Creating an Environment for Acceleration - Steve Barkley
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Creating an Environment for Acceleration

I am working with several school systems and their instructional coaches and administrators to support teachers in creating a mindset and actions of acceleration rather than remediation as they begin the coming school year. Here are some of the resources I’ve found that might be helpful to you in planning your professional development and coaching.

Linda Darling Hammond in a webinar addressing acceleration, highlights the importance of these elements:

  • Relationships are the essential ingredient.
  • Students actively construct knowledge within their cultural context.
  • Learning is social, emotional, and academic.
  • Students’ perceptions of their own abilities influence learning.
  • Adversity affects learning: we must be trauma-influenced and healing-focused.

I was especially drawn to the importance of recognizing the role that students’ perceptions of their own abilities can play in student learning success. In a blog, Go back or push forward? Schools look to ‘acceleration’ to fill the pandemic learning gap, Kalyn Belsha describes that while the switch in vocabulary from remediation to acceleration may be semantics, it’s semantics that can be quite important. In Learning in the Fast Lane, (Read the first chapter here) Susan Pepper Rollins describes student self-efficacy in remediation as being influenced by a student’s perception of being in a “slow class or group.” They believe that working to catch up is futile because the rest of the students keep moving ahead. Thus, engagement decreases. In acceleration student confidence and engagement increase, positively impacting academic progress and reinforcing beliefs in capabilities.

This video and this article can be helpful in examining how assessment can assist in acceleration. While they are focused on math assessment, the strategies apply in all content areas:

  • Use technology tools to explore the thinking behind solutions
  • Writing and journaling promote understanding students’ thinking.
  • Embrace mistakes to aid understanding.
  • Use real-world application to increase relevance.

I am suggesting these questions for administrators and coaches in my sessions to explore.

  • How much formative assessment should teachers be using to guide instruction and provide students impactful, motivational feedback?
  • What are your “look fors” concerning teachers’ use of assessments for acceleration?
  • What conversations do you use to explore assessment with teachers?

Because the goal of acceleration is to help students learn content in their core class the first time. It is essential to collect ongoing data of student progress.

— Susan Pepper Rollins

One more resource that I’d recommend is the text, Instructional Agility: Responding to Assessment With Real-Time Decisions. Acceleration requires maximizing students’ time engaging in the most appropriate learning production behaviors. Teachers need constant input to make these important decisions. “It is only through assessment that teachers can discern the discrepancy between a student’s current understanding and the desirable performance level; it is only through assessment that teachers know what comes next for each student….. Teaching through assessment requires precision in planning, which allows maximum agility in responding to the needs of all students.” I had the opportunity to record a podcast with Tom Schimmer, one of the authors. You can access it here.

Accelerating learning is not just the smart thing to do. It’s a matter of equity. (Carnegie Learning)

“Achievement and opportunity gaps have long disproportionately affected students of color, those impacted by poverty, and other vulnerable populations such as ELL students and those receiving special education services. School closures necessitated by COVID-19 only exacerbated these issues. These are the students who are most at risk if they are assigned remediation. Let’s empower them with an accelerated learning approach.” (Carnegie Learning)

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