Meeting the Needs of All Learners Requires a Balanced Approach to Instruction

meeting the needs of all learners

Now more than ever we must look at the whole child in education. It is so much more than just being proficient. During this pandemic educators often hear, “Maslow before Bloom.” While I find that to be true, I also believe there is a balance needed. We shouldn’t lower our expectations of children but rather seek to understand what they are dealing with, meet their needs and help them continue to find education as a “safe place” for them. 

So how can we do this as educators? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Every child’s needs need to be looked at individually. What we do have to do is look at the “root causes” of particular behaviors to determine what the next steps will be. 

Prior to Covid 19, if I had a student who continuously tried to sleep in class I would have to “investigate” why the student was tired:

  • Is it because I wasn’t engaging them in the content? 
  • Was the student so lost they just shut down? 
  • Was the child up all night because of situations in the home? 

The possibilities were endless and each situation had different reasoning and solutions.

Meeting Student Needs During Hybrid Learning

The same goes for now. Teachers find that today’s learners may be experiencing:

  • Some students are thriving in online learning; little distractions, they can do it often at a time that is more convenient for them, they may be more comfortable learning from a beanbag chair than a desk. 
  • Others are really struggling with online course work; needing a face-to-face model, structure, and in-person human contact. 
  • Some students aren’t struggling with academics but are yearning for in-person socialization and need more support socially/emotionally. 

Meeting Learners’ Needs Begins with Grade Level Instruction

One thing I can assure you is that children need us! They need us to provide them with the best educational opportunities possible. We must first begin with grade level instruction. (our Instructional Framework 101 goes into more detail around this topic.)

Focusing on standards expected of students is extremely important. Like mentioned before, one size does not fit all. 

That doesn’t mean grade level standards are expected. What this means is the level of support provided is what changes so all students have an access point to the standard (see our Catching Up Kids and At-Risk Students article). Meeting the needs of all learners consists of:

  • Beginning with digging deep into what is expected of the standard and creating appropriate learning targets will help both the student and the educator be focused and provide checkpoints to determine if more or less scaffolding is needed. 
  • Supporting students along the way will help build their self-confidence and ultimately prepare them to begin trying more on their own. 

With the gradual release, students will become more independent and learn to tackle future skills in similar ways. 

So as we all figure out how to approach instruction during such a chaotic time let’s remember to provide students and ourselves with grace and understanding while also providing excellent educational opportunities.  

Debra Simons

I am a mother of two amazing girls and a wife to the world's most wonderful husband. I have been in education for 16 years and love every experience I have been offered. I am currently an Assistant Principal at a phenomenal elementary school. I have been blessed to also work with Learning-Focused for the last 3 years and been a district trainer for almost 5 years.

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