We all struggle from time to time, but the danger that presents itself when a student continues to fall behind without the right support is a widespread concern, with good reason. According to a study by the national testing group, ACT, even within high-performing, wealthy schools, students who fall far behind academically in 4th and 8th grade have less than a ‘one in three’ chance of being ready for college or a career by the end of high school. A similar study carried out by the American Educational Research Association on how low reading skills affect graduation rates reveals that a student struggling to read at grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate than a child who reads proficiently by this time. The study also discovered that if poverty plays a role, that student is thirteen times less likely to graduate on time than his or her wealthier counterpart. With statistics like these reflecting the detrimental impact that falling behind can have, how we respond to struggling students becomes pivotal. With a brief yet crucial time gap in which to do so, effectively responding to struggling students depends on a number of steps, which begin with getting the answers.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

The key to getting students back on track lies in an educator’s ability to find out why and where they’re falling behind, something that has long posed a challenge out of students’ fear or embarrassment to speak up. Many are now benefitting from the transformative power of learning analytics to discover how each student is progressing, getting all the answers they need, in real-time. Without the necessity for students to reach out for help, or explain why and where they’re struggling, these insights are empowering educators to take control, and provide the right support when, and where, it’s needed.

“If a child is off task, perhaps the problem is not the child, but the task.” – Alfie Kohn

Along with finding the answers to why and where a student is struggling comes the realization that perhaps the problem lies within the task, and not the student. Self-assessment is an artform that many educators are still mastering, despite its necessity within the teaching trade. Taking a critical look at every lesson, self-assessing educators ensure every student is challenged, changing methods and adapting tasks to suit the different abilities, interests and needs that fill their classrooms. By introducing new and exciting learning tools into the classroom, and providing as much choice as possible, students are motivated to pursue their goals in a way that works for them. Using personalization engines, students are afforded a one-to-one learning experience in an environment that’s tailored to them, specifically aimed at keeping them on task, and providing the necessary support to help every student to succeed.

“Tech is all about building human connections.” – Padmasree Warrior

With the answers and the tools to provide the best response, at the best time, what more do we need? In our quest to find the most effective solutions, we often overlook the importance of the relationships behind the tools we use. Without a strong connection between teacher and student, communication is lost, and learning is hindered. Technology can help to break down traditional communication barriers between students and teacher by initiating fresh approaches and student-driven methods that speak their language. The introduction of social media and instant messaging into the learning environment has allowed us to explore more flexible, open, and collaborative communication between students and teacher, reinforcing the purpose behind the technology.

With adaptive solutions that combine analytics, personalization, and collaboration, responding to struggling students in the right way is more achievable than ever before. Fishtree helps to break down existing communication barriers, while constructing a self-paced environment that gives students more control, choice, and voice. Empowering students and teachers to work together, 21st century solutions are building learning environments that leave no one behind.

Like what you’ve read? Find out more about providing the right response, at the right time, with the 21st century learning platform.

About the author:


Lorna Keane specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Image credits: anna gutermuth / CC BY 2.0