On Student Achievement

Published: 2014-01-17 12:15 |

Category: Grad |

The following is the text from an assignment I did for my current grad class. We were asked to read the Introduction and chapters 1 and 2 from Larry Cuban’s Teachers and Machines as well as Chapter 3 from John Hattie’s Visible Learning.

In Visible Learning, Hattie lays out six areas technology can influence: the teacher, child, home, school, curriculum, and pedagogy. I responded to areas of greatest influence, least influence, most potential, and most challenging. Because we were asked to reply to the text directly, the citations are limited to the two texts.

Student achievement is a dangerous topic. The world, including teachers and schools, are looking for easy solutions (single solutions) for a very complex idea. Oftentimes, technology is the go-to solution for achievement issues that can be better served by focusing on improvement in other areas. That being said, technology, when used as a resource rather than a means to an end, can be extremely powerful in improving both teaching and learning.

Hattie (2008) makes it clear that “learning is a very personal journey for the teacher and [emphasis added] the student” (p. 23) and that the two need to work together in order to be successful. Technology can impact the learning process in many ways, and I would like to argue that the Teacher and Approaches (Pedagogy) have the highest potential to be powerfully affected.

The teacher cannot improve without reflecting on pedagogy, and pedagogical growth cannot occur without a reflective teacher.

I am linking these two factors because “[The act of teaching] involves an experienced teacher (individual) who knows a range of learning strategies (pedagogy)…” (p. 23). A significant part of the expectation of the teacher to both “learn from the success or otherwise” (p. 24) of strategies used in teaching and learning. This involves an intimate knowledge of how to provide meaningful and effective feedback as well as evaluation of the methods or pedagogical approach used. Technology can not only help teachers give timely and meaningful feedback to students, it can also help teachers reflect meaningfully on their practice. The teacher cannot improve without reflecting on pedagogy, and pedagogical growth cannot occur without a reflective teacher. The teacher has direct influence over both areas, meaning technology should have the greatest impact when applied purposefully.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the School is the factor least affected (in a direct manner) by technology, mainly because Hattie’s definition includes, “the climate of the classroom” and “peer influences” (p. 33). For technology to influence the school, it requires the intentional application of the tools by teachers and students. Cuban (1986) defines technology as “any device available to teachers for use in instructing students in a more efficient and stimulating manner” (p. 4), so a compelling argument could be made that technology should not be included with Hattie’s classroom climate.

In any case, the Student stands to benefit the most from any intentional use of technology. Student growth requires four actions: quality experiences, difficult yet specific goals, meaningful feedback, and the awareness of a teacher. Technology can have an immediate impact particularly with meaningful feedback and teacher awareness by eliminating time and communication barriers. Hattie (2008) even says, “[teachers] provide students with multiple opportunities and alternatives for developing learning strategies” (p. 22). This is a significant step in pushing students through the realms of knowledge and thinking about those facts and into construction, which is “the major legacy of teaching” (p. 26).

The Home is the factor least addressed by Hattie, which in turn, makes it stand out as the most problematic for schools. One of the major concerns is that parents do not know how to “speak the language of schooling” (p. 33). The burden of proof is entirely on schools. In conjunction with access issues for some students, technology can appear to widen an achievement gap. Technology can surely help with the communication and we’ve already seen how it can benefit students, but the challenge schools face is to show those benefits clearly and concisely to parents.

Cuban, L. 1986. Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J. 2008. Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge.

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