5 Ways to Avoid Hearing “Are we there yet?”

navigationThey, the preverbal ‘they’, say 90 some percent of all learning is visual. So, do your teachers have a clear vision of where they are going in their professional development? Do you, as their principal, coach, or mentor, know if they are on the right track toward their desired professional goals? Well, worry no more, the contents of this post will guide you to know that which you currently…don’t!

School improvement coach Tim Westerberg, in his post Five Principles for Formative Assessments That Fuel Feedback,  stated, “Formative assessments provide the feedback on student learning that guides teacher and student adjustments during learning.” [1] In this post I will translate Westerberg’s work for use with teachers. Let’s begin with restating his . . . um, statement. For the purpose of this post, we will understand formative assessments as a means to provide feedback on teacher learning that guides principal and coaching adjustments during professional learning.

Westerberg does a nice job outlining five principles that inform the feedback for students. Here they are in relation to supporting teacher growth.

1. Target key subskills and bodies of enabling knowledge (building blocks) in the learning progression. [1]

What are the necessary subskills a techer needs to meet the objective mastery. For example, a teacher is struggling with the transition of the class from desks to lining up to go to a sepacialist, let’s say PE. So, the objective is to master whole-class transitions. The coach suggests developing a transition routine that can be replicated every time the class must move from desks to lining up. However, the teacher may not have learned the necessary task analysis subskill to determine the precise words to provide clear and concise directions for the studetns. The sequencing of the directions is also of concern.

2. Target those concepts and skills with which students typically experience difficulty or harbor misconceptions about. [1]

Let’s continue with the transition example from #1. It may be that the teacher struggles with transition of all types throughout the school day. It could be a result of a lakc of task analysis skills resulting in long winded directions that are ambiguous and, thus, conufing to the students. Targeting transisiton language skills during observations would be an effective formative assessment of the teacher’s effecitiveness. Timing the transitions interms of directions fgiven and execution by studnets would also help the teacher understand if they are moving toward mastery of transions.

3. Align with the content provided in related classroom and common summative assessments.


4. Align with the levels of cognitive rigor featured in summative assessments.


5. Mirror the item formats included in summative assessments. [1]

Westerberg’s focus on summative assessment guiding formative measures constitute #3 content, #4 rigor, #5 format. These last three will be addressed together. The state of Minnesota has license renewal criteria requiring specific areas of growth be addressed and documented. [2] on of the requirements is training in Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategies. You can read more at How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable. Formative feedback for teachers should be aligned with atainable objectives that serve summative measures such as relicensure requiremetns. Consider aligning all professional development activities to meet the needs of all mandated teacher evaluations while, of course, placing the greatest considerations on the needs of the individual educator.


Principals, coaches, and mentors should provide relevant, specific formative feedback to teachers in relation to the summative measures such as mandated evaluation systems and re-licensure requirements.


[1] http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol10/1019-westerberg.aspx

[2] file:///Users/gschnagl/Downloads/RenewalApplicationPacket_DONE%20(1).pdf

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