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Why K-12 Learning Experiences Matter to Learning Outcomes

Planned learning outcomes for curricula mean nothing if the learning experiences for students are suboptimal. A Master of Science in Education (MSEd.) in Teacher Leadership with a Concentration in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment online from the University of Southern Maine (USM) empowers educators to lead their campuses and districts to a higher level of pedagogy using highly effective, data-driven learning tools. With the understanding that teaching is a craft, this program outlines a strategy that assists educators in creating experiential and inspiring classrooms, lessons and differentiated assessments that eventually lead to improved results.

Teacher leaders can nurture meaningful scholarship, but their faculty must believe in the power of active learning. Active learning demands great planning so that once students begin their role in the process, any findings can take on a life of their own. Teachers should become facilitators rather than lecturers, managers instead of disciplinarians, and advocates of an environment that fosters experiential learning. Therefore, potential instructional coaches should seek a degree like that offered at USM to enable teachers to spend more time on pedagogy than on data analysis.

Educators must build learning environments that foster discovery, and Edutopia offers four specific strategies to this end. Experiential learning is solving real-world problems and having the opportunity to present those solutions to an audience greater than their teachers and peers. While easier said than done, teachers need guidance from curriculum experts to scaffold the content students require before participating a project-based lesson. “All students benefit from being provided with rich, authentic learning tasks that make what is being taught come to life,” notes Edutopia.

In addition, students should ask questions (not just answer them), apply critical-thinking skills and access their own thinking on a particular subject. Social and emotional learning is automatically included by design because students solve problems in groups. Most importantly, students should have choices that direct their learning experiences.

Edutopia maintains that “school becomes dull and forgettable” without investment from those attempting to learn. In project-based learning, it is the student’s responsibility to make decisions. That autonomy results in greater human capital and student investment in one’s path to mastery. One of the most progressive approaches to a well-rounded, positive learning experience is that educators mimic what works in looser extracurricular settings and add as much choice as possible to their coursework.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) found that “without early diagnosis and targeted intervention, struggling students are unlikely to catch up whether they are promoted or retained.” Part of the solution to this dichotomous limitation, according to ASCD researchers, is to inspire a learning environment that incentivizes students to equate their education with something they want to master and seek to experience through multiple disciplines. As a result, even learners who struggle to invest in their instructional opportunities begin to pursue a more specialized path to their diploma.

The MSEd. in Teacher Leadership with a Concentration in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment online program at USM encourages these K-12 objectives. Good educators can keep the following teaching best practices in mind:

  • Using effective assessments to understand why students are failing to master a specific learning objective is directly related to developing more effective instructional approaches to evaluate how well a class is progressing.
  • Retention does not have to mean repeating an entire year of school and falling behind one’s peers. Other options for students include summer school, before-school and after-school programs or extra help during the school day. Another option includes utilizing a strategy known as ‘response to intervention’ (RtI) which “identifies students’ needs in the classroom settings, examines data and adjusts programming accordingly with a three-tier response,” according to com. All of these retention options can result in more productive progression in K-12 schools, but only with a differentiated curriculum.

Improved retention, especially in early grades, can aid in social and emotional learning. Any student who feels singled out or marginalized vis-à-vis their ability to learn will not enjoy learning and might see education as a harmful experience. The social emotional learning (SEL) detriment of not moving ahead with peers or being remediated in a non-experiential classroom or course can have adverse effects promoting a positive learning experience.

USM’s program supports positions like teacher leader/coach, curriculum and instruction specialist, curriculum developer and instructional coordinator. Amid a changing educational landscape, due to the role of online learning and an increased need for in-class remediation, the demand for professionals who can coach teachers to succeed in a K-12 program is growing.

Learn more about the University of Southern Maine’s online Master of Science in Education in Teacher Leadership with a Concentration in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment program.

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