In a regular education classroom, eighth grade learners can be difficult to work with. That is largely because they are starting to develop more than they have in the past - not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well. With that in mind, teachers who work with eighth grade learners must be aware of what these students want and need in their learning experience (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001). It is certainly the job of the teacher to keep order and ensure that students stay on the right track, but it is also very important to make sure that the students' voices are heard. Too often, teachers focus so much on the material the students need to learn that they fail to notice how the students need to learn (Pashler, et al., 2009).
Not everyone learns in the same way, of course, but there are basic formulas that generally work with the majority of students that fall within a particular age group (Tremblay, 2010; Pashler, et al., 2009). By finding and understanding those basic formulas, teachers can help their eighth grade learners get through a time that has traditionally been thought to be difficult for them from an academic and personal standpoint. By recognizing students' needs and their differences, teachers help students find their own place in the classroom and the world, and they show students that they are valuable just the way they are. Knowing they do not have to change to be accepted can be very important for an eighth grade learner, because they are often at an awkward and somewhat uncomfortable age in their eighth grade year.
Because eighth grade is a time of growth and development in so many different ways, the design of instructions and assessment must focus on those issues (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001). Cognition and learning is far different in students in an eighth grade classroom than it is in students who are in kindergarten or who are in college. While these eighth grade students are much better at thinking logically than their younger counterparts, they have still not developed the critical thinking skills of adults. That places them in a unique area of life and of learning. They still retain much of what they learn, and they are still very interested in subjects that fascinate them or that have relevance to their daily lives. However, they are also moving into their teenage years, and going through puberty and all that comes with that. Learning can be difficult when bodies, minds, and beliefs are rapidly changing.
Teachers who want to impart the highest level of knowledge to their eighth grade students must be aware of these kinds of issues, so that instruction and assessment can be carried out in such a way that the students really learn and retain what they need to know for high school and beyond. How a person learns, or how a group of people learn, has to be at the forefront of study when it comes to determining curriculum (Webb, Metha, & Jordan, 2010). Because that is the case, teachers who handle eighth grade curriculum and instruction must consider the developmental level of the average student in their classroom (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001). There will certainly be students who excel and students who fall behind, but that is to be expected at any age and in any classroom where regular education is offered.
As students are working their way through eighth grade, they often have trouble focusing on their studies (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001). Unfortunately, eighth grade is a highly critical time for learning. The only way that a teacher will see a high degree of success is by taking the information the students need to know and making it relatable. Teachers who are able to relate to their students often do better when it comes to teaching their students important concepts, because those concepts can be tied back to something that the students feel has importance and value for their lives. At the same time, many students in eighth grade are somewhat uncomfortable with their changing bodies and minds, so bringing up those kinds of issues (if they are raised at all) must be done with tact and dignity. Otherwise, what could be used as a great learning experience can develop into something far less pleasant.
The development of expertise in the classroom should be facilitated carefully. As has been mentioned, eighth grade is a vulnerable time for students on both a personal and academic level. Because that is the case, students have the opportunity to really excel if they are given the opportunity to do so and if they are given the tools they need. In eighth grade, students are finding themselves. Teachers can help those students learn about themselves and discover more about who they are and who they want to be, but only if they do so correctly (Tremblay, 2010). Expertise in the classroom is often thought to belong only to teachers, but it can certainly belong to the students, as well. Each teacher has the opportunity to offer his or her students the chance to excel, and one of the best ways to do so is to be open to really getting to know the students that one is teaching each year (Webb, Metha, & Jordan, 2010).
By opening up to students and treating them like real people with goals, thoughts, and dreams, teachers show their students that everyone matters and everyone has something to contribute (Pashler, et al., 2009). During that time, students can also learn that there are things at which they can be really good if they are interested in applying themselves. Once they discover a passion for something, they can take that passion and turn it into true expertise in the classroom. Not all students get a high level of encouragement at home, and teachers can fill in the gaps in cases where students could do much better at something if only they believed in themselves and their abilities (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001).
To really facilitate expertise in the classroom, students need to work with one another and in groups. They also need to have the opportunity to discover what they really like to do and the things at which they are good. They may find something that they want to study further or pursue outside of school, or they may find something they can use in order to help others be more successful in some way. Until students have the chance to experience many different options and outlets for their talents and energy, they may lack drive and focus (Tremblay, 2010). Teachers who encourage their students to follow their dreams and who allow their students the chance to explore their interests encourage them to develop expertise in the classroom.
This is done by making that expertise valuable in a way to which the students can relate. Once they see what they will be getting for their focus and expertise, they will be much more likely to continue down the path of education and learning. Expertise in the classroom can not only help students determine what they want to do with their lives, but it can also allow them to grow as human beings and individuals (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001). They gain self-confidence to tackle the next phase of their educational experience, and they have the option to do more with their lives than they might have thought possible. That all comes from letting these students be who they are and explore who they want to be in the future, so they can choose for themselves when it comes to what kind of career path they wish to follow.
Assessing the development of students is still something that has to be done, however. In other words, it is not realistic to just let students be themselves and discover what they want to do without teaching them the skills they need to be successful and well-rounded. Teachers who encourage their students must also actually teach those students, and that teaching must be assessed through various methods (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001). Standardized testing is still one of the best ways of assessing what students learn in the classroom. These kinds of tests are administered by the teachers, but they are created by others. Teachers generally spend a great deal of classroom time getting the students ready for standardized testing, and there are arguments that indicate this may be detrimental.
While standardized testing is a good assessment method, it is not the only thing that should be considered when teachers look at learning. They should also consider the bigger picture of how their students are doing when it comes to the goals they have and the knowledge they have been given. For that, they need to do more than offer standardized tests. They also need to test their students in their own way. How students are tested can vary based on…