Vision and Focus

A week ago or so I started posting about a book I read called Transforming Professional Development into Student Results by Douglas B. Reeves. I posted about the first 6 chapters which focued on what’s wrong with professional development. The next three chapters focus on how to create high-impact professional learning and this post summarizes the next two.

First, Reeves states that vision without implementation is counterproductive. “It not only fails to achieve the intended objectives but also engenders cynicism and distrust.” There’s been a shift of evaluating students using standards, but Reeves mentions four essential implications for every teacher, administrator, and policymaker.

  1. test scores alone are not sufficient reflection of student learning (most tests don’t show how students explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, have empathy for the views of others, and possess self knowledge of their own understandings – USE MORE THAN ONE METRIC
  2. the purpose of assessment is not to evaluate students but to teach them – HOW DOES THE ASSESSMENT HELP STUDENTS OR TEACHERS GROW AND LEARN
  3. assessment is best as a preventative checklist before students submit their work – IT’S OK TO USE CHECKLISTS (INFORMATION AND SUPPORT BEFORE POOR DECISIONS ADVERSELY INFLUENCE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
  4. assessment based on standards is not only for students, but also feedback to improve the performance of teachers – ROUTINELY PROVIDE LOW-RISK, FREQUENT, and CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

Be specific with goals. Avoid institutional multitasking. Focus on the essentials of teaching, curriculum, assessment, and leadership.

Teaching: focus on deliberate practice. It’s not about workshops. This requires a lot of time – time which is often squandered in faculty meetings

Curriculum and Assessment: A new set of textbooks, according to Reeves, will not help teachers understand algebra with the depth required.

  1. Identify the most important elements of the curricula by applying the criteria of leverage, endurance, and importance for the next level of instruction.
  2. Teachers collaborate to create new performance assessments (substantially different than writing test items)
  3. Teachers work alone to provide what they believe are exemplary responses
  4. Exchange papers and apply the scoring rubrics created in the second step to the work of a colleague.
  5. Return to assessment instructions and scoring rubrics and revise them to remove ambiguities.

This process can take years.

Leadership: Teachers have a large influence on student results, but only able to maximize this if they are supported by system leaders who give them time, professional learning opportunities, and respect. An administrator doesn’t have the grade level expertise that a classroom teacher has. Three essential elements of leaders according to Reeves are:

  1. Leaders remain fixated on the fact that student achievement is the criterion for evaluating teaching, the curriculum, and assessment strategies.
  2. Leaders focus on equity of educational opportunity through common curriculum and assessments.
  3. Leaders focus on developing other leaders.

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