Far too many students in the US sit in a classroom, surrounded by thirty other students, receiving no attention from their teacher. Too many students are unable to communicate with their instructors, falling behind in classes and failing to master materials. Students of all abilities and backgrounds want classrooms that are inclusive and convey respect. For those students with learning differences, the classroom setting may present specific challenges that need accommodation and consideration.
Studies show that inclusion is beneficial for all students—not just for those who get learning support services. In fact, research shows that an inclusive education has positive short-term and long-term effects for all students.
The term academic support may refer to a wide variety of instructional methods, educational services, or school resources provided to students in an effort to help them accelerate their learning progress, catch up with their peers, meet learning standards, learn greater social-emotional intelligence, or generally succeed in school.
In practice, academic support encompasses a broad array of educational strategies, including tutoring sessions, supplemental courses, summer learning experiences, after-school programs, teacher advisors, and volunteer mentors, as well as alternative ways of grouping, counseling, and instructing students. Academic support may be provided to individual students, specific student populations (such as non-English speakers), or all students in a school.
At Wasatch Academy, the Learning Services Program is designed for all types of students with the goal of building a positive community of learners who are recognized and appreciated for their unique learning abilities. “I think having an educational and social/emotional-based support system that is consistent and reinforcing for the student is the greatest benefit of learning support. Students have someone who they get to know and who can coach/mentor them on their development,” states Wasatch Academy Behavior Specialist, Joe Dixon.
“The teenage brain is still malleable and developing during crucial high school years. Having a dedicated academic support professional who can understand a student’s unique learning needs, in the areas of growth and their areas of strength, is incredibly beneficial. Furthermore, having access to an educator that is trained on best practices for addressing those needs allows for a dedicated, concentrated, and highly customized approach to education and opens up the student’s access to learning,” said Kara Loftin, Assistant Head of School for Student Support.
Areas of academic need that may have been ignored or undiscovered during elementary and middle school years become acutely more noticeable as academic work becomes more specialized, complex, and concentrated. Loftin continues, “Having a one-to-one academic coaching approach to education benefits the students who struggle in school as well as those who thrive in school.”
Wasatch Academy’s Academic Coaching features a 1:1 student-to-teacher ratio with students receiving direct instruction on identified executive function skills; brain-based skills that individuals need to solve problems and execute tasks effectively. Skills include prioritization, sustained attention, organization, task initiation, response inhibition, flexibility, metacognition, and more. Dixon states, “The professional academic coaches at Wasatch Academy know how to teach executive function skills to be purposeful in the accelerated development of essential core skills. At Wasatch Academy, the students know it is a safe space where they can fail successfully and have a trusted adult pick them up and help them re-start until they reach success.”
Dixon continues, “We assess where the student currently is and make an individualized plan on how to get the student to the next level. We are purposeful in our teaching of behaviors and skills that have been empirically proven to increase greater access to learning, both formal and informal, as well as greater success in attaining and maintaining skills and knowledge. “
Wasatch Academy’s academic coaches collaborate with the student’s teachers to know what barriers the student is facing, and then they work individually with the student on new behaviors to overcome those barriers. “We make it impossible for a student to fall through the cracks as there are consistent check-ins and opportunities for the student to show responsibility for their growth,” said Dixon.
One-on-one learning relationships empower students to take control of their studies, have the confidence to communicate what they need, and receive the personalized attention that will enable them to succeed. Every student deserves to be empowered to own their learning.