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Academic Readiness: Definition & Assessment

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will define academic readiness, discuss the factors that determine academic readiness, and discuss strategies for supporting and assessing student readiness.

Varying Degrees of Readiness

Imagine you are sitting in an economics class when suddenly, the professor announces that the final grade will be based on the result of a basketball tournament you will have in lieu of class next week. How prepared are you? Are your classmates more or less prepared than you are? Most likely, there would be a mix of people who were up for the challenge and others that lack the knowledge, skill, or athletic ability to play. Similarly, some students in your class are well-prepared for learning to balance chemical equations, while others have not yet acquired the academic readiness to learn that skill. Academic readiness is the degree to which a student is prepared for a learning experience. Let's find out more about factors that impact academic readiness and ways that teachers can assess academic readiness.

Components of Academic Readiness

There are two basic factors that determine the degree to which a student is ready for a learning experience. First of all, a student must have acquired general academic knowledge or skills. For example, in order for a student to be able to understand how to balance chemical equations, they will first need to be able to perform simple calculations, such as adding and multiplying, as well as an understanding of algebraic thinking and terms, like coefficients.

The other factor that impacts academic readiness is knowledge specifically related to the topic. For example, to balance chemical equations students will need specific knowledge about elements on the periodic table, atomic properties of the elements, and some basic information about chemical reactions, such as the Law of Conservation of Mass.

Zone of Proximal Development

A student's readiness level is not static, but is constantly evolving. Back to our basketball analogy, Jonathan may be physically capable of playing but doesn't understand the rules of the game. With proper instruction, he will be able to play, at least at the rudimentary level, by next week. Benjamin may be an avid spectator, so he knows the rules, but can't make a basket. After learning some basic techniques and a lot of practice, Benjamin improves. Jonathan and Benjamin may not be ready for the NBA, but with some effort, they can become better prepared.

Similarly, students can build readiness for learning new academic skills by working within their zone of proximal development (ZPD). The zone of proximal development is an instructional level that is slightly more challenging than where a student is able to work independently. Teachers scaffold instruction, or offer support, within the student's ZPD to help their students move towards being able to perform this more challenging work independently. Gradually, scaffolds, or supports, are lifted so that the higher instructional level (ZPD) now becomes the independent level.

Assessing Academic Readiness

There are a variety of ways that teachers gather information about students to determine their academic readiness, including:

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