Introductory Challenge

Megan Black teaches 7th grade History. She co-teaches with Jennifer Marshall, a paraprofessional educator. They have been working together for five years and see themselves as a strong team. They talk together often about teaching dilemmas. Which course of action is best? They decide together.

Recently they have been concerned about students’ performance on tests. Jennifer remarks, “Our students willingly, even happily, do the textbook reading. And they participate in discussions and take notes. They even follow through by doing independent practice.” Megan chimes in, “Yes, and they seem to have fun. They like the projects we’ve developed to make learning more interesting.”

But, when it’s test time, all of the students’ grades hover around 80%! Even the “quickest” students seem never to get anything higher than a high “B.” Megan and Jennifer are stumped.

The students are frustrated, too. They really do study for the tests. Something is wrong. It’s a dilemma. It just doesn’t make sense! Megan and Jennifer worry that the students might not be studying hard enough. But they also worry that the tests might be too hard. There are so many details, facts, and dates to remember, and they are so easy to get mixed up.

But there might be another explanation. Megan and Jennifer are paying a lot of attention to the content of lessons. But they might need to give some attention to helping students study. Maybe they have not figured out how to help students link the big ideas with the details. That’s very important. It can help students keep things straight and remember what they learn for the long term. Studying hard isn’t much help if it’s disorganized or inefficient. Educators need to do more than insist that studying is important. They need to show students how to study well. Think of it this way: effective studying will improve the overall effectiveness of instruction. Students will learn better because they study better. And better learning will help test scores improve. That’s the secret of study skills.

As you review the parts of this unit, think about possible answers to the following questions. You might want to jot down your answers in a reflections journal. But if you are completing this activity as part of a workshop or class, discuss them with your colleagues, too.

  • Some students have special needs or need extra help in order to succeed in class. What study habits and skills would help these students (in class and at home)?
  • What can you (or other parapros) do to help individual students develop study skills?
  • In what ways can you (or other parapros) work with classroom teachers to help students learn how to study?

At the end of the unit, we’ll revisit these questions to help you review what you’ve learned. Throughout the unit, think about the benefits of helping students study better and its challenges.