3 Ways to Gain Insight into How Students Learn

Just because a student gets an A on an assignment doesn’t mean they fully understand the material. Evaluations, parent/teacher conferences, and report cards capture a snapshot of how well students are digesting classroom assignments, but none of these really show a true, detailed image of students’ performance and how they learn based on their individual styles. Here’s a trio of techniques that educators can use to further their knowledge of how their students learn.

1.) Read up on how students learn. Research shows that there are hundreds of ways for students to comprehend material. While it may seem like a broad approach, studies show that students who reflect on their learning, rather than narrow down a learning style, have illustrated improvement in their academics. A few ways educators can support this is by encouraging active learning and group work in adaptive classroom environments.

2.) Give students a chance to assess your lessons. An easy way to hear instant feedback from students is to ask them. Instead of directly confronting students after a lesson or at the end of the day, try assigning a “One-Minute Paper.” For this exercise, students get a notecard on which to write one question following a lesson. An example could be, “What was the point of this lesson?” or, “Why do I need to know this?” these may seem like intimidating responses, but these are fair questions to think about during every lesson, and answering these questions during the next class provides students powerful insights into the significance of your material.

3.) Shadow your students. What better way to understand a student’s interactions with both their peers and other teachers than to figuratively walk a mile in their shoes? One educator who shadowed her students noted that this practice not only fosters empathy, but provides teachers with a sense of clarity. As she put it, “It gives teachers ideas for improving their instruction in ways that will give more diverse kinds of students the chance to excel.”

A great teacher is someone who not only teaches important ideas and life lessons, but encourages their students to teach themselves. For students to be excited about learning and engaged in the classroom, they need to be able take ownership and find ways to comprehend material in their own way. Real learning begins when students become independent facilitators in the classroom.