Here’s How The Teach To One Learning Model Addresses The Iceberg Problem And Enhances Education For All Students


While there are many debates surrounding education in America, everyone can agree that improving student preparedness is a good thing. We know that students fall through the cracks every day in spite of efforts to ensure all needs are met at each grade level. Although the curriculum has changed over the past two decades, it still fails to ensure that children are adequately prepared for higher learning, the job market, and the innovative fields that drive progress in this country.

Perhaps a new method is the key to overcoming the problems students face today. The Teach To One method strives to do just that. Its approach centers on eliminating a concept called The Iceberg Problem, which is an arching challenge that affects students at every grade level.

How does this program work and what can it achieve? The answer is deceptively simple.

What Is The Iceberg Problem

The Iceberg Problem is a concept introduced by an organization called New Classrooms Innovation Partners. They describe the concept as a system of small failures and oversights that converge to create an insecure foundation for American students. Particularly, New Classrooms focuses on how mathematics instruction in the US fails to prepare students for a natural progression from K-12 grade levels.

The name comes from the idea that only part of the problem is visible while the larger portion remains hidden under the surface, like an iceberg.

When a student fails to grasp a foundational concept in math in early education properly, this follows them through high school. As math concepts become more complicated, they build upon preceding knowledge. It is simply impossible for a student to excel in higher-level math classes if they have an insufficient understanding of the key concepts taught in lower grades.

Because teachers must cover a specific curriculum each year, they don’t have the time to re-teach these key concepts. Students receive a cursory at best and any additional help must come from supplemental tutoring or outside, extra help.

In order to even get supplemental help, students often need to speak up and say they’re struggling. There are many reasons why self-reporting creates a challenge for students. They worry their peers will judge them, they fear additional work when they’re already struggling, and they have busy social lives and extracurricular activities diverting their attention.

If a teacher notices a student struggling, they have no choice but to single them out in some way. This can trigger performance anxiety, a known block to learning. If they managed to approach the student without causing anxiety or social problems, they have to provide additional resources to the student themselves or arrange for tutoring.

Once we examine the ways our education system currently deals with students who fall behind, we see there are numerous challenges to overcome. It’s no wonder some students slip through the cracks.

New Classrooms has a term for students who move through grade levels without truly understanding every concept taught during the year. They call this failure to keep up ‘unfinished learning.’ 

Unfinished learning accumulates and persists, hindering the ability for many students to become ready for college and career.

This series of small, cumulative failures truly snowball, especially in math. 

What Effects Does The Iceberg Problem Have On Students And Educational Proficiency In America?

If students enter high school without an adequate foundational understanding of math concepts, they cannot succeed. At best, they can learn enough to pass their exams and graduate. However, they enter their college years or the workforce at a distinct disadvantage.

Not only does this hurt their ability to attend the college of their choice, but it narrows the field of agile young minds, our country relies on. These are the youth that drives industry innovation, scientific discovery, and tackle complex social problems.

If they aren’t prepared for the future, where does that leave our society?

How Can Teach To One Help?

Teach To One is an entirely different learning model that eliminates any content loopholes. Within this method, students cannot progress without reaching a comfortable and proficient understanding of each critical educational milestone.

“Teach to One: Math… integrates live, collaborative, and independent learning in ways that enable personalized instruction for each student, each day.” –New Classrooms CEO, Joel Rose

Teach To One is an integrated method that focuses on individual students while maintaining a group learning experience vital to proper social development. This bridged approach fuses the benefits of tutoring with the peer-based learning that happens naturally in a classroom setting.

How Does Learning In A Teach To One Classroom Look?

A Teach To One classroom looks a bit different from a traditional learning environment. This is because the room is broken into sections where students cycle through at defined time intervals. 

For instance, part of the Teach To One ‘period’ is individual learning. Children access lessons from a Chromebook and work by themselves to master the daily task. This task is based on their progress the day before. No student progresses until they pass the end of the lesson quiz. In this way, the system digitally monitors their progress.

Students working on this part of their lessons need space to focus and work quietly, although teachers and aides are on hand to answer questions as they arise.

In another part of the classroom, a teacher gives an oral lesson. This looks like the kind of class instruction most of us are used to.

In yet another area, students work together and sit around tables that facilitate collaborative learning.

The day is broken into sections and the students into groups within the main class. Each group cycles through each learning environment or module before their period is over.

How Does This Method Overcome The Iceberg Problem

Teach to One addresses The Iceberg Problem in a multi-faceted way.

Students Are More Engaged

Teach To One can improve student engagement because the cyclical nature of the class period keeps boredom at bay. Much like the popular Pomodoro Technique for productivity, Teach To One breaks down learning into manageable chunks. Students can then focus completely on smaller blocks of material before changing to something new. When students pay attention, they retain more of their lessons.

Assessments Provide Analytics

The daily digital assessments create a variety of analytics that are easily accessible. These results invite deep dives into how each student is doing and the classroom as a whole. Parents, educators, and administrators can all monitor the data at the end of a day, week, month, or year. In this way, Teach To One is a data-driven education method.

Not only can monitoring this data help students and districts, but it can inform policy as a whole. It frees teachers from the burden of entering test scores and student assessments into a centralized program. With Teach To One, that isn’t necessary because it’s happening in real-time on a student-by-student basis.

Therefore, educators gain all of the benefits of a myriad of data points without the time it takes to compile, manage and enter them.

Individualized Learning Levels The Playing Field

The individualized learning portion of Teach To One is a built-in fail-safe against students who manage to move ahead without understanding preceding lessons. A student in a Teach To One classroom can’t move on unless they pass their daily quiz and receive their exit slip for the day.

Because students receive some individual lessons each day, there is time to catch up and re-learn concepts they failed to master earlier in their math education. While it’s true that these gains may not show up on standardized tests that only access mastery of each grade level’s material, this closes crucial education gaps. 

This is a concept that can’t be overstated- the gaps in our children’s education can’t always be measured by a test. A failing grade on a calculus exam doesn’t drill down into where the problem lies. Perhaps the student lacks an understanding of concepts that came long before their current grade level.

Innovation Drives New Learning Models And Teach To One Is A New Way To Learn

In spite of all of the many changes in American education, the classroom model remains largely the same as it has always been. One teacher addresses a classroom of approximately 30 students while they collectively progress through the course material. There is only so much time. There are standards to meet. Students, sometimes silently, lag behind.

 Teach To One is simply one way to innovate our country’s education system. It embraces technology as a way to supplement teacher instruction as well as a way to track progress on many levels. Most importantly, it helps students catch up without singling them out. It brings struggling students up to speed without sacrificing the learning experience of any classmates who are more advanced.

In short, it just makes sense, and coupled with traditional instruction, could significantly improve student preparedness.

Learn more about Teach to One:

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