Currently, I am not teaching in my own classroom. However, I tutor math at a K-8 school, working with 3rd, 4th, and 8th graders. In this setting, the concepts that are most important to me are similar to teachers, though not exactly the same. For example, the concept attainment model described in Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) is difficult for me to incorporate, as I am not given instructional time, but rather am in the classroom as math support.
However, one of the most important models that I find useful is recognizing student effort, even when they are not quite grasping the subject. This is especially important in the 8th grade extra math class I tutor, where I spend much of my time. These students have been selected for extra math help to improve their understanding in algebra, and struggle with some functions that they learned in the 4th or 5th grade. Possibly this is because their class moved on before they fully grasped the concept of fractions or division. Whatever the cause, most of these students despise math (and school in general) and often won’t even pick up a pencil when asked to work. This is especially true if they see a problem that looks complex, despite it being within their capabilities. However, when I combine a little humor with encouragement, and sometimes a little bit of firmness, students are more likely to make an attempt the problem, and when they do, I try to make sure I show my support of their efforts and encourage them to reach their goal. Reinforcing a student’s effort toward a goal “helps them strengthen their resolve to complete the task or internalize the learning” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, Stone, 2012). Another important concept is to keep in mind who I am talking to, and to be sure that my actions toward one student aren’t any different than those toward another based on prior behavior, race, or my own expected outcomes. There are students who sometimes respond to my presence very negatively, which can sometimes make it difficult for me to later offer help. However, on some days, these same students are the ones who really want help but if I don’t offer it, they won’t ask. I always try to be aware of my own perceptions toward students, and try to offer encouragement to everyone equally.
Something I don’t do in tutoring that I think would be useful is to explicitly remark about the connection between student effort and achievement. Dean, Hubbell, et al. (2012) explain that students need to understand this explicitly in order to become active participants in their learning and feeling of success. They also mention that this needs to be something that is not just explained once, but often, so that the concept is reinforced in the students’ minds, and really forces them to think about what it means. When I have my own classroom, the students will be younger, but I think that this concept applies to any age group (including adults!). I plan to explicitly teach students about the relationship between their success and effort—some possibilities are by having them graph their success, take time out occasionally to have lessons on the relationship between achievement and effort—as well as using praise when students are working hard with varied, direct phrases.
Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Researc-hbased strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.