Words of Wisdom: High Quality Instruction from the Students' Perspective

Posted on: Thu, 05/17/2018 - 09:00

This is the second in a series of blogs based on feedback from high school seniors which I received while visiting every high school.

While there were similar themes that emerged from seniors across the county about their positive experiences as an FCPS student, there was less consensus on areas for improvement. One reason is that many of their suggestions were related to issues or concerns specific to their high school.  Another reason is there were few areas where the majority of students across the county were aligned.

This prompted me to ask students to specifically address their ideas related to improving instruction.  They were asked to either offer advice to teachers on what students would like to see happening in classrooms more often or to describe the instruction that occurred in their favorite class. This conversation revealed many similarities across the county as noted here:

  • Be passionate about the course or content being taught.  Students described teachers who could energize them and make them enjoy a subject area they did not always like because the teacher was so excited, so enthusiastic, and so passionate about the content.
  • Build relationships with your students. Students reinforced this message repeatedly in their conversation with me.  Teachers who understood their interests, who noticed when they were struggling, who tried to relate the material to their experiences, and who adapted instruction to support different learning styles were touted as examples of the best when it came to instruction.
  • Provide more opportunities for collaboration and group work. Students recognized that working with a team is an expectation of future employers and want the chance to practice collaboration in their classes. They also talked about being more comfortable asking a peer for help or assistance when something was confusing. They also felt that group work gave them a chance to move around more!
  • Make connections between the content and real world applications or problem solving. Students wanted to understand why a course or content was important to them in their life or for their future. Opportunities to work on real world issues and problems were valuable to them and something they felt really contributed to their understanding of course material.
  • Create meaningful assignments and avoid busywork. Students did not like assignments that were mundane or did not seem relevant to a deep understanding of the content. They frequently viewed some tasks as being designed more for getting points than truly learning the material.
  • Offer choice or differentiate approaches to instruction. Students agreed that not everyone learns in the same way. As young adults, they valued teachers who gave them choices or opportunities to learn in the most meaningful way.

These ideas from our students align very much with the “experts” who have researched quality instruction. Fortunately, FCPS is using the “Framework for Teaching” as our definition of high quality instruction, and these suggestions from our students are readily apparent in the rubric our teachers and administrators use!

What advice would you offer on how to improve instruction? Share your ideas on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.