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Unfinished Business: Alternative Strategies for Remedial Learning

Did you know that 1 in 4 students enroll in remedial coursework in their first year of college? With statistics showing that families pay $1.5 billion for remedial classes, it seems that unfinished learning is a genuine challenge. Educators play a significant role in helping learners keep up with grade-level content. But although prioritizing ‘clean sheets’ in curriculum content is always the plan, learning can always be interrupted.

5 Strategies to Support Remedial Learning

While learning challenges come from all sides, there are solutions to dealing with unfinished business. These strategies for remedial learning can drive student achievement while closing any gaps to attaining grade-level standards each year.

Strategy 1: Set Realistic Student Goals

Goal-setting is key to goal attainment and studies indicate that students are more likely to reach them when they feel that teachers are rooting for them to win. Most of us don’t think about setting goals consistently in the classroom, but this is the most powerful tool for teaching and learning. In cases where students are already behind in grade-level proficiency, goals can help you pinpoint issues early on.

You can help students keep their focus on what's most important by setting goals at the beginning of every school year and consistently reviewing them.

At the beginning of each year, set clear benchmarks and support plans for those lagging behind. Gradually, monitor progress and plan meetings to evaluate one-on-one. Keep goals focused on specific, measurable, and time-sensitive goals to help students feel confident as they move forward. 

Strategy 2: Generate Engagement With a Culturally Aware Approach

Every school and classroom is made up of students from diverse cultures and experiences. To tackle unfinished learning at the core, consider acclimating content to match the personal and cultural realities of learners.

Instead of blanket approaches to instruction, consider engaging with students in ways that they can create connections to studies. Culturally and linguistically responsive (CLR) programs are capable of supporting grade-level attainment goals since learning becomes reactive rather than passive.

In troubling times, this means addressing collective challenges faced by kids from different neighborhoods or even trauma facing particular learners. For example, cultural sensitivity should be a major priority in course material and with time, appreciating diversity creates bonds.

Comparing student experiences, cultures, and backgrounds to instruction material makes learning more interactive and realistic. To generate more student engagement, consider partnerships with community organizations and parents. With the insights from these stakeholders, you could see real progress in the classroom.

Strategy 3: Choose High-Quality Curriculum Options

Unfinished learning is a significant concern, and prioritizing quality programs in grade-level work can address it appropriately. After analyzing procedures for reopening K-12 schools, the John Hopkins School of Education recommended high-quality instructional supports and teacher robustness.

As per the guides, teachers can facilitate the completion of remedial learning if they have access to engaging grade-level work. A quality curriculum is the safest guide towards student achievement since it is based on state standards and rises to address student challenges.

If students are expected to take standardized tests for advancements to the next grades, their learning needs to match those same standards. A collaborative effort to build a curriculum that best meets the needs of learners across grade levels can guarantee the success of all kids. While no child should be left behind, that perspective begins with curriculum content that helps them stay ahead of the curve. 

Strategy 4: Use Assessments To Identify Gaps

Well-constructed assessments provide insights into student progress and can be used as evidence of success. During formative and summative assessments, students get to show what they are learning. And, for educators, results indicate a closeness to meeting planned goals. One great strategy for tackling unfinished content is administering assessments that reveal student needs and suggest solutions.

Well-designed assessments take into account the student’s conditions, including the vulnerability that can lead to lapses. Gradually, these assessments can identify troubled learners and indicate how far they are from achieving grade-level proficiency.

One pathway for better monitoring is paved by using digital tools to accurately track progress over time. For example, performance over the course of a global pandemic can indicate whether present solutions meet the needs of all learners.

If some students are falling behind, teachers can offer support, adjust strategies, and help them fulfill grade-level expectations. To be truly effective, assessments must be a consistent, year-long prescription and not a one-and-done statement of a student's ability. 

Strategy 5: Design a Coherent Curriculum

Change in the school system is as unavoidable as it is frustrating. Teachers and students must constantly navigate situations that pose risks to effective learning. While most solutions to address learning barriers work, some alternatives can create even more challenges.

To counter overwhelming needs in remedial learning, school administrations need to bypass any overlap that creates redundancy and wasted time. Integrating a coherent curriculum is one approach that improves continuity and clarity to the learning plan. 

A coherent curriculum, also known as an aligned curriculum, works to ensure that gaps, repetitions, and teaching follows elaborate paths. Throughout the grade, lessons and subject areas are aligned to support and build on each other. As learners consume new concepts and material, they can feel the connection and build on elements from simple to complex levels.

In general, students should be free from burdens that might undermine their completion rates. This includes excessive testing. Assessment patterns should guarantee that “just enough” tests are given to students.

Implementing Alternative Strategies

Unfinished learning is a persistent challenge in the education system and for vulnerable students. It undermines readiness for grade-level work. In a world riddled with pandemics and trauma that affect children directly, schools need to be proactive rather than reactive in offering support.

While some argue that remediation doesn’t work, the adoption of the strategies outlined above can present solutions. Ultimately, consistency and strategic decision-making can give kids a clearer picture of opportunities waiting for them and encourage them to act independently.


Written by Simon Riitho

Education World Contributor

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