Thursday, February 08, 2007

Generalizing Across Environments

This morning was extremely exciting. I have a student (we'll call her Jenna,) who came into my classroom in September unable to multiply anything as simple as 1 x 5. After months of hard work, today she earned a 100% on a quiz about determining area which required her to multiply two-digit numbers by two-digit numbers. She even remembered to include unit of measurement squared. We were both so excited by her success that we had a little mini-celebration. Her peers congratulated her and she was literally glowing.

Fast forward five hours. We're in the cafeteria during the break for afterschool. I go to Jenna's afterschool teacher and tell her about her achievement of the morning. She responds, "That's funny, because on the homework we just went over she got every single one incorrect." I was stunned. At first I couldn't believe it was possible, but then I realized that this is a perfect example of a theory I've heard since I started working in special education.

When we practice for statewide exams, we try to replicate the environment as exactly as possible. Studies have shown that students perform better when they take exams with their classroom teacher, rather than with a different proctor. Jenna, our classroom paraprofessional, and I have been working before school, after school, during lunch, and any other time possible to improve her math skills. And she has made huge improvements. However, she is not generalizing them across environments. I called her mother, and she said Jenna is having trouble there, too. And obviously things aren't going so well in afterschool.

What is my next step to make sure that Jenna can multiply outside of our classroom?

1 comment:

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm a special educator, too, and I wish I had an answer to your question! I think the best we can hope for sometimes is a serendipitious meeting of circumstances and student readiness. As far as I know, there just isn't a magic answer.