Sunday, April 26, 2015

Professional Development Updates (Part 3 of 3)
For All Those Data-Lovin’ Hearts...

Sarah Lorenz

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

So the first task is to see if the PD is hitting the target and meeting teachers’ needs. If that isn’t happening, it’s unlikely we’ll see changes in practice and student outcomes. If feedback is positive, the next step will be to see if there are changes in teacher practice. I have two possible data collection points for this: coaching data and assignment quality data. If coaching is being used in some form, the coach and coachee can track the type of work they are doing by coding their coaching sessions. This can be done anonymously, to protect teacher privacy, by the coach giving a teacher a number. As teachers begin to implement more deeply, the coding should show a progression—from talking about a practice to experimenting with a practice, to implementing a practice, to innovating with a practice.

This type of data has the potential to assure administrators that teachers are indeed working with the practices, hopefully progressing in sophistication, and that ongoing support is warranted. This method uses the Instructional Coaching Scale, which is readily found online. I believe that it can be adapted for peer coaching or PLCs, as well.

The Assignment Design Framework from the National Writing Project is another method for tracking changes in practice. At one of our partnership schools, I assisted teachers in learning about this framework and how it helps us plan writing assignments for intellectual depth and rigor. (NWP also has a tool for assessing the quality of a writing assignment, based on this work, which came from Fred Newmann and the Chicago Schools Consortium.) Teachers then planned a joint writing assignment for 9th graders and administered it during semester one. They brought student work from the assignment, and we assessed both student work and the teacher assignment. We noted places where the assignment could be improved to generate better student work, and then planned a new assignment for semester two. This assignment was vastly better than the first, we all agreed. The scope became much larger, but we also noticed how many of the CCSS we addressed, simply as a by-product.

Finally, assessing student writing is a fourth way of collecting data. We will ultimately be looking at scores on standardized tests, but teachers often benefit more by gathering student work and analyzing it together. We can use any rubric to do this, but the National Writing Project’s Analytic Writing Continuum, a research tool based on the Six Traits model, is particularly useful. A formal scoring session is possible, but many school don’t have the time or resources to do this. In a more informal session, I typically ask teachers to bring some student samples of low, medium, and high writing. We can first work together with one sample and learn how to score, then everyone can individually score 5 or 10 of their own papers, looking for trends. The discussion often shifts immediately to instruction—how can we support the changes we want to see?

We will be implementing more of these data-collection techniques in the current school year. My hope is to encourage the healthy use of data, in ways that support teachers and deepen their practice. I welcome your feedback and ideas from your schools and practice during this exploration.

Sarah Lorenz

*Some of this work has been informed by the SEED grant that EMWP participated in with the National Writing Project over the past two years. We coordinated a year of intensive professional development (over 40 hours, in multiple modes such as workshop, model lessons, coaching, looking at student work, etc.) in two elementary schools and collected various types of data. These included teacher perception data as well as formal outside evaluation of student writing. Participation in projects such as this are part of the capacity-building cycle of NWP: our site gains funding and valuable skills, while we support the ability of NWP as a whole to gain competitive grant funding and recognition for our work.

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