Learning gaps are mostly cited as the reason when a learner is struggling to understand content or falls behind in academic areas. But what exactly are learning gaps and how do we fix them and get our learners back on the right track? Learning gap refers to the relative performance of individual students—that is, the disparity between what a student has actually learned and what he or she is expected to learn at a particular age or year level. Learning gaps are the difference between what a learner is expected to have learned by a certain grade level versus what they have actually learned up to that point. These gaps are often compounding. Gaps may be defined as the difference between “the way things are” and “the way they should be”.
It is very important to address the identified learning gaps. If left unaddressed, it can increase the chances that a student will struggle academically. Often a child loses confidence at school and as they progress through their education, repairing learning gaps then can become more difficult. Learners often experience gaps in their learning when a particular concept or subject taught in school was not fully understood. Here’s why learning gaps are a problem – and how to fix them!
When talking about learning gaps, it’s important to understand how they form. Learning is based on educational building blocks (in the sense that new knowledge “builds” upon previous concepts that have been taught). Teachers have to cover a lot of content each year, and sometimes the class needs to move on to the next chapter. If a learner didn’t really “get it” – there’s a good chance that any future concepts that rely on understanding this knowledge are going to be even more difficult to grasp. This is how learning gaps begin to form.
Let’s imagine you’ve identified your students’ learning gaps from a diagnostic assessment. What are your next steps to provide personalized learning and best support each learner in your class to help them improve their understanding? Individualised educational programmes with the correct learning app could be the answer. Delivering through a personalized learning approach will help bridge learning gaps faster. Creation of an individualized lesson plan and monitoring progression and supporting with the right intervention will ensure efficacy in learning. Support Different Abilities by setting different work for groups of students’ depending on their capability. Have multiple learning objectives for a lesson. Let the objectives meet the individual needs of learners and achieve desirable learning outcomes and progress in learning. Track progress and adapt learning. Set particular work for each group to support with targeted learning. Optimize the use of your learning management system. Look ahead at the knowns and unknowns.
Challenge learners at the right level. Educators have more success in helping learners improve when they provide questions that are at the right level for individual students. Questions should be challenging enough to make kids think but not so difficult that they cause frustration. Practice makes progress. For learners who have gaps in their knowledge, practice matters. Meet learners where they are. Build relationships and incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL) into the curriculum. Collect and collectively use the data Training and professional development is key in pulling this off. Schools that have found success in using internal and external assessment data to address their achievement gaps and move all learners toward mastery of the learning standards have worked hard to train their staff in assessment practices, a framework for collaborative conversation around the data, and continuous accountability and support from leadership.
In general, the best way to address learning gaps is simple – go back and revisit the areas that need extra work. Although this seems like an obvious answer, remember that learning gaps form because learners are often forced to “move on” with their class’s pace, regardless of whether or not they have gained a firm understanding of the concept being taught. Teachers have the unique ability to go back and revisit previous topics and subjects that weren’t clear, working one on one at the student’s pace. As the learner gains clarity into concepts that were not understood previously, the gaps in their learning will gradually begin to close. Once learning gaps begin to close, learners often see huge improvements in both their grades as well as their overall attitude towards academics. Learning is constantly about moving forward and building upon previous knowledge, so it’s incredibly important for learners to have a firm academic foundation in all subjects.
One-on-one education is an ideal solution for those students who are dealing with learning gaps. It allows teachers to make a connection with their students in a way that is tailored to their needs. Teaching programs aim to build confidence so they can ask questions and clarify their understanding. As every child has an individual learning style and pace, sometimes all it takes is that one “a-ha!” moment for a child to be excited by working out a problem, giving them a desire to learn more.