Samples of Instructional Text[excerpted, media omitted]
Our goal for using data in classrooms is to engage in evidence-based teaching. That means building on what students already know to take them toward grade-level expectations. To do this, teachers need precise knowledge of what their students can do already, and a deep understanding of grade-level standards. We need to take both into account so that we can plot a path toward success for each student.
Basing instructional decisions on evidence of student understanding makes the complex task of teaching more manageable and effective. When instructional planning is well organized and purposeful, it also provides a meaningful basis for teachers to share their questions and insights with colleagues and with students.
There is a four-part cycle of instructional decision making that can help teachers, students, parents, and administrators develop a common understanding of students’ learning needs and goals. The process is instrumental to keeping students at the center of every decision.
The Instructional Decision Making Cycle
- Reflective teaching practice begins when we assess student understanding.
- Documenting observations allows us to analyze patterns, determine implications, and plan instruction.
- We translate our analyses into learning experiences when we teach and give feedback.
[insert oh010_diagnostic.gif] Related to four phases of the decision making cycle, there are four methods for evidence-based instruction that you will learn to use during this course. Four Methods for Evidence-Based Instruction
- Monitoring and documenting evidence of understanding allows us to reflect on whether or not our teaching is making a difference.
- Summarize multiple assessments.
- Create a Class Profile.
- Develop an Action Plan.
- Keep it going.
When you summarize multiple assessments, you will be gathering your existing data and identifying gaps. When you create a Class Profile, you will be grouping students with similar characteristics, then formulating questions about what they need next. As you develop an Action Plan, you will be selecting effective instructional strategies and pacing instruction to ensure that your students will be on pace to meet grade-level expectations. Finally, as you Reflect on your instructional decisions, you will be exploring ways to monitor evidence of student understanding in order to adjust instruction and continuously re-assess student needs.
In order to plan targeted instruction, teachers need to understand student strengths and weakness in the five areas of reading instruction reviewed by the National Reading Panel and identified as critical to reading success. The National Reading Panel’s report summarized a three-year effort to examine research that demonstrated measurable student improvement as a result of particular methods of instruction. The five areas identified as critical to reading development are known as Scientifically-Based Reading Research (SBRR) areas:
- Phonemic Awareness
Research has shown that skills in one area enable students’ development in others. For this reason, some assessment tools are designed to correlate competency in one area with probable success in other areas. While these correlations have statistical validity, they do not offer a full view into what a students may need next for their learning. As teachers, our job is not to predict success, but to ensure it by providing comprehensive reading instruction that is based on evidence of each student’s needs. To this end, it is vital that we understand a range of assessment types, including the characteristic features and the valid purposes for each type.
Identifying Learning Needs
Developing hypotheses about student learning needs is a process of informed trial-and-error. As distinct from playing hunches, it’s important that teachers explore a range of possible explanations, analyze both strengths and weaknesses, and consider how performance in one area may depend upon prerequisite skills from another. This process of formulating questions becomes easier when teachers take time to briefly describe what each pattern of data shows. Without drawing conclusions, the act of writing brief descriptions that summarize what each pattern of student data shows tends to elucidate questions suggested by the data. For example, Carolyn’s class profile shows the following pattern for her students in Group 1:
Carolyn can summarize this pattern by writing the following description in her class profile:
“A student in this group would tend to show good decoding but would read slowly, show poor word recognition and miss meaning.”
Carolyn may interpret low fluency as a factor likely to contribute to her students’ low comprehension scores, but she must also consider factors that contribute to their low fluency. After a thoughtful analysis of what this pattern implies about obstacles and coping strategies that may affect student progress, Carolyn may formulate the following hypotheses about her students in Group 1:
…rely too heavily on decoding rather than developing automatic word recognition.
…not read frequently enough to build automatic word recognition.
…lose track of meaning, particularly on passages longer than sentence length.”
With these theories about what students in Group 1 need for their learning, Carolyn will be ready to anticipate the most effective time during classroom instruction to determine if her questions are on target. When she moves on to develop her Action Plan, Carolyn will be prepared to select instructional strategies that help her refine or revise her understanding of what her students can do already and what they need next for their learning.