Happy New Year! As we close out 2019 and look forward to what the new year will bring, let’s take a look back at what our profession learned in the last year. From the over 25 articles that I wrote for MultiBriefs in 2019, the topics that seemed to have the highest reach with educators focused on topics such as competency-based/personalized learning; mental health and social-emotional learning (SEL); and school safety.

In this July MultiBriefs Exclusive on the rise of competency-based education (CBE) models, I reported that 49 out of 50 states have policies in place to support the model, and in this October MultiBriefs Exclusive I shared an updated definition for CBE developed by the Aurora Institute. Mental health and SEL continued to trend in 2019 as teachers continued to look for ways to meet the needs of their students.

Of all the articles I wrote on this topic, this March MultiBriefs Exclusive seemed to resonate most with readers as I reported out on strategies that educators could use to support SEL in their classrooms. Later in the year, I dived deeper into the topic of bringing mindfulness into the classroom in this December MultiBriefs Exclusive. As mass shootings continue to rise, our nation and our educators continue to wrestle with how to protect our children from these tragedies. In this April MultiBriefs Exclusive, I reported out on how schools are working to reduce hate and violence in the first place.

A recent Edutopia article looked back at the year through the lens of research. The article referenced several key takeaways. First, we learned in this study that drawing is an excellent way for students to enhance their learning because it makes use of kinesthetic, visual, and linguistic areas of the brain at the same time.

The same study differentiated drawing from the less-useful activity of doodling, which was found in the study to be distracting to learning. In this study, we learned that schools that make use of attendance awards actually see increased, not decreased attendance rates as a result. The article went on to cite a study which concluded that “students are more likely to attend school when their teachers notice absences and make efforts to reach out to them and their families.”

In this study, neuroscientists taught us that male and female brains are wired the same way when it comes to math. The study confirms that the gender differences we see in math performance are socially constructed, not genetic.

According to Edutopia, in 2019 we also learned with this attempt to replicate a study that the idea of a “summer slide” is merely a myth, with supporting data going back to the 1980s that doesn’t seem to hold water in 2019. We learned in this study from Rice University that cuts to arts programming can have a lasting impact on kids. The article quotes, “The arts provide cognitive, academic, behavioral, and social benefits that go far beyond simply learning how to play music or perform scenes in a play.”

We learned through this analysis the importance of early intervention and providing teachers with adequate training to support students with disabilities at the earliest of ages. We also learned with this study that there is a high degree of correlation between student achievement and later start times, particularly at the secondary level.

In this study, we learned that we still have a ways to go in our efforts to bring about equality in the schools, as the study concluded that black middle school students were given fewer opportunities to correct misbehavior in the classroom than their white peers before being sent to the principal’s office for disciplinary consequences. We learned in this study that memory recall is increased when students use paper-based resources over digital resources such as tablets computers, and e-readers.

Lastly, through this large meta-analysis, we learned that growth-mindset was not having the lasting impact we may have hoped for, but that theory was called into question later in the year in this study which concluded that regular work with growth mindset led to improved grades among lower-achieving students and increased overall enrollment in advanced mathematics courses.

As we embark on 2020, I challenge us as educators to continue to push the boundaries of learning. We need to challenge established mindsets, strategies, and traditions if we believe they are holding us back from helping each and every child reach their fullest potential. Let’s use our 20/20 vision to make 2020 the year of difference-making for our students.