Sunday, October 18, 2020

One Schools Teacher Clarity Journey


Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Olivia Amador & Joseph Assof The Teacher Clarity Playbook—LA Hands-On Guide to Creating Learning Intentions & Success  Criteria for Organized, Effective Instruction

It’s hard to believe that it has been a whole year since our teaching staff navigated through each chapter of The Teacher Clarity Playbook...A Hand-On Guide to Creating Learning Intentions & Success Criteria for Organized, Effective Instruction by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Olivia Amador, and Joseph Assof. My book is full of copious notes and colorful tabs, marking the thinking our teachers shared while learning together. These face-to-face conversations we had before the COVID19 Pandemic are remembered fondly. Although the evidence of our learning together continues to live on through our strategic planning, collaborating, and implementation of carefully designed learning experiences for each of our through a Google Meets online conversation.

What continues to be most valuable to us during distance learning is how The Teacher Clarity Playbook aligns with the essential Professional Learning Community (PLC) questions. These questions have guided us towards our goals to improve and enhance the learning outcomes for each of our students. The bonus we have now is after studying The Teacher Clarity Playbook we are able to dive even deeper into those essential questions remotely. We have greater clarity and can continue to provide opportunities for our students to have ownership of their goals while learning at home during this very difficult time.

For example, in the past, we were really good at answering and identifying the first PLC question. “What is it we expect students to learn?” We had carefully reviewed the prioritized standards and then identified the nouns and verbs that would guide our planning and ultimately teaching. But there was so much more we needed to do before we got in front of our students! In our Teacher Clarity sessions, we started to gain a deeper understanding of how those nouns and verbs represent specific key concepts and skills students were to know and be able to do. We built on those essential core concepts and then “analyze the logical progression of learning” (p. 10) for students to demonstrate their proficiency in the standard being taught, Whew!

Wait, there was so much more we learned in studying Teacher Clarity including how we are going to make the learning visible for each student. As a team, we carefully crafted meaningful learning progressions as pathways for students to navigate towards proficiency. Hard at first, but got easier as we understood the purposeful steps we needed to provide students to build on their understanding of essential core concepts. The biggest aha moment was when we read chapter three and learned the value of thinking about the steps needed to navigate through each learning progression. A new term came into play with our planning....learning intentions. We think of learning intentions as progressive steps students take as they lean into showing mastery of the prioritized concepts and skills. 

With our ultimate goals of passing ownership of learning onto our students, we moved away from first sharing with our students what activities they would be doing to bringing clarity on what they would be learning in each of these steps. 

I am learning how….

I am learning about…

I am learning that…

I am almost positive that in each of the staff copies of the Teacher Clarity books Figure 3 is heavily marked and well worn as we continued first to determine each learning progression followed by specific learning intentions. 

Retrieved from Corwin

Now that our students had more clarity on what they would be learning, as a team we developed success criteria that would support their understanding of the “how” they would know they have learned the skill or concept being taught. “The success criteria provides a means for students and the teacher to gauge progress toward learning, thereby making learning visible to the teacher and the student.” Moving away from generic prompts such as ’Do your best” teachers collaboratively developed “I can” statements that are regularly shared before and during the lesson with students. “Success criteria with relevance provide students with clear, specific, and attainable goals and can spark motivation in some of the most reluctant learners” (p. 28). Rubrics were also developed for more extensive student projects. 

We then addressed how we can regularly share with our students “The Why” am I learning this? “Taking the time to address relevancy fosters motivation and deepens learning as students begin to make connections to larger concepts (p. 54). We try to make explicit why this will be helpful to them now and as they navigate towards their future. It also requires us to continue to cultivate relationships with our students so we become more familiar with their interests and aspirations. We can then include the relevancy or “The Why” and how this will help them reach the learning intention with the success criteria. We are moving away from what they are doing to what they are learning.

In late February and early March of 2020, just before we transitioned into having our students learn from home we were fine-tuning our formative assessment strategies as outlined in Module 7. Although we were familiar with the process as a team already, we learned to switch our assessment routines up. The authors outline checking for understanding with not only the teacher-developed end of lesson formative assessments but collecting student performance data throughout the carefully designed lessons. 

Our instructional routines now included more student prompts and carefully designed teacher-generated questions while encouraging student dialog. Students were encouraged to write down their thinking first, generate their own questions, share their insights within a small group, and then engage in a whole-class discussion. Not only did this help our language learners, but those less confident in their ability as learners. Creating meaningful learning experiences through the gradual release of responsibility model is something we have been navigating extensively in our school improvement journey. Although Teacher Clarity helped focus our work by planning more purposefully those robust questions, prompts, and dialog needed to increase the level of rigor. 

“A major part of teacher clarity is understanding what students need to learn and identifying how they will know that they learned it. To get there, teachers have to analyze standards and plan meaningful instruction and assessments. But planning should be focused on impact, not on instruction. Yes, teams of teachers can talk about how they will engage students in meaningful learning, but they must focus on the impact of those activities on student learning. In doing so, they clarify their expectations. And expectations have a powerful impact on student learning” ((p. xv). 

As a building instructional leader, one of the most important lessons I have often painfully learned is to go slow to go fast. Each of the Teacher Clarity “---brings a forthrightness and fairness to the classroom because students learning is based on transparent expectations. And when we are clear, our students can better plan and predict, set goals, and acquire a strong sense of how to judge their own progress” (bc). 

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