Three types of students that fall through the cracks (and how to catch them)

16th May 2016 at 10:03
Do you have any of these students in your class? Here's how to help them

No matter how vigilant you are, a pupil is bound to fall through the mesh of your assessment web every now and then. There are some learners who are more likely than others to slip through the cracks, but how do you spot these pupils and catch them before it is too late?

My department and I have identified three types of learners that you should be on the lookout for and offered some advice for helping each one in time.

  1. Coasters

    The “coaster” is familiar to us all. To identify them, our first port of call should be assessment models such as cognitive abilities test indicators as well as teacher tracking from year to year. Be on the prowl for those students who are doing “fine” but whose predictors suggest that they have a lot more to give.

    Once they are identified, intervene with differentiation and push these students with extension work. This will drive them out of their comfort zone and into deeper waters where they can really learn to swim.
  2. Algorithmatizers

    The “algorithmatizer” loves to follow the steps, knows them well and can replicate them with almost negligible effort. But, if pressed about why this method works, they will just repeat the method itself parrot-fashion as a supposed explanation. And when given a different example, they cannot adjust the approach to suit the problem. 

    In the math, these students need us to widen the scope of the type of work we do beyond practice to problem solving. If we continue to teach the process and not the concept, students are bound to develop these problems.

    This applies to other subjects as well. We must allow students to discover the principles themselves and to develop their own strategies. They should be given opportunities to reason, justify, explain, argue and debate. We need to step back from instruction to become facilitators and let the students become the experts.
  3. Goldfish

    The “goldfish” seems fully engaged during the learning experience and yet looks at you blankly when you revisit a topic, as if they’ve never encountered it before. 

    Help these students by building consolidation points into your curriculum plan, which will also provide you with useful opportunities to identify the culprits and intervene. Like language learning, math requires fluency: if you only rehearse the present tense, then you never master the others

Ronnie Ebanks is head of math at St. George’s British International School in Rome.

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