Do you love to learn like me? As teachers, one of our favorite things about being a teacher is the opportunity to grow and learn—given the right professional development and training. And even beyond those opportunities are the variety of blogs, online resources, and even podcasts to expand our teacher toolbox and our knowledge base.
Learning is always fun, but learning about a fad always is not. Some ideas are merely superficial, just the latest hype. If we try to try everything, we end up feeling overwhelmed, not inspired.
So avoid that sort of information overload. The best way to know what’s best for your students (and not just some passing fad) is to find out whether a particular idea is based upon tried and true research about how the human brain works, or about how students learn best.
I totally feel that desire to try new things—new ideas can make me feel super-inspired. However, when you’re given new strategies, resources, and ideas every single week. . .you can be only a dilettante, just scratching the surface and never sticking to anything. What you want always are specific tools that grow your students.
For example, the “latest trend” about 15 years ago was all about “learning styles”. We were all told that if you taught to a variety of learning styles—auditory, kinesthetic, verbal, or visual—the students would grow and learn more effectively. However, some fifteen years later, we know that idea was just a fad.
How do we spot the difference? Try this simple, two question test to discover if what you’re using in your classroom passes the litmus test.
Question 1: Does it make sense? As teachers, we have clarity for lesson planning, differentiation, and creativity. We can also determine if a methodology makes practical sense. For example, flexible seating has become quite popular over the past few years. The rationale for this idea is that students will flourish when given more choice to create an ideal learning environment for themselves.
The reality? Some students are hugely distracted by bouncing on yoga balls, sitting next to their friends on the floor while reading, or standing while writing. The research is still out on flexible seating actually improving student growth. Stephen Merrill of Edutopia reminds us, “The research on flexible classrooms is frustratingly scarce.” Many research studies show that a variety of current trendy ideas could grow students, but they don’t have proven results.
Question 2: Has it been proven to grow students? Research-based ideas that are is stated to have an impact on student growth with actual results of growth for ALL students—that’s proven growth.
For example, when used appropriately, academic feedback is a determining factor in student success. Based upon a synthesis of decades of research over time, academic feedback grows students at least a full year’s worth of growth. I’ve seen it work, year after year.
I totally get it, though. Trends and fads are fun. And using them for inspiration and ideas is fine. However, trying too many of them (when you have plenty proven, research-based methods) will leave you feeling burned out by the end of the year. Focus first on what works—then add the fads like icing on your classroom cake. Now, that’s sweet!
(If you’d like to dig into more research-based ways to grow all your students, take the Differentiation Diagnostic quiz!)