What Do Students, Teachers and Administrators Need to Learn?
Professional Learning Communities often ask four essential questions to guide their work:
- What do the students need to learn?
- How will we know when they have learned it?
- What will we do when they haven’t learned it?
- 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:
- I introduce elements of the Leadership Teams and Quality Instruction and Common Formative Assessments modules to school-based professional learning groups as a tool that can help guide their discussions around what students should know and be able to do.
- I demonstrate how teachers and instructional coaches can utilize SaC’s 24 Teacher Development strategies to build the capacities highlighted in various instructional frameworks.
- Also, I share the Instructional Expertise module with school leaders to model how teachers with specific instructional needs can be connected to colleagues with the skills and expertise to help.
- I suggest how principals can view Teacher Development videos to build their capacity as instructional leaders and data-related videos (from the Using Data Effectively module) to build data analysis skills.
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?