Walk into a typical high school classroom and you'll see the same story: A few kids will quickly pick up every concept, a few kids will struggle to understand the lesson and many will fall somewhere in between. Historically, all would receive the same lesson plan, no matter what their aptitude and ability. A more modern approach, shaped by growing research on effective learning, requires teachers to adjust how and what they teach according to each students' learning needs, rather than expecting all students to absorb the same curriculum.
While this student-centric approach, called differentiated instruction, isn't new to middle and high school classrooms, it is now being used to prepare students for admissions exams.
What is differentiated instruction and why does it work?
Differentiated instruction is learning through customized lesson plans. Instead of having a single lesson plan for the entire class, a teacher will have multiple plans, targeted to each student's learning needs. Through Kaplan Test Prep's program, these customized plans are developed for each student after they take a practice test at the start of the course and adapt as they progress through the program. This means teens preparing for the SAT or ACT can progress through class in a way that challenges them at their individual ability levels, thanks to data-driven lesson plans.
For example, while all students in a class may learn the same test-taking strategy of picking numbers, high achievers who score well in related areas on their practice exams would practice with advanced algebra equations developed specifically for them. Struggling learners would start with background information and simpler equations. Both sets of students would learn the same strategy effectively, just at their own level. Differentiated instruction also features whole class, small group and individual instruction, so students experience different ways to absorb knowledge and make sense of complex ideas - regardless of differences in ability.
What is blended learning and why is it better for students?
Blended learning refers to the practice of using a mix of instructional methods. Often e-learning (electronic learning) is combined with a traditional classroom experience or tutoring to marry the practicality of online learning with the depth of in-person instruction. Think about how people keep track of the news in this 24-hour cycle: newspaper, Twitter, RSS feeds, Web sites, podcasts, TV. All are great outlets and all offer different levels of insight - a kind of blended learning approach to absorbing the news. In the classroom, this approach provides students with a variety of practical ways to reinforce what they're learning and help them better retain the material.
Why is this approach to test preparation more effective?
"If students are learning according to their abilities, in ways they like to learn and seeing immediate feedback through technology, they work harder and tend to perform better on tests," says Justin Serrano, senior vice president for Kaplan Test Prep. The company pioneered the test prep industry more than 70 years ago, helping high school students prepare for exams, and its years of experience enhance its ability to customize lesson plans.
"If John Smith, a B-minus student from Rockville, is prepping for the ACT during his junior summer and is struggling with quadratic equations, we can draw on years of data from students with similar profiles to help us fine-tune John's lesson plan to be personalized and effective," says Serrano. From the question types he'll get in his homework, to the level of group-work exercises in the classroom, to the instructive video clips he'll find in his online resources, John will benefit from a customized learning approach that's unique to him and adapts to his progress throughout the course," says Serrano.
Parents of students preparing for college entrance exams may want to consider this: A national survey of college admissions officers identified test scores for the PSAT, SAT or ACT as one of the most important factors they consider when evaluating potential candidates. By enrolling students in a differentiated instruction and blended learning program like those offered by Kaplan Test Prep, you can help your student meet and exceed his or her goals. After all, the only thing standard about your student's test prep should be the test itself.
Courtesy of ARAcontent