Learning Center Helps: Pitfalls to avoid

He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.  – Psalm 7:15

     The practice of making pitfalls has been an often-used method for trapping wild animals and has also been a strategy used against enemy soldiers in times of war. Sometimes a man, having made such a pit, covered it over so completely that he fell into his own trap. Sometimes a supervisor can inadvertently create pitfalls that are hidden and whose danger is not easily recognized. Here are six such pitfalls you will want to avoid.

Pitfall #1—Overloading students with gap PACEs when diagnostic tests reveal that they are weak in several PACEs (in one subject) below their performance levels.

     Proper procedure—If a student misses a concept found two levels or more below his performance level, prescribe a “gap” PACE from the highest level in which the concept is taught but that is still below his performance level. The goal is to strike a balance between ensuring the student learns any missed concepts and not unnecessarily overloading a student with gap PACEs. If the highest PACE in which the concept is taught is assigned and you see that the student is struggling, a lower-level PACE in which the concept is taught is prescribed. Gap PACEs, whether above or below 1097, may be taken for elective credit (for high school transfer students only); but Honors, College Preparatory,or General students must still complete all required courses. Vocational Preparatory students receive full credit toward graduation for PACEs completed at performance level through 1096.

Pitfall #2—Allowing a student to take the PACE Test the same day the PACE is turned in.

     Proper procedure—The PACE Test is given to the student the next school day at the testing table with a word of encouragement and prayer with the staff . Waiting at leastuntil the next day (try to avoid Monday morning testing) before allowing the student to take the PACE Test will put the information learned into his long-term memory. If the learning is only short-term, additional learning gaps may be formed.

Pitfall #3—Allowing students to pass PACE Tests with a score less than 80 percent.

Proper procedure—If a student scores above 80 percent,he advances to the next PACE in his prescription. If not, review the Test by asking yourself these three questions. Was the student careless in matching or computations? Is his answer an acceptable synonym or alternative? Did he misspell an answer so badly the staff did not recognize the intended word? Did he work most of the math activity correctly but miss the answer because of one small mistake? If review indicates the student does not understand the material, he must fail the Test and be issued a repeat PACE. If a supervisor moves the line once, it becomes easier the second time, and still easier the third time. There is the danger of an 80 percent turning into a 79 percent then a 78 percent, until mastery is no longer the standard. An 80 percent indicates mastery; the remaining 20 percent will be caught in review and spiral of curriculum as concepts build.

Pitfall #4—Not requiring students to repeat failed PACEs in their entirety.

Proper procedure—When a student scores below the minimum score of 80 percent on the PACE Test, he must repeat the entire PACE. Do not permit just a review of the PACE before retaking the PACE Test. Allowing shortcuts gives him permission to learn only enough to pass the Test. Remember, mastery of the material is the goal, not passing the PACE Test, Honor Roll, or a field trip. (All reasons for which one may be tempted to take a shortcut.) Failure to follow the Procedures Manual will create future learning difficulties and perhaps a learning gap. Repeating a PACE helps the student realize the importance of learning the material thoroughly. Keep the responsibility of learning on the student’s shoulders. When issuing the new PACE, increase the goals to allow a quick completion, and ask him to score carefully and to correct all errors before proceeding. If the student masters the material, he will be able to build on it easily in the future rather than trying to learn it for the fi rst time along with learning the new concept being added.

Pitfall #5—Neglecting to have students follow the recommended procedure for correcting incorrect responses on Checkups and Self Tests.

Proper procedure—Students who miss questions on Checkups or Self Tests demonstrate a lack of mastery of the material. On Checkups the student should find the correct answer in that section of the PACE and replace the wrong answer with the correct one, placing the page number where the answer was found beside it. Once the student has the correct answer to all missed questions, he raises his fl ag for permission to return to the scoring station to rescore his work. If the answer is correct, the student circles the red “X” placed beside the question when he fi rst scored the material, then returns to his office. He thoroughly reviews all material in that section, especially questions missed, before moving to the next section. For Self Tests the student must fi nd the correct answer from the PACE and rescore. He should thoroughly review the entire PACE, especially questions missed on Checkups and the Self Test, before requesting to take the PACE Test. Train students to be honest.

Pitfall #6—Giving students the answer instead of training them to fi nd the answers themselves.

Proper procedure—The supervisor’s responsibility is not to answer the student’s questions for him but to ask leading questions to determine the nature of the problem, to focus the student’s attention on finding the solution, and to guide him to find the answer. For a student to become a good learner, supervisors must avoid the temptation to be the student’s only source of information. In the conventional classroom, the teacher has been “the sage on the stage.” The supervisor’s role is to be “the guide on the side.” The answer is not the most important thing—training the student to find the answer is. Make sure he reads and understands the directions (have him read and state the directions in his own words) and knows what reference sources are available. In math, have him
show his work and check to see that the correct answer can be achieved with the work shown (he didn’t just copy the answer). If the student comes to depend on you for the answers, you fail to train him to be a learner. Two kinds of supervisors are prone to this pitfall.First, there is the undiscerning
supervisor who fails to recognize the specific needs and abilities of students and makes an inaccurate judgment of how to best help them. An undiscerning supervisor may see a student struggling with an activity and intervene too early with suggestions like, “Here’s how you do that” or “You don’t have to do that activity (or that page); it’s too difficult” and strikes out the activity or section with his green pen. The student’s opportunity to learn problem-solving skills has been short-circuited because the supervisor failed to discern the student’s need to find the answer for himself. He inadvertently created gaps for the student. Supervisors must help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills not solve the problems for them!

Second, there is the distressed supervisor who lacks perseverance to do everything possible to help students succeed academically. He knows what needs to be done to help each student, but when he sees all the Christian flags
to be answered, he reasons—I don’t have time now to answer all those flags. So he hurriedly answers the student with “Here’s the answer” or “Here’s the Score Key—fi nd the answer.” The supervisor may be saving his time, but he is not helping the student discover answers for himself. He may give the answer to one activity only to realize the student raises his flag again for the next activity and wants the answer. This supervisor becomes an economic liability to the school and may lead to the need for additional staff . “Give a man a fi sh and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fi sh and he will eat for a lifetime.”

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