Sarah Cranford is an IXL District Partnership Specialist with experience as a high school teacher and district-level administrator.
As educators, we are responsible for teaching all of our students, not just some of them. The challenge, then, is how to teach all learners in an educational system with an uneven playing field—one that we must level out. The good news is that IXL is a powerful tool that can help to address educational inequities. IXL’s personalized learning platform provides the support that every type of learner needs to progress on a path to lifetime success.
Here are three ways you can use IXL to level out the playing field in your classroom, whether your students are in school or learning from home.
1. Empower students
One of the most effective ways to promote equity in your classroom is to give your learners the power of decision-making. If students choose what they want to learn, they develop a sense of ownership in their learning and will be more engaged. Students will recognize that their opinions and voice matter, and they will carry that belief with them beyond the classroom.
While there are times when you’ll want to direct learners to specific IXL skills and topics, there are also opportunities to create space for students to make their own choices. If your students have asynchronous distance learning time, a portion of that time can be spent on their Recommendations wall, exploring skills that excite and engage them. You can also provide time for students to work from their Diagnostic Action Plan, where they can select the skills that they want to try. Since skills on the Diagnostic Action Plan are personalized to each student, any skill your learners choose to practice will help them make progress.
2. Collaborate with your colleagues
In the book Visible Learning, professor of education John Hattie researched what factors have the greatest impact on student learning. He found one of the most important elements is “teacher collective efficacy,” or the extent to which teachers believe they can work together to make a difference for their students. When teachers work in a functioning professional learning community (or PLC), they will be more likely to recognize unfairness in their classrooms and become better armed to address it.
IXL can help you make a plan to work collectively to meet the needs of each learner. To start, in your PLC, share your data from IXL Analytics. After you and your colleagues assign the same skill to your individual classes, compare the data in your Skill Analysis report and look for trends and differences. You can also share your Real-Time Diagnostic data with your PLC. Use that information to group students by need and divide responsibilities to meet every student exactly where they are in their learning journey.
3. Accommodate and encourage discussion
An equitable classroom is one in which students can relate positively to their teacher and to each other. While it can be tempting to have students work individually, IXL offers many opportunities for students to discuss and collaborate.
For example, you can group students working at similar levels based on the Diagnostic Strand Analysis report. This report provides you with a list of students working at the same level along with the best skills for those students to work on. You could also use the Skill Analysis report to partner students with different abilities. Ask a student who has reached mastery on a skill to help a student who has not yet reached your assigned SmartScore.
It is far easier to ensure that every student is able to participate during in-person discussions, but if your students are engaged in distance learning, provide them options for how to participate and communicate. Some students may not feel comfortable speaking live on camera, so give them permission to submit written thoughts or record a video of themselves. Others may feel more confident in-person or online if they have a stable group of peers with whom they work.
Teachers who take on the challenge of promoting equity in their classrooms will experience improved learning for individual students, a more positive classroom community, and a boost to their own love of teaching. And IXL is here to help!