Effective Classrooms, Improved Outcomes

One thing that is constant in education is change. Pedagogical practice evolves; the science about cognitive development expands; and we know the extent to which students have a variety of learning needs. And politics and commerce have their influence.

Among the vast array of research and recommendations, Cognia™, formerly AdvancED | Measured Progress, focuses on identifying specific changes that lead to better schools and increased opportunities for students. We offer accreditation and certification, assessment, professional learning, and improvement services. Our legacy in helping schools evaluate and improve reaches back more than a century, and we’ve been at the forefront of student assessment for close to 40 years. We’ve learned what’s important over the long run—and among the wealth of theories and practice, two elements play a persistent, fundamental role in both student and school success.

Students who attend schools showing high levels of engagement and healthy cultures demonstrate significantly higher performance than students at other schools. In other words, increasing student engagement and defining positive aspects of the school environment are key to achieving improved outcomes for students.

Close-up on students

What effect does student engagement have on student performance and school quality? A lot, according to the more than 80,000 hours of classroom observations we’ve conducted around the world, and according to well-regarded research by J.A. Fredricks, J.D. Finn & D.A. Rock, and others. When students are behaviorally, cognitively, and emotionally engaged, they participate actively in class, feel safe, and complete more challenging work that meets their personal learning needs.

Classroom observations that focus primarily on teacher performance overlook important information. The effectiveness of teaching isn’t revealed only in teachers’ behavior, but in how students respond to the learning environment. To gain insight on whether a classroom fosters student engagement, the observation focus should be on the students.

To gather the objective data needed, we offer schools and school systems an instrument that educators use to examine how students interact with seven key elements, or “learning environments”—such as high expectations and active learning—that our research has identified in effective classrooms. With a view of their current landscape, educators can identify appropriate next steps toward improvement.

Focus on school environment

No two schools are alike. But it is possible to apply a common framework in which to view effective schools. Our research in more than 36,000 institutions in the U.S. and around the world has led to a holistic approach to school improvement, spanning academic and non-academic elements that are important to student success. These seven factors are shown to support improved student outcomes:

  • Clear direction
  • Healthy culture
  • High expectations
  • Impact of instruction
  • Resource management
  • Efficacy of engagement
  • Implementation capacity

At Cognia, we believe that every school and school system can be better tomorrow than it is today. We’ve seen that belief borne out in thousands of schools that adopt a consistent focus on student engagement and key learning environments. Tangible and sustainable improvement is within reach.

 
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