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What Do Students, Teachers and Administrators Need to Learn?

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Professional Learning Communities often ask four essential questions to guide their work:

  1. What do the students need to learn?
  2. How will we know when they have learned it?
  3. What will we do when they haven’t learned it?
  4. What will we do when they already know it?


“Learning,” in this case, refers both to knowing a concept, and being able to do it. The first question, “What do the students need to learn,” is critical for student and teacher success. We know that to achieve this, school-wide, grade-level, and content-area teams look at state and Common Core standards, data from formative and summative assessments, and adopted curricula to help them answer it. They then plan lessons and assessments based on an agreed-upon understanding of essential student learning.

I think a second, equally important query needs to accompany Question #1: What do teachers need to know and be able to do? In education today, we need to be able to clearly answer this question.  What knowledge and skills must a teacher have to be successful in our schools?

Fortunately, researchers have taken this question seriously. One example: The Measures of Effective Teaching Project, which brought together 3,000 teacher volunteers, education experts, and researchers to study the components of effective teaching.  Additionally, we have instructional frameworks, including those developed by Robert Marzano and Charlotte Danielson, which capture the critical educator knowledge and skills found in successful classrooms. These frameworks aren’t recipes or checklists, but rather, living documents that teach us how to be good educators.

We also need to ask, “What do school administrators need to know and be able to do, to ensure teacher and student success?” Many states are developing research-based leadership frameworks to help address this question. In Washington state, where I live, the Association of Washington School Principals has identified eight components of effective school leadership. These including creating a school culture that promotes the ongoing improvement of learning and; helping staff align their curricula, instruction and assessment with state and local district learning goals; and monitoring, assisting and evaluating effective instruction and assessment practices.

Creating frameworks for instruction and leadership helps professional development be more targeted. Rather than designing PD around the “latest trend” in education, it’s better to frame professional learning opportunities around the specific attributes of effective teachers and leaders.

As part of my work as an educational consultant, I have the opportunity to travel throughout the country to deliver such targeted PD. And I always turn to Success at the Core as a resource.  For instance:

Have you used SaC materials for professional development related to building student, teacher, and administrator knowledge and skills? How did it go?

In my next blog, I’ll explore the second essential PLC question: How will we know when each student has mastered the essential learning?


You might also like:

When School Budgets Dry Up: Innovation Can Help Educators Ride out the Storm
A Principal Speaks about Performance Evaluation
An Action Plan for Personal Growth

4 Responses to What Do Students, Teachers and Administrators Need to Learn?

  1. Beth Ashley says:

    I appreciate the way you took us back to the four planning questions as they relate to our own professional growth as teachers and administrators. The instructional frameworks developed by Robert Marzano, Charlotte Danielson, and the University of Washington (UWCEL)guide us as we approach excellence in our ability to employ the most effective research-based practices. Success at the Core provides us with vivid examples and resources to support us along our journey to excellence. Just as feedback and self-reflection are integral to the learning process for students, both are equally important to our own professional learning. Our practice measured against these instructional frameworks gives us that important feedback, opportunity for reflection, and prompts us to continue our growth as educators.

  2. Tyler says:

    I’m actually really curious as to how administrator evaluation will look in the coming future.

    My feeling is that however evaluation feels for them, it will be done to teachers very similarly, whether or not that is the intention. We all tend to do as is done to us, in my opinion.

    I like the way your post focuses on this pyramid of evaluations through the lens of student learning. I want that to be the case but I hope we get a holistic picture of student learning that goes far beyond standardized test scores.

  3. Andrea Brixey says:

    Merrilou, as my school gets deeper into TPEP as a framework, and we have the opportunityto ask those questions 4 over and over again, we are realizing answering those can be thorny.

    Sometimes, it’s easy to solve the puzzle “what to do” if students are not learning. But we are also finding, sometimes, it’s really, really hard to solve that puzzle.

    I appreciate you begin your reflection with those questions. What do they need, do they know it, what if they don’t and what if they do. It’s remarkably easy to loose sight of those questions.

  4. Corrie Freiwaldt says:

    What I love about using SaC videos in my professional development is that any teacher at any grade level can gain something to use in their classroom. Many times a teacher knows they can improve, but doesn’t exactly know how or in what way. Seeing these videos helps teachers see what they need to know and be able to do. Has anyone else used these videos and found their teachers with lightbulbs over their heads? The conversation that ensues is enriching for everyone involved.

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