Does Professional Development Align with Adult Learning Theory?

Based on my readings of adult learning theory, I have come up with a list of many of the qualities that should be the foundation for professional learning programs. They include or should be based on the following…

  • trust
  • collaboration
  • active engagement
  • project based
  • enjoyable experience
  • respect
  • personal interactions
  • small groups better for communication and learning
  • leaders encouraging yet insistent
  • supportive
  • important goals
  • relevant learning
  • can be used right away
  • clear roadmap to final outcome
  • inquiry
  • reflections
  • conversations
  • sense of purpose based on core beliefs
  • ongoing and long-term learning – not one shot events
  • ownership
  • value participant’s experience and ideas
  • follow-up support
  • job-embedded learning
  • connected to current job context
  • Different modalities of learning (provide for different learning styles)
  • self-directed
  • action learning
  • experiential learning
  • sharing of information
  • informed by research
  • social

My current experience with adult learning and professional development has been varied. Some of the trainings/programs do not align with adult learning theory and some definitely do. In my experience, I have attended many professional learning seminars or speakers that have covered topics that have not been near and dear to my heart (have not helped me to further my teaching goals). Oftentimes, these are one shot events and don’t have any follow-up or guidance what-so-ever after the session is finished. I am very often excited and energized by these experiences, but don’t actually put the new learning to use. When I get caught up in my day-to-day teaching, these new ideas get put into a pile on my desk and I forget about them. This doesn’t fit with the idea that adult learning should be ongoing and long term and should have follow up support.

In addition, many of the trainings that my district puts together for our in-service days, are geared toward the “masses”. I teach intervention math and reading groups and many of the trainings we receive from the district aren’t at all related to my teaching situation. I get frustrated because I feel that I am wasting my time sitting through something that doesn’t pertain to me or my students. I feel that my time could be better utilized with more personalized training and professional development opportunities. This doesn’t fit in with the adult learning theory that states that learning should be relevant and connected to my current job context.

On the other hand, there are many professional development programs that I feel have been very valuable to me and have followed adult learning theory well. Some of these include book study groups that were optional to join. We were able to choose the book and the group participants. We were also able to choose the dates, times, and locations that we met. These groups were social, we shared information, the topics were relevant to our current situations, and were self-directed. We trusted the other members of the group and collaborated with each other to learn and discuss the new material. The learning was ongoing, was in a small group and we had ownership over the book we chose and how we discussed it.

Another professional development that is based on adult learning theory is classroom visits. As teachers, we are often in our own little worlds. We don’t “get out much” to see how other teachers teach. We can learn so much from visiting other teachers’ classrooms and seeing how they teach. I have done this before and it is immensely helpful. After the classroom visit, we had a debriefing session, in which we could ask questions and get things clarified. We could also follow up with emails and phone calls afterward. The teacher that is being observed feels that their ideas and methods are valued and is excited to share with others. The teachers who observe get to see other perspectives, ideas, and strategies that they might not have thought about before, or had forgotten about. The adult learning theories that this method follows are that it is social, collaborative, supportive, reflective, action based, relevant, is the sharing of information, and can be ongoing.

Our PLC teams also follow adult learning theory well. We work together on grade level teams to look at student data, discuss learning difficulties, and come up with strategies that we will try out in our classrooms. We then come back together, discuss if the strategies were effective or not, look at student work and data, and fine-tune our strategies. This is a continuous, cyclical process in which student learning is our main goal. We respect and trust each other. We collaborate and are actively engaged in the process. We value the experience and ideas of our colleagues. PCC’s are definitely job-embedded learning and directly relate to our teaching contexts.

These are just a few examples of the professional development programs/opportunities that I have experienced throughout my teaching career. Some of them follow adult learning theory and others do not. As a teacher leader or administrator, I will try to consciously keep the ideals of adult learning theory and the experiences I have had in the past (both positive and negative) in mind when putting together professional development opportunities for my colleagues or staff. Our goal should always be to enhance student learning and should be the foundation of all professional learning. Keeping this in mind and the ideals of adult learning will definitely help when deciding professional development topics and the structure of the programs and the learning itself.

The Ever Evolving Path to School Improvement

Teacher leadership is a critical component of school improvement. Over the years, this idea has come to the forefront of educational thought. In the past, leadership within the school was thought to reside only within the ranks of management. As educators, it is our paramount duty to believe that all students can and will be successful. We are charged with making connections with all students and making sure that they have what they need to succeed. This is regardless of where they come from, who they are, what their race, nationality, religion, etc. is. Since we have moved education beyond just meeting the needs of the ‘average’ student, we have found that this task is much too large for only the school administration to effectively pursue. As the African saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, so it is the same for educating a child. Principals, teachers, parents, and students all need to come together and embrace a vision for school change that helps to move learning forward. Teachers have stepped up to the task and are working together and collaborating for school improvement and improved student learning. I have experienced this first hand within the schools that I have taught in. Teachers become leaders on committees and team up with others to bring about needed changes within the school. In addition, I have been participating in collaborative data teams for many years. We work together to determine student needs, research strategies and techniques to bring about desired results, try out those strategies, assess our students, analyze the data, and make decisions together about whether those strategies brought about the improvements we had hoped for or determine what other strategies we might try next. These cycles happen on a continuous basis throughout the year. We are constantly communicating with each other and collaborating to help all students to succeed.

Even though we are all involved in this collaborative effort to move student learning forward, there are policies and structures in place that sometimes impede this effort. I have seen this first hand with the Special Education laws. Right now, as a safety net teacher, I am pushing into a 5th grade math class to support students in their learning, along with the classroom teacher. We started the year with 18 students who have struggled in math. We worked on improving their self-confidence and are approaching math instruction with a more hands on approach. We have gotten excellent results so far and students are coming to believe that they can achieve. Then, the special education teacher finalized her schedule and started pulling out four of our math students to receive their 30 minutes of daily specialized math instruction. They were being pulled out during our core instruction time and arriving back in the middle of the lesson. Their Special Ed. instructor would give them something to complete when they came back to math class, but often they either struggled to understand what to do on the assignment or they finished so quickly that they had nothing to do. We wanted to include them in our lessons, as we had at the beginning of the year, but when they come back, they have already missed so much that they would have a very hard time understanding what we are doing. We had a meeting with the SPED teacher and looked at the students’ IEP’s. They have goals in computation and story problems. We hoped that she could push-in to help support them during instruction instead of pulling them out, but she said that she legally needed to focus her time on their specific goals. I have a hard time understanding how students who are so far behind in math already, are only getting 30 minutes of math instruction (in their IEP goals) instead of over an hour of daily math that the other kids are all getting. How is this equitable and how are they going to survive as they go to middle school and high school? I see this as a path to failure and the students only getting farther and farther behind. I’m not sure how to deal with this situation. Some teachers would just be happy to have these students out of their rooms so they have fewer students to instruct. These students are capable learners and I feel that it is a huge disservice to them the way things are currently being run.


Standards-based Assessment – Course Reflection


Teacher Leadership Program Standard #11: Utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards-based environment.

According to the course syllabus, the following are the course description, goals, and guiding questions…

Course Description

The aim of this course is to develop attitudes and skills necessary to provide sound classroom assessment experiences for learning that yields accurate, usable information for students, teachers, and parents, while also assisting teachers as they develop the skills and judgment needed to integrate assessment into instruction.



The primary goals of this course are to 1) to develop a sense of assessment vocabulary and conversation, and 2) to define and implement a strong understanding of sound classroom assessment practice and experiences within an authentic classroom context.


Guiding Questions

Three guiding questions that help us move us move in the direction of the goals stated above are 1) What do I want my students to learn (in terms of standards) 2) Where are my students currently in their progression of learning? And 3) How can I help support their learning?

Assessment for Learning:


Five Key Strategies

  1. Share learning expectations
  2. Elicit evidence
  3. Feedback
  4. Self-assessment
  5. Peer-Assessment

Formative Assessments:


At the beginning of the course, I felt that formative assessments were assessments done throughout the lesson or unit to determine student understanding. They could be quick, such as thumbs up/down/or sideways or exit tickets. They could also be observations made by the teacher as students progress through the lesson/unit. They might be a mid-unit assessment to see what students know and what they still need to more clearly understand. I use formative assessments to monitor and adjust my teaching. Throughout the lesson, I have used quick checks and have observed students to check for understanding and misconceptions. As I do these quick formative assessments, I try to clear up any misconceptions that students may have and I also re-teach or move on, based on how well my students seem to be understanding. I stated that I wanted to learn more about different types of formative assessments, how to design them to give the best data in the shortest amount of time, and how to better analyze and use them to adjust my teaching.

Sharing Learning Targets with Students:


In the past, I have shared learning expectations by going over a rubric and sharing success criteria with my students to show them what we would be learning and the steps we would be taking to reach our learning goals. Other times, I have started with a question such as, “Why do you think it’s important to learn about fractions?” This gets a discussion going and helps students come to understand the real world importance of the learning that will be taking place. They have more buy-in when they have discussed the purpose of the learning. We revisit those reasons throughout the unit as a reminder of why we are doing what we are doing and that our learning target relates to those reasons. I’m was excited to learn a variety of new ways to introduce and teach learning targets to my students through this course. I also wanted to learn ways that I can hook my students into the lesson and help them to understand the learning targets, but not take up too much time since I only have my small groups for about 30 minutes a day.

Eliciting Evidence of Student Learning:


In the past, I have used multiple ways to elicit evidence of student learning. I often use individual white boards and either have students answer questions and hold up their white boards or I observe them as they are doing the work on their boards. Using the game of Jeopardy (teacher created questions based on the unit) is a fun way to engage students in the material and also to assess whether they are understanding it or not. I break the class or group into two teams. Each student has a mini white board and has to solve or answer the question. Then they share their answers with their team and come to a consensus about the correct answer. The other team has to do the same thing in order to check their answer against the opposing team’s answer. (Links to an external site.). I also love to use hands-on artistic ways for students to show what they know. I have students draw a picture or make a play dough sculpture to demonstrate what they have learned or read. I then have students share out with the group using their artwork as a prop. Sometimes I will have them act out what we have learned or what they have read. Since I mainly teach small groups of students, we are constantly having group discussions in which I can observe how students respond and I adjust my teaching as necessary based on their responses. I’ve had students answer a question or put down their ideas on sticky notes and post them on a chart. I have used the thumbs up/down/sideways to find out if students feel like they are “getting it”. I really like the idea of the question cards (A, B, C, D) for students to hold up as they answer a question. I have never used this technique, but I’m definitely going to in the future. Through this course, I wanted to learn about additional ways to check for understanding with my students that are quick, informative, and interesting to my students.



I totally agree with Wiliam’s (2011) quote that, “Feedback should cause thinking.” Feedback should cause students to think more closely about the work that they have done and what incremental steps they can take to work toward achieving or surpassing the standards. According to research, feedback in written comments is best delivered without a grade attached. This is due to the fact that once a student sees his/her grade, they are not as likely to carefully read the comments. It also seems more final if a grade is attached. This most often informs the student that no additional work can be done to improve the grade. Therefore, why bother looking at the comments very closely. Feedback should be given in time for students to make adjustments to their work so that they get closer to or achieve the goals of the lesson/unit. If they have time to rework their assignments, they are more likely to take the comments to heart. Feedback can come in so many different forms. Comments can be written or oral and can come from the teacher or from peers. Feedback is most effective when directly aligned to the success criteria or rubric for the assignment. It’s also great if students can reflect and give themselves feedback on how hard they worked or how closely their work aligns to the success criteria or rubric.

This year, I plan to give more feedback throughout the units that I teach, basing it on the success criteria and the standards we are working toward. I would like to try to get away from putting grades on too many assignments, so that my students will focus more on the comments and how they can improve their work. I will make sure that they have time to make adjustments as we go along. I would also like to have my students give more structured peer feedback using rubrics or checklists. In addition, I plan to have my students reflect more on their own work and give themselves feedback based on lesson criteria. I would also like to have my students track their progress more, so that they know how close they are to meeting the standards and what they need to do to get there. I hoped to answer the following question through this course. How do you know how much feedback to give so that students have the information that they need to reach standard, yet do not get overwhelmed in the process?

Peer/Self Evaluation:



Two videos that I watched from Success at the Core were very well aligned with Wiliam’s suggestions for peer/self-assessment. In the first video (Channel, 2014), the teacher had the students peer edit each other’s writing. The steps that he had students go through were…

    • Step 1 – Praise (with an “I like” and specific details from the text)
    • Step 2 – Suggest elaboration
    • Step 3 – Ask questions
    • Step 4 – Make an Action Plan

This teacher had students use a graphic organizer to guide them through the peer editing process. He also made sure that students used specific examples from the text to point out what they liked, areas for elaboration, and pose questions about the text. Each student also made an action plan on what they were planning to do next after the editing process. Peer conferences are an excellent way to conduct formative assessments.

The second video was based on guided groups for formative assessments (Channel, 2014) After a lesson, this teacher had students annotate their own papers with the following letters…

    • A – Stay for additional help
    • B – Have clarifying questions
    • C – Ready for independent-work

Right away, the teacher was able to see who still needed help or didn’t understand the assignment or concepts. She was able to help those students while the ones who were ready to move on, went back to their desks to work. As students who needed the extra help started to understand, she had them change their letter to a “C” and leave the group to work individually.

Wiliam (2011) advocates for both peer and individual assessments, saying that often-times students learn more working with a peer than with the teacher. Wiliam (2011) says that “The purpose of peer assessment should be simply, and purely, to help the individual being assessed improve his work.” That’s what the students in the first video were doing. They were systematically working through a graphic organizer to help their peers to fine-tune their writing. Wiliam (2011) also states that “…activating students as owners of their own learning can produce extraordinary improvements in their achievement.” In both videos, the students were definitely actively participating in their own learning and the learning of their peers. Both of these videos were for writing lessons. I am wondering how they would have worked for other subject areas.

Integrating Assessment into Instruction:

As a teacher leader, I plan to use my new knowledge about the importance of formative assessments to help support my colleagues in building awareness, skills and capabilities in this area. For one, my grade level Data Team would be a perfect place to start. As I work with my team on effective strategies for helping our students to reach their learning targets, I can introduce some of the research and techniques that I have found on formative assessments. We can add these to our strategy list and use them with our classes and groups. In addition, I can talk with my principal about the possibility of presenting some formative assessment strategies at a staff meeting and letting teachers know that I can be a resource for them. I can also add a page to our school Haiku site with information and strategies for formative assessments. This way, teachers can access the site and get information anytime they need to.

Learning Progression:

“A learning progression is a carefully sequenced set of building blocks that students must master en route to mastering a more distant curricular aim. These building blocks consist of sub-skills and bodies of enabling knowledge. More and more education authorities are now identifying learning progressions as a potent way to help teachers plan and monitor their instruction and, as a result, enhance their students’ learning” (Popham, 2016). Throughout this course, I worked on putting together a learning progression for a 4th grade reading intervention group. The orange circle is the main objective. The blue boxes are the building block skills. The green boxes include the types of formative assessments included in the progression. The tan colored boxes include the specific questions/hinge questions for the formative assessments.

Learning Progression


Assessment into Action Project – Feedback:

Rationale Statement

Providing high quality, effective feedback is extremely important for improving student learning. According to Hattie, the average effect size of classroom feedback is .79, which is nearly double the .4 average benchmark. Therefore, Hattie places “feedback in the top 10 influences on achievement” (Sutton, Hornsey, & Douglas, 2012).  I chose this topic because it was an area in which I wanted to learn more about and improve in my teaching. While reading Embedded Formative Assessment, I was shocked when Wiliam shared the table on page 115 about the possible responses to feedback (2011). I was amazed that feedback can go so terribly wrong in so many instances. Out of the eight possible response scenarios, only two of them were positive (Wiliam, 2011). Giving quality feedback is essential in helping to move students forward in their learning. In order to have higher student achievement, I wanted to research best practices in giving feedback, both in the “what” and in the “how”. I have studied growth mindset and I have seen how gearing feedback to this type of mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset can have great benefits.

Research Questions

Through my research on feedback, I hoped to answer the following key questions. How does feedback support learning? What makes feedback effective? What are some useful strategies to convey this feedback to my students to move learning forward? Additional questions that I was hoping to answer also included the following.  How do I give focused, specific feedback that directly relates to the learning target? How can I best build a growth mindset among my students? How do I gear feedback to build on that growth mindset? How much is too much feedback? How can I best structure peer and personal feedback? How can I best have my students follow through on the feedback that they have received or have given themselves? How do I structure time for feedback and student revisions within a curricular unit/lesson?

Action Plan


Within my Safety Net reading and math classes this coming year, I plan to implement many of the new things that I have learned about giving effective feedback to my students in order to help them to move their learning forward. As Hattie states, “When students understand their goals and what success at those goals look like, then the feedback is more powerful (Sutton, Hornsey, & Douglas, 2012).” I plan to help my students to understand and interact with the learning targets for each lesson. Sharing success criteria, rubrics, and exemplars will help my students to see where they are headed and how to get there. Through the use of continuous  formative assessments, my students will know where they are on the path to their goals and I will be able to adjust my teaching to meet the needs of my students. My students will be tracking their own learning progress and making individual goals that will scaffold them toward achieving the learning targets. I will keep parents in the loop as well, by giving them information about our learning targets, resources that they can use to support their child, and feedback about where their child is and what the next steps are in helping them to reach their goals. Through the use of teacher, peer, and student feedback, students will be receiving guidance to help them along on their learning journey and help them to become more self-reflective about their own learning and progress. I plan to give my students time in class to discuss their work with me, go over the comments on assignments (either on their own or with a peer) and then have time to process that information, create an action plan for moving forward, and make the necessary revisions or changes. “Don’t provide students with feedback unless you allow time, in class, to work on using the feedback to improve their work (Wiliam, 2011).” I plan to give more comments on assignments or tasks without assigning grades at the same time. “As soon as students get a grade, the learning stops. If grades stop learning, students should be given them as infrequently as possible (Wiliam, 2011).” I really liked the example that Wiliam gives on page 130. A teacher wrote comments on strips of paper instead of on students’ assignments. Then she gave small groups of students their papers back and the separate comment strips. The groups had to determine which comments went with which assignments. This seems like a very powerful way to help students to really analyze and internalize the feedback not only for their own work, but for the work of their peers, in a non-threatening way (Wiliam, 2011).


“Learning in classrooms will be considerably enhanced if students embrace this idea of ‘It’s up to me, and I can do something about it.’ (Wiliam, 2011).” I plan to build a positive learning environment by teaching my students about the brain and having a growth vs. fixed mindset. I plan to praise students for their effort and not their intelligence. I also plan to praise students for their hard work and not how fast they get through an assignment. I will continually reiterate the fact that challenges and mistakes are opportunities to grow our brains. I want my students to understand that intelligence is not fixed at birth and that through developing a growth mindset, they can take on challenges and grow their ‘smarts’ (Dweck, 2007). I will use a student survey to help me determine where my students fall on the mindset continuum. After teaching about the brain and growth mindset, I plan to reassess using the same measure. In order for my students to view challenges and mistakes in a positive light, I plan to share stories of famous people and the failures that they went through on their paths to success. I also plan to teach them that the word FAIL has a new meaning…F-irst, A-ttempt, I-n, L-earning. I want them to see failures and challenges as part of the learning process and necessary in order to grow their brains. I also plan to encourage my students to understand the power of the word ‘yet’. Whenever they say that they can’t do something, we will add the word ‘yet’ to the end of that statement, so that they can see that learning is a work in progress and not an end product (Dweck, 2010). I plan to use children’s literature, videos, discussions, partner sharing, drawing, physical demonstrations and diagrams, etc. to help my students internalize information about how their brains function and about the benefits of having a growth mindset. “Therefore, what we need to do is ensure that the feedback we give students supports a view of ability as incremental rather than fixed: by working, you’re getting smarter (Wiliam, 2011).”

One question that I had about feedback was – How much feedback is too much? According to Susan Brookhart (2008), the amount of feedback given to a student is very individualized. Instead of trying to “fix” every error a student makes, I plan to take that student’s background knowledge, motivation, and personality into account when determining the “right” amount of feedback to give them. Brookhart (2008) suggests that we give students enough feedback so that they know what to do next, but not so much that the work has already been done for them. She also suggests giving feedback on two to three main points, gearing feedback toward the learning targets, and sharing at least as many strengths as weaknesses. I plan to use the “Two Stars and a Wish” technique, which was referenced in many of the research sources that I found, with my students this year. This strategy should work well for peer and self-reflection. In Wiliams (2011), he gives an additional variation to this technique. He suggests having students put the comments on sticky notes and after students have responded to the comments, the teacher collects them and goes over them with the class, analyzing how helpful the comments were. If I use this strategy, I will be helping my students to understand how to be more reflective and how to write comments that will help to move learning forward. I also like the feedback frame, “I noticed…, I wondered…”  shared in the following video on the Teaching Channel. Using a feedback frame such as this one, would help to narrow the focus so as to not overwhelm the student with too much feedback.


Through my research, I found some interesting ways to use technology to enhance the giving of feedback. Many of these, didn’t seem to fit my teaching situation, but I plan to try to incorporate some form of technology into my feedback repertoire.  A couple of tools that I found to help with giving both written and oral feedback are GoogleDocs (voice and written comment features) and Evernote (audio notes). Using podcasts is another way to use technology tools to provide feedback. Here is a link to a video on how to give feedback using podcasts Jing is another great tech tool to use to create video feedback It also introduces resources on giving effective feedback. Kahoot is a site to create online quizzes that students and teachers can use to get immediate feedback on student responses. Here’s how to create a Kahoot online quiz … Another interesting idea that I might like to try this year is having my students create eportfolios to track their progress throughout the year. Here are a couple of sites related to eportfolios… and

As a teacher leader, I plan to use my new knowledge about effective feedback to help support my colleagues in building awareness, skills and capabilities in this area. For one, I think my grade level Data Team would be a perfect place to start. As I work with my team on effective strategies for helping our students to reach our learning targets, I can introduce some of the research and techniques that I have found on feedback. We can add these to our strategy list and use them with our classes and groups. In addition, I can talk with my principal about the possibility of presenting some feedback strategies to our staff at a meeting or on a LEAP day and letting them know that I can be a resource for them to troubleshoot their feedback practices or to offer new research based ideas for them to try out. I can also add a page to our school Haiku site with information and strategies for giving effective feedback. This way, teachers can access the site and get information anytime they need to.



As I reflect on the research that I have conducted on effective feedback, I realize how critical it is to give timely, specific feedback that is related to the learning targets. This feedback should “provide a recipe for future action (Wiliam, 2011).” I need to give my students time in class to reflect on that feedback and use it to move their learning forward. I need to give just the right amount of feedback so as not to overwhelm my students. I need to focus on a few areas within my feedback and not try to fix everything. Using feedback frames such as, Two Stars and a Wish, helps to focus the feedback. I need to look at how I give my feedback through the eyes of my students. In order for them to reflect, internalize, and use this feedback, I need to provide opportunities for them to reflect on their peers’ work as well as on their own. In order for them to become more self-regulated in their learning, we need to practice giving feedback often and look at how helpful that feedback can be. A growth mindset should be taught and encouraged to create a positive classroom learning climate. In order for students to be able to accept feedback, they should see errors as important to the learning process. It’s also important to use many formative assessments without grades attached. Giving written, oral, or technology based feedback without grades is more useful in guiding students to make needed adjustments to their work. Feedback can so often go wrong. It’s important to be intentional and use research based practices and strategies when giving feedback to our students in order to move their learning forward and to build on their motivation to continue learning.


Popham, J. W. (2016). Educational leadership: The prepared graduate: The lowdown on learning progressions. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from

Pawlina, S., & Stanford, C. (2011). Preschoolers grow their brains: shifting mindsets for greater resiliency and better problem solving. YC Young Children, 66(5), 30-35.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Boosting achievement with messages that motivate. Education         Canada, 47(2), 6-10.

Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.

Konold, K. E., Miller, S. P., & Konold, K. B. (2004). Using teacher feedback to enhance student learning. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(6), 64-69.

Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self‐regulated         learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies In Higher          Education, 31(2), 199-218.

Brookhart, S. M. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students. Alexandria, VA:             Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education    Pty.

Sutton, R. M., Hornsey, M. J., & Douglas, K. M. (Eds.). (2012). Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism, and advice. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Shute, V.J.(2008). Focus on formative feedback, Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153-    189.

Channel, T. (2015, October 28). I noticed & I wondered Retrieved from   

  1. (1995). Take screenshots and screencasts for free, with Jing. Retrieved August 4, 2016 from

How to create a Kahoot! (2014, December 10). Retrieved August 4, 2016, from education, 06:00&max-results=5

Burke, L., & Servilio, K. (2014, October 6). Which e-portfolio tool is best for you? Retrieved         August 4, 2016, from

Digication. Digication. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from

Channel, T. (2014, May 13). Guided groups Retrieved from

Channel, T. (2014, May 13). Peer Conferencing Retrieved from


Curriculum Design – Course Reflection


Course Objective:

Teacher Leadership Standard 9:   Evaluate and use effective curriculum design


At the beginning of this course, I was very familiar with lesson planning, but not as familiar with putting together a unit plan or a year-long pacing guide. Throughout the course I have learned a great deal about both of these areas. “Curriculum development is defined as planned, a purposeful, progressive, and systematic process to create positive improvements in the educational system. Every time there are changes or developments happening around the world, the school curricula are affected.”  (Alvior, 2014)  I believe that this quote is very applicable to curriculum development. Throughout our teaching careers, we have seen curriculum adapt and change to fit the needs of society. Standards are adjusted to meet the demands of the ever changing work environment. As we realize what new skills are needed and which previous skills are not currently as important, we adjust our curriculum to meet those needs. Curriculum is constantly changing. For example, when I first started teaching in 1989, computers were just starting to become available. Most people didn’t even have one in their homes yet. We didn’t have standards to teach computer skills or use computers within our curriculum. However, as the years have progressed, we have seen that computers have become interwoven into our society and are a component of almost every job today. Therefore, we had to adjust our curriculum to meet the needs of what our students would be expected to know and be able to do in the workforce. We now have technology standards and we teach and use technology in our instruction. Curriculum development is a continuous process rather than a product.

In the past, I have designed curriculum for my own classroom and have worked with my data teams to design common formative assessments and have either adjusted district curriculum or have created new curriculum to help us to teach to targeted standards more effectively based on the students we had at the time. I have also been involved in a small group of Safety Net math teachers who have been working for the past couple of years on creating success criteria for other Safety Net teachers to use within their math instruction. In addition, when I was on leave to raise my three children, I developed curriculum for a series of enrichment classes that have run for the past 15 years at local elementary schools and community centers (math, reading, writing, and chess). I worked with others to create and revise the curriculum to meet the needs of our students. I have not been on a curriculum development team for our district, however. I have not been on a curriculum adoption committee either. Within the Lake Washington School District, most of the curriculum is purchased, so I think it would be very enlightening to be on a curriculum adoption committee in order to better understand the process of looking for the most comprehensive and effective curriculum that will help our students to reach or exceed our priority standards.

I’m glad that I took this class about curriculum development. As Beth Handler states in her article, Teacher as Curriculum Leader: A Consideration of the Appropriateness of that Role Assignment to Classroom-Based Practitioners (2010), many teachers are unprepared to take on the role of curriculum developer. She states that research shows that having teachers develop curriculum does not seem to improve student outcomes (Handler, 2010). Teachers need to have more training in both teacher education programs and in-service training if they are to be asked to step into the role of curriculum developer. As I have seen in this class, it is quite an extensive and somewhat complicated process.


When designing curriculum, units, and lessons, we must take into account the cultural makeup of our student population. The article, “Inviting All Students to Learn” by Hilary Dack and Carol Ann Tomlinson (2015) was very informative on taking into account both cultural and personal differences when planning and teaching lessons. The authors make a point to have teachers learn as much about the different cultures of their students. They suggest researching, talking with others from that culture, and finding out about their cultures through their students themselves. They provide four suggestions to help educators to “become better attuned to cultural variance and help all their students build positive, productive lives” (Dack & Tomlinson, 2015).

  1. Recognize and appreciate cultural variance.
  2. Learn about and look for culturally influenced learning patterns.
  3. Look beyond cultural patterns to see individuals.
  4. Plan inviting curriculum and instruction.


They also present the idea of cultural/behavioral continuums in order to understand the ways that students prefer to learn.

  • Individualistic————Collectivist
  • Needs to observe————-Needs to test ideas
  • Competitive—————Collaborative
  • Needs external structures—————Creates own structures
  • Challenging of authority—————Respectful of authority
  • Conformity————-Creativity
  • Reserved————–Expressive
  • Fixed sense of time—————Flexible sense of time
  • Information-driven————-Feeling-driven

kids_readingAnother article that I read during this course was Enhancing Core Reading Programs with Culturally Responsive Practices, by Katie Toppel (2015). As I was using the district adopted reading intervention curriculum for my unit planning, this article was especially interesting to me. The author describes being a culturally responsive teacher as “demonstrating care for students, incorporating opportunities for student collaboration, and strategically using instructional techniques to elicit better engagement” (Toppel, 2015). She suggests getting to know students and their families starting from the beginning of the year. One idea that she uses is a personal alphabet. She sends a template home with each student at the beginning of the year and has the family fill out a word or phrase for each letter of the alphabet to help to describe their child’s family, culture, interests, strengths, favorite things, etc. I think this would be a great way to get to know my students better. We could share student lists in class and then I could refer back to them throughout the year to help me differentiate my instruction and make it more culturally and personally relevant for my students. “Partner sharing, often referred to as ‘turn and talk’ is a great way to allow for variations in how students from different cultural groups prefer to communicate” (Toppel, 2015). I am incorporating partner work and turn and talk throughout my unit to help students to learn from each other, have a chance to share their own ideas, and to have active participation among all my students.  “Some students, particularly students who are learning English, will benefit from language supports such as sentence starters or sentence frames” (Toppel, 2015). In the differentiated section of my unit plan, I scaffolded my lessons by using sentence stems for students who are struggling. One additional way that I will be ‘inviting my students to learn” is through the engaging scenario, real world project toward the end of my unit. Students will be working with a  partner to solve a real world problem and can use their creativity in a variety of ways.

July 2016 001

I started this course by coming up with a preliminary unit map, using sticky notes within a matrix. This was the basis for the unit plan that I would be working on throughout the remainder of the course. As the course progressed, I learned about the sections of the unit plan and worked on each one until they came together to form a cohesive and comprehensive unit. As a result of my new learning, I will be able to look at district curriculum units with a new appreciation and understanding of the parts and what into creating the unit. I will feel much more confident being on a curriculum development or adoption team in the future. I will also be able to support my colleagues in understanding and writing unit and lesson plans. The following is the unit that I created throughout this course.

Unit Plan

Unit Plan scan 1


Unit Plan scan 2

Unit Plan scan 3

Unit Plan scan 4

Unit Plan scan 5

Unit Plan scan 6

Unit Plan scan 7

Unit Plan scan 8

Unit Plan scan 9


Alvior, M. G. (2014, December 13). The meaning and importance of curriculum development.      Retrieved August 16, 2016, from Curriculum and Instruction,

Handler, B. (2010). Teacher as curriculum leader: a consideration of the appropriateness of that role assignment to classroom-based practitioners. International Journal of Teacher       Leadership, 3(3), 32-42.

Dack, H., & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015, March). Inviting all students to learn. Educational    Leadership, 11-15.

Toppel, K. (2015). Enhancing core reading programs with culturally responsive practices. Reading Teacher, 68(7), 552-559.

Ainsworth, L. (2010). Rigorous curriculum design: how to create curricular units of study that align standards, instruction, and assessment. United States: Lead + Learn Press.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.











Culturally Responsive Teaching Course Reflection

raised hands

Course objectives:

  1. Articulate the major aims of the multicultural education movement.
  2. Contextualize their present understanding of multicultural education by demonstrating awareness of historical events and persons that helped sensitize Americans to issues of cultural diversity and inequity in education.
  3. Identify the tensions between traditional and multiculturalists approaches to politics and education, and to personally reconcile them in a well-reasoned and defensible manner.
  4. Explain how culture impacts teaching and learning and suggest how increased sensitivity to multiple cultures in the classroom might impact their instruction.
  5. Assume instructional leadership for school-wide improvement in providing culturally responsive instruction.
  6. Develop a reflective stance toward their attitudes regarding all learners.


What is culture? This is the question that was posed to us at the beginning of this course. Throughout the course, I have learned about the different aspects that make up a person’s culture. As I grew to understand, culture is much more than just language and home country. It also includes race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, education, social habits and customs, foods, music, arts, values, and more. It goes much deeper than I had ever imagined. A good analogy for culture is an iceberg. The parts of culture that we see are like the top of the iceberg that is above the water. All of the hidden aspects of culture are like the part of the iceberg that is under water. Throughout this course, I had the opportunity to learn more about many of the different aspects of culture, both seen and unseen.


When incorporating different cultures and perspectives into the curriculum, it enhances students’ educations. Our lives have become much more global than they once were. If we only expose our students to the old, archaic curriculum of the past, we are missing out on a rich opportunity for our students to see beyond their own communities, state, or country. In addition to this, by teaching using multicultural curriculum, we are also helping all of our students to learn more about themselves and others. We are helping to validate the differences in cultures and to have our students see the value that they and others bring to our world. I have found this to be true within my own class groups this year. Our district recently adopted a new reading curriculum and I have noticed a few recent reactions from some of my students. The curriculum is definitely more multicultural. A few of the stories/readings have been about people of Mexican descent. Many of my students’ families are originally from Mexico. My students got very excited when we were reading these stories that portrayed foods, customs, etc. that they could relate to. Another recent story we read was an East Indian folktale. I had never heard this story before, but two of my Indian students recognized the story and felt empowered that no one else knew about the tale. I am very happy that our new curriculum takes this more multicultural approach to the teaching of reading. According to James Banks, “Transformative teaching and learning are characterized by a curriculum organized around powerful ideas, highly interactive teaching strategies, active student involvement, and activities that require students to participate in personal, social, and civic action to make their classrooms, schools, and communities more democratic and just” (Banks, 1996, p. 81). Our curriculum seems to be getting more multicultural, but still has a way to go to become more culturally inclusive.

Graduation mortar on top of books

Mary McLeod Bethune felt that education was the path out of oppression. Bethune was a highly influential feminist, educator, and activist for social change and equality in America (Banks, 1996). It is important for both our male and female students to get a more balanced education about the history of our country and our world. We need to empower our girls with stories of strong women who have paved the way and who have come before them. We need to teach our boys that all humans are equal and worthy to play a role in our communities, cities, states, country, and the world. The story of Bethune was very inspirational and shows that each one of us is capable of great things, even when coming from humble beginnings. We need to share stories like the one about Bethune with our students to help them to have a more balanced understanding of history.


Culture plays an enormous role in how people communicate. Spoken language is just encoded culture and different cultures have languages, accents, and dialects that can confuse others who are not familiar with them. Communication goes well beyond just talk. Eye contact, physical movements, and voice inflections are all based on cultural norms. I found it interesting to think about how different cultures’ interactions oftentimes differ. For example, in some Black churches everyone talks or responds out loud. This is in direct contrast to the typical White church, where everyone is silent and listens to the priest or pastor speak. In the classroom we need to keep these cultural communication styles in mind as we relate to our students. In typical schools, the majority of time is spent with the teacher talking and the students listening (passive-receptive) and teachers tend to ask convergent questions. This however, is in opposition with how many students have been brought up in their home cultures. Some cultures tend to ask more divergent questions of their children and don’t follow turn-taking protocols. We need to be aware of these differences and adapt our teaching styles to fit the needs of all of our students. Group work tends to work well for some cultures, so a combination of group and individual work could be more effective.


It was fascinating to learn about BICS and CALP. It tends to take ELL students 1-2 years to build their Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (social communication). It tends to take students 5-7 years to build their Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (language for academic learning). The tips for teaching ELL students were great to learn. Teaching vocabulary to ELL students is the single most important thing you can do for them to help them build their language skills. Other suggestions include…

    • Summarize learning frequently
    • Give students time to talk with a partner (student to student interactions)
    • Use visuals like diagrams and pictures
    • Hands-on learning
    • Model the thinking process
    • Check for understanding with frequent questions
    • Keep explanations short
    • Teach key vocabulary
    • Scaffold the learning


HELLO in eight different languages

“Language plays an important part in the knowledge construction process in at least two major ways: (1) the language that individuals and groups are familiar with and use affects their perceptions of the world and of others (Whorf, 1959); and (2) the language individuals or groups choose to use or to not use sends powerful messages to others” (Newmeyer, 1986) (Banks, 1996, p. 298). Languages are disappearing from use every day. It is important for us to preserve and encourage the use of different cultures’ languages. There are many things that contribute to this loss of language, such as “genocide, social or economic or habitat destruction, displacement, demographic submersion, language suppression in forced assimilation or assimilatory education, electronic media bombardment” (Banks, 1996, p. 301). It is important for us to develop programs to help students preserve their languages and cultures. When students learn English, they don’t need to stop using their cultural language, they just need to add a new language to their repertoire. Bilingual education programs seem like a very effective way of helping students to learn a new language and continue to build on their home language skills as well. This also helps students to feel proud of their heritage and culture. The curriculum should also be culturally relevant (Banks, 1996, p. 315). Banks attributes the success of educational programs to local control, cultural compatibility, and an empowerment of teachers (1996, p. 316).


The article, Metaphors of Hope (Chenfield, 2004) was refreshing to read. Oftentimes we focus so much on what is wrong with the world and with education that we lose sight of all the amazing things going on in schools and classrooms. Most teachers got into the field of education to make a difference and change lives for the better. I know that is why I got into teaching. By looking at the successes and creative ideas of our colleagues, we can all learn some valuable lessons and strategies to help us with our own students. The more we work with others in the teaching profession, talk with them, observe them, and strategize with them, we will increase our bag of tricks, as well as our understanding of what works, and doesn’t work, in classroom situations.


In the article, As Diversity Grows, So Must We (Howard, 2007) the author states that many schools are going through a rapid change of demographics and it can be challenging for staff, families, and students to adjust. He offers a five phase program to help schools to meet this challenge (Howard, 2007, p. 8). The phases include…

  1. Building trust
  2. Engaging personal culture
  3. Confronting issues of social dominance and social justice
  4. Transforming instructional practices
  5. Engaging the entire school community

When taking on this challenge, we need to remember that it isn’t easy and that it takes time to accomplish, but can yield great positive outcomes.

I have to admit that when I signed up for this class, I was excited to learn more about cultural awareness, but I really felt that what we would learn would be things that I already do as a teacher. I thought it would be an interesting, but not critical component of my Master’s program and my learning as an educator. Boy, was I wrong! I have learned so much throughout this class and my eyes have been opened to so many new ways of looking at things. My lens has been broadened and I have become more aware of what it takes to become culturally competent. It is a constant learning process that I have just begun. I will definitely carry this new learning over into any administrative position that I might obtain in the future. I will be more aware of looking for how culture affects students’ learning styles and how they approach and feel about education. I will continue to look carefully at our curriculum and supplement it as necessary with culturally responsive materials. I will continue to have high expectations for all of my students and respond to them in a caring and positive way. I will continue to be amazed at how many of my students can know and learn multiple languages. I will learn from my students and have them share information about their cultures and help them to feel that they are truly unique and valued individuals. I will work to communicate with families and help parents to feel welcomed and share with them the multitude of ways that they can become engaged in their child’s education.


“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” Dr. Haim Ginott.



Banks, J. A. (Ed.). (1996). Multicultural education transformative knowledge & action historical and contemporary perspectives. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Howard, G. R. (2007). As diversity grows, so must we. Educational Leadership, 16-22.

Chenfield, M. B. (2004). Metaphors of hope. Phi Delta Kappan, 271-275.

Newmeyer, F. J. (1986). The politics of linguistics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Whorf, B. L. (1959). Linguistics as an exact science. In L. F. Dean & K. G. Wilson (Eds.), Essays on language and usage. New York: Oxford University Press.



Engaging Communities Course Reflection


The course objectives for “Engaging Communities” were:

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the importance of inclusive practice as it relates to engaging with parents and community members.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of collaborative strategies as they relate to engaging with diverse families and community members.
  3. Students will participate in developing a school plan for improving and sustaining school-community engagement.
  4. Students will articulate how effective communication skills and strategies are essential to: market the school to enlist community support; resolve conflicts among individuals and groups; and, build common focus and collaboration to enhance student learning.


I was excited to take this course so that I could learn more about how to engage families and community members in the educational process and student learning. I knew how important family involvement was, but I didn’t really understand the difference between involvement and engagement. Throughout the course, we learned more about how to distinguish the two and why we should be striving for engagement over involvement.


Both family engagement and family involvement are terms used to explain ways that schools work to get families to participate in the education of their children. However, family involvement can be looked at as ‘doing to’ and family engagement can be looked at as ‘doing with’. In other words, family involvement is one-way communication from a school to families and parent engagement is two-way communication between families and the school. As a school leader, it is important to focus more on engagement than involvement. Instead of telling families about projects the school deems important and trying to get parents to volunteer to work on them, schools should strive to include families in the conversation to come up with what the community as a whole believes are the projects or causes that should be worked toward for school improvement and student learning. Staff should listen to families and work together with them as a team. Families should be welcomed into the school community and share in the decision making process. Families have more motivation and buy-in for the causes that they have helped to champion than in the projects that have been thrust upon them. Families are an integral and essential part of the school team. Power and authority should be shared among families and staff.


During the course, I also got a chance to look more deeply into my own school and another school’s community-relations. During the first assignment, which was a school-community case study, I researched a school incident and how it was handled by the administration. I learned a great deal from this case study, as I have never had to deal with a situation involving a bb gun shooting at a bus stop. If I was a principal at this school and this incident happened, I would have followed the same steps that the Dean did while handling the investigation. I also like the idea of a district approved newsletter going out to families. In addition, I feel that I would put together some sort of training or information that would be taught to students, possibly at an assembly, focusing on students telling a trusted adult when they see something happening that shouldn’t be happening. We would also focus on telling the truth and that everyone’s safety depends on all of us watching out for each other. I would like to learn about additional strategies that I could use as a principal to build a more positive and trusting school community. In addition to the case study, I put together a Community Engagement Product (CEP), in which I took an in-depth look at my own school’s collaboration with community members. This project directly addresses WA State Standard 4 and Principal Evaluation Criteria 7. I interviewed staff members and my principal to get more information. It was interesting looking at community engagement from a variety of perspectives and also looking more closely at my school’s demographic data. It’s important that the principal reaches out to diverse groups in the school community. My principal is only in her second year of being a principal and felt that this was an area that she needed to work on. I would love to learn more about how to engage different groups within my school community.


As far as I can tell, our staff encourages and strives to involve and engage parents. I think that the majority of them wish we had more parent engagement. Many teachers attend PTSA meetings and events to show their support. They also try to connect through newsletters, letters, websites, emails, phone calls, and home visits. One staff member who I was talking with teaches a gifted (Quest) class and has parent volunteers to run her Passport club, grade papers, and go on field trips. She also said that the Quest parents can try to be a bit too involved and want to direct how the teacher teaches. Another teacher in a general education class said, “We have a small group of extremely dedicated, hard-working volunteers!” Another teacher said, “I would like to see both involvement and engagement increased. With our ever evolving community of families from around the world, I am glad that the PTSA is trying to reach out and connect to immigrant families more.” Another Quest teacher stated, “We LOVE our parent helpers because many of our programs would not exist without them. They are instrumental at providing support to teachers and students both inside and outside the classroom. PTSA school related academic functions and afterschool programs are sustained by parent volunteers and enrich kids’ lives.” One of our ELL teachers said, “We have done a lot of things to reach out to and engage our immigrant families this year! I did home visits once a month to help build a school-home connection. I took a classroom teacher with me for most visits. Christina and I have also run ELL Family Game Nights to teach parents how to help build  English vocabulary at home. We did one game night a month focusing on one grade each time.”


As a principal, I would work collaboratively with parents to improve student achievement. I would strive to build a trusting environment throughout the school and trusting relationship with parents. I would convey to parents the fact that we are partners in the education of their child. I would offer families strategies, materials, knowledge, resources, and supports to help them to help their child to be a successful learner. In addition, I would help families new to the country to understand the school system and the educational process. I would ask parents what their hopes and dreams are for their child and what challenges their child might have . Parents know their child better than we do. If we can help fill in information about their child, it will give us a stronger base to start from. Then we can work together with parents to come up with goals and objectives that we all feel will help their child to be a more successful learner. It is also important to find out what questions that parents might have.

As a principal I would also work to ensure that each student had equal opportunities to access learning. It would be my moral imperative to make sure that each student is learning and achieving their academic goals. In order to do this, I would need to analyze student data and test scores and communicate with staff to find out which students were struggling with their learning. I would then make sure that those students were getting the supports that they needed  (ELL, Sped, Safety Net, etc.) I would continue to look at data and collaborate with staff throughout the year to see how the students were progressing and decide as a team if any additional supports would be needed to help each student to succeed.

Through the process of completing this assignment I have learned many things. I have learned more about the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement and how important it is to actively engage parents as team members in the education of their children. I also learned that an administrator should analyze school demographics and test score data and share that with staff to get a better feel for where the school is and where they want to go from there. It’s important to include parents in the decision making process and help them feel like valued members of the school family. Washington State Leadership Standard Four is based on these same ideas – improving students learning and success by collaborating with families and the community, seeing diversity as an asset, and by acquiring and sharing knowledge and resources in order for the betterment of the school and student achievement.


Throughout this course, we also read scholarly articles and had class discussions related to each one. The discussion that I lead was on the article “Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams” by Chris Robbins and Linda Searby (Robbins and Searby, 2013). This article was about a research study on parental involvement strategies using interdisciplinary teams at three different middle schools (affluent suburban, mid-level rural, & poverty urban). The research techniques that were used were interviews, journal questions, observations, focus groups, and questionnaires. “One of the primary purposes of middle school interdisciplinary teams is to communicate and engage parents while developing and implementing curriculum based on an adolescents’ developmental needs.” (Robbins and Searby, 2013). Effective middle school teams do the following…

  1. Understand that parent involvement plays an essential role in a child’s education
  2. Maintain an open and approachable attitude toward parents
  3. Serve as a resource to parents
    1. Know the developmental levels of adolescents and communicate these with parents as needed
    2. Help parents with home-based interventions
    3. Help parents to be aware of specific steps they can take to help their child
  4. Approach problem-solving opportunities as a team
    1. Teams meet each week to problem-solve student issues and come up with interventions
    2. Work together to implement the interventions
    3. Conference with parents as a team


Another topic that we discussed was student homelessness. McKinney-Vento Act was put into effect to help homeless children have a stable educational environment. “Liaisons should therefore establish strong professional development programs to educate the entire district of the policy’s intent. This instruction must cover the basics of the law as well as information to counter the deficit thinking surrounding the issue of homelessness in general and the blaming of homeless people for what they are going through.” (Cunningham, 2014). I feel that I have not been properly trained on this topic by my district.


Another article that we read and discussed was The School to Prison Pipeline (Elias, 2013). Research now shows that suspending students and removing them from school, doesn’t improve their behavior. Instead, it seems to set up a cycle in which the negative behavior is repeated and many students end up in prison as they get older. A high percentage of the students that are affected by this are minorities and learning disabled students. Instead of pulling students out of school when they misbehave, we need to offer more training and support for teachers on effective discipline techniques. When teachers and staff use less punitive methods, more students tend to stay in school and finish their educations.

I learned a great deal throughout this course. I enjoyed the discussion based classroom sessions. I read about many different educational issues in the assigned readings and learned even more from my peers when we talked about the articles in class. The projects helped me to look more deeply into community and family engagement within my own school and other schools. I learned more about the difference between family involvement and engagement and how to create a more inviting atmosphere and encourage family and community engagement and partnerships.


Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 23(2), 113-136.

Cunningham, K. A. (2014). A Question of Priorities: A Critical Investigation of the McKinney-   Vento Act. Critical Questions in Education, 5(3), 218-232.

Elias, M. (2013). The School to Prison Pipeline. Teaching Tolerance, Spring, 39-43.




Action Research Course Reflection


The course objectives for Action Research were…

  1. Review a variety of current educational literature and research, examining best practices in the classroom setting.
  2. Explore and apply the Action Research process to provide the foundation for continuous inquiry and an effective solution to an issue.
  3. Understand that Action Research is a distinctive approach to inquiry that is directly relevant to the classroom setting and that it provides the means for teachers to enhance their teaching and impact student learning.
  4. Reflect on the Action Research process by sharing identified research focus, rationale, collection and analysis of data, and inquiry next steps through a presentation to peers.


At the beginning of this course, I had no idea what Action Research was. I obviously knew what research was, but didn’t know how the word “Action” changed the process. In the past, if I had something that I wanted to learn more about, I would research the topic and learn as much as I could about it. At the beginning of this course, I wondered how different Action Research was from the research that I had always done. Throughout the course, I have learned that the process of conducting Action Research includes:

  1. Observe students and record observations
  2. Analyze observations over time
  3. Choose a problem area
  4. Assess students at the beginning with three measures
  5. Research best practices
  6. Try out new research based strategies
  7. Assess with the same three measures at the end
  8. Make changes or adjustments to teaching practice as needed

This is a continuous, cyclical process that should be part of an accomplished teacher’s routine. Throughout this course, I learned how to observe my students and record my daily observations in a journal. I wrote about things that were bothering me that happened with my students or my instruction. By taking a look at these journal entries over time, I was able to see patterns of problem areas that arose. I chose the one that was bothering me the most and started off on an Action Research project. I found many excellent peer-reviewed journal articles about teaching students about having a growth mindset. As I read through the articles, I saw patterns in the research that showed how teaching about growth mindset can have a positive impact on students’ attitudes, behavior, and achievement. “Researchers have found that in dozens of studies that students with a growth mindset improve more in academics and other skills, and can even be less aggressive and more socially engaged” (Sparks, 2013).


My thoughts for this study were inspired by research on growth mindsets in the classroom. This research led me to wonder about the connections between students learning about their brains and having a growth mindset and students’ ability to persevere through difficult learning challenges and not give up easily or become distracted. I also wondered about the use of the word ‘yet’ at the end of the statement, “I can’t do it…YET!” In addition, I wondered about how students learning to accept failure as part of the learning process would affect their attitudes and motivation to persevere through difficult learning challenges.


My plan was to investigate how to build a positive learning environment by teaching my students about the brain and having a growth vs. fixed mindset. My investigation had the potential to increase student motivation, time in learning, raise student achievement levels, and help students to understand that they are in charge of their learning and that challenges will grow their intelligence. “Teaching students a growth mindset results in increased motivation, better grades, and higher achievement test scores. Over a series of sessions, students were taught that their brains form new connections every time they learn, and that over time they can become smarter” (Dweck, 2007). This inquiry supports efforts to increase student performance levels and help students to meet or exceed academic standards. As a classroom teacher, this investigation can help me to develop new skills and strategies in order to help the typically lower performing students to feel better about themselves and know that they can make a difference in how smart they become. One of those strategies is teaching students about the power of ‘yet’. “The word ‘yet’ is valuable and should be used frequently in every classroom” (Dweck, 2010). Instead of students saying, “I can’t do it!” encourage them to say, “I can’t do it YET.” The hope is, that this will also help students to be more self-motivated and encouraging to their peers. It should also help to increase time on task and learning time throughout the period.

The following are excerpts from my weekly journal entries, which show my progression throughout the course:

Week 1: I see many students during my 4th grade math push-in who have low math self-esteem and truly believe that they can’t do the math. They put themselves down and cause disruptions or tune out so that they won’t even have to try. It seems like the 4th grade teacher and I are constantly putting out fires, trying to encourage students, keep them on task, and build their self-esteem. We are both wiped out each day at the end of the hour long period.


Week 2: This week I noticed that many of my students seemed to get frustrated easily. During math group I had students who got frustrated when they didn’t pass a multiplication time test. Sometimes they feel like they will never be able to pass. However, I don’t think any of them practice at home in order to pass the tests. I think they just expect that they will either pass or not pass. They don’t seem to attribute it to the amount of effort that they put in. Students in math class will jump to a conclusion that the material is too difficult for them before they even try. Some of the students got frustrated when they got problems wrong during our math work time. They don’t seem to understand that mistakes are a part of learning.


I think it will be very useful for me to conduct my action research project on empowering students to understand and be responsible for their own learning. I would like to research mindfulness and how it can help my students to have a more positive self concept, understand that mistakes are part of the learning process, and that the effort that they put into their own learning will create changes in their brains. I want them to be able to increase their frustration threshold and understand that they all have the power to learn and make a difference in their own lives and futures.

Week 4: I took my teaching partner out for dinner to discuss my plans for the project. Since we team teach for this class, I don’t feel like I can just try out anything that I want, without running it by her. Last week, I did give the three different assessments to my students as a baseline. One was multiple choice and the other was short answer and drawing a picture. I also used observation and had a check off sheet that I recorded data on while I was in the class. This was difficult because I was trying to observe, record data, and help kids with their math activities too. I’m sure I missed quite a few things while I was working individually with students. I put together graphs for the two surveys and have also been organizing my materials and conducting additional research in order to plan out my lessons to start on the program this Monday. I’m hoping that students will develop positive attitudes about mistakes and the learning process. I am also hoping that they will learn that taking on challenges and doing things that are hard for them will grow their brains. I’m hoping they will develop perseverance and more positive self-concepts.


Week 5: I started teaching my 4th grade math students about the brain and how their brains learn new things this week. I think my kids are really starting to get it and I have seen small changes in their behavior and outlook on their abilities. We keep talking about how challenges grow the brain and that mistakes actually help the brain grow more than if you didn’t make any mistakes. This is a huge concept for the students that I work with. My plan for the next few lessons is about the importance of making mistakes and perseverance through those tough challenges. My students have been very receptive to the new learning and way of viewing themselves. I am hoping that it will actually have life-long benefits.

Week 7: I only saw my math group two times this week. I did do about 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning of those two math classes for my AR project. My students have been very interested in and receptive to learning about the brain and growth mindset. One student who gets really frustrated when she makes a mistake is starting to come around to understanding that mistakes are a part of learning and making them helps you grow your brain. Another student who usually has a bad attitude toward math, told another student that it was ok to make a mistake and to keep trying.

YouTube Growth Mindset Videos

Week 8: We watched additional YouTube videos about making mistakes, the brain, and growth vs. fixed mindset. We discussed famous people who have made mistakes or had other people tell them that they couldn’t do something, but they kept trying. Later that day one of my students came up to me and said she had seen a commercial for a new movie called “Eddie the Eagle” and that it was about a man who wanted to be a ski jumper in the Olympics, but everyone told him he couldn’t do it. She made the connection to what she was seeing in her own life. I have given my kids reminder sheets for them to put into their binders. One was a new way to look at failures…





I also gave them a sheet about growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. I have noticed many of my students have chosen on their own to put these sheets on the outsides of their binder under the clear plastic. This way they can see it all the time. Yesterday I had the kids fill out a page with writing and drawing about what they have learned so far about the brain and growth mindset. I put these all together and printed a coloring book for each of them and gave it to them today. They were super excited!

Fixed vs Growth Mindset Poster

Through analyzing the data from my Action Research project I found a correlation between teaching my students about their brains and about having a growth mindset, with a decrease of problem behaviors and more positive academic self-concepts. I enjoyed conducting the Action Research project and have added the teaching of growth mindset to my strategy toolbox. My students seem much more positive about learning and now seem to have fewer frustration outbursts and melt-downs.

Negative Behaviors

Negative Behaviors pic

I plan to continue to do more informal Action Research projects on my own and with colleagues in order for us to improve academic achievement and/or to decrease disruptive student behaviors or attitudes. Action Research can be done anytime there is a problem or situation that needs to be solved.

As a leader, I would use Action Research to help myself and others target trouble areas and take time to work on immediate classroom needs instead of always doing blanket one-size-fits-all professional developments. Showing staff that you care about their specific issues, and that you will give them time to spend with colleagues doing an Action Research project based on those needs, will go a long way in establishing a trusting environment. This should also lead to increased student achievement and an increase in caring and supportive classrooms environments throughout the school. In addition, when teachers feel heard and get help from others with issues they are struggling with, they will most likely be happier with their jobs. School will be a more positive place to be and staff turnover should hopefully be decreased.


Pawlina, S., & Stanford, C. (2011). Preschoolers grow their brains: Shifting mindsets for greater resiliency and better problem solving. YC Young Children, 66(5), 30-35.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Boosting Achievement with Messages that Motivate. Education Canada,    47(2), 6-10.

Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even Geniuses Work Hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.

Sparks, S. D. (2013). ‘Growth Mindset’ Gaining Traction As Ed. Strategy. Education Week,          33(3), 1-21.

Willis, J. (2007). Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success. Childhood Education, 83(5), 310-315.


Meta-Reflection on Survey of Instructional Strategies


The course objectives for Survey of Instructional Strategies were…


  1. Candidates will understand the role of a variety of engagement and instructional strategies as related to impact on student learning.
  2. Candidates will understand the components of effective lesson design using a variety of effective instructional strategies.
  3. Candidates will understand, design, and implement four lesson plans using a variety of instructional and engagement strategies including cooperative learning, advance organizers and schema activation, nonlinguistic representations and graphic organizers, summarizing, note making, setting objectives, providing feedback, recognition, homework, and the use of metaphors and analogies. Develop and demonstrate the ability to participate in a peer case study using: Collaborative inquiry designed to frame a problem, collect, analyze and interpret evidence, and determine next steps that will be implemented with students or staff as part of your leadership role.


Candidates will examine and reflect on personal professional use of instructional strategies in order to value current practices and make changes to professional practices when needed.


Students will discuss and participate in peer leadership activities to assist other school professionals in the application or instruction strategy best practices using the collaborative inquiry process.


  1. Students will be able to communicate instructional strategy information to others.
  2. Students will be able to read and understand the instructional strategies presented in the professional literature.


At the beginning of this course, I was excited to learn about new teaching strategies that I could use with my students. I think we oftentimes get stuck in a rut using the same few teaching strategies and I wanted to learn how I could expand my repertoire. I was also interested in learning about which strategies had the highest effect size and when to use them most effectively. I have been a Safety Net teacher for over seven years now, and mostly teach small groups of struggling students. In addition to learning about strategies for small groups, I was interested in refreshing my knowledge on strategies for regular sized classrooms too.

During one of our first class sessions, we brainstormed a list of instructional strategies and also discussed how to become a visible learning teacher. The strategies that we brainstormed as a class include the following…

  • Success criteria
  • Students tracking progress
  • Think/pair/share
  • Feedback
  • Graphic organizers
  • Scaffolding/modeling
  • Process through writing/drawing
  • Making personal connections
  • Peer tutoring
  • Socratic seminars
  • Gallery walk
  • Jigsaw
  • Thumbs up/down/sideways

The three keys to becoming a visible learning teacher include (Hattie, 2012): keys

  1. Teachers evaluate their effects on students (know thy impact)
  2. Teachers see learning through the eyes of their students
  3. Students see teaching as the key to their ongoing learning (teaching is a tool for students)

Some of the strategies that we took a more in-depth look at included advance organizers, cooperative learning, nonlinguistic representation, and summarizing/note taking. One of my classmates and I chose to do our presentation on advance organizers. We learned that advance organizers help students to activate their prior knowledge and also help them tie that knowledge to the new learning. Advance organizers come at the start of a lesson and can be things such as stories, pictures, videos, audio, etc. The four types of advance organizers include expository, narrative, skimming, and graphic.


Cooperative learning is one of the most commonly used teaching strategies, but is also one of the most misused ones. In cooperative learning, all students need to be engaged, have a role to play, and be accountable for not only their own work, but the work of the whole group. Teachers can use formative and summative assessments to give feedback to their students on both their individual and group contributions. Giving students an opportunity to work with their peers, gives them a chance to build a deeper understanding of the material than if they just worked on it individually. Students also have better retention, motivation, and achievement when participating in a cooperative learning activity. The student tasks/roles need to be explicitly taught and practiced. Group size should be no more than 5 students. There are 3 types of cooperative learning (informal, formal, and base groups). Informal groups would be quick things like turn-and-talk, pair share, etc. Formal groups would last throughout an assignment, project or unit. Base groups are for the long term (whole year).


Nonlinguistic representations include graphic organizers, physical models or manipulatives, mental pictures, pictures, illustrations, pictographs, and kinesthetic activities. In my opinion, these are the things that really make learning come alive for students. Using nonlinguistic representations can help students to link their previous learning with new learning. They help students to “process, organize, and retrieve information from memory” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). The six types of graphic organizers that are most commonly used in classrooms include: Descriptive, Time Sequence, Process/Cause-Effect, Episode, Generalization/Principle, and Concept. When helping students to create a mental picture, it is great if you can provide details related to all of their senses to help them to see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the imagery. I think it is very interesting that when students move around during a learning activity, their brains are building more neural connections and the learning is easier to remember (and kids love to move around).


In both summarizing and note taking, students need to condense the information down to the most essential parts. They also help students to organize information and put it into a form that helps them to retain the information more effectively and efficiently. There are both linear (outlining) and nonlinear (webs or maps) forms of note taking. There is no specific note-taking format that is the best, but it is important to explicitly teach students how to take notes. One way to start this process with students is to give them a template with some of the information already entered. Then as they progress through the lesson or reading, they can fill in the rest of the information. Teaching students the rule-based summarizing process should help them to understand how to summarize more effectively. The rules include: 1.) Take out material that is not important to understanding. 2.) Take out words that repeat information. 3.) Replace a list of things with one word that describes them. 4.) Find a topic sentence or create one if it is missing. There are six different summary frames that can help students when they are writing their summaries. They include: narrative, topic-restriction-illustration, definition, argumentation, problem-solution, and conversion. These frames have questions that help guide students in their summarizing. Reciprocal teaching is a common strategy for teaching students how to summarize. It includes the four comprehension strategies of summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Students take on roles for each of the comprehension strategies. Important tips for note taking include: 1.) Give students teacher-prepared notes. 2.) Teach students a variety of note-taking formats. 3.) Provide opportunities for students to revise their notes and use them for review.


Through reading the text, Visible Learning for Teachers, by John Hattie, I learned about the progression of the lesson from beginning to end. Setting learning targets and teaching them explicitly to students is critical at the beginning of a lesson. It is important to set objectives, give students success criteria so that they know how to meet the objectives, and also give them feedback to guide their progress. In order to teach by setting objectives and providing feedback, there are certain things that we should do. We should…

  • State the learning objectives to our students in terms that they can understand
  • Help our students to tie those objectives to learning they have already done and to future learning
  • Help our students to set their own learning objectives and give them feedback on those objectives
  • Check for student understanding of the objectives
  • Plan activities and lessons based on how well they will help students to meet the objectives
  • Provide students with success criteria or a rubric before an assessment
  • Give timely feedback throughout the unit of instruction
  • After giving feedback, give students a chance to improve their performance
  • Can use technology to help with feedback and documentation

One of the most important things to maximize student learning is co-planning lessons. Within our planning, we should take into account four things.

  1. Levels of performance (students’ prior achievement, developmental levels, confidence, & motivation)
  2. Learning intentions (targeted learning/achievement outcomes)
  3. Rate of progress (success criteria/progression)
  4. Co-planning and discussion (teachers plan and critique lessons together)

John Hattie states that a caring, positive classroom climate is one of the critical components needed to promote learning. The classroom should be a trusting environment where questions and mistakes are welcomed. Teachers should explicitly teach the learning targets and the success criteria so students know where they are going and what it looks like to get there. Students need to be taught how to work cooperatively and what the norms and rules of the class and groups are. Hattie states that the four criteria for “relational trust – interpersonal social exchanges that take place in a school community (Hattie, 2012)” are…respect, competence, personal regard, and integrity. We want to challenge students and to help them to be aware that through challenge and learning, there will be mistakes and questions. Both teachers and students should see mistakes as opportunities for learning.


Classrooms should have more dialog than monologue happening throughout the day. Currently, in most classrooms, the teacher does most of the talking. Hattie suggests that we incorporate more teacher-student and student-student discussions into our lessons. Teachers should be listening more than they are talking. We can learn a great deal by listening to our students. We can determine what they already know, any misconceptions they might have, and gaps in their learning.

Social relationships are very important for students to learn effectively. For example, when students move to a new school, Hattie says, based on current research, that “…the single greatest predictor of subsequent success is whether the student makes a friend in the first month (Hattie, 2012).” Peers can be tutors, give feedback, and provide friendship. Cooperative learning is a great strategy to build on the fact that peers and working with other students is so important to the learning process.

Hattie suggests that we see learning through the eyes of our students. We should be more focused on the learning, rather than just the teaching. Once we understand how our students learn and what stages they are in, we can more effectively make teaching decisions. We should teach our students how to use strategies within our content areas, give them time to practice those strategies, and then we can assess how effective those strategies were in promoting learning.

project03 template

Hattie believes that learning should start with a “backward design” so that we start with the learning objectives and success criteria in mind and then come up with the strategies and activities we feel will best move our students forward in their learning to meet the objectives. There are four stages of motivation…

  1. See a gap
  2. Goal-setting
  3. Strategies
  4. Close the gap

Many students get stuck at stage one. We as teachers, need to pinpoint which stage of motivation that a student is in and help them to move from that stage to the next.


Feedback has one of the highest effect sizes on student learning and is therefore critical in the teaching and learning process. Feedback helps students to know where they are and what they need to do to meet the lesson objectives and success criteria. Feedback can be directed toward processes, clear up misconceptions, and motivate students. There are four levels of feedback (task, process, self-regulation, and self) and there are three critical questions to keep in mind when giving feedback. 1.) Where am I going? 2.) How am I going there? 3.) Where to next? The question of where I am going relates to the success criteria and lesson objectives and making them clear to students. Students can monitor and assess their progress toward the learning targets daily to see their progress. There are also three phases of learning which include: novice, proficient, and competent and students move through these phases as they learn and solidify new learning. Errors are an important part of learning and should be welcomed in the classroom. We need to explicitly teach how errors help us to learn even more. When I taught about having a growth mindset to my 4th grade math students, we learned that making mistakes creates more connections in your brain and you actually learn more than when you get all the answers correct. When my students get frustrated when they make a mistake, I remind them of the learning we did on having a growth mindset and how mistakes “grow their brains”.

Prompts are great tool for eliciting feedback. Prompts can be organizational, elaborative, and can monitor progress. Page 129 gives some great question prompts to use with students (Hattie, 2012). Teaching students to use prompts while giving peer feedback helps to make the feedback more effective. There is a great rubric on page 133 that guides students in giving peer feedback (Hattie, 2012). Feedback needs to be specific, focused, and clear. As teachers contemplate their effect on the learning of their students, they should look at lessons through the eyes of their students.

The additional sources that I read related to feedback were: The 2 Es, (Kroog, King Hess, & Araceli Ruiz-Primo, 2016) and Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning (Chappuis, 2009). Formal formative assessments are defined as being planned in advance and should help to move students forward in their learning by providing feedback or changes of instruction. We need to have students show us what they are thinking in order to understand where they are and where they need to go next. Our feedback comments can be both descriptive and prescriptive. A prescriptive comment helps students to understand how to improve. A descriptive comment lets students know why something was right or wrong. It is not effective to put a score on a paper if you want to provide comments. Students are more interested in the score and will not get much out of the comments. Plus, it is too late to make any changes based on the feedback when a grade was already assigned. Feedback should be actionable. An effective way to give feedback to younger students is the Stars and Stairs method. The star represents what the student is doing well and the stair represents steps the student needs to take to improve. For older students we can use the “That’s Good” and the “Now This” feedback frame.

Throughout this class we also practiced our new strategy learning by writing up lesson plans, teaching them to our students, and reflecting on how they went. We also conducted extended research related to some of these different teaching strategies.

I chose to focus on CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4 (Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text) with both my cooperative learning and advance organizer lessons. One of them was with a higher level narrative text and the other was with a grade level information/expository text. I teach Safety Net and work with students who are below standard in reading. These students oftentimes don’t have a repertoire of effective reading strategies. Through my outside research I found the importance of teaching these strategies explicitly. “Despite the clear and longstanding connection between meaning vocabulary and reading comprehension, programs designed to teach vocabulary have often had surprisingly little impact on overall reading ability. One possible reason for this small effect is that teaching methods may not make this vocabulary-to-comprehension connection explicit for the students” (Greenwood & Flanigan, 2007). “This substantial research review underscored the need for strategy instruction to be explicit, especially for poor comprehenders” (Bishop, Reyes, & Pflaum, 2006). This same article stated that students should be taught what they termed as “Global Reading”, which is comprised of activating prior knowledge, making text predictions, skimming text, using context clues, and using text structure and textual features (Bishop, Reyes, & Pflaum, 2006). Based on these findings, I incorporated activating prior knowledge through the use of advance organizers such as skimming the book and its different text features and talking and drawing about what they already knew about the topic. I also gave them a graphic organizer to help them organize and track their learning.

I teach Safety Net, so I oftentimes forget about using cooperative learning strategies because we are already in a small group. Throughout this course, however, I have tried using more partner groupings and structured cooperative learning activities and have had great success with them. I have noticed that my students have been more engaged and have enjoyed working with a partner. They have helped each other and shared their ideas. Through my formative assessments and observations, I noticed that the partner groups were picking out the same challenging words that I predicted that they would in the text. With their partner’s help, they looked at context clues within the text to help them figure out what the words meant. They filled out their findings on a graphic organizer that I provided for them. They were able to figure out what all the words meant. The students who I am working with are 4th graders who are below standard in their reading. I am exposing them to complex text by working with a 5.4 reading level book. They are testing out the strategy of using context clues to decipher the meanings of challenging words within a challenging text and are succeeding and enjoying it! I ended up modeling the strategy for a bit longer than I had anticipated. We went through finding three different words/phrases before I sent them off to work in their partner groups. Sometimes it can be challenging to know exactly how much time I will need to spend on a particular part of the lesson. Through my observation of my students, I noticed that they needed more modeling time than I had originally planned.


I taught two lessons to my fourth grade before-school reading group using nonlinguistic representations. I am helping my students to access higher level text by reading aloud “The Trolls” by Polly Horvath. This book is at a 5.4 reading level and has complex text, vocabulary, and phrases. My lesson objective for both lessons was to have my students be able to paraphrase sections of the text that were read aloud to them. During one of the lessons, I had my students draw quick sketches of what they were hearing in the text to help them to visualize and make the story more concrete for them. During the second lesson, I had them do the same thing, but with Play Dough. After I finished reading aloud, I had each student share their drawings or sculpture and describe what was happening in the story. In this way, they were able to use nonlinguistic tools to help them to visualize and then verbalize what they had heard. At the conclusion of each of the lessons, I asked students the following questions: What is the strategy we learned today to help us follow what happens in the text? How was this similar to what you did yesterday with drawing as I read aloud? What do you have to do when you are listening to a story and working with Play Dough or drawing? What does your mind do? What if we didn’t have the Play Dough or the drawing paper to work with and you were listening to a story or reading? What would you do? Both lessons went well and students were able to paraphrase the part of the story that I read aloud by using their Play Dough sculptures and their drawings. They were very engaged in the lesson and were also able to explain that we create pictures in our heads when we listen or read a text and that it is a good way to help us remember and focus on what we are reading. The drawing and sculpting helped students in a concrete way to see what images that their minds were creating while listening.


While reflecting on our collaborative inquiry project, My fourth grade team and I felt that the evidence showed us that we were correct in choosing the inquiry question that we had, as many of our students were struggling in this area. After we implemented the strategies, we saw a marked improvement in our students’ multiplication skills. We made the assumptions that our students were struggling with their multi-digit multiplication problems due to a lack of basic fact knowledge. We also made the assumption that using a variety of strategies, such as scaffolding, flip charts, songs, flash cards, IXL, and having students track their progress would help them with these basic facts and with their multi-digit multiplication. One of the strengths of the strategies that we used was that we saw large gains in assessment scores among our students. One of the weaknesses of the strategies that we used, based on the data and the fact that some of our students didn’t master their facts and multi-digit multiplication, was that we didn’t have enough time in the learning cycle. If we had had more time, we feel that we could have gotten more of our students to the mastery level.

Our collaborative inquiry team felt that the strategies that we used to help our students to build their multiplication skills were effective. Next time however, we feel that we need to spread the process throughout the school year to work on building these skills over time, so that we aren’t rushed for results. In that way, we can focus more on helping our students to have a stronger foundation of their basic facts and more gradually build up to multi-digit problems. We also feel that spending more time on each of these strategies would definitely benefit our students.

It was very helpful to work together as a team to address our students’ needs as a whole grade level. We were able to share our problems and brainstorm solutions and strategies together. We each tried out the strategies and came back to share our progress and to discuss how it was going and look at student assessment data. We then revised our teaching to address any issues that we hadn’t anticipated at the start. We were able to come up with more strategies and ideas when working with the group, as opposed to thinking just on our own. We were also able to celebrate our successes together and determine what attributed to the student achievement so that we could continue with those teaching methods and strategies in the future. Collaborative Inquiry is a very effective way to team together to increase student learning and achievement.



Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works –     research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (2nd ed.). Denver, CO:           McRel.

Chappuis, J. (2009). Seven strategies of assessment for learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ:            Pearson Education.

Kroog, H., King Hess, K., & Araceli Ruiz-Primo, M. (2016). The 2 Es Implement Effective and Efficient approaches to formal formative assessment that will save time and boost student   achievement. Educational Leadership, April, 22-25.

Bishop, P. A., Reyes, C., & Pflaum, S. W. (2006). Teaching tips: Read smarter, not harder–         global reading comprehension strategies. Reading Teacher, 60(1), 66-69. Retrieved from               thType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ749433&site=ehost-live;

Greenwood, S. C., & Flanigan, K. (2007). Overlapping vocabulary and comprehension: Context clues complement semantic gradients. Reading Teacher, 61(3), 249-254. Retrieved from               thType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ778606&site=ehost-live;









Education Technology Reflection


I feel that I was successful in achieving my goals.

      • 1 (Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity)
        • 1a – Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness.
      • 2 (Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
        • 2a – Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.

However, I did not meet the goals in the way that I had thought about at the beginning of the course. I also felt like I had little technology to work with. I have had to be very creative in how I use the technology that I do have with my students, but I feel that I have been more successful than I thought I could be.


1 (Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity)

  • 1a – Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness.

I met this goal by having my before school reading group do a research project on a topic that we had been working on in our reading curriculum. They learned about the “5 Star Research Process” and used the district approved online databases. They compiled their notes and are in the middle of creating their own PowerPoint presentation that they will share with their classes and their parents.

Multi Media Internet Laptop with Objects

      • 2 (Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
        • 2a – Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.

I met this goal by using technology in a variety of ways for my students to learn and show their learning. I have been using the online reading curriculum materials with my students by having students watch the stories from the work text being read aloud to them. This helps to bring the stories to life and holds their attention well. I have also set my students up with accounts through our Wonders reading curriculum to play online vocabulary games and literacy games through the Adaptive Learning program. Some of my students are even playing these games at home. In the 4th grade math class that I team teach with one of the 4th grade teachers, I have been finding YouTube videos to help students learn their multiplication facts through songs and rhymes. We are also having them play games on I have also been using online reading and math assessments.


I will continue to look at my lesson planning through a technology lens. Now that I have learned about the ISTE tech standards and the 21st Century Learning Rubrics, I am more intentional about meeting them by incorporating these goals into my lessons. Now I think… How can I use technology to enhance or guide this lesson? How can technology increase my students’ motivation? How can technology help my students learn more efficiently and help them to retain their learning? How can technology streamline my teaching, record keeping, and communication? I also plan to continue to share my technology learning and new tech ideas with my teammates and staff. I also plan to continue learning from others about new ideas and resources.


I feel that technology is an integral part of my classroom. Technology is pervasive in everything we and our students do in life. They are motivated by it and need to learn how to use it appropriately and safely. New technology tools are constantly being created. Through my SPU EdTech  class I learned about the possibilities and about my responsibilities as an educator to use technology to inform, educate, and inspire my students. Technology also helps me to communicate with my colleagues and with the families of my students. I’m seeing how I can encourage families to become more active partners in their children’s education through online communication and by providing them with the tools to do so.


Accomplished Teaching Course Reflection


The course goals of Accomplished Teaching were…

  • Examine and implement effective planning/preparation, instruction and assessment strategies from Domains 1 and 3 of the Danielson Framework to maximize student learning.
  • Analyze the impact of instruction on student learning through personal and collaborative reflection on 1) written lesson plans, 2) videotaped segments of instruction/learning, and 3) student work.
  • Practice the fundamentals of individual, partner, and small group reflective practice to promote continuous learning. (Domain 4 of Danielson Framework: Professional Responsibilities)


Individual and collaborative reflective practices are critical components of effective teaching. At the beginning of this course, I thought about how I was reflective in my teaching practice. Through my recent National Board certification process, I reflected on my practice individually, as well as in groups within my cohort. Through videotaping and analyzing my lessons, I was better able to see where I was successful in a lesson and also where I could improve in the future. Through the process of obtaining my National Boards in literacy, I was also able to build up my skills in my current content area of reading intervention (Danielson 1a, 4a, 4e). Another way that I have been reflective in my teaching practice is through our building Data Teams process. I work with my team to look at student assessment data, analyze effective and ineffective teaching strategies, and design lessons to maximize student understanding and learning growth (Danielson 1e, 3e, 4a, 4d). I also reflect and make adjustments during and directly after a lesson. If I see that students are struggling with a concept or that something is hindering a student’s clear understanding of the lesson, I will either make adjustments at that moment, or will change things up for the next day. I take into account the struggles that my students are having and come up with a strategy or strategies that I think will be most effective in helping them understand and get the most out of the lesson (Danielson 3c, 3e, 4a). As a Safety Net (reading and math intervention) teacher, I consistently team up with different grade level teachers to learn more about the students I’m working with, share assessment data, and communicate back and forth on student progress and teaching strategies that might work best for those students (Danielson 1b, 4a, 4d, 4e). Continuously reflecting on my teaching practices, both individually and with others, helps me to become a more effective teacher.


Throughout this course we have gone much deeper into learning about what it means to reflect. We analyzed the Danielson Framework and how it can be a guide for us in our reflective practices. The Danielson model is a research-based teacher evaluation framework. Studies have shown that students who made high levels of growth had teachers who exhibited or used certain instructional techniques and strategies. These high quality teacher attributes and best practices were combined together to create the Danielson Framework. This model is a very thorough evaluation tool that can be used by schools to help determine teachers’ strengths and weaknesses. It can be used to weed out less effective teachers and to help guide principals in creating positive changes within their staff. The domains and their subsets can be used as springboards for staff development, teacher improvement, and  goal setting. The framework also helps to create a more uniform and equitable evaluation system, so all principals in a district are using the same criteria for assessment. The framework is an excellent guideline for teachers to use to see where their current teaching practice falls and what they can do to improve their skills.

To be a reflective educator we must be committed to our own continual professional development. A reflective educator also stays focused on student learning and development as their top priorities. In addition, reflection requires drawing on our past experiences, but also being willing to listen and take into account different ideas and perspectives in order to learn and build up the tools in our educational toolboxes. This quote from the book shows how challenging, yet rewarding being a reflective teacher can be… “Significant learning generally involves fluctuating episodes of anxiety-producing self-scrutiny and energy-inducing leaps forward in ability and understanding” (Brookfield, 1992, p. 12).


There are many things that can impede the process of reflection. It is oftentimes hard to challenge our current beliefs and biases. We get stuck in our ways and in our ideas. In order to be reflective, we must be open to looking at alternative theories and suggestions. We must be open-minded. If we are reflecting with a partner or in a group, sometimes it can be hard to stay focused and listen. Oftentimes, we want to jump in with our own ideas, when we should be listening and processing what the others are saying. Reflective practices can also fail when the topic is not personally meaningful or relevant to those involved. If there is a lack of trust, people will be unwilling to share their thoughts and ideas. Lack of trust is a huge barrier to reflection.


During this course, we also analyzed what it means to be an accomplished teacher. Through individual reflection I came up with the following list of the attributes of an accomplished teacher.

  • Uses formative and summative assessment
  • Asks higher level questions
  • Has high expectations
  • Involves parents
  • Instills a love of learning
  • Uses research based strategies
  • Includes students by sharing learning goals, rubrics, and success criteria
  • Gives students feedback
  • Is guided by Common Core standards
  • Is a team player with other staff
  • Is reflective with self and others
  • Finds opportunities for improvement and learning
  • Is a good listener
  • Encourages and motivates students
  • Instruction is data driven
  • Differentiates instruction
  • Scaffolds instruction (I do – We do – You do)
  • Knowledgeable about resources
  • Good communication skills
  • Coaches students individually and in small groups
  • Teaches students that they are responsible for their own learning
  • Encourages active student participation
  • Excellent classroom management and systems and routines
  • Positive attitude
  • Uses a variety of media and teaching resources
  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Inspires students
  • Compassionate
  • Capitalizes on teachable moments and student interests


In Module 5 of Accomplished Teaching, we researched articles that illustrated an aspect of accomplished teaching. We also read other students’ articles, as well. The article that I chose was, Mindsets – How to Motivate Students (and Yourself) (2013). Reading this article helped me to understand how to cultivate a growth mindset within myself and with my students. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is innate and static. Someone with a growth mindset feels that skills and abilities can be learned. The article shares ways to teach your students to develop a growth mindset. It talks about different types of praise and what works best for developing a growth mindset. It also discusses how we need to change our thinking about frustration and confusion during learning and that it is part of the process of building skills and learning. It also discusses the importance of giving students feedback and what that feedback should look like.

What I learned throughout this course is that an accomplished teacher takes time to reflect individually about her own practice. It is hard to carve out this time in an already over-packed week, but it is very important to fit in time to process your teaching and your students’ learning. After doing this, you can decide to make changes in your instruction or to remember which strategies were particularly effective. In addition, it is important to reflect with other staff members. A PCC team is a great avenue to share ideas and reflect with a team of educators. The PCC team uses formative and summative assessments to drive instruction. The team also focuses on Common Core standards and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each student. They discuss differentiated strategies that they feel will improve student learning for all students, whether they are remedial or advanced. An accomplished teacher takes the time to listen to other teachers’ ideas and takes a look at multiple perspectives. She encourages others to share and offers a non-judgmental atmosphere for reflection and teamwork.


An accomplished teacher is always striving to better herself and her practice. She attends classes, seminars, and trainings and shares her learning with her colleagues. An accomplished teacher always keeps students and their learning as the top priority and encourages others to do the same.  We need to remember that we don’t know everything, we are always learning and improving, and that we and our colleagues have a vast amount of knowledge and experience to share with each other. We also need to remember that learning takes time and we and others will be making many mistakes as we learn. That’s OK! It’s part of learning and we need to give ourselves and others permission to make mistakes and not be perfect.


During this course we also had the opportunity to team up with another student and collaboratively plan lessons that we would teach to our students. As a teacher, this is something that we rarely have time to do in practice, but it was very helpful. Discussing and asking each other questions about our prospective lessons helped us to clarify and reflect on our thinking and planning. After we taught our lessons, we watched each other’s videotaped lessons and reflected on how the lessons progressed. We offered feedback to each other and commented on these new ideas. Teaching is most often an isolating profession, but taking time to work with, or observe another teacher can help us to hone our own craft and also share our ideas with others.

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At the end of the course, I researched best practice strategies for teaching multiplication facts. Van de Walle suggests some great strategies to help students master these facts. Two good websites that he recommends are, which has fun fact practice games and, which has printables for teaching and practicing math facts (Van de Walle, Karp, & Bay-Williams, 2013). Another effective strategy is using music and rhymes to help students to remember their multiplication facts. “When information is put to rhythm and rhyme these musical elements will provide a hook for recall. Songs, chants, poems, and raps will improve memory of content facts and details through rhyme, rhythm, and melody.” (Brewer, 2012)

I plan to intentionally teach my students the various multiplicative strategies that Van de Walle suggests. I also plan to focus on math fact families instead of clumping them all together at once. I intend to use story problems to help my students to get a real world feel for the patterns among the various facts. I also plan to focus on the commutative property of multiplication so that they see that the number of facts they need to learn will be cut in half. I plan to use YouTube videos with songs and rhymes for the different fact families to help my students internalize the facts in a fun and interactive way. I will incorporate computer games to help my students to master and maintain mastery of the different multiplication facts.


I am supporting my colleagues in our reflective practice by sharing these findings with my fourth grade data team. We are focusing on multiplication for our Professional Growth Goal and in our data team cycles. These strategies and findings will be helpful to all of us in order to help us reach our goals. As we try out these different strategies, we will come back together and reflect on student learning and either adjust our teaching or continue on with additional strategies. In addition to sharing my research paper with my team, I am also sharing all the resources and the YouTube videos that I am finding to help our students learn their facts through rhyme and song. By sharing and reflecting with other teachers, we can improve our teaching and the success of our students (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, & Montie, 2006)


Based on everything that I have learned during this quarter in my Accomplished Teaching class, I am much more intentional in my lesson planning and teaching to incorporate the attributes of accomplished teachers. I keep the Danielson Framework in mind throughout my role as a teacher. This year, I have been more intentional about including my students and their parents in the learning process. I have started sending home weekly emails to parents to let them know what we are working on and what the current vocabulary or sight words are, so that they can support their students at home. I have also invited them all to our Safety Net Haiku December 2015 067page, which has multiple resources and information on reading and math support. I have made charts for my students so that they can graph their progress and track their learning. I set up accounts for my students on our reading curriculum (Wonders) Adaptive Learning. The students can work on increasing their literacy skills online at home with fun games and activities.


I have also been sharing my learning and the new resources with my colleagues throughout the building and on my PCC data team. In addition, I have been team teaching with one of our fourth grade teachers for daily math instruction. We collaborate and reflect on a daily basis about our teaching and student learning. Based on the learning in this class, I am now more cognizant of what it means to effectively reflect with a partner. I try to listen more, learn from my partner teacher’s strategies and ideas, and give feedback on what I feel is working and what needs to be adjusted. I have also learned to not feel as bad when receiving feedback from others and was reminded that we all make mistakes and that it is a learning process to improve your practice. This was clearly illustrated this past week during one of our math lessons. I was teaching the group and feeling really good about how the lesson was going. I thought that the students were mostly “getting it”. After the lesson, the other teacher and I had time to reflect when the kids went to their specialist class. She told me that the instruction time was too long and that I had lost some of the kids. Wow, that was contrary to what I had been thinking. This group of fourth grade students is a very challenging one. Many of the students don’t feel like they are good at math and have motivation issues. At first, when the teacher had given me her feedback, my mind jumped to a defensive mode. Then I stepped back and thought about what she had said. We discussed it some more and in the future, I will be more thoughtful about keeping my lessons to a shorter time frame. Reflection, both individual and with others is critical to improving teaching practice and becoming a more accomplished teacher.



Brookfield, S. (1992). Why can’t I get this right? Myths and realities in facilitating adult learning. Adult learning, 3(6), 12.

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective practice to improve schools: An action guide for educators (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Mindsets: How to motivate students (and yourself).(2013). Educational Horizons, 91(2), 16-21. Retrieved from;

Brewer, C. B. (2012). Music and learning: Integrating music in the classroom. Retrieved 11/29, 2015, from

Van de Walle, John A., Karp, K. S., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2013). Reasoning strategies for multiplication and division facts. In K. Villella Canton (Ed.), Elementary and middle school mathematics teaching developmentally (Eighth ed., pp. 181-182, 183, 184, 186) Pearson.