How Your Learner Can Benefit From Educational Best Practices

How Your Learner Can Benefit From Educational Best Practices

a smiling girl wearing pigtails looks up from a book she's reading after help from Fit Learning's customized, 1:1 reading tutoring

Have you seen news headlines or read articles about the remarkable effectiveness of some other countries’ education systems as compared to the United States? Wondering why that is, and what we can learn from it?

Global Education … How the US Stacks Up

Over the years, it’s been reported that US students underperform in key subject areas when compared to learners in countries such as Singapore, China, South Korea, and Finland. Oftentimes these global rankings are derived from standardized tests administered through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA assesses students’ critical thinking skills in the areas of math, reading, and science.

globe representing how Fit Learning's technique embodies educational best practices in nations outside the USIn the 2022 PISA, US students’ average test score ranked 18th out of the 81 participating countries. America trailed not only China and Korea, but also Estonia, Canada, Poland, and other nations. And unfortunately the US scores aren’t improving; the 2022 math scores were the lowest since the PISA testing began in 2000.

What the US Can Learn from Other Countries

In her book The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley takes an in-depth look at the disparity. She worked closely with US students who transferred to schools in Finland, South Korea, and Poland, countries with high (or dramatically improved) scores on PISA. Riley’s findings revealed the factors behind those countries’ success and the lessons we can learn from them in the US.

As you might expect, making the types of large-scale societal changes needed to help overhaul US education would involve a vast degree of commitment, effort, time and collaboration among the American people and leadership. However, on a more individual scale, there are takeaways from Ripley’s research that can be useful for US parents looking to improve their children’s education. Several of these educational best practices are key components of Fit Learning’s method.

How Fit Learning Embodies Proven Educational Success Factors

Educational best practice: Focus on learning, not just grades. Prioritize developing a love of learning, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities.

test sheet with a grade at the top, representing the fact that Fit Learning focuses on foundational skill gaps rather than letter gradesAt Fit, we meet learners where they are, regardless of grade or skill level. We focus on teaching component (or “building block”) skills that will provide a solid foundation for future learning. What we teach – and how we teach it – extends beyond the content currently being covered in class. It’s all about getting the basics down pat so that learners are equipped to tackle more advanced material.

In addition, Fit’s method fosters critical thinking and strengthens student’s executive functioning skills such as problem-solving, working memory, planning, and emotion regulation. (More information on Fit’s impact on executive functioning is available in this blog post.)

And finally, Fit’s learning environment is encouraging and fast-paced. We celebrate each learner’s “personal best” achievements and make it FUN every day, which boosts children’s confidence and sparks a lifelong love of learning. (In this blog post, we go into more detail about how Fit’s method bolsters’ student confidence.)

Educational best practice: Don’t shy away from using a rigorous curriculum. Because with practice and perseverance, students CAN learn.

Ripley cites math as an example of how students’ mindset toward challenging content can differ by country. She writes, “Koreans understood that mastering difficult academic content was important. They didn’t take shortcuts, especially in math. They assumed that performance was mostly a product of hard work – not God-given talent.” Whereas in the US, “Math was, for some reason, considered more of an innate ability, like being double-jointed.”

Fit’s curriculum is individualized, so it’s appropriately challenging for each student. At the start of the enrollment, the learner takes a comprehensive intake assessment. The test results guide the Fit coaching team in crafting a customized curriculum for that child. This personalized approach ensures that no time is wasted during tutoring. Rather, the learning sessions are used to target specific skill weak areas to help the learner progress to their fullest potential. The overall experience is efficient and effective, facilitating future academic success.

young boy sitting on a stack of books while looking through a book on his lap, representing Fit Learning's use of fluency training to achieve results in reading, math, and other core subjectsEducational best practice: Teach with the goal of fluency.

In her book, Ripley describes the importance of fluency training in Poland and Korea. She writes, “Back in America, Tom and all his classmates had used calculators. In his Polish math class, calculators were not allowed. Tom could tell the kids were doing a lot of the math in their heads. They had learned tricks that had become automatic, so their brains were freed up to do the harder work. It was the difference between being fluent in a language and not.” And “In Korea, math moved fluidly. When the teacher asked questions, the kids answered as if math were a language that they knew by heart.”

At Fit, helping learners achieve fluency is central to our success. While traditional education only measures accuracy, fluency training also incorporates pace. So, not only does a fluent learner respond accurately, but they also respond quickly without having to stop and think it through, much like Ripley describes the instruction in Poland and Korea. This is huge, because students who are fluent can spend their time and energy on absorbing and comprehending information versus simply decoding it.

Educational best practice: Focus on what’s foundational.

Ripley describes how the US curriculum has gotten so content-heavy and repetitive that there is insufficient time to thoroughly cover the most vital skills needed to progress. She writes, “American textbooks tended to be far too long – covering (and repeating) way too many topics in too little depth. Internationally, the average eighth grade math textbook was 225 pages long; in the United States, eighth grade math texts averaged 800 pages … For too long, what American kids learned had been a matter of chance. The problem with chance was that math was a hierarchy. If kids like Tom and Kim missed one rung on the scaffolding, they would strain and slip and probably never get a foothold on the next rung.”

Fit’s curriculum targets the most foundational (or component) skills needed for a child’s future success. Its method goes deeper than many other tutoring solutions by identifying – and then addressing – the actual deficiencies in the learner’s “building block skills.” Once the learner has filled in the gaps and become fluent in those skills, they are ready to move on to learn the more advanced concepts being taught in class. The result is that the learner has a firm “scaffolding” (as Ripley mentions) that sets them up for success in the future, as material gets more challenging. In other words, students not only learn the academic material at hand, but also are more confident and better equipped to succeed in the long-term.

Educational best practice: Use regular standardized tests to monitor learning.

Ripley writes: “Around the world, school systems that used regular standardized tests tended to be fairer places, with smaller gaps between what rich and poor kids knew.” Why? Because “Tests helped schools to see what they were doing right and wrong, and who needed more help. That insight was a prerequisite, not a solution.”

several young students in a classroom working on assignments, much like Fit Learning uses standardized testing to gauge student progress and pinpoint learning gapsAs part of our science-based approach, Fit uses regular testing as a teaching tool, to pinpoint areas needing improvement. The program kicks off with an intake assessment to identify the learner’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, as the student progresses through their customized curriculum, Fit learning coaches continuously capture performance data to gauge skill mastery. They use this data to adjust their 1:1 teaching in “real time” to achieve the best possible learning outcomes. Just another way that each learning session is both efficient and effective.

Educational best practice: Embrace failure; see it as a natural part of the learning process, encouraging perseverance and resilience.

Embrace failure? That might seem counterintuitive. However it’s a theme Ripley encountered repeatedly, even in countries with very different cultures and education systems. She writes, “Wealth had made rigor optional in America. But everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; they need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor … They understood the value of persistence.” She recalls that, in Poland, “Kids were used to failing, it seemed … If the work was hard, routine failure was the only way to learn.” And, in Finland, “Rigorous work required failure; you simply couldn’t do it without failing. That meant that teenagers had the freedom to fail while they were still young enough to learn how to recover.”

Fit’s approach develops perseverance in learners. At Fit, the environment is nurturing and fun, and learners are given lots of practice opportunities. So instead of perpetuating a fear of failure, Fit fosters a supportive partnership between learning coach and student. And instead of focusing on grades, we celebrate each time a student achieves a personal best for a given skill. Fit students are actively engaged in the learning process, helping track their own progress and celebrating personal bests.

Fit’s Winning Formula Achieves Results

To recap, key aspects of Fit Learning’s method reflect education best practices … in the US and beyond, including:young boy outside of a school giving a thumbs-up, feeling happy and confident after individualized tutoring at Fit Learning

  • Stimulating students’ critical thinking and fostering a love of learning
  • Using a challenging curriculum that takes the learner’s skills to the next level
  • Teaching to fluency, not just accuracy
  • Targeting the most critical skills so the learner has a firm foundation before moving on to harder material
  • Leveraging continuous testing and data to make learning sessions as effective as possible and to make the best use of students’ time
  • Strengthening learners’ perseverance and resiliency in an environment where they aren’t afraid to fail

Fit’s approach works, with Fit learners improving an average of one or two grade levels of progress in as little as 40 hours of instruction. More specifics on our student outcomes can be found here.

Academic Programs Offered at Fit Learning

Fit’s subject areas include reading, expressive writing, math, logic, penmanship, spelling, study skills, and kindergarten readiness. We offer dedicated programs for homeschoolers, academic summer camp, and online learning.

All Types of Students Thrive at Fit

Fit’s uniquely individualized approach means that the program can help all kinds of learners, including but not limited to:

  • Learners who are struggling academically in general or with a specific subject area
  • Students who aren’t struggling but to prevent summer slide or skill regression … or who could use help with learning retention
  • Gifted learners seeking further challenge or enrichment
  • Students who are homeschooled or whose parents are considering homeschooling
  • Children with diagnosed learning disabilities (LD), learning differences, special education needs, ADHD, dyslexia, slow processing speed or a processing disorder, developmental disabilities, developmental delays, speech/language delays, dyscalculia, or who are on the autism spectrum (in fact, Fit’s assessment data can help inform IEP decisions and goals)
  • Pre-K children for overall school readiness, covering language building, early math skills, and more
  • Students preparing for a rigorous private school

Regardless of your child’s unique needs, Fit Learning’s method will help take their learning to the next level … all while having fun in a positive and supportive environment.

Helping Your Learner Benefit from Educational Best Practices

To learn more about how Fit Learning can help transform your child’s learning, contact St. Louis lab director Janice Smith. She can answer any questions you may have and schedule an intake assessment to kick off the process. Before long, your student will be reaping the benefits of what research and science have proven works best for learners.