From Engagement to Feedback: How to successfully improve learning outcomes

By: Sarilyn Sintobin

As education evolves, meeting students’ individual learning needs has become increasingly important. This area of focus plays a significant role in the classroom, and you will face many challenges while trying to successfully implement a plan to engage your students. From students becoming less productive to their varying backgrounds and learning styles, figuring out how to reach each student on his level can become overwhelming. Once you find an approach to achieving different engagement levels, each student will be able to participate in his own learning, while you provide help to define goals with frequent and meaningful feedback.

Engaging Students in Their Learning

The first step in creating a student-centered environment is to establish a structured routine and expectations that allow for student success. With classroom organization, you can establish expectations—from creating a welcoming atmosphere to providing easy access to learning materials, students will feel comfortable in the classroom and will be able to see themselves as part of the learning environment. Each student’s comfort level of comfort is essential to establishing a healthy growth mindset. As you help students understand that they will not just succeed on talent alone, you can also help them embrace a willingness to learn and an inner drive to succeed.

Some materials that may help engage students include:

  • Math manipulatives (hands-on activities)
  • Word work games
  • Writing centers
  • Computers
  • Libraries

Defining Goals

One way to engage students in learning is to make sure they understand your goals for them are from the get-go. You can do this by posting learning targets around the classroom and briefly referring to them throughout the day. Using visual aids can help students understand the importance of learning goals and how to set healthy expectations for themselves.

Once students know and understand their goals, they can use the information to further their learning. By having students create and use data binders, it is easy to share what goals you need to set and how to efficiently reach those objectives. Student data binders are also an ideal resource for communicating with families and administration.

An effective way for students to take ownership of data binders is by giving them the appropriate tools to help manage the workload. Carson-Dellosa’s Classroom Data Tracking Resource Books can also help teach students how to reflect on the work they have added. By engaging students in learning how to use these binders on their own, you are giving them the ability to feel like they are not just receiving a “report card,” but instead creating a useful way to share what they have learned. This participation teaches students how to plan for the future and set goals.

Allow students to:

  • Organize their work in their binders
  • Understand how some work goes together to show they have met their goals
  • Create graphs and charts for their binders, to help them visualize what they have learned in the classroom

Frequent and Meaningful Feedback

Another essential teaching tool to help students take ownership of their learning is Carson-Dellosa’s Interactive Notebooks. These resource books provide templates to help students create customized notebooks. These notebooks allow students to reflect upon their learning, as well as return to previous lessons they’ve learned when they need a refresher. These helpful resources are available for a variety of subjects including Word Study, Language Arts, Math, and Science, and they enable students to engage with creative, interactive, and easily personalized activities while still learning new concepts.

Interactive Notebooks aren’t your run-of-the-mill resource book—they provide students with an opportunity to incorporate their own form of note taking, while they provide you with reproducibles on a variety of topics. As students learn each skill, they will take pride in creating their own materials of lessons you teach. This adds a sense of “education ownership,” which becomes a wonderful communication tool for students, teachers, and parents. An additional feature of Interactive Notebooks is that students can complete the templated pages with partners, in collaborative teams, or during small group instruction.

Instant Assessments are another must-have resource for improving student outcomes and giving useful feedback. Summative and formative are the two major types of assessments. Summative assessments are useful tools for you and your students to reflect upon a completed unit to see if further instruction is necessary. Students can complete formative assessments quickly, and these assessments can still guide your teaching by showing what students are learning throughout a lesson.

Responsive Teaching

Once you have an organized classroom and made it accessible, set clear and meaningful goals, and provided consistent feedback, it is finally time to begin instruction. By this point, students should be taking ownership of their education experience and understanding why it is important to do so, and many should be thriving with independent work. A great way to make sure you are meeting students’ needs is by working in small groups.

Small group instruction is beneficial for social interaction, as well as helping those students who may need reinforcement on a particular skill. By using easily accessible materials and reviewing the data assessments that you have given to students, you can easily provide meaningful instruction on a smaller scale.

Common small group instruction includes:

  • Guided reading groups, which allow you to instruct students in a small group at their individual reading levels using leveled books.
  • Guided math groups, which allow you to instruct students in a small group based on their mathematical understanding using materials that reinforce curriculum.
  • Content groups, which are great for students who may need a refresher on a specific skill. 

By integrating formative assessments and communicating with students about classroom and individual goals, both you and your students will be on the same page as far as their educational success. When you create a classroom where students can engage in their own learning and receive meaningful instruction and feedback, they will better understand how to approach learning for an exciting and effective educational journey.