23 February, 2016
Academic support may refer to a various instructional methods, educational services, or school resources given to students in the effort to help them accelerate their learning progress, catch up with their peers, meet learning standards, or generally succeed in school.
When the term is used in educational contexts without qualification, specific examples, or additional explanation, it may be difficult to determine precisely what “academic support” is referring to. The term support or supports may also be used in reference to any number of academic-support strategies.
In practice, academic support contains a broad array of educational strategies, including tutoring sessions, supplemental courses, summer learning experiences, after-school programs, teacher advisors, and volunteer mentors, as well as alternative ways of grouping, counseling, and instructing students. Academic support may be provided to individual students, specific student populations (such as non-English speakers or disabled students), or all students in a school. State and federal policies may require schools to provide academic support to certain student populations, such as identified special-education students, or schools may voluntarily create support programs to address specific performance results or trends, such as large numbers of dropouts, course failures, behavioral problems, etc. While the term academic support typically refers to the services provided to underperforming students, it may be used in reference to “enrichment” programs and more advanced learning opportunities provided to higher-achieving students.
Forms of academic support:
- Classroom-based strategies:Teachers continually monitor student performance and learning needs, and then adjust what they teach or how they teach to improve student learning.
- School-based strategies:Schools create academic-support opportunities during the school day, such as learning labs, to increase the lecture time that academically struggling students receive, while also varying the way that instruction is delivered. For example, if students in a course primarily learn in large or small groups that all work at the same pace, students in a learning lab or other support program might work one-on-one with a teacher and be given more time to practice skills or learn complicated concepts.
- After-hours strategies:Schools may provide after-school or before-school programs, usually within the school building, that provide students with tutoring or mentoring, or that help students prepare for class or acquire study skills, for example.
- Outside-of-school strategies:Community groups and volunteer-based learning programs, often working in partnership with local public schools, may provide a variety of programs, such as reading programs for young children, which are connected to what students are learning in school.
- Vacation-break strategies:Strategies such as summer school or “summer bridge programs” may be implemented to help students catch up (if they fell behind during the previous year) or prepare for the next grade (if there are concerns they might struggle academically or drop out of high school). Similar support programs and learning opportunities may be provided during vacation breaks in the fall, winter, and spring.
- Technology-assisted strategies:Schools may use digital and online learning applications, such as visual simulations or gamed-based learning, to help students grasp difficult concepts, or teachers may use course-management programs that allow them to archive course materials and communicate with students online. These options may be self-directed by students or overseen by teachers, or they may be provided during the school day or they may allow students to work from home at their own pace.
Educational Focus of Academic Support
- Relationship-based support:In schools, strategies such as teaming or advisories may be used to build stronger and more understanding relationships between teachers and students. The general idea is that students will be better served and more effectively taught if teachers know students well and understand their distinct learning needs, interests, and aspirations.
- Skill-based support:In some cases, schools may decide to create a literacy program, for example, that provides all students with more concentrated instruction, practice, and guidance in reading, writing, and communicating. The support may be provided during regular classes, during the school day, or after regular school hours. Support that focuses on math skills or technological literacy are two other common examples.
- Needs-based support:Many or most forms of academic support are based on identified learning needs, and schools will provide supplemental or intensive instruction, practice, and guidance to students who are struggling academically or who have specialized needs—these can include students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, or developmental disabilities; students who are learning English or cannot speak English; students who recently immigrated to the United States, or students who are performing academically or developing intellectually well below or above the expectations for their age or grade level.