Across the world, Dr. Kristin Barbour, has seen students and educators struggle to keep up with the complexities of the economic, technological and social landscape.
“Students are bombarded with distractions, information, and competing priorities…all now compounded by disruptions caused by COVID-19,” said Barbour, executive director of National Institute of Learning Development (NILD), an international teacher training organization based in the U.S.
Competition for post-secondary education has increased, so with the job market, putting even greater pressure on students to perform at a high level. For children with language-based learning differences (LDs) — children who are bright, but have a cognitive barrier to learning to read, write, spell or do math at the same rate as their peers — this pressure is further heightened.
“If kids with learning differences aren’t given strategies for approaching their education, they can really struggle, particularly when forced into a remote learning environment.”
Barbour is passionate about teaching educators, parents, and government how to improve the educational experience for struggling learners. She has worked with a vast number of schools across North America, and seen firsthand how Vancouver’s Fraser Academy truly changes the trajectory of its students’ futures.
“Many schools only focus on one part of the student, such as their academic performance,” said Barbour. “Fraser Academy is unique because all of their educators are united in their quest to educate the whole student, including their emotional intelligence and well-being.” It’s a holistic approach to teaching.
In our fast-paced world, many teachers in North America feel compelled to push content over thinking. Barbour noted that Fraser Academy’s model has a distinct advantage: it prioritizes both content and thinking.
“They use content as a vehicle to enhance thinking and develop students’ learning, problem solving, collaboration, and all of those pieces that we know are going to be critical for the next generation of leaders and workers,” said Barbour. It’s a comprehensive and integrated formula that includes personalizing learning, looking at the needs of each student academically, and from a social perspective.
Fraser Academy’s program is specifically designed to empower students with diagnosed language-based LDs, such as dyslexia. However, theirs is a model that all students could benefit from.
What adds value to a child’s school experience? “Well-educated educators who are aware of best practices, informed with learning sciences, and developing trusting relationships with their students,” said Barbour. These are the important aspects to look for in education today.