Tracking Student Achievement with "Light Bulb Moments"
Like any good teacher, Melissa Stanton knows that test scores are not always the best way to measure achievement. Melissa is an Intervention Specialist at Liberty Benton Middle School in Findlay, Ohio, a Schoology Ambassador, and a NEXT 2016 Educator of the Year.
Instead of focusing solely on test results, Melissa looks for another key metric, "light bulb moments.”
“It’s that look on a student’s face when it all makes sense to them,” she says. “In my classroom, I count the ‘lightbulb moments’ that happen on a higher scale than hard testing data.”
Melissa experienced a light bulb moment of her own a few years ago. After pleading with her district for months, she was authorized to bring iPads into her classroom in an effort to enhance her teaching techniques. She quickly found herself against a steep learning curve.
During this time, Melissa says it was important to "try one new thing at a time, be willing to make mistakes and let the students see you make mistakes. This shows that it is ok. Take risks and listen to the what the students need."
After integrating the new technology into her classroom, Melissa gave her students creative projects, like making an iMovie trailer for a book report. But she worried that pushing them to be too creative could limit her students’ abilities to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter on standardized tests.
“I had to pray that the skills would carry over [to state testing],” she recalls.
Melissa pushed herself to elevate her teaching abilities, trying various tools and learning management systems and learning through trial and error.
Once Melissa adopted Schoology, she continued to learn and hone her teaching techniques. She was making small improvements , but progress felt “painstakingly slow,” she says.
Over time, Schoology began playing a larger role in her classroom. Melissa used the platform to host videos; she developed a system to let students read at their own pace without others knowing, and added options for students to demonstrate what they had learned in more creative ways than a written test.
"We started to use student completion rules," Melissa explains, "where I would front load the materials that I wanted the students to work on and then allow them to work at their own pace. This allowed me to meet with students who were struggling in a smaller group."
Melissa also quickly realized that her students were up to the creative tasks for showing their understanding. "Students started to create video's to explain the plot of a book," she says. "In the past I created a test to see what they understood. I no longer need to do that to see what they know."
As her students became more comfortable with the platform, they used it more and more. Melissa recalls the magic of watching one student’s light bulb moment.
“Lacy started to stand a little taller, answering and asking questions,” Melissa remembers. “And mom reported that Lacy asked to get a book at the bookstore.”
The breakthrough came when Melissa noticed that Lacy was able to demonstrate her understanding of a book by explaining its key elements in a way that gave the student a confidence boost. It was stronger evidence of learning than a test score.
Interestingly, when Melissa focused more on motivating her students to express their understanding of the material creatively, test scores rose accordingly. Because students were able to learn and test at their own pace, the entire learning experience improved.
“It was a light bulb moment!” she exclaims.
Giving students the opportunity “to have a voice and independence within the school and then carry it over to the outside world,” is key to elevating achievement for Melissa and her students.
By constantly looking for new ways to improve and opening up lines of communication with her students—and fellow teachers, who now share ideas on improving iPad learning with Schoology—Melissa has seen students’ test scores rise, along with their confidence and standards for achievement.
“Working together as a school, we have been able to build and maintain these standards,” Melissa says. “Once outside the confines of a school setting, success will be measured by society’s standards of being a socially responsible and moral member of society."