[Intervention Strategies] What to Do When the Whole Class Struggles

Oct 23, 2023
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Teachers are trained in differentiation techniques designed to bring struggling students back up to pace. Most of the time, these interventions are targeted, temporary, and effective. But what happens if a whole class starts losing ground? This can be particularly challenging for educators who are teaching multiple periods, for whom pacing guides may dictate that all classes need to stay as close to each other as possible as they move through the curriculum. Here are three tips help get an entire classroom back on track.

Look at your assessments

Assessment scores tend to determine whether students are considered to be struggling. Make sure the assessments you’re using accurately reflect the knowledge and skills called for in your standards to help you make accurate judgements about where your class stands. A quick rule of thumb is assessments should use the same verbs as are used in a standard, since verbs are action words.

It’s also important to consider if formative assessments reflect your summative tests. With a few modifications, you can even use the same test items. Ensuring alignment between formative and summative tests helps your feel confident you’re receiving an accurate portrayal of student skills at the time when you can do something about it: before the test.

Think about what has changed

When you see sudden drops in class performance, it helps to narrow down what has changed. Make a list having to do with everything from curriculum to timing to class roster. For example, did you try a new seating arrangement? Dive into a new text book or online curriculum? Drop a bell work assignment you had been using consistently? Ask your students too, confidentially if necessary; they will have insights that you may not have noticed. In the process, you may find a quick fix for your struggling class. If not, you can start pinpointing aspects of your class management or lesson plans to try modifying.

Be aware of background knowledge

Certain topics rely on background knowledge that wasn’t delivered directly before the current lesson. Sometimes, that knowledge may have even been covered in the previous semester or school year. Students often aren’t willing to admit when they don’t know something, or they don’t realize the knowledge gap until they’re struggling because of it. Modern standards, although dense, often follow a numbering scheme that nests within itself. Retrace some steps, determine where your students seem to be missing knowledge, and carve out some class time to reteach; it will save time in the long run.

Looking for more tips to effectively track your students’ progress and make adjustments to instruction in real-time? Check out this blog post for 5 Ways to Use Formative Assessment Data to Guide Learning.

This post was originally published February 2017 and has been updated.

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