How can a teacher raise student achievement in classes of mixed abilities? This was the challenge facing Ashley Simpson when she started teaching at Lutterworth College in the UK. Her solution was to use itslearning to ensure all her students can access learning materials that suit their level – and she has seen a 25% rise in student grades over the last two years.
Ashley began teaching psychology A-level (for students aged 16–18) at Lutterworth College in 2008 – and she soon realised that one of her biggest challenges was differentiating study materials to suit the varying abilities and interest levels of her students. “I have some students who find the basic topics challenging and some who find them too easy,” she explains. “So I needed to find a way to give weaker students access to basic study aids that would help them pass the course, while also giving stronger students – like those who want to study psychology at university – access to extension materials that they could use to further their understanding of the topics.”
The solution she and her colleagues developed was surprisingly simple. For each unit taught, they set up three folders in the itslearning course where students can find home study materials to suit their level of interest. So what are the folders and what’s inside them?
- Support: includes basic materials such as class notes, PowerPoints and revision strategies for students who missed class or need extra time to grasp the basics
- Additional: includes materials for students who found a particular topic interesting and would like to explore more, such as films that explain the subject, case studies and articles
- Extension: includes more advanced materials, such as real psychology papers and links to the latest research on the internet, for students who really want to go deeper into the subject
No more lost homework
According to Ashley, setting the system up required quite a bit of work. She and her colleagues had to go through every piece of material and decide which folder it belonged in. They then had to upload it to the learning platform, give it a name and description that students would find useful and tag it with learning objectives so students could find it in a search. But, Ashley believes, the investment was worth it.
“Everything is much easier for me now,” she says. “I have all my materials in one place and, if I find a new resource, it only takes a few minutes to add it to a folder. Also, because everything is on itslearning, my students can no longer say that they didn’t know what the homework was or had lost the hand-out.”
Fewer failing students
Most importantly for Ashley, her students use the folders outside the classroom to further their studies – and this has resulted in them getting better grades. In fact, average psychology grades at the college have increased by 25% in the last two years. According to Ashley, the main improvement has been among low performing students because more students are now passing the course who would previously have failed.
About Lutterworth College
A comprehensive school for students aged 14+, Lutterworth College has specialist status in technology and applied learning and its students consistently get results above the UK average.