4 strategies for effective intervention to accelerate learning this summer

Inspire thinking, monitor progress, prioritize SEL, and make screen time matter.
Dr. Tim Hudson

Students and educators have faced significant challenges due to interrupted learning and the trauma of the pandemic. In addition to the fact that over 200,000 children have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid, learning disruptions have exacerbated an already existing achievement gap. Studies show achievement tended to drop more between fall 2020 and 2021 than between fall 2019 and 2020, indicating that negative impacts on student achievement continued beyond spring 2020 school closures.

As summer school begins, here are four intervention strategies to address these realities in ways that don’t overburden teachers.

Inspire critical thinking

It’s essential for summer learning programs to be personalized for students. That requires using formative assessments that give students critical thinking opportunities and give teachers rich insights about student thinking. How and what students are thinking provides teachers with essential information to support each student’s learning needs and differentiate based on their prior knowledge.

To get students thinking, they need to be inspired with thought-provoking experiences and meaningful texts. When inspiration generates critical thinking and reveals how students are learning, teachers can provide more effective classroom lessons for every student this summer – regardless of where they are in their learning.

Provide evidence-based progress monitoring

Teachers can best verify that students are making appropriate learning progress when they are able to easily measure that progress on a regular basis. A summer school teacher may have access to information from several assessment sources: e.g., curriculum-based assessment, accuracy on assignments, ‘talk-through’ demonstrations of problem-solving, and more.

Education technologies can complement these assessment strategies by providing unique, continuous insights. Therefore, leaders should adopt digital programs that allow teachers to spend less time deciphering data and spend more time with students. To do that, teachers need real-time reports about student learning and progress towards grade level proficiency. Ideally, teachers would also be able to access job-embedded professional development opportunities that equip them to easily leverage data about students to inform their lessons and differentiation.

Prioritize social-emotional learning

Students can’t engage in rich thinking this summer unless they feel safe and have their emotional needs met. While implementing any intervention techniques or summer school programming, it’s important to focus on strategies that foster students’ comfort, confidence, and competence. Adaptive technologies can help develop confidence by providing the right level of productive struggle so that students learn to persevere while cultivating their motivation to learn and grow.

The best digital programs can help motivate and engage students by providing interactive experiences that respond to students’ strengths, interests, and needs. Platforms should ensure students always work within their zone of proximal development. This approach helps build confidence because content is never too difficult or too easy. Students feel comfortable when they are in an individualized, safe space where they can learn at their own pace.

Make screen time matter

Education technologies have great potential to accelerate student learning, but not all screen time has equal value. To provide students with truly adaptive lessons and personalized learning, educational apps and online programs must go beyond video lectures and digitized worksheets.

When screen time is effective, it shouldn’t take long to see its impact. For example, in just eight weeks, students in Pinellas County Schools in Florida who used DreamBox Learning Math for one hour per week demonstrated significant gains of over five percentile points on their end-of-semester NWEA MAP assessments. That growth was consistent for all students regardless of their starting percentile. By using digital programs that differentiate to meet students where they are, teachers have another powerful tool for accelerating learning this summer.

For successful summer learning, we must acknowledge that both students and teachers justifiably have plenty on their minds outside of the classroom. When it comes to supporting them and accelerating growth, these four intervention strategies can help everyone enjoy learning more this summer while also preparing students to thrive in the new school year this fall.

Dr. Tim Hudson is a learning innovator and education leader who frequently writes and speaks about the intersection of learning, schooling, and technology. As Chief Learning Officer at DreamBox Learning, Dr. Hudson oversees the development of innovative learning experiences that are engaging for students and provide teachers with useful information to support differentiation and personalization in their classrooms.

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