As educators and administrators we want all students to succeed, and recognize that our attitude and commitment to helping them make forward progress are important aspects to their pursuit of excellence. Helping students recognize and reach their full potential is an challenging task for teachers of any students. Providing opportunities for skill development and aiding in a child’s intellectual and social growth, and academic development requires a great deal of thoughtful preparation in any school.
Educators in alternative settings—such as hospital education programs, residential treatment facilities, or behavioral health settings—face additional challenges in reaching this goal. These include:
- Having an ever-changing caseload of students
- Working with students for a limited or uncertain timeframe
- The need to reach & engage students quickly upon admission
- Diverse & difficult situations that have led to a student-patient’s admission
- Helping student-patients (and families) understand the importance of continuing to make academic progress while receiving treatment.
Educators working in environments play an important role in supporting students during a time of need, while also providing an opportunity for normalization. Working to help students understand and reach their full potential, no matter the duration of their time in the classroom, is vital to encouraging them to overcome the challenges they are facing.
Here are 5 tips for helping student-patients understand & reach their full potential:
1. Set Clear & High Expectations (Pygmalion Effect)
Research has shown that when students are held to high standards of expectation, they perform at a higher level than others held to lesser standards, the impact of which is called the Pygmalion effect. Setting clear expectations for the hospital education classroom helps students quickly understand how the classroom works, and what is expected. When students meet expectations (through effort and teacher support), it provides a great opportunity for praise and to show students that they can succeed regardless of their circumstances. Expectations should be high, but not unreasonable, and should be approached with flexibility.
2. Have Consistency in Routines and Classroom Procedures
Just as clear expectations help set the tone, having consistent routines and procedures in the hospital classroom helps students naturally integrate into the setting and recognize the educational time as legitimate and valuable. Even with an ever-changing roster, new student-patients will be able to identify and fall into the natural rhythm of class, and students who have attended previously can help those who are new understand what to do while in class. Consistency also helps children feel safe and secure, which is very important during what can be a difficult time for student-patients.
3. Utilize technology for both assistive technology & to identify student levels
At times, even getting students to complete assigned work can be a challenge for hospital educators. Providing appropriate curriculum materials and encouraging students to complete assignments by giving them the tools for success are two vital components to increase adherence to task. Technology resources, such as iPads, digital learning software, or online assessments can help teachers quickly identify levels and proper curriculum for individuals students, ensuring that work is not too easy (which can be boring to students) or too hard (which can lead to negative feelings and demotivation). Technology can also be used to help students overcome difficulties to success, such as typing if writing is difficult or a trigger, or leveled academic games that celebrate progressive accomplishments.
4. Identify & Support Student Learning Styles
To help students succeed, we must first understand the best ways to accomplish that. Students have unique preferences and learning styles that both motivate them to learn, and help them be successful in doing so. One way to incorporate learning styles into education is by integrating the theory of multiple intelligences into the curriculum delivery. Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard University, proposed in 1983 that there are 8 different intelligences that, when used as pathways to learning, can drive student success. Crafting creative lessons that provide opportunities to engage in the different intelligences will help students find a meaningful way to connect with the curriculum, leading to student success.
5. Teach Social Emotional Skills (Self-Awareness/Management & Coping Skills)
Building an educational environment that promotes social and emotional learning helps provide essential skills that serve as the foundation for students to recognize and achieve their full potential. Skills such as self-awareness, self-management and responsible decision making are necessary as students work to navigate the academic and social world around them. Helping students learn how to use coping skills in class provides an outlet for frustrations or distractions that may hinder future success as well.
No matter how short the duration of their time with student-patients, hospital educators play an important role in helping students both to continue to make academic progress during treatment, and to recognize that they possess the ability to overcome immense challenges and work towards their full potential.