Our NMUSD Adult School ESL professional learning community (PLC) teams are meeting biweekly to dig into three crucial questions this year. Read on to learn 1) what the questions are, 2) how we ask and answer them and 3) how they help us build our capacity to improve student learning. Read on. Lead on!
The three questions:
In his article “What is a ‘Professional Learning Community’?” Rick DuFour urges “every professional in the building” to engage with their colleagues in the “ongoing exploration of three crucial questions that drive the work of those within a professional learning community:
- What do we want each student to learn?
- How will we know when each student has learned it?
- How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?”
How we ask and answer the questions:
Our ESL teachers meet biweekly in PLC level teams to dig into these questions.
Tools to help ask the questions (the structures and conditions for meeting)
- Evening site – Last 45 minutes of class (independent study time for students)
- Morning sites – First 45 minutes of class (independent study time for students)
- anytime…via the blog and/or email
- Evening site – BESST-Center facility in host-teacher’s room (rotational)
- Morning sites – BESST Center in host-teacher’s room. Whittier-site teachers join meetings
- anywhere…via the blog and/or email
- Evening site – PLC teams created by level: 1) Beginning Lit and Beginning Low, 2) Beginning High and Intermediate Low, 3) Intermediate High and Advanced
- Morning sites – PLC teams created by levels and goals
Tools to help answer the questions
Question 1: What do we want each student to learn?
- Course Outlines:
- ESL Standards: Model Standards for Adult Education
- ESL Curriculum Scope and Sequence: Stand Out Basic, All-Star 1-4, Azar grammar series
- ESL Pacing Plans:
- CASAS Competency Checklists f0r ESL by level:
- ESL End-of-Semester Evaluation:
Question 2: How will we know when each student has learned it?
- Formative assessments: All-Star 1-4 end-of unit tests
- CASAS Test Results:
- Summative Assessments: curriculum-based end-of-semester tests
- Martha provides comparative spreadsheet of results by level. Click here for an example: Program-wide Promo Test Results – June, 2007
Question 3: How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
- NMUSD Adult School Policy: (currently our only systematic response) Evaluation is based on multiple assessments: the standardized CASAS reading rest, curriculum-based unit tests, the standardized curriculum-based exit exam, class work, oral participation and projects.
Students will be exited from an ESL level when they meet the criteria enumerated in the course outline
How we use the questions to drive our work
Looking at where we’re at and where we want to go is the most challenging and transformative part of this process. Here are our realizations thus far:
Where we are (1): What do we want each student to learn?
We may not truly have a common understanding of what each student should learn. We clearly know what we should teach (see CASAS competencies, course outlines, curriculum scope and sequence, and evaluation requirements above). But we may not agree with it. And if we don’t have a common agreement of what each student should learn, we implement the curriculum in very different ways. As we meet to talk about the curriculum, we discover that we differ not so much with each other but with the publishers.
Where we are going (1): What do we want each student to learn?
Stand Out Basic (Beg. Lit) is not in alignment with our common understanding of our essential knowledge and skills for this level. Our Beg Lit teachers reviewed 6 curriculum options and are in the process of supplementing Stand Out Basic to better meet the essential skills. They will post their progress on the blog.
All-Star 1 (Beg Low) and All-Star 2 (Beg High) are in good alignment with our common understanding of essential knowledge and skills. Beginning Low and High teachers will make slight adjustments to curriculum as needed.
All-Star 3 (Int Low) and All-Star 4 (Int High) is not in alignment with the essential knowledge and skills for this level. Martha contacted McGraw-Hill. We will meet electronically with the curriculum developers in New York as we revise/excise the non-essentials from the All-Star 3 curriculum to better meet the needs and skill levels of our intermediate low students in adult education. All-Star 4 adjustments shall follow.
Fundamentals of English Grammar (Advanced Low): Actions TBD
Understanding and Using English Grammar (Advanced High) Actions TBD
Where we are (2): How will we know when each student has learned it?
We have common formative assessments for Beginning Low – Intermediate High. We have pacing plans (created by our curriculum planning team and adopted by our site council team) that inform teachers when to adminster common formative assessments.
Last year, our teachers dutifully followed the common pacing plans, administered the formative assessments on the given dates, and submitted their results to our administration for program-wide analysis. We administrators analyzed the results in a timely manner and reported these back to CPT.
Did we impact student learning with our common formative assessments last year? Not much, if at all. Why? We didn’t have the STRUCTURE and CONDITIONS in place for success. Teachers need the necessary time and infrastructure to analyze the results together and help each other develop and implement strategies to improve student learning.
Where we are going (2): How will we know when each student has learned it?
Foster conditions for collaboration and improved communication: 2007-2008 is our first complete school year in our new NMUSD Adult School facility. Having a “home site” offers us the conditions that improve collaboration and communication. We improved communication and collaboration greatly by providing computers in each ESL classroom. (Examples: Over 90% of our teachers now use email daily or weekly. Teachers use blog to collaborate and share — more than 160 teacher comments since October, 2007.)
Provide the structure (time and place) to meet and pay them for meeting time that goes beyond the paid instructional hours!
Based on staff input from our midyear professional growth survey, we now offer more paid time to collaborate for an extended period of time (2 hours vs 45 minutes). Click here for March 5 training agenda to see one example of our extended trainings.
Where we are (3) How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
Prior to 2007-2008, collaboration was site and personality based rather than the culture of our entire school. One of our day sites decided on their own that they would meet once a week for lunch to discuss and share ideas. A few teachers from another day site joined these weekly meetings. Our night sites did not have regular meetings to discuss student learning. 2007-2008 is the first year we are intentional and systematic about building a PLC that focuses on student learning.
- Continue to assess our progress toward our 2007-2008 Professional Growth Plan goal of empowering a professional learning community to improve learning and performance.
- Continue to meet biweekly to help each other develop and implement strategies to improve current levels of student learning
- Continue to share biweekly meeting minutes on the blog. Click here for examples.
- Add additional collaboration opportunities for extended planning, analyzing and sharing:
- All-Star 3 PLC Team – paid meetings on Saturdays
We use Rick Dufour’s 3 crucial questions to drive our PLC work. The three questions help teachers focus on 1) what students should learn, 2) how staff will assess what students learn 3) how staff will work to improve student learning. These questions provide us a similar focus for our PLC teams. They help us focus on 1) what our PLC teams should do 2) how we assess our PLC progress, and 3) how we move forward in building our capacity to improve student learning.