Valuable instructional time is spent gathering data—preparing students for standardized testing and other assessments, determining students’ independent and instructional reading levels, and so on. But very little time is spent interpreting that data to determine what students know and are able to do, what they may need for their learning, and how to make decisions about instruction to meet their needs. I developed these methods of organizing and analyzing performance-assessments so that teachers could systematically develop hypotheses about individual students’ needs and classwide trends. Scrutinizing their own instruction always preceded analyis of student needs, and collaboration with colleagues was the hallmark of both online and face-to-face workshop activites.
With video-case studies of a master teacher using the same methods, I grounded key concepts in an authentic classroom context. By creating sample data from the case-study classroom, I provided hands-on facilitated practice collecting, organizing, and analyzing data to make instructional decisions. The entire process was organized around the cyclic framework of Assess-Plan-Teach-Reflect. Having practiced and discussed each phase using sample data, participants turned to their own classroom assessments. First, teachers identified gaps in their current informal and formal assessments and committed to specific solutions for closing those gaps. Next they organized and analyzed available data with placeholders for their gap data, and identified classwide patterns before focusing on some representative students as a basis for planning targeted instructional interventions that now included specific indicators that would indicate student progress.
Follow-up meetings with Teachcape facilitators served to keep teachers on track, online forums provided a means of collaborations for teachers wanting second opinions on how to interpret informal assessments or patterns in aggregate assessment data.
Video triggered the display of well-crafted prompts which in turn primed learners for online and face-to-face collaborations with peers. This was my means of leveraging both synchronous and asynchronous communication to steer learners away from the seeing only those concepts that confirmed their current understanding and practice. Herein is the key challenge of instructional design for adult learners, achieving relevance and authenticity of task while presenting fundamentally new concepts and possibilities that will foster a transformative in the learners exisitng conceptual framework such that it compels their continued exploration and integration with classroom practice.
Repeated opportunities to explore concepts through multiple representations that engage reason, private reflection, and active participation or collaboration is essential to success in adult education. I welcomed the opportunity to work with Teachscape precisely because they combine self-paced online learning with face-to-face workshops led by a facilitator. This made it possible for me to design materials that would be revisited, explored, discussed, and with worksheets to be used not only in workshop sessions but in daily classroom practice.
Balancing the complexities inherent to literacy instruction, with the complexities of reflecting teaching practice and ongoing assessment required clear organization, concise writing, consistent nomenclature, and appropriate visual metaphors. I settled on a cycle of arrows as a visual anchor for tasks of the teacher: Assess, Plan, Teach, and Reflect. Subject-matter was anchored to the visual metaphor of pieces in a puzzle: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. For each subject-matter area I selected a single expert as one example of how design can lessen the burden of working memory, allowing to focus on the complexity of concepts themselves and how they apply to local contexts.
Among learners I for whom I was designing there are the Teachscape facilitators who deliver face-to-face workshops around the world. My designs included clear, well-organized, and detailed materials for professional-development trainers with typically little time to prepare for the task of presenting before a diverse group of workshop participants from principals to novice teachers. Avoiding podium-style powerpoint presentations was essential to self-directed, engaged learning with opportunities for more experienced participants to interact with novices, and for novices to feel safe raising broad questions that often help expert teachers remain open to exploration. Setting clear expectations for how participants will be expected to participate was essential as was crafting small-group activities that were flexibile and genuinely challenging. For me, these were design challenges that could not be hatched in my head alone and required field-testing for which I traveled around the country putting myself in the shoes of workshop facilitator.
Finally, it is always the quality of materials and proven-efficacy of the content itself that determines the success or failure of a learning intervention. The research, analysis, and extended interviews with academics involved in the research studies is key to contintued success of this product. Weilding the power of interactive time-based media to show those concepts in practice goes a long way toward realizing the power of technology in education. "Show me" is most powerful when combined with "let me try" in supportive contexts of collaboration and reflection. The traditional virtues of well-crafted writing, high usability, and compelling design become most effective in service of such authentic learning environments.