As the school year is approaching its second semester, I’ve started to both reflect on the progress I’ve made as well as look ahead to the standards that need to be addressed by the end of the school year. As a STEM teacher within Greenon Local Schools, my primary focus is on Science and Engineering Practices. Something that has always been a major challenge is how to accurately take inventory of the standards and then develop an outline that ensures the needs of my students have been met by the time they leave my classroom.
Teaching is personal. In fact, according to my principal, teaching is a work of heart. It’s heart work, not just hard work. And not only is it heart work, the only thing more personal than teaching is going to the bathroom.
As part of a district initiative, I started video recording my teaching practice to improve higher-order thinking and student-led conversations. At first blush, I was mortified at the thought of a camera catching every moment of my class. Not because I was fearful of what anyone would find, but because I was fearful of what I might not find. I thought as an experienced teacher, I knew what was happening in my classroom. Why would I need to video record my teaching and watch it when I was there live?
What I didn’t realize was the power of recording my instruction, watching, and seeking constructive feedback from my peers.
Scientists seek out other respected scientists for their opinions and collaborate with other fields regularly. Biologists work with chemists to research ocean acidification and the impact on coral reef habitats. Statisticians must work with ecologists to calculate populations and distributions of animals within the ecosystem. The work we do is integrated and no longer isolated by discipline. Researchers walk across the hall to share ideas, brainstorm, and call upon others to generate panels of experts. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) speak volumes to this kind of collaboration. It may seem like a buzzword, but it’s a reality in the world of science. Our students must also develop the skills of working across the disciplinary core ideas and apply their understanding of the crosscutting concepts with the science and engineering practices.
If you’re a science teacher in one of the NGSS adoption states, once you’ve had some time to absorb that you’re indeed going to transition your science lessons to the new and improved NGSS aligned lessons, you might hit somewhat of a roadblock. Think of it as writer’s block. The overwhelming feeling that you already teach really good science lessons, you just need to see what fits with the new standards and what needs to go. And now, we must think of lesson planning in three dimensions to properly support the intention of teaching collaborative skills.
One of the hidden treasures of NGSS is the incorporation of coherence and phenomena-driven lessons. These strategies are not found in the standards themselves, but in the EQuIP rubric in the NGSS resource library.
A coherent lesson is a lesson that fits into a broader storyline. Coherent lessons flow together like a story, where each lesson connects to the previous one and the story progresses as students work through the unit. This storylining provides students a reason to progress through the unit and gives meaning to each of the lessons within.
The EQuIP rubric not only provides a process for evaluating a lesson’s alignment to the standards and three dimensional learning, but also allows a reviewer to look for how these components work together to make sense of phenomena. The reviewer then looks for evidence that the lessons have coherence.
As a teacher, I loved designing my own lessons. There’s something exhilarating about using your own creativity, content knowledge and understanding of your students to create a learning experience. But we all know that writing lessons and units on your own takes a lot of time and energy, especially when you want to check that your lessons align to standards or that they help you shift your practice. Once I created them, I wanted to be able to share them with the world in order to save other teachers time, as well as to get their feedback and ideas for revisions. Today, there are so many ways teachers can share lessons on the web, and with many states sharing common standards, it’s even easier to share standards-aligned lessons. One place to find lesson planning rubrics and quality instructional materials is Achieve.org.
Teaching Channel and Achieve.org partnered on a three-part series featuring EQuIP’s (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products) tools for Common Core lesson planning.
- We showed you how to use EQuIP’s Student Work Protocol to analyze student work as an indicator of the strength of your instructional materials.
- We introduced you to the EQuIP’s Math and ELA rubrics for evaluating lesson plans for Common Core alignment. While you can use these tools alone or as part of a team in order to plan and evaluate your materials, you can also submit your materials to EQuIP’s Peer Review Panel.
- In this last part of the series, we get to see lessons resulting from this process of educators creating and submitting materials for peer review. Four Maryland teachers selected these exemplar lessons from Achieve’s website, downloaded the instructional materials, read the panel’s feedback, and tailored the lessons to the needs of their own classrooms.
As the chill in the air gets chillier, and your stacks of student work pile up like fallen leaves, why not pause, take a breath, and take a moment to look at that student work in a new way. Sure, you need to look at the work to assess student progress, provide feedback, and celebrate student successes, but you can also use it to assess, refine, and celebrate your own work. The EQuiP Student Work Protocol is one way to do just that.
In part one of our series with Achieve.org, we introduced you to their work with EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products), an initiative designed to identify high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core. We took a close look at EQuIP’s rubrics and process for evaluating lessons for Common Core alignment, and saw the power of teachers viewing and discussing a lesson together.
In this second part, we introduce you to a complementary process in which teachers analyze student work as an indicator of the strength of instructional materials, and their fit into the larger lesson or unit. This protocol works really well for large collaboration groups, but you could certainly use it independently or with just one colleague.
Providing feedback. It’s so much more than sharing some helpful information with another person regarding his or her work. It’s a gift — a chance to help someone improve themselves or their work, and ultimately our students will benefit.
If you think about it, feedback is as much about you as the person you’re providing it to. Your feedback is a reflection of you. The quality of it, and the time you spend giving it, shows how much (or how little) you value the feedback process. The fact that someone is asking you for your feedback speaks volumes. After all, someone has made himself or herself vulnerable to you. They have invested time in their work and trust you and your professional opinion. I hope thinking about feedback this way puts you in the right frame of mind when evaluating someone’s work, or, more accurately, their labor of learning.
While there are many things to consider before providing feedback, narrowing the focus to a few simple A-B-Cs can be quite helpful.
A. Feedback should be accessible and action-oriented.
Any ideas you provide should be easy to understand and conveyed as suggestions or questions. Reactions need to be shared in a friendly, helpful way. Try to avoid expressing a feeling of “change this, or else what you’ve done won’t be any good.” Also, if it’s fitting, suggest a possible action that the person you’re providing feedback to can take that may lead to project or performance improvement. A great way to start an accessible, actionable feedback statement is in the form of a question that begins with the words “What if…?” or, “How could…?”
As you are setting up your classroom, planning your units, or perhaps already teaching (yikes!), you’re probably digging through last year’s lesson plans. As you look through those plans, you may be thinking, “Wow, this was a fantastic lesson!” Or, perhaps you’re thinking, “Hmmm… this lesson could use a little work.”
To top it off, you may also be thinking of checking your lessons for Common Core alignment. With all of this planning in mind, Teaching Channel has partnered with Achieve.org on a three-part series featuring tools for Common Core lesson planning. The series highlights Achieve’s work with EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products), an initiative designed to identify high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core.
In these first three videos, we introduce you to a tool already used by over 15,000 teachers across the country to help them plan and evaluate lessons aligned to the Common Core: the EQuIP Rubric.
1. Strengthening Lessons for the Common Core: In this overview, you’ll learn about the EQuIP process for evaluating and giving feedback on CCSS-aligned lessons. You’ll see that while one goal of EQuIP is to identify exemplary lessons for teachers around the country to use, another goal is to have teachers use EQuIP’s tools to build their own capacity to develop and find high-quality instructional materials.