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The Critical Learning Point

Achieving Good Student Performance by Understand the Critical Learning Point.

Students depend on teachers helping them not hurting or discouraging them.

Students need us to help and guide them in their educational journey. To be great teachers, we must be guiding, facilitating and teaching, not just targets, but the whole person. Thus, ask yourself this, as a teacher, “why did I go into this profession?” We know it is not the money or ease. “How am I helping my students venture through the critical learning points?” “How am I coaching them to get to the place that they need to be?”

A critical learning point happens when teaching a new target or skill and they get it. This is the junction where the student is no longer frustrated; rather, engaged and progressing. This happens best when we carefully “scaffold” the steps the students need in order to take ownership of the skill. As the student goes from unconsciously unskilled (they do not realize they need this skill) to consciously unskilled (where they realize they need it and can use it) to the critical learning point, which is being consciously skilled (where they know it), even better when they are unconsciously skilled (got it down pat and can help others with it).

Critical Learning Points

  • If they are eager to learn and ready, they are in the first phase. Unconsciously Unskilled and ready for Consciously Unskilled to move to the critical learning point.
  • Students who are experiencing their learning, as a positive emotional experience with consciousness and skill. Then they are Consciously Skilled to Unconsciously Skilled…
  • As the semester progresses, they become more conscious unskilled, as in “I do not know this,” “I do not think I can do this,” “I do not like this…” Then, they need scaffolding and encouraging constructive feedback with good practice.
  • It helps when we take the time to emphasize the needed skills and slowly break them down (especially with special needs students) so they are understandable and achievable, then all will get it. This is one step at a time. As each skill builds on the previous one.
  • I found it helps to use or make your own learning targets with high capability verbs, like Bloom’s Taxonomy. Then, give immediate feedback and the support they need.
  • Use constructive assessments not for punitive reasons; rather, to help students succeed. The feeling of success that results will help fuel the student to better engage their learning. In my experience, out of 100 students, you may have only 2 to 4 students who will flatly refuse.

Our Job as teachers is at the critical learning point where students can learn the most, to move them from “Consciously Unskilled” to “Consciously Skilled.” This is also where students are the most emotional and may have behavior issues. If we coach them with good specific feedback, have them practice those skills and support them, we can build their confidence and move them along in their educational journey.

The key is they must receive constructive feedback for them progress to consciously skilled, even through the stresses of learning (creative tension). If there is no positive and constructive feedback to asses and show how to improve, then they will become stuck in unskilled phase. Especially if using punitive feedback. If they become comfortable, they become unconsciously skilled.

When effective teachers give better coaching to their students, those who are low performers can move up in their education. This is performed by clearly communicating the learning targets with descriptive feedback, the how and why, then model performance and behavior and apply good formative assessments. Then, as teachers, as well as students can identify the learning gaps and thus improve student performance.

The “Studer Group” in Florida did a study; 90% of workers will adjust from high to middle or middle to high performers when new information is given to enhance their work, 8% may leave or get higher and 2% will refuse to change. There is a similar ratio of students. And in this there are four phases to learning something new:

In doing what is unfamiliar, learning new things, worry, discouragement, hopelessness can come up. However, a good teacher with proper interaction with strategies of support can redirect this by realigning learning goals, or the student will lower expectations to reduce anxiety. Identify gaps and strengths and then provide encouragement with pointed practice and helpful advice. If the coaching works, the student decides to progress. If punitive ineffective teaching continues, then the student will be frustrated and become disengaged, discouraged and may become a discipline problem.

Remember, students need teachers to help them, not damaged them. By helping, students gain confidence and success. They can even become self-starters and take hold of their learning and future. Then teachers can better focus on helping others, targeting goals and less on test preparations.

Gleaned from a seminar at the Studer Group

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.

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