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Unfinished Learning and Unfinished Teaching

What is unfinished learning?

Unfinished learning refers to concepts students have not yet mastered—knowledge they will need in order to grasp upcoming ideas. Rather than the negative framing of terms like “weakness” or “gap,” unfinished learning suggests that with more work, students can and will achieve mastery.

Teachers can address unfinished learning by reengaging with concepts their students haven’t grasped. By providing new strategies and connecting old and new concepts, teachers will help students see concepts in new ways—and equip them with the understanding they will need to move forward with their peers.

Addressing unfinished learning should be a supplement to grade-level teaching, not a replacement.

What is unfinished teaching?

Unfinished teaching reframes unfinished learning, emphasizing educators’ responsibility when students have not yet mastered a concept. Unfinished learning reflects a growth mindset, but unfinished teaching advances educational equity as well, dismantling the idea that students are to blame  when they aren’t equipped to master lessons on their first encounter. It encourages educators to examine the biases that leave marginalized students vulnerable to unfinished teaching—and pushes us to change our approach in order to serve all students equitably.

Ready to learn more? Here is an educator’s perspective on how terminology helps remove barriers to equitable instruction.

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