How do some educators know if students are learning effectively and engaging if they never ask them?

I can’t remember the last time an educator asked me, “In which ways do you learn best?” or “What can I do to help you understand the lesson more?” Since there is an absence of these questions, student engagement has taken a turn for the worse (some places) in todays society. I asked some amazing educators from my area (Kelly and Jennifer) three questions that related to today’s topic. I wanted to chat with early-middle school educators because they prepare students for highschool, where I am now. Kelley (@mrsbranchk on Twitter) teaches 5th grade math and science and Jennifer (@teachergirl97 on Twitter) teaches 5th grade ELA and social studies. Here is what they had to say:

Question 1: Have you ever (as an educator) asked your students how they learn best…..or if they are effectively learning?

Kelley ‘s response: I have never specifically asked a student how they learn best. I do often let students decide how they are going to show me they know something. Do they need pencil and paper, would they rather make a google slide, can they teach me?… I feel that many times students gain a trust with me and tell me how I can help them. I want kids to say “I have no clue.” Then I can show them another way..

Jennifer ‘s response: I use a Learning Styles Survey at the beginning of the year to get an idea of what my students’ strengths are in the classroom. Often times, I find the students (in fifth grade) can’t really identify for themselves what type of learner they are.

Both of these responses were enlightening to me. Both Kelley and Jennifer are using some kind of method to track their students effective learning outcomes. Loved when Kelley mentioned….”I want kids to say “I have no clue.” Then I can show them another way..” Educators! If you aren’t connecting with your kids enough to where they cant even trust you to say they have no clue….there is a gap. As students, we want to feel comfortable telling our educators when we don’t know the answer. This can be very intimidating and even impossible if there is no educator to student connection. Jennifer stated…”I find the students (in fifth grade) can’t really identify for themselves what type of learner they are.” This is mind blowing. You know, peers of mine can’t even decide what type of learner they are in high school. As a student, I understand, you can’t meet every learning style need educators! But it doesn’t hurt to try everything you possibly can just like Jennifer is doing in her classroom! Trying different styles each day and having your kids vote after could be life changing regarding your student engagement and effective learning outcomes. 

Question 2: How could/can asking students if they are learning effectively help (in any way)?!?

Kelley ‘s response: If teachers know how students learn, they can design their lessons to meet the needs of their students. Also, by knowing how students learn, I can organize the day for students, not for me.

Jennifer ‘s response: I love feedback from my students. I think it’s one of the most important ways to gauge whether or not they’re learning. If they feel like what I’m doing is not helping them, I MUST adjust what I’m doing!

Take this from two experienced educators! Carry these responses with you! If you aren’t asking your students questions about their learning styles or how they are better engaged, use their responses as resources!

“I can organize the day for students, not for me.” Isn’t that powerful? I know that lots of planning goes into lessons and your schedule as educators, but….are you shedding enough focus on your students? More than likely they are the reason you went into education! Let them know that you have a passion and fire to help them learn effectively and be more engaged. Educators…really take this one in. “If they feel like what I’m doing is not helping them, I MUST adjust what I’m doing!” WOW! Are you adjusting in your classroom like that? If not, why? 

I ended with one last question…. “Why is it important to ask students these types of questions (are you learning best…or effectively)?” 

Kelley mentions student self evaluations…..”Students must be able to self-evaluate in order to set goals. When students set goals and monitor their own learning progress the effect size in (I think) 1.4. 0.5 is one years worth of growth. Research has determined that giving students a voice can put them on track to gain 3 years worth of growth in just one year!!”

Jennifer mentions connecting student life to the real world…”A huge part of our job is to connect their learning to the real world. The students have to know how they learn to be more successful in school as they get older. Tying learning styles to different types of jobs helps students understand the importance as well.”

I wanted to end on a student perspective note…other than one from myself. I asked one of my peers (in high school), at random, three questions as well. I began with… Have you been asked how you learn best and engage in highschool? Genesis (@genesissofiaa on Twitter) replied saying, ” In my two years of high school experience…. I have not been asked what teaching method is best for me. All my teachers teach in different styles. I tend to catch on to more visual lessons and barely a handful of my teachers teach in that way. I do admit that I struggle with some learning methods my teachers execute.”

I secondly asked her, “When educators ask you how you learn (teaching style) and engage best….how does it help you?” Genesis said, ” I think educators asking what teaching styles are more effective for me personally is the whole point of learning. I don’t learn like the student in their next class, across the room, or even next to me. This question will help me become more comfortable with my teacher and help me rely on their assistance if necessary. Educators are here to teach and if I can’t learn with their style, we are both getting nowhere.”

Finally, I ended with the question…..“Why dont some educators today ask their students about their preferable teaching styles and engagement tactics?” Genesis (@genesissofiaa on Twitter) really gave something powerful on this response. Please take from it educators.

She said:

“I believe educators don’t ask these questions because of obvious reasons… If an instance where one student is passing and another is failing, they’re automatically put under the stereotype of being lazy or unwilling. Some students excel at reading textbooks and they soak up every bit of information. Other students don’t have enough attention span or interest in reading extensively.”

Genesis says when some educators get a student who is passing their class with flying colors…the educator then falls back and tells themself, “I must be doing something right!” and depends solely on that ONE student outcome. This outcome often is incorrect and should not be followed because the student that succeeded is or could be prone to the educators teaching style. You cannot forget about the others. Some educators today are forgetting about the ones who arent passing with “flying colors”

I’ll leave you with this readers… It’s odd how in Kelley and Jennifer’s case….. they are succeeding in their efforts somewhat. When it comes to Genesis and her educators case, there is a gap….hmmm. Could this be a generational problem? Maybe… it looks like it’s just that all of the sudden, some educators have stopped asking us students the most important questions because they thing they have achieved success listening to that ONE student voice. We are seeing this more so NOW in our current setting, high school.

Follow Kelley (@mrsbranchk on Twitter)

Follow Jennifer (@teachergirl97 on Twitter)

Follow Genesis (@genesissofiaa on Twitter)



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