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By Heather Yates

Effective learning and education commentary

A student that has not learned has not been taught. No student is incapable of learning. A student's learning achievement is affected by their teacher as it is the teacher's responsibility to teach effectively — effective being the key word, emphasizing the achievement of intent. Although there are various factors that contribute to a student's success, ideally, it is the teacher's goal to teach effectively and produce a well-rounded learning experience to close the gap between diversity and curriculum. However, the ability to do this encompasses informed planning of objectives, time management, established expectations and morals, integrated life skills and social values, and socio-emotional support. My fourth grade class suffered from a lack of these concepts, yet with careful consideration, learning can be achieved.

Informed planning of objectives refers to the advanced consideration of student abilities, cognitive development, character and temperament, and intellectual and behavioral strengths as integral to lessons, activities, and management. Students' abilities are measured by a student's current level of performance, or what the student can do versus what the student should be able to do. Students are prescreened for learning disabilities at an early age and careful observation and monitoring for accommodations and modifications for optimal accessibility should be included in their current level of performance. Knowing these conditions ahead of time allows the teacher to plan a start and end to the curriculum to analyze schema and develop assimilated content and scaffolding tactics. A well informed curriculum carefully breaks down new information into fundamental concepts in a way that engages the current level of knowledge and cognitive development. From birth, development begins in a primal state of recognition of information being passed through the senses. The next step in the process for cognitive development leads to the ability to apply the information received and perceive it as learned from the environment. However, the information must first be assessed from an egocentric perspective before the ability to manipulate and alter the directly perceived information into a more indirect and imaginative perspective. This takes skill and scaffolding or else the imaginative perception may fall short to fault the reality of the intended information. The ability to alter perception relative to objectives is one that must be taught and guided by the teacher. This innate process for information development can be applied to the assimilation and accommodation of learning by introducing information from a familiar perspective before adding new information that will require the student to be led through accommodation, inferences, and new conclusions. Depending on the chronological and mental age of the student, their cognitive ability to receive and process information varies, which dictates the depth, delivery, and pace of the lesson and overall achievement. The information must be introduced within the language or mental parameters the student will be able to understand or else it is not received, misperceived, and thus not learned. For instance, as referenced from my previous journal,

"…the words that were used to mediate the problem of bullying may have been identified as familiar but the expressed concept was not. Yet, it is fair to say that a majority of the students in a fourth grade class think at a more concrete operational level where they can understand the concept of hurting others; however, possibly not to the degree of entailed consequences for all parties involved. With that being said, a conversation, especially in the language I chose at the time, was not effective and least of all appropriate."

Therefore, the planning of curriculum must consider the students' cognitive stage of development. However, more about the student is affected and must be considered during planning. While character refers to the student's personality or expression of psyche or perspective through demeanor and tonality of adept reactions, the underlying synonym of temperament is separately defined as a predisposed composition of biology and environment interpreting the influence of their emotional pattern. Meaning that each student is a unique bundle of characteristics for many different reasons beyond control yet it can be used to predict a student's actions and reactions. Both are used essentially in planning the delivery, allocation, and application of certain lessons, activities, and structure. While character contributes to a student's characteristics expressed through adjectives such as funny, trusting, hardworking, practical, energetic, and curious, this information can be used to qualify interests and motivation. While temperament is expressed through distractibility, adaptability, intensity, attention, activity, rhythm, responsiveness, approachability, and quality of mood, all of these dimensions can be used to qualify reactions and reception. Both character and temperament help to inform the pairing and grouping of students with assignments, peers, activities, and information delivery methods as a precursor to socio-emotional support. For instance, as I reference these concepts from my first journal,

"I could have engaged more strategically-planned cooperative learning considering students' temperament. This could have helped to identify and work out any areas of tension. I should have taught and instilled creative problem solving, friendship, and emotional control techniques such as breathing and time-outs. Mediations could have been more student-led. I should have had more simple and logical incentives and consequences for both independent and whole group motivation. Although I was always calm, kind, and respectful, I could have been more informed, accurate, and consciously consistent with redirecting students' misbehaviors that are mistaken."

Socio-emotional support is a relatively new concept that is still developing in research. However, it is referred to as the perceived emotional validation and social acceptance of one's diversity within one's environment via teachers, parents, classmates, peers, and friends. Socio-emotional support is linked to one's academic achievement through the motivation of subsequent psychopathology. Because the perception of support is more important to the egocentric requirement of motivation than is the actual receipt or intent of support, socio-emotional support is often the result of a carefully considered lesson — carefully considered referring to the informed effort on behalf of developing information that appeals to multiple intelligences through life skills and social values while promoting higher thinking and independent learning. If a student perceives that their teacher accepts, validates, and scaffolds their temperament and abilities with a genuinely positive investment in the student's learning, the student will be confident and motivated by the support to achieve. Perceived support can come in various forms. One of which could include the collaboration of considerate planning of class structure and integration of class culture. With this, independent learning is achieved. In the video, "August to June", I discussed how

"I specifically love how she promotes communication, empathy, and understanding during her passive mediation of conflicts: "both of you could be right", what an amazing guide! I love the group song and structured freedom of expression and the trust and teamwork is impeccable… she allows the student to engage in the real world without pencils and paper, teaching them curriculum through life skills is the most essential way to promote curiosity and teamwork. The culture of this classroom integrates a multitude of cultures as apart of one community created by their learning experience… Management and balance are two great ways to describe the successful integration of these concepts."

This level of inclusiveness mitigates and eliminates a lot of intimidation, competition, insecurity, judgment and fear, through inhibiting actions and learning disruptions. This type of environment promotes confidence and socio-emotional support, allowing students to learn as they are comfortable yet confident enough to challenge themselves. Increased morale encourages a natural curiosity and appreciation for learning facilitated by the teacher's effort in teaching.

Life skills and social values are integrated with subtle yet impactful changes to the perception of the curriculum. It is often assumed and even expected that learning exists solely through the application of pencil and paper, misconceiving that if information can be articulated on paper it can be learned. However, this is where the importance of informed consideration and planning introduces the educational psychology behind the various intelligences. Aside from multiple modalities, teachers have a responsibility to use their support to bridge the gap in diversity and prepare their students not for standardized tests but for life. Life skills are more pertinent, relevant, and engaging. Relating lessons to everyday life promotes active memory, curiosity, and motivation for independent learning. These results seem to be a common attribute of effective learning when applied to the aforementioned concepts.

It is imperative that established expectations and morale are instilled on day one and are consistently followed without bias. There the students know exactly what is expected of them. It is important to develop high yet achievable standards based on informed decisions to allow students to challenge themselves to meet progressive standards. However, the expectations should positively reinforce negative behavior and promote values that provide a cohesive and progressive community, such as respect for self and others, teamwork, confidence, hard work, etc. Consistent expectations allow students to self-monitor and remain attentive to the curriculum while promoting a safe and peaceful environment conducive to learning.

Other concepts cross-reference the above-mentioned and contribute to the cohesive success of an effective learning environment; time management or the ability to plan all time effectively and productively toward a goal is the most underlining concept of all. This includes every minute of the lesson, activity, event, or day. It is imperative to avoid down time, or unproductive time, as time should be spent on an acknowledged purpose or objective. This keeps students responsible, accountable, engaged, and motivated, thus inhibiting the deterioration of learned material and increasing effectiveness. Also a lag in time can be perceived as careless, unprepared, and thus unsupportive and decreasing morale. Another concept is universal design which allows for the equal and fair accessibility of content by students of all abilities. Many of these concepts are relatable to one another. However, it is important to consider each separately and thoroughly to provide informed decisions, providing effective learning from all avenues.

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