that allows for a dramatically different problem-solving approach. Relaxing time pressure and including academic content much more like that which students see in school, the SAT has shifted from an intelligence test to an academic achievement test, a seismic shift. The most recent SAT revision in 2016 explicitly aligned the test with the Common Core State Standards and high school curricula. Today, the writers of the SAT state explicitly that the best way to prepare for the SAT is to take and excel in challenging high school coursework. ACT’s identity, on the other hand, has always been clear since Everett Franklin Lindquist, Professor of Education at University of Iowa, first designed it: ACT is a test of academic achievement, [...]

By |2020-01-27T12:12:54+00:00January 27, 2020|Academic Approach, ACT|Comments Off on ACT Superscoring Means Major Shift in Student Test-taking

Updates Announced for the ACT

June 2020 Update: ACT has announced that the launch of section retesting has been postponed to fall of 2021. The postponement was to accommodate the larger number of students needing to take the full test in the fall after COVID-related test cancellations in spring of 2020. Major Shifts in ACT Testing Options Section Retesting, Superscore Reporting, Online Testing ACT announced three major testing initiatives this week, primarily rooted in recently released research on the power of the superscore. These changes will go into effect for the September 2020 national test date. ACT released new analysis in August of this year that found that a superscore—a combination of the highest section scores across multiple test dates—was the most accurate predictor of a student’s later college GPA. As a result of this research, ACT is making three major changes: section retesting, superscore reporting, and online testing. Section Retesting For students who have already taken the full-length ACT at least once, they will be allowed to sign up to retake specific sections rather than the test as a whole. The cost for this option has not yet been released, though ACT has confirmed that the price point would be lower than the full-length test. Any retakes of specific sections would be taken online, and students will be able to take one, two, or three subjects in a given retest sitting. Superscore Reporting ACT will report a superscore to colleges for students that test more than once. In their research, the superscore method was more predictive of a student’s college GPA than any other method, including a student’s average, latest, or highest ACT composite score. Reporting the superscore encourages colleges to use the most accurate performance metric rather than a single test administration when predicting college success. Online Testing for National Test Dates A third major initiative from ACT will allow students to take the ACT online for any national test date. In the past, the ACT has been available online at international test sites and at specific state or districts that have signed on for online testing, but the option was not available to students testing independently. Starting in September 2020, testers at selected test centers (with plans to expand to all test centers) will be able to opt in to online testing. Testing online has the distinct advantage of quicker score release, as scores from online test dates are released only two days after testing. Scores from pencil and paper exams are returned approximately ten days after testing.  ACT has clearly stated that at this time, there are no plans to discontinue the pencil and paper option. New Options, New Questions These changes certainly offer advantageous options to students, allowing them more flexibility in testing and scoring. This flexibility, however, raises several questions regarding the reliability of the scores. When it comes to comparability of performance to pencil and paper testing, online testing has shown mixed results. Research from the writers of the SAT, the College Board, in January of this year, found that students [...]

By |2019-10-09T13:51:14+00:00October 9, 2019|Academic Approach, ACT|Comments Off on Updates Announced for the ACT
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