Realistic Expectation and Reliable Feedback

Realistic Expectation and Reliable Feedback

Middle School The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day, and for those readers out there that are in fact Mothers, I hope you were spoiled rotten! Speaking of mothers, there is nothing more important to a parent than the happiness and success of their children. For that reason, in today’s The Study Academy Report I wanted to discuss how The Study sets their realistic expectations for each child’s academic development as well as how this is fostered by the honest, accurate feedback given to both the child, and their parents.

Reliable Feedback in action at The Study Academy!First off, for a student to succeed academically there needs to be a clear correlation between the teacher’s expectations and student’s understanding. So, the teachers at The Study Academy clarify these expectations, but they also stress to each and every student their responsibility and accountability while striving for such expectations. The observations, conversations and the students’ product themselves provide teachers  the vision of whether the students are meeting such set goals. By utilizing these venues the teachers also increase the reliability and validity of the evaluation of the students’ learning. In this way there are no surprises for teacher, student or parent, however, it is also through this structure that there can be a gradual improvement and growth for the student as well as the classroom as a whole.

The communicative pathway between student and teacher, as well as teacher and parents, likewise play a integral part of the feedback based system of education at The Study Academy. Communication about the student’s progress is carried across several venues including Edmodo, email, Internet, parent teacher interview, personal meetings with Principal Krell  and a telephone call! I believe the subject- counselling notices and parent teacher interviews are two of the best ways that The Study Academy opens up this communicative pathway and really transforms the student’s learning.

Necessary Relationship of Teacher, Student and ParentUsually parent teacher interview are held upon the completion of a midterm of each session. It is a time to discuss progress. However, teachers at The Study Academy do not wish to leave a student till this point if they are struggling. This would also be terribly misleading for a parents who wishes also to see the academic progress of their child. For that reason there are also subject counseling notes, which are sent when there is the detection of early and serious problems. At this time parents meet and discuss with their child’s teachers ways to improve the chances of their child’s success. Essentially this can act as a corrective measure and ensure no student gets left behind.So, in this way The Study Academy really is bent on ensuring a child meets the goals and expectations of their teachers, as well as make sure that when they do, it is based off reliable evidence. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a pretty good system for success for any student, and if success is all that a mother wants from her child, then The Study Academy definitely helps each child give the best present they can for their mothers.

Theoretical Thursday: The Positive Effects of Music on Children

Theoretical Thursday: The Positive Effects of Music on Children

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

Over the past week and a half, my posts have divulged the creative endeavors  of The Study Academy and the results of scientists on the effects of such creativity in the classroom.  In particular, I discussed the importance of creativity and innovation in fostering divergent thinking in young students (http://thestudyacademy.ca/theoretical-thursday-creativity-innovation-education/). I had also mentioned this week that music classes have been made available at The Study Academy, and therefore students are being given another opportunity to foster such thinking processes (http://thestudyacademy.ca/study-academy-report-music-classes-study-academy/). However, the importance of music goes  beyond divergent thinking.

divergent thinking, creativity and music In one study by North & colleagues (2000), research stated that music allows children to satisfy their emotional needs, both while listening and when actively involved in music making. Active participation in music classes has also been found to enhance a student’s prelinguistic communicative gestures and social development, in particular social behaviour. (Gerry et. al., 2012).

Because of such capacities of music to affect us so deeply, therapies for students with attentional difficulties  and Autism Spectrum Disorder have been proven to be quite effective. Music therapy is one type of therapy available to those with attentional difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The idea is that a certified music therapist uses music (and its capacity to affect one physically , emotionally , mentally, and socially) to help clients to improve or maintain their health. Musical interventions have been designed to mange stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication and promote physical rehabilitation too.

SCOPEThere are in fact a few brain based reasons why music works in such beneficial ways for us. Firstly, you must understand that music has always had a core function in our brain. My goodness, from an evolutionary standpoint, music precedes even language! Even day old infants, who are still developing, can detect patterns in music. For this reason, it seem that music has some basic engrained influence over us. One of the more important reasons made available, is that we have emotional and physiologic responses to music. We can experience anything from our heart rates increasing to chills down our spine depending on the types of melodies that reach our ears. On the other hand, music also taps into our emotions, and  allows one to easily access our emotions in a beneficial and therapeutic manner. Therefore, in trained hands, music has the capacity to effectively help. In this respect, music can definitely serve as a positive instrument for students who experience challenges in the classroom.

For a student suffering from attentional difficulties , music can bolster attention and focus, while reducing their hyperactivity. It is the structure within music that can help them. The reason for this is because the rhythm within the music can allow the child to plan, anticipate and react in a structured way. With time and practice, a child with attentional difficulties  can apply their strategies they have learned from music to the classroom.

Music therapy patient needs tables music selectionsMusic therapy is useful with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Disorder also owing to the noted sensitivity Autistic Spectrum Disorder patients have to music. Evidence of this is shown in a study found in the Pertanika Journal (2012). Over a ten month period, when weekly music therapy sessions were given to children for an hour, there were notable improvements made in inattentive behaviour, restlessness, aggression, and noisiness.

Overall research has shown that music does indeed have quite a positive effect on many children! I will leave you today with a picture summary of some of the things I have discussed today and hope that maybe the next time you listen to your Ipod, you will wonder too, what your music is doing for you.

http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2012/06/20/music-learning/

Music Classes Available at The Study Academy

Music Classes Available at The Study Academy

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

Well the students have returned from their volunteer abroad and Inspire Week came to a perfectly good end on Friday. It was a very exciting past few days for students at The Study Academy, to say the least.

However, there has been one aspect of the The Study Academy that I believe can bring excitement to a student every day- music class. What could be better than a break from the books and the opportunity to get creative? And if you recall from my previous posts, that creativity in school is a good way to further the development of divergent thinking in students. What a wonderful way to have fun and further one’s learning abilities!

At The Study Academy and in conjunction with Midtown Music School (http://www.midtownmusicschool.com/), individual lessons are provided for students during the day time. Each lesson is based on the variety of teaching methods suited to the individual needs. Students are even able to work towards gaining high school arts credits.

Music classes at The Study Academy are run by the music teacher and owner of Midtown Music School, David Stone and his highly educated staff. Students have the opportunity to learn piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, electric bass, classical and electric guitar, jazz studies, singing/songwriting, ear training and accompaniment. A student also has the option to take any co-requisite for any Royal Conservatory exam, including every level of theory, harmony, counterpoint, analysis and history. This can help them get one step closer towards earning their high school arts credit too!

When I interviewed David Stone about the origins of Midtown Music School and its collaboration with The Study Academy, he responded that it all started when he met Bryan Levy- Young, Head of Pastoral Care, in 2011. One of his students was also a student at The Study at that time and had mentioned how Bryan had a profound effect on him. It would be one year later that David would teach the 2012/2013  school year to the array of students at The Study Academy.

While I am not a student, I have had the opportunity to learn under the guidance of David Stone’s highly recommended staff member, Joanna Champman- Smith (http://joannacs.com/home.html) and I sing the music school’s praises! (See the funny joke there? ha?)  It is never easy learning something new, but under their guidance a student really has the opportunity to achieve goals and to even go beyond them. And really, Isn’t that something every student should get the opportunity to experience?

So give your child a chance to be creative, learn differently, and explore their musical side at The Study Academy. You will not regret it.

 

Theoretical Thursday: Challenges of Executive Dysfunction in Academic Setting and Possible Treatment

Theoretical Thursday: Challenges of Executive Dysfunction in Academic Setting and Possible Treatment

Middle School

Hello Readers,

Our executive functions involve high level cognitive activities such as flexible thinking, focusing,regulating one’s alertness, regulating emotions, organizing and prioritizing, the ability to access one’s working memories, a well as one’s ability to self monitor their own thoughts and behaviors. In exercising our executive function, we are able to set goals, organize our tasks, prepare  our documents for the day and double check that we have everything we need before we dash out the door.

ExecutiveFunctionTasks

For a student the activities of their executive function helps them to meet the demands as they enter middle school and high-school where independence and efficiency are necessary skills. However what about those individuals who have dysfunctional  executive functioning? How do they function and manage with everyday activities? So today, I want to continue with our discussion on major executive functioning in the brain. In particular, I would like to pay attention to how executive dysfunction can impact a student’s academic as well as everyday life and possible methods for them to overcome it.

Typically those with ADHD have dysfunctional executive functions (http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/executive-function). The addition of a Learning Disability to an ADHD diagnosis appears to be associated with even worse executive dysfunction, and those with Executive Function Disorder struggle with executing daily tasks. For those individuals who suffers from these diagnoses, an analogy has been created to explain their executive function weaknesses- the “clogged funnel”. Essentially, the skills coordinated by the executive function areas of the brain become “stuck”, causing the information for the task to get “clogged” and so the student struggles to produce the correct results to complete the task.

executive-functions-impaired-ADD-ADHDThis is why such students may have trouble with open ended/ independent tasks due to inability to ‘unstick’ the higher cognitive skill set necessary to prioritize and organize their thoughts and or tasks. Likewise they may also have difficulty constructing a “bigger picture”. These students who cannot seem to “unclog the tunnel” may try incredibly hard and yet still be labelled lazy, or become frustrated or anxious, and as a result, make less effort towards their school work.

However, there are working solutions, research shows, that can assist students with executive weakness and help them overcome their personal challenges. For instance, Cognitive Behavioral therapy is a frequently suggested treatment and has showed a significant increased in positive treatment outcomes compared with individual therapy. 16 different executive related items were reduced following the treatment. Psychosocial treatments is another promising alternative. It is complicated and difficult to apply, however has been shown to show improvements in areas of time management and organization.

In addition, there are a few things parents can do to help students in addition. Firstly, parents can help their children set well defined goals for projects and studying for tests. In addition to this helping their child divide and conquer upcoming assignments will make it more likely to accomplish such goals. Encouraging their children to design personalized checklists based off of common mistakes also ensures that tasks completely to the criteria and handed in on time.

 

Assessing, Evaluating and Executive Functioning

Assessing, Evaluating and Executive Functioning

Middle School

Hello Readers,

I’m sure many of you can recall the distaste you may have had when you were younger every time a time came around. Perhaps, some of you even became anxious. Nevertheless, despite people’s aversion to assessments and evaluation, they play such a pivotal role for school’s to understand students learning and also the development of a very important concept in the mind, one’s executive function. “Executive functioning” is a term used to describe the many different cognitive processes that individuals use to control their behavior and to get ready to respond to different situations. Ok, this sounds rather simple, but its a tad more complicated than that. If you are interested in learning more, may I suggest you check out this wonderful introduction on Executive Function in children: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/chin.8.2.69.8725#.UswZSc1mhxw

ExecutiveFunctionTasksAnyways, to get back to the point, it is incredibly important to develop one’s executive functioning as it affects almost every aspect of our lives. For instance, we make use of executive function when we make good use of past knowledge or current situation, so we know how best to proceed. For a student, they can use their assessment and evaluations to take the next step, and this can carry on into adulthood.

The Study Academy creates a school environment where through assessments and evaluation a child can improve their learning and develop their executive functioning. Firstly, an Executive Function course is taught as a non credit course to all Middle School students and is linked though the use of the technology available at the school. However, the learning and executive functioning skill development is also provided through Assessments for Learning, Assessments as Learning and Assessment of Learning and Evaluation component in all other classes. Do those three sound the same? Well then allow me to clarify!

Assessment for Learning- Teachers provide students with feedback for how they can improve. This can indeed development one’s learning and executive functioning with as simple the task as repeating a given strategy or trying a strategy for an assignment. When the child receives feedback, they can learn which strategy works and which one doesn’t.

Learning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleAssessment as Learning- Teachers help students develop capacity to be independent autonomous learners so they can become an individual with stronger executive functioning (set own goals, watch own progress, determine next steps and reflect) Student are taught how when and why specific strategies should be used and when they can modify to suit their own learning preferences.  Teachers also help students set realistic goals and use self-monitoring and self-management strategies to identify areas of weakness and self-correct behaviors and performance.

Assessment of Learning -this is an evaluation and is based on already established performance standards and assigning value to represent what students know and can apply.Teachers indeed count “strategy use” as part of a student’s grade (focus on the “how” of learning, not just the “what”). In addition, the application process required in certain learning tasks is indeed another aspect of executive functioning that a student can strengthen through these forms of assessments.

The Ontario Ministry of Education also provides further description of these three interconnected assessments and how they benefit the many students of Ontario, including those at The Study Academy:http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/success.html

Overall, The Study Academy provides a wonderful environment that fosters a child’s learning of subject matter, as well as their development of higher cognitive processes in executive functioning. This, is most definitely an asset for any student’s future.

 

 

 

 

 

Theoretical Thursday: To Shrink or Not to Shrink? That is the question!

Theoretical Thursday: To Shrink or Not to Shrink? That is the question!

The Study Academy Report

Hello first time and regular Readers,

I hope you are enjoying the last few days of your March Break before the kiddies have to return to school. And, as I mentioned above, returning to small classes sizes, like at those at The Study Academy, can definitely make the whole “having to get up early again for school” less of an issue.

There has been several studies on class size reduction that have yielded rather interesting results. For example, research has shown that students in smaller class sizes tend to learn more as measured by standardized tests, their engagement in learning is enhanced, and overall students expend more effort academically and initiate own learning. The effects of small class size has also been shown to have long lasting affects as well, indicating that in the future they continue to do better academically and socially as evidence by highschool graduate rates and grades.

There is something to be said for the influence this academic research on class size has had on educational decisions that has taken place in Ontario, across several jurisdictions.

Primary class size reduction sprang into being as a specific well defined election promise that very quickly became a provincial government objective. It was the government’s way of improving student achievement and reduce difference in educational outcomes across groups of students. Implemented incrementally from 2004, it has been influencing our Educational system ever since and yet still remains a highly debated topic.

One of the reasons for this is because there are perceived costs in reducing class sizes that are recognized, yet highly arguable in the scientific and educational communities. Firstly, while I have stated that smaller class sizes can provide the opportunity for teachers to provide more specialized teaching for students, there are those who disagree.Just because a situation can allow an opportunity does not mean that an opportunity will necessarily happen. Just because a teacher has the opportunity to specialize their lessons towards the needs of the student or the small student groups, does not mean that they will.

This argument is particularly interesting in so that it calls in question the motivation of teachers. Perhaps some will not, but you cannot discount the idea based off a simple “if”.  Motivation affects every realm. Gosh, who’s to say that just because you order a coffee next morning that the server will not simply give you a darker blend than you prefer, simply because they don’t have the motivation to brew another batch. I know my example is a bit out there, but I hope you get my point.

Secondly, there has been the assumption than a reduction in class sizes meant there had to be additional space must be found or invented. If such things are not taken into account, schools districts may discover budget short falls later on.  I don’t believe this is necessarily always the case, because it is very easy to have small class sizes within the same room, however just increasing the number of teachers. Students can be put into small groups and assigned to teachers. Heck, for different subject matters the student groups can rotate to the next teacher too!

There are many variables to consider, some of which are constantly changing depending on the circumstances of the situation. In the case of Education, nothing is ever “cookie cutter” simple. However, scientific research has been  increasingly showing the benefits of such an educational structure. Hopefully, there will be a continual push for smaller class sizes throughout Canada, so students can benefit as they do at The Study Academy.

I do encourage you all to read more on this topic if it is of interest, and for that reason I have provided several additional readings.

Tell me what you think!

ADDITIONAL READING

American Federation of Teachers. (2010). Benefits of small class size. Washington, DC: AFT, 1-7.

Bascia, N. (2010). Reducing class size: What do we know? Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1-19.

Bascia, N., et al. (2010).Ontario’s primary class size reduction initiative: Report on early implementation Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1-121.

And even more if you follow the links available at this website:

http://www.bctf.ca/IssuesInEducation.aspx?id=6248

Discussing the Benefits of Our Small Class Size

Discussing the Benefits of Our Small Class Size

Middle School

Hello Readers,

Thank you for coming back for another Tuesday’s Study Report. I hope you are enjoying your March Break, but not so much as to forget about The Study Academy! During my time thus far, I have found one thing in particular very fascinating- the small class sizes. In both the Highschool and Middle school classes, The Study features a 5:1 Promise, there is one teacher for every 5 students.

Our 5:1 student to teacher ratio in actionI remember when I was in Middle school, I was stuck in a class with usually 23 other students with only one teacher. In some schools I believe that is still a common occurrence. Can you imagine how challenging that must have been, for both the student as well as the teacher?  At The Study Academy that is not an issue, so don’t you fret, readers.

At The Study Academy, a student is fortunate enough to be in a smaller class size where teachers actively develop student’s learning skill development, as well as self efficacy, in a supportive environment. Nevertheless, I recognize there has been rather faulty arguments made against the push towards smaller class structure, one of which has to do with a child’s social skills. Some are concerned that with a smaller class size, there are fewer chances for a child to interact with enough children to sufficiently develop their social skills. I find this argument ignores activities in educational institutions that bring large number of students together. Also, it is not the quantity that matters, so much as the quality of interactions.

One of our teachers demonstrating our 5:1 promise in action!However, this argument does have one thing right – that school environment does play a role in the well being of a child. For that reason The Study Academy incorporated a structured Pastoral care component that goes along quite well with its small class sizes.  The Study Academy website perfectly expresses their educational strategy as having a” commitment to the holistic development of its students helping exceptional children achieve exceptionally.” Run by Byran Levy-Young,  He assists the children through guided strategies that helps them to manage both academic and personal aspects of their life. You can learn more by following the following link to his web page:

http://blyconsulting.com/about2/

I think in this way, the small class sizes and pastoral care component really help the students  of The Study Academy to develop into strong adults who are ready to walk out into the world and create themselves through their experiences.