How can Teachers Create Professional Development Goals From Examining Student Work?

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Teachers who examine student work together are able to think more deeply about their teaching and about what students are learning…

Examining student work can be understood as teachers engaging in inquiry-based learning. They become a group of critical and creative thinkers (students) who honor openness and flexibility. Through collaborative dialogue, teachers seek new questions and solutions to student learning and achievement.

Thus, one can conclude that while the focus of a group of teachers sitting down to examine student work is on improving student performance, the process can also be used to enrich teacher’s skills for their professional development. The process can be broken down into five steps:

1. Collaboration
Educators form collaborative learning teams to discuss and establish common understandings about crucial elements that will be used in subsequent steps of the process. This is the stage where the group decides who will facilitate the discussions and the protocol that will be followed. As they collaborate with colleagues, teachers learn what it means to look at student work without judging it by whether or not the students “got it”.

2. Personal Inventory
At this stage, the teacher completes a personal list to assess their lesson design, implementation strategies, analysis of instructional elements, and reflective practices. This inventory is a confidential document. Teachers need to be completely honest and willing to critically examine themselves as they create this inventory. Once completed, the inventory helps educators become aware of the practice areas that need further attention. These areas form the basis for their long-term Professional Development Plan.

3. Constructive Discussion
This step is used to further define educator’s areas of strength and the areas that need further attention in their practices. Teachers engage in structured discussions that are focused on learning from student work, rather than trying to see what they think they already know. It elevates everyday discussions about classroom work to a level that will contribute to increased student learning and the teachers’ personal and professional development.

This stage also brings a sense of satisfaction to teachers. They can watch students accomplish learning goals and become self-directed learners because of the shifts teachers make in their practices.

4. Reflection
Following the discussion, teachers in the group offer their observations of the student work along with recommendations. This is a crucial stage because it is through reflection that educators adapt and expand their practices and pay special attention to their own professional development.

Among other things, they reflect on whether their students have sufficient content and process skills to face new situations beyond the classroom walls. The guiding question is: will the work I am asking students to do enable them to apply what they’ve learned in situations outside the classroom walls? Teachers may incorporate the recommendations into their practice if they so choose, but only after careful reflection on their appropriateness.

5. Professional Development Goals
Based on the personal teaching inventory, constructive discussion and reflection, teachers determine aspects they would like to strengthen. They might select the lesson design, its implementation, analysis of instructional elements, or reflective practices. This then becomes the focus of their Professional Development Plan.

They continue to meet with their group to analyze student work samples while working in this focus area. They look for evidence that their practices are being strengthened and that they are achieving their professional development goals. If the goals are being accomplished, teachers identify other areas for improvement and revise their Professional Development Plans to set new goals.

Like this article for teachers?

Browse the Professional Learning Board COURSE CATALOG to find related online courses for teachers in your state. Professional Learning Board is a leading provider of online professional development classes that teachers use to renew a teaching license or renew a teaching certificate.

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