The Power of Knowing Your Students

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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By Lorena Kelly

knowing studentsAs educators, we enjoy the validation of our efforts when research supports that teachers are a significant factor attributing to student success. With that, however, comes a tremendous responsibility to ensure that we have a positive impact on student success.

Good teaching is good teaching. So, how do students factor into this situation? Effective teachers do not simply implement effective instructional moves; they spend time getting to know their students. Effective teachers realize the power of having an in-depth knowledge of their students, and they modify their instruction based on this information. This takes time and relies on information outside of the classroom walls.

Research also shows that external factors such as socioeconomic status and family situation have a significant impact on student success. As educators, we do not have control of these external factors, but we do have control of what happens in our classroom. We do have control of how we select to modify our instruction. We do have control of the opportunities that we provide for students and parents. We do have control of realizing that our assumptions may be different than that of our students.

If we take the time to listen and truly get to know our students, we are able to think about their assumptions and use this information to better meet their needs. Teachers are responsive to their students; they modify instruction based on interests, readiness, learning modalities, etc. Being mindful of other factors, such as socioeconomic status and family situations, provides additional opportunities for teachers to modify their practice to ensure they are meeting the needs of their students. Kudos to the teachers who are and continue to take the whole child into account when planning and implementing effective instruction that makes a world of difference in so many students’ lives.

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