How can teachers use technology to close the achievement gap?


How can teachers use technology to close achievement gaps and increase participation? originally appeared on Quora: the place to acquire and share knowledge, enabling people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Reply by Frank Spor, Western University of Health Sciences, in their Session:

Students come from diverse socio-economic, cultural and educational backgrounds. When these factors create a disadvantage for students when it comes to their academic performance, it is called an achievement gap. Active learning has been shown to play a role in reducing the achievement gap in education.

To bridge the achievement gaps, it is important to transform passive students into active learners by allowing them to engage in their courses and course materials instead of passively receiving knowledge. Classes should use techniques or technologies that allow students to engage and not “hide” in the online environment.

For example, research shows that there are several factors that can contribute to students being “shy” in class, such as their cultural background, fear of embarrassment, or perceived failure. The use of an audience response tool with the ability to anonymize attendance during lessons facilitates the participation of otherwise reluctant students.

During the last academic term, it was also important to recognize that some students were in a general state of anxiety and worry. They didn’t know what to expect with this sudden shift to online learning and they didn’t know if they would be able to perform as well online as the in-person lessons. With that in mind, my goal was to make sure they felt supported and empowered to succeed, and that meant they could easily and actively participate in their education before, during and after class.

When we switched to online learning, I used the Top Hat active learning platform to help my students, and their exam scores increased 3.7% to an average of 87.3 %. On top of that, student engagement actually improved, with participation rates reaching 100%.

I combined Top Hat with Zoom video conferencing software to replicate the privacy of classroom lessons and labs. Before each class, students logged into Top Hat and completed a 10-minute pre-conference assignment and assessment that I prepared to highlight key concepts for each upcoming class topic. The assessment identified areas of content that needed further clarification during the course, and I adjusted my scheduled course accordingly to focus on the areas where they needed help the most. Then I asked questions during the conference to understand which concepts turned out to be the most difficult and focused my time on helping them get through that. After class, I assigned them interactive content to review and work on on their own.

Another benefit of using a platform like Top Hat was that I could use it to host all of my class material, including homework, interactive lesson questions, and slides, among others. This made it easier for students to have a one-stop-shop that they could access directly from their devices, no matter where they were, reducing the potential barriers associated with navigating different resources and technologies.

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