Archive for the ‘Student Learning’ Category

What YouTube Taught Me About Learning

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

This week I’m giving a post-dinner talk in Niagara Falls, Canada.  I’m never too sure about how such a thing can be done, but as I prepared the presentation, I asked myself, what would I want after teaching all day, driving to a conference, and having a nice dinner?  Aside from a short talk, I thought, I suppose I wouldn’t mind watching some videos and talking with my friends.

So that is what I decided to do.  The presentation summarizes six ideas about learning, both personal and professional, illustrated by some of my favorite video clips and quotations.  I’ve included the clips, ideas, and quotations here.

1.  Learning that dehumanizes carries the seeds of its own failure.

This clip, for me, captures a simple idea, that life should be fun, joyous, playful and human. Margaret Wheatley says it beautifully:

There is a simpler way to organize human endeavor. It requires being in the world without fear. Being in the world with play and creativity. Seeking after what’s possible. Being willing to learn and be surprised.

The learning we experience and the learning we provide should celebrate that humanity.

2. Learning involves partnership.

This conversation, for me, illustrates that no matter how different our level of expertise or status, we can still engage in respectful, partnership conversations.

When we do learning to each other, using what Paulo Freire refers to as banking education, we decrease humanity. An alternative is to learn with people in partnership, that is, to design learning that recognizes each adult or child’s need for autonomy.  Peter Block, whose work really introduced me to the idea of partnership, writes about it this way:

Partners each have a right to say no. Saying no is the fundamental way we have of differentiating ourselves. To take away my right to say no is to claim sovereignty over me. For me to believe that I cannot say no is to yield sovereignty.

3. Learning occurs in a culture.

Learning in any system — a classroom, a school, a school system — occurs in a culture. Therefore, one of the true challenges for a leader (a teacher, principal, superintendent, whomever) is to shape culture. Edgar Schein, who literally wrote the book on organizational culture and leadership, puts it this way:

The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.

4. Coaching accelerates learning.

For more than a decade we’ve been learning how coaching can help people improve practice.  When coaches help teachers set goals, work as partners with colleagues, demonstrate what Michael Fullan refers to as impressive empathy, they provide a very important service for their colleagues.  Atul Gawande’s New Yorker article is the best writing I’ve seen describing the challenges and potential of coaching.

5. Learning involves striving for personal bests, striving to do things we couldn’t do before.

What I notice about this clip is how profoundly empowering it is for Cooper in this clip to do something he couldn’t do before. There are at least two ways to understand learning. One way is to assume that people need to be motivated by leaders, and therefore learning requires extrinsic rewards and punishments if people are going to move them forward.

An alternative is to assume that people actually want to do good work; people need to be trying to improve, to be striving for personal bests, to feel they are living a fulfilling life.  One of my favorite authors, George Sheehan, puts it this way:

My end is not simple happiness. My need, drive, and desire is to achieve my full and complete self. If I do what I have come to do, if I create the life I was made for, then happiness will follow.

6. Learning involves moral purpose.

One thing, I believe, that characterizes Mr. Rogers is that he clearly did what he did because he cared about other people more than himself. For professionals, for educators, focusing on something bigger than ourselves is very important.  Michael Fullan, who’s written several books about moral purpose and moral imperative, put it this way:

Moral purpose, defined as making a difference in the lives of students, is a critical motivator for addressing the sustained task of complex reform. Passion and higher order purpose are required because the effort needed is gargantuan and must be morally worth doing.

I love all these quotations and clips, and like so many things, I see them through my perspectives. I hope you see them from your perspectives, and that you benefit from watching them too.  I’d love to know what other clips and quotations you think truly illustrate key ideas about professional and student learning.

What clips and quotations inspire, encourage, and educate you?

What Can Gandhi Teach Us About Standardized Testing?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

“The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree… We reap exactly what we sow.” Indian Home Rule, M.K. Gandhi

When I first read Mahatma Gandhi’s collected writings, I felt I had found someone who saw the world with a clarity and simple wisdom that truly could change me and change the world. He profoundly affected my world view. And of course, Gandhi changed the world. He may have been the greatest leader of the 20th Century.

Gandhi believed that the means never justify the ends, no matter how important the ends might be. Looking at his homeland, India, where there was dire need for revolution, Gandhi was crystal clear that violence should never be used to create a better nation:

Violence breeds violence…Pure goals can never justify impure or violent action…They say the means are after all just means. I would say means are after all everything. As the means, so the end… If we take care of the means we are bound to reach the end sooner or later.

Too often at home and at our schools we lose sight of Gandhi’s wisdom and try to justify a quick fix because of an important end. And that can especially be the case with our obsession with standardized testing.

Schools go to great lengths to get a short-term boost for their test scores. In some buildings students get water bottles or granola bars on test day, which I suppose isn’t a bad thing. In other schools countless hours are spent teaching quick-fix testing strategies, and students spend days and weeks learning how to get a slightly better test score.

In the worst-case situations, school becomes all about standardized testing, with much too little regard given to student learning and well-being. Teachers become demoralized, and students see no joy in learning. When students pass the test but fail as learners, something is very wrong.

Gandhi suggests a better approach. Focus on the means. If we focus on doing all we can to ensure that students are learning all they can, the scores will take care of themselves. As Gandhi said, “action expresses priorities.” Our priority should be children, not scores on a test.

Testing The Right Stuff

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Standardized testing has received a lot of criticism these days. For many, standardized tests embody all that is wrong in schools. Many justifiably claim that standardized tests prompt educators to obsessively focus on a few key variables and that that narrow focus ultimately distorts the whole endeavor of preparing students to be motivated, self-directed people who love learning and know how to do it.

I’ve seen first hand the damage that testing can do.  I’ve been told by district leaders, “We’re not worried about writing.  We just need to improve our math and reading scores”–since at that time, math and reading were the only areas tested in that district.  The obsession with standardized testing has created an environment where too often music, art, physical education, craftwork or even the humanities, are pushed way to the back of the agenda, if those subjects are even taught at all.

The obsession with test scores also means that teachers are often forced to turn away from doing what they know is in the best interest of their students.  Too often teachers stop taking the time to enjoy a story, an historical concept, an experiment, or a powerful and fun hands-on learning experience so that they can be sure to cover the material or stay in step with the pacing guide. The result, of course, is that school becomes drill and kill, and kids become more disengaged and disinterested (and less successful on tests). At the same time, teachers lose the heart to teach. In the past few years, too many great teachers, disappointed by what and how they are forced to teach, have told me, “teaching just isn’t fun any more.”

So I understand why people have lost faith in testing and assessment. The trouble is, I love the data that testing yields. Such data has often reinforced my personal learning and growth experiences.  For example, my interest in running is greatly enhanced by my experiences using the Nike+ iPod software, which documents how far, how fast, and how often I run. Measuring those variables motivates me to lace up the runners and helps me see exactly how I am improving (or not) as a runner.

The difference between the Nike+ data, and the reading and math data, however, is that the Nike+ focussed me on what was important in my running.  And while literacy and math are obviously vitally important, maybe we do a better job of educating our children if we expanded testing to measure other variables. What would happen to our schools, for example, if we assessed “love of learning” or “happiness” along with academic scores?

Well we can.  We don’t need to wait for others to create the assessments.  We can make our own. Today, if you are a teacher, you can start giving your students two slips of paper that ask them to report their joy of learning and their happiness (say on a scale of 1 – 5).  You can give the students ten seconds at the end of the class to write down their score, and gather the slips of paper as the students leave the classroom. Then you can average the scores, or, if you’re so inclined, do other kinds of statistical analysis. You might want to create different colored assessments for each class you teach so that you can compare and contrast how each group of students is doing.

If you are a principal, you can ask the school’s teachers if they’d like to take a school-wide assessment of “love or learning” or “happiness” and then, if they wish to, ask teachers to gather the data once a month or once a semester. The same kind of assessment, of course, could be done district-wide.

What gets measured gets done is an old truism. If we only test math and reading, our focus will only be on improving those scores, and important aspects of learning will be forgotten. However, if we test our students’ “love of learning,” or “happiness,” or “self-efficacy,” and we act to improve “scores” in those areas, we might broaden our attention to the whole child.  And if our students’ love of learning and happiness improve, we might just find that the scores in mathematics, literacy, and other areas, also improve.


Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

“Dialogue cannot be carried on in a climate of hopelessness. If the dialoguers expect nothing to come of their efforts, their encounters will be empty, sterile, bureaucratic and tedious.”  Paulo Freire

I learned about the power of hope the first year I taught at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario. I was a new teacher with few skills, but as luck would have it, I ended up co-teaching and being mentored by Dee La France, a wonderful, kind-hearted teacher, mentor and coach. Dee taught me about the Strategic Instruction Model, and in particular The Sentence Writing Strategy. I was so impressed by the power of the Sentence Writing Strategy that I moved to the University of Kansas in 1992 to do my doctorate with the developers. I am still at KU almost 20 years later.

What Dee taught me,  more than the finer points of using the Sentence Writing Strategy, was the importance of believing in students.  When Dee sat down to work with a student, her most important message was always, “You can do this.  You can master this.” Even students that many of us had given up on, Dee saw as being full of potential.

When we talk about believing in students, it can sound like a cliché or platitude … “Yeah, we all need to believe in kids.” But that was not the case with Dee. On the contrary, Dee taught me that believing in students is a core part of instruction and learning.  Dee believed deep in her heart that all her students could learn—it was evident  in her body language, her high standards and expectations, her kindness toward her students, her generous encouragement and support—and then, using powerful strategies, Dee delivered!  She showed her students every day through formative assessments that they were learning.

This is the powerful combination:  high expectations + effective instruction. Communicating to our students that they can succeed is important, but our words become empty if they are not backed up with real accomplishments.  Dee, because she had high expectations and because she knew effective instructional practices, was able to encourage and motivate her students and then deliver with proof that they could do it

There’s not much point in going into teaching if we lack hope for our students.  No doubt there are frustrations. No doubt there are children or families who disappoint us.  But a teacher who has given up on students is a teacher who needs a new career.  A minimum requirement for this work is to believe our students can achieve their goals!  Then it is up to us  to do the hard work of learning what we need to know and do to help them reach their goals.

Critical Thinking

Monday, November 15th, 2010

“Only dialogue … is … capable of generating critical thinking.” Paulo Freire

Of course we want out students to think.  Freire’s comment, though, is a powerful caution because he suggests that our students won’t think unless we, ourselves, approach them with openness and a desire to learn from them. We need to be, as David Bohm and others have said, thinking partners with our students.

We can ask one simple question to keep the focus on student learning, “am I letting my students do the thinking?”  There are many strategies we can employ to foster a thinking environment for our students.

Connect learning to student interests. Not much learning will take place if our kids don’t give a rip about what they are learning. For that reason, one of the most important places to start, if we want students to think, is by making sure what we offer is, whenever possible, of particular interest to students.

Much has been written about linking learning to student goals.  You can read a nice summary of much of this writing, here.

One particular program that guides students to identify goals, strengths, fears, and develop an action plan to make their dreams a reality is Possible Selves, developed by colleague Mike Hock.  You can download an article about Possible Selves here.

Ask good questions. E. E. Cummings beautifully sums up the importance of a good question

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

How, then, do we find beautiful questions?  Fortunately, the web is rich with resources to help educators craft questions that prompt thinking.  The following sites provide an overview of many good ideas related to levels of questions:

Bloom’s original taxonomy

The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy

Art Costa’s Levels of Questions.

Lynn Erickson’s Know Understand and Do

My free manual on crafting and asking effective questions.

Use learning structures that prompt student thinking. One instructional approach that is designed to foster thinking is problem-based learning, pioneered at McMaster University.

Edward DeBono’s work has great potential for promote critical thinking in the classroom, in particular his Six Thinking Hats

Finally, I’ve written about thinking prompts previously on this blog.

These are only a few strategies, so I have a question for you, radical learner.  What do you do that works for you?  How do you prompt student thought? We want to know.


Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

If I do not love the world–If I do not love life–If I do not love [people]–I cannot enter into dialogue.  Paulo Freire.

What does it mean to teach with love?

The poet Margaret Atwood has famously said, “The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.”  As it turns out, there aren’t really 52 words for snow, but Atwood’s statement is nonetheless true.  Love has many colors and hues.  There is the love of a parent and child.  The love of a sibling.  The love we feel in an emergency room, worried about a loved one, and the love we feel at a wedding.  There is the love between lovers, the love of long-time friends.  There is the love of a married couple, which can include many of the other kinds of love.

I think we are afraid to talk about love, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe the word just sounds “soft.” Maybe the idea of love makes us more vulnerable than we want to be.  Maybe we just don’t understand it, so we avoid it. Maybe we have been hurt and don’t want to open old wounds. Nonetheless, if we are going to explore healthy relationships, we simply have to suck it up and talk about love, even love at school.

Many teachers I know recognize the importance of love in school.  In my work, I’ve had the  pleasure of talking with hundreds of teachers about their work, and again and again they talk about the primacy of a loving relationship.  Here are just one person’s comments taken from an interview I conducted, but I believe she speaks for many when she talks about how love stands at the heart of her work in schools:

I really came to teaching through the back door, watching what was happening with my kids.  I guess that’s why I became a teacher because watching them I realized that education should be an amazing experience.

At my school it’s been really wonderful, empowering.  I know I’ve made a difference, and I know I respect the kids that come into my room… to watch how kids have grown, that’s a magical thing to watch.

I feel privileged. I feel that seriously. It’s about the most important work a person can do.  I’m just one of the people who can wake up each morning and say, I love what I do and look forward to what I do.  I feel just really fortunate and it’s wonderful.  I think its critical how I react, and how I support the kids, help create an environment.

They are precious cargo.

This teacher’s comments capture how important it is for us to try and be more loving as educators. One way we can do that is by watching ourselves on recordings. Video helps us see the simple things we do that foster or inhibit emotional connections.  We can see whether we act in ways that destroy connection–rolling our eyes, making sarcastic comments, talking down to students, power tripping, cutting students off, looking uninterested in them.  Just as important, though, we can see the simple actions we do that encourage connection–simple praise, smiles, words of encouragement, simple signs of respect, genuine interest and concern. Then, with a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t, we can work to be more loving.

If we are more loving toward our students, it can only help them and us.  Most likely, it will help us with all of our relationships.  And who wouldn’t want to live in a world that is filled with more love?


Monday, November 8th, 2010

Faith in [people] is an a priori requirement for dialogue; the ‘dialogical [person]’ believes in other [people] even before [meeting] them face to face. Paulo Freire

What does it mean to teach with faith in our students? When I teach with faith, I truly recognize that the students I teach are equal to me, and I work from the assumption that they hold within them wisdom, knowledge, ideas, and gifts. Of course teachers have a structurally unequal position–the teacher holds tremendous power in the classroom. But if we confuse structural power with real power, that is, if we actually think we are better, more valuable human beings than our students, we do a great disservice to the children we have the opportunity to teach.

When we have faith in our students, we see them as autonomous individuals deserving of our respect. William Isaacs nicely describes respect in his book Dialogue.

Respect is not a passive act.  To respect someone is to look for the spring that feeds the pool of their experience… At its core, the act of respect invites us to see others as legitimate. We may not like what they do or say or think, but we cannot deny their legitimacy as beings. In Zulu, a South African language, the word Sawu bona is spoken when people greet one another and when they depart.  It means “I see you.”  To the Zulus, being seen has more meaning than in Western cultures.  It means that the person is in some real way brought more fully into existence by virtue of the fact that they are seen.

Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, in her wonderful book, Respect, tells a story from her childhood that captures the impact we can have when we respectfully have faith in others. Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot describes how she felt and what she learned when a family friend sketched a picture of her as a young girl. At its heart, Dr. Lightfoot’s story also depicts why teachers should truly have faith in their students:

The summer of my eighth birthday, my family was visited by a seventy-year-old black woman, a professor of sociology, an old and dear friend. A woman of warmth and dignity, she always seemed to have secret treasures hidden under her smooth exterior. On this visit, she brought charcoals and a sketch pad. Mid-afternoon, with the sun high in the sky, she asked me to sit for her . . .

What I remember most clearly was the wonderful, glowing sensation I got from being attended to so fully. There were no distractions. I was the only one in her gaze. My image filled her eyes, and the sound of the chalk stroking the paper was palpable. The audible senses translated into tactile ones. After the warmth of this human encounter, the artistic product was almost forgettable. I do not recall whether I liked the portrait or not . . . This fast-working artist whipped the page out of her sketch pad after less than an hour and gave it to me with one admonition: “Always remember you’re beautiful,” she said firmly. To which I responded—beaming with pleasure and momentary embarrassment—“Now I know I’m somebody!”

In the process of recording the image, the artist had made me feel “seen” in a way that I had never felt seen before, fully attended to, wrapped up in an empathic gaze.

When we have faith in our students, there is a much greater chance that they will trust us.  And a trusting relationship is essential for opening the door to real, meaningful learning. More importantly though, by having faith in our students,  we can help them know for themselves, as Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot says, that they are indeed “somebody.”


Sunday, November 7th, 2010

[People] who lack humility (or have lost it) cannot come to the people, cannot be their partners in naming the world … Dialogue cannot exist without humility.  Paulo Freire

What does it mean to teach with humility?  I think more than anything it means to ensure that we approach our students knowing that teaching begins with them, not with us. Thus, humble teachers start by trying to understand their students.

The classroom, as I’ve written previously, can tempt us to power trip. It feels good to be in control, and it feels good to win.  If teachers aren’t careful, they can take advantage of their experience, education, and superior communication skills and overpower children.  An articulate, educated teacher, can defeat a child during a classroom discussion in the same way an adult basketball coach can defeat a child during a basketball practice.  And just as a too-enthusiastic, overpowering coach can deflate the enthusiasm of children playing sports, so too a too-enthusiastic, overpowering teacher can deflate the enthusiasm of children learning.

When we approach students with humility, we resist this temptation.  Furthermore, we look to our students with a genuine desire to learn from them.  How great it must feel for children to know that they taught their teacher something.  We love to teach, love to share ideas, whether we are in kindergarten or graduate school. Teachers  do a lot to engender students’ enthusiasm just by being humble enough to learn from them.

Humility, too, means that we ask questions, good questions, real questions, that we don’t know the answer to, and then we listen for our students’ answers.  When we approach teaching with humility, we see the classroom as a place designed to empower students to find their voice, not a place where our voice reins supreme.

Eric Liu, has written a wonderful book about people who mentor us, the Guiding Lights of our lives.  In the book he offers a beautiful summary of the importance of humility in teachers:

We have this notion of the great teacher as the Great Communicator. But the most powerful teachers aren’t those who speak, perform, and orate with the most dazzle and force. They are those who listen with full-body intensity, and customize. Teaching is not one-size-fits-all; it’s one-size-fits-one. So before we transmit a single thing, we must tune in to the unique and ever-fluctuating frequency of every learner: his particular mix of temperament, skills, intelligence, and motivation. This means, as teachers, putting aside our own egos and preconceptions about what makes this particular lesson so important . . . It means letting go of the idea of control.

To silence our self-interests so that children can learn sounds easy in theory, but it is not  so easy in practice.  And yet humility is essential.  If we want our children to learn, we must, in turn, enter the classroom as learners too. Ultimately, of course, that is best for for our students.  And for us.

Learning How to Play the Game of Learning

Monday, November 1st, 2010

My wife, Jenny, has decided that she doesn’t want to know the rules of football.  Growing up in Nebraska, surrounded by football fans, it took some fortitude to not learn how the game is played, but she stuck to it, and she is blissfully unaware of the magic and mystery of touchdowns, field goals, and quarterbacks.

Nonetheless, Jenny is gracious enough to go to the games with me here in Lawrence.  Once at the stadium, she and I have totally different experiences.  My attention is totally focused on the game; I’m always optimistic that our team will win, and I watch each play unfold with close to rapt attention.

Jenny has a completely different experience.  She notices everything except the plays on the field.  She sees the little redheaded three-year-old sitting three rows ahead of us, the cute hair cut on the woman beside us. She wonders about how hot it must be in the mascot’s outfit.  At the end of one season where Jenny and I had gone to all six home games, I asked her what her favorite part was.  “Oh easy,” she said, “that was the fly over by the stealth bombers before the Nebraska game.”

If she wanted to, Jenny could pick up the rules during one game, but she likes her blissful ignorance.  She would rather enjoy the context than worry about the score and who wins and loses.  I believe there are students in everyone’s classes, too, who are quite a bit like Jenny. They don’t know the rules and they don’t follow the game at all. In the children’s case, however, they would love to learn the game, but they don’t even know where to start to find out how to play.

Kids who don’t know the rules might not know how to find the most important information in a text, or how to relate learning to their own personal experience. They might not know how to break down big tasks into manageable goals, or how to simply negotiate day-to-day relationships with their peers. They might not know how to ask for help, or even how to interact during a discussion in class.

Not knowing the rules, they stop playing.  Sometimes, they make up their own game, sabotaging their teacher’s efforts to teach, or disrupting their peer’s attempts to learn.  Other times, they show up in class, but they don’t participate. They spend the class with their head down: in the room, but not connecting. They hide behind a mask of sullenness–hard people for anyone to reach.

And when they choose not to play, the temptation is blaming them, of course. They are rude, angry, negative. But what if they want to play, but they don’t know how?  What can we do to make sure that more and more students do know the rules?  Maybe the next time we see a student who is totally disengaged, we should start by asking whether she knows how to play?

Learning by Watching Part Three: Real Learning Index

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Using a Flip camera can help us uncover data we might not otherwise see in our classrooms. In fact, data can focus our attention so intensely that we see patterns that might not otherwise be possible and, therefore, help us in effective decision-making.  However, when we focus our attention in one area, we may miss what is happening in others. For this reason, while we can use data to get a snapshot of what it going on in our classroom, it is important that we do so knowing data’s limitations.

Such is the case for the Real Learning Index, one way of gauging the learning that is taking place in your classroom. The Real Learning Index (RLI) combines two forms of data: (a) learning time and (b) student engagement. By combining these two data sets, we can get insight into what is happening in the classroom. However, the RLI is a gross measure, and does not account for either the quality of what is being learned or the depth of engagement.  The RLI is a very powerful tool for identifying simple ways to increase student learning, but it is only one tool and, it does not measure the relevance or impact of the learning occurring. As a result, it is important to use it along with other ways of reviewing what is happening in our class.

To gather the Real Learning Index, you will need to set up your Flip camera to record your students’ reactions as you teach. You should set up the camera to see all of the students if possible.  After you have recorded the class, you can review the recording to develop the RLI.

The first data set in the RLI refers to the percentage of time that is dedicated to actual learning during a class period. To calculate learning time, record the class you’d like to study, and then review the class with your trusty cell phone timer or other timer in hand.  Then, time every second when there is downtime (any time students are not learning), such as taking roll, transitions, off-task conversations, student preparation to leave class, and record how long it takes.

Once you have reviewed the entire class and you know how much downtime there is, calculate the percentage of learning time by (a) subtracting the downtime from the total class time, which gives you the total learning time, and (b) divide the total learning time by the total time to give you a percentage. For example, if 15 minutes of a 50-minute class were downtime and 35 minutes were spent on learning time, then the percentage of learning time would be 70%.

The second data set to be gathered for the Real Learning Index is student engagement, or time on task; that is, how many students look like they are engaged.  To gather these data, set your cell phone on vibrate and set your timer to go off every 10 minutes during your class. Then when feel your phone vibrate, make a quick glance around the room to note how many students are not engaged and record that number.  Continue throughout the class period.

At the end of the class, average all of the numbers signifying students off task and subtract the average number from the total number of students in class.  Divide the average number of engaged students by the total number of students in the class. That will give you a percentage of time on task.  If, on average, 21 out of 30 students are on task, the average time on task is 70%.

The RLI is the combination of both of these numbers. In the ideal situation, 100% of students are engaged and 100% of the class time is learning time.  If that were the case, the RLI would be 1.00.

To calculate the Real Learning Index for your class, write both percentages as fractions. Thus, 70% learning time becomes .70 and 70% time on task becomes .70.  Then multiply the two numbers: .70 x .70 = .49.  In other words, if 70% of students are engaged and 70% of the time is learning time, 49% of the potential for learning is being realized, or less than half of the total potential real learning time.

Teachers who want to increase their RLI can work on one of two things: student engagement or learning time. If you increase either of these or both, you increase the authentic learning that is taking place in your classroom. What the RLI does, in my experience, is make you more aware of student engagement and instructional time.  The Real Learning Index is only one way of seeing the class, but like other forms of data gathering, it sometimes helps us see patterns that otherwise would remain invisible.