Archive for March, 2017

No Student Left Behind

This seems to be ideal for students’ learning. However, when I think about this, a lot of challenges appear in my mind, especially for HBCU students.

As we all know that, HBCU students come with diverse knowledge background, and mostly underprepared. There are many issues associated with that. It is very challenging to teach students with diverse levels. Class time is limited. How can I take care of the slow learners and the fast learners at the same time? If I focus on the need of the slow learners, then the fast learners will feel like that they already know that and it wastes their time. If I focus on the fast learners, then the slow learners have no idea what you are talking about. So, in class, a teacher can only focus on the middle level students. It is reasonable, but not ideal.
And I also have some make up strategies to help students:
(1) Encourage and comfort my students that, it is not a big deal if you learn things slow or fast. As the kids learn how to walk, some slow, and some fast, while when they grow up, it makes no difference. The key is that you have to find ways to master the skills or knowledge.
(2) Encourage students to use my office hours, and I can use extra time to help the students who are a little behind.
(3) Assign extra tasks or assignments to fast learners, to challenge them to learn more.

Above strategies are traditional ones. They do help the students who are motivated and willing to learn. However, there are more challenges today. Not many students are willing to learn, or they have no idea how to learn, or they are occupied by many other things and have no time to learn. Those who really need extra help seldom use the office hours. If a student misses the classes very often, and don’t use the office hours to look for help, how can a teacher really help him / her? This is more common in HBCUs. And HBCU faculties actually are doing a lot of “baby sitting” things: sending reminder emails / making reminder calls; pushing students to learn; studying and trying different teaching strategies to motivate students; giving second chances / grace periods, etc.

It’s not all about teaching knowledge. Students should take the responsibility of learning, and they need to be trained about how to learn efficiently. One day, I visited a small Christian private school, and the teaching style really inspired me. One teacher are dealing with multiple level students from 1st grade to 6th grade. The classroom is separated to small box, each student is watching video and interacting with the virtual educational program. The teacher’s responsibility seems to be organizing and managing the learning environment, and making sure all the kids follow the instruction in the virtual educational program. Maybe the teacher answers the special requests from each individual kids too.

So, I’m thinking if we can have a virtual educational program to deal with different level of students’ need. More than the case above, I will expect that the virtual educational program can evaluate the students’ knowledge background, diagnose the students’ level, ¬†and provide suggestions about the students’ learning plan. Then the students will take the responsibility to lead their own learning progress. And a teacher’s responsibility will focus on the students’ learning progress and help the students to learn better. Traditional role of teacher needs to be re-considered.

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