Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Critical Issues in School Reform


I N N O V A T I O N S  I N
P R O F E S S I O N A L  C O L L A B O R A T I O N

Making Teaching Public

I. About the Program | II. On-Line Activities | III. Viewer Activities | IV. Resources


About the discussion

Pasadena High School faculty members will post a question to get you thinking about the role of peer observation and peer coaching in your own school and how you might get started. Questions to be discussed include:
  • What is different about this model of peer observation and other methods of observation, including evaluations done by administrators?

  • What are the issues in your school that might be helped by this model of professional development?

  • Why don't teachers collaborate in the ways seen in the video?

Faculty members will respond to your questions about making teaching public in a collegial culture, emphasizing "action learning" as an element of peer observation.

You may want to consult the following three items before you joint the on-line discussion and/or you may want to use them in work at your own school.

  1. Samples of student work before and after peer observation.
  2. ASCD article on teacher portfolios
  3. Portfolio Performance Standards

1. Samples of student work before and after a peer observation, reflecting changes in practice made by the teacher based on comments from an observation and debriefing.

The Pasadena Critical Friends Group (CFG) has been inquiring into variations of a common question: How do students use evidence? For a studio art class, the teacher's variation is: How well do students articulate, both verbally and in their exhibited work, the principles and elements of design?

In the first design exercise, students were asked to experiment with six principles of design: Pattern, Contrast, Emphasis, Rhythm, Symmetry, and Asymmetry. The principles were discussed in class and examples and definitions introduced. The students produced thumbnail sketches, each of 5" x 6" rectangles in pencil demonstrating visual and verbal comprehension of each of the principles. A classroom critique was done of each students' thumbnail design.

  Sample A shows work done by a student before the art teacher's peer observation.

The feedback from the observers after the observation suggested that most of the students had a clear conception of balance, symmetry, asymmetry, and emphasis. However, they were not clear about contrast and were confused about the difference between movement and rhythm. The art teacher realized that she needed to be more specific and that the students needed to spend much more time practicing the artistic representation of the principles and elements they did not understand.

After the debriefing with the observers the teacher redesigned both her curriculum and teaching methods. She gave her students the following exercise: students were to create designs with the same principles as in the first design exercise, but using only black and white construction paper. They were to demonstrate comprehension, relying only on abstract/objective shapes in 5" x 6" rectangle format. The resulting design was to be presented in six separate squares, with each square representing one of the six principles of design.

  Sample B shows the same student's work from the post-feedback exercise.

  • What differences do you notice in the two samples of work?

  • How do you see the feedback the teacher received manifested in the student work?


2. The ASCD article used by the Pasadena CFG that helped them focus their observations on a common inquiry question.

Before reading the article the group had agreed to design their portfolios around three categories: 1) Educational History; 2) Reflective Practice; and 3) Professional Development. Under each category the members brainstormed possible artifacts that might be included.

After reading the article the members decided to select a common inquiry question on which to focus their observations. The question is: How do students use evidence? The use of an inquiry question changed how the Pasadena group did peer observations as well as how they thought about the Reflective Practice section in the portfolio. That section became a way to document their ongoing inquiry.  

3. Portfolio performance standards adopted by the Pasadena CFG to challenge their thinking about documenting student achievement in relationship to peer coaching and the collegial work of the CFG.

The following Portfolio Performance Standards were adapted from Marzano et al., 1993 (see Resources). These standards are used for performance and self-review.


1.0 Works toward the achievement of group goals in the classroom and/or in the school community groups; consistently and actively:
1.1 helps identify group goals and works to achieve them;
1.2 helps the group identify changes necessary in group processes;
1.3 promotes effective group interaction;
1.4 expresses ideas and opinions in ways that are sensitive to the feelings and prior knowledge of others.
2.0 Makes and implements effective lesson/unit plans; consistently:
2.1 explains the sequence of thoughts used when faced with a task or problem and analyzes how reflection enhances teaching;
2.2 assesses resources and considers alternatives;
2.3 sets precise goals and implements necessary steps for achieving goals by using an established timeline.
3.0 Evaluates the effectiveness of own actions; consistently:
3.1 is sensitive to a wide variety of feedback and reviews actions thoroughly;
3.2 evaluates actions for both immediate and long-term impact;
3.3 finds value in lessons learned from both success and failure.


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