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How to prevent achievement gaps if you’re teaching online

For many years now, we’ve heard the term “achievement gap” mentioned in various news reports, political campaigns, and other media formats. The “achievement gap” is a challenge because, in one classroom, you will likely have students with varying levels of ability, meaning some are ahead of or behind the curve.

To close the achievement gap through online teaching, we must first understand what it is and address it adequately.

What is an opportunity gap?

The opportunity gap, often referred to as the achievement gap, is used to describe the correlation between a student’s ability to procure necessary learning materials and their overall success.

For example, students with better technology and resources are more likely to succeed in a course than those who lack the same resources. The achievement gap theory, based initially on an individual student’s mental ability to learn and the differences between them, has changed over the past few years to include opportunity, social status, and race as factors that play a much larger role in this issue.

Like most aspects in life, an individual’s race, social status, and circumstance (geographical location, external influences, etc.) will have lasting effects on that student’s ability to succeed in their education. Although there’s no quick fix for the opportunity gap, by understanding and addressing the issue, teachers can adjust their methods to offer knowledge of equal level to every student—regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Personalized learning and teaching resources

With the recent shift to online learning, instructors feel both physically and emotionally distant from their classes. While this is a normal reaction to the changes we’ve all had to experience, there are ways instructors can adjust their online teaching techniques to provide better assistance to students in every scenario.

The first step to closing the achievement gap is to personalize the online learning experience and offer teaching resources that suit each student’s individual needs. This method will require additional effort from instructors but will be well worth the reward. By recommending resource materials that are interesting and readily available to your students, you will promote a positive learning environment and yield much better results.

For example, if you know your student doesn’t have access to a computer but does have a smartphone or tablet, try recommending a free learning app instead of a website. If one of your students prefers watching videos over reading, recommend a YouTube channel or documentary they can access, or you can lend them.

Young students gathered around a laptop in the classroom

Teach culturally relevant topics

Reflect students’ cultural diversity. Effective school policies and practices seek to bridge the difficult communication divide between students and educators who differ in race, ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic status.

Perhaps one of the most important things a teacher can do to prevent achievement gaps in their online class is to teach culturally relevant topics. Learn about your students and assign issues that reflect their heritage or cultural background. Including opportunities to learn about others is an excellent way to connect with your class and ensure a positive remote learning experience.

Without the physical connection of a traditional classroom setting, you’ll want to find ways to understand your students better, even through a computer screen. Take this opportunity to ask your students to teach the class about their cultural background or family history.

Set reasonable goals

The transition from traditional education to remote learning has been a massive shift for both students and teachers, and with this shift comes a compassion movement we desperately needed.

When teaching your students online, be sure to set reasonable goals that you know your students can achieve. As the instructor, your goal is to provide quality education and set your students up for success. When creating your lesson plans, projects, and exams, make sure you consider each student’s needs and the likelihood that they’ll succeed at that task.

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Track individual success with Crowdmark

Because distance education is new to many of your students, some will require more help than others to hit specific benchmarks.

You’ll want to track your students’ progress with a grading tool like Crowdmark. Crowdmark is an online grading app that allows instructors to organize all their classes in one place and monitor their students’ grades as a class and individually. With the analytics feature, teachers can easily see which students require more assistance than others and who might benefit from more challenging assignments.

Using Crowdmark also allows instructors to instantly provide meaningful feedback to their students, giving remote learning the personal touch we all need.

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