How to Craft Driving Questions That Drive Projects Learning

Driving Questions

What is driving questions?

A “mission Statement” of a project is called Driving Questions, according to Tony Vincent, author of “Crafting Questions That Drives Project“. Vincent (2014) believes “It captures the heart of a project by providing purpose using clear and compelling language.”

Driving questions pose simply state real world dilemmas. They pose predicaments that students find interesting and want to answer. The question drives students to discuss, inquire, and investigate the topic. It should push them toward a production or solution. Students learn important content and skills when investigating the question and sharing their answers, according to Vincent.

You can start with a topic or learn standards to develop a driving question. The driving question should require students to learn skills and content to answer an interesting question.

How to Craft a Driving Question

Andrew Miller, in his article “In Search of Driving Questions“, recommends ideas of how to craft a great Driving Questions, since teachers often get stuck trying to come up with a great one, because there are so many considerations in the design process that inform the crafting of an effective driving question.

Miller provides ideas for how to resolve these difficulties and craft a strong question for your project.

DRIVING OR ESSENTIAL?

Teachers often ask, “What is the difference between driving questions and essential questions?” Miller (2017) answers, “It comes down to intent. In my discussions with Jay McTighe, co-author of Understanding by Design—the book that developed the idea of the essential question—I came to the conclusion that a driving question might fall in Stage 1 (Desired Outcomes) or Stage 3 (Learning Plan) of the Understanding by Design framework. The desired outcomes focus on learning, and thus include skills and knowledge we want students to learn, as well as questions directly connected to that learning. An essential question is always in Stage 1, as it aligns to desired learning results.”

Miller believes the use and intent of a driving question is intended to be a tool to engage students. It’s part of the learning plan and a hook to engage students. An essential question, while provocative and intended to lead to inquiry, need not be the hook. A teacher might use every essential question with their students, but the driving question is always used with students during instruction throughout the project.

Miller (2017) states “Teachers use driving questions in learning activities to direct the students’ inquiry and increase their engagement. In fact, the driving question operationalizes the challenge, which is part of the learning plan. A driving question may have many essential questions connected to it or that come out of the inquiry process.”

GENERATING POWERFUL DRIVING QUESTIONS

Miller provides these suggestions for generating powerful Driving Questions:

Focus on Action: As I wrote in a previous article, verbs can be powerful tools for student engagement with questions. While tell might be appropriate, maybe convince or advocate are better actions to take. Think about using powerful, action-oriented verbs.

Remember Age Appropriateness: One refinement consideration is the age and maturity of your students. A product-oriented question might be too wordy for younger students. And we don’t want the driving question to be too academic for students. For older students, we might be more provocative with the questions. Consider what your students will understand and find engaging.

Try a Round Robin: Sometimes the best help is right next to us—our colleagues. One powerful strategy that helps us generate new ideas is a Round Robin, where we pass ideas around a table or large group. Write a driving question for your project and pass it to a colleague. That colleague writes another possible question. The paper is passed to another colleague, and the process continues until the paper is filled with driving questions. You can use the many ideas to affirm your thinking, adjust your question, or create a brand-new one.

Give the Question to a Student: We craft and refining driving questions for students. Test the driving question you’ve created on students and see how they react. Take a small group of students aside for a focus group, or just share it in a casual conversation. Will every student jump up and down about it? No, but we can at least have students say, “I guess that sounds cool.”

Create the Question With Students: If you and your students are up for it, take time to create the question in class. You might use a method like the Question Formulation Technique to have students generate many questions on a topic or focus statement, and then help narrow that list to one overarching driving question. Or have students create questions, narrow them down to a short list yourself, and then have students vote on the one they should investigate as a class. It’s fine to give students a driving question, but consider challenging them to be agents in creating it.

Art of Developing Driving Questions

Vincent (2014) provides Types of Driving Questions to help teachers find structure:

📐 Solve a Problem: There’s a real-world predicament with multiple solutions.

  • How can we stop phantom traffic jams?
  • How can we beautify the vacant lot across the street for $200?
  • What’s the best way to stop the flu at our school?
  • Design a better lunch menu for our school.
  • Design a safe and sturdy bridge to replace one in our city.

🎓 Educational: The purpose of the project is to teach others.

  • How can we teach second graders about helpful insects?
  • Create a campaign to teach senior citizens how to use an iPad.
  • What should the students at our school know about being respectful?

👍 Convince Others: Students persuade a specified audience to do something or change their opinions.

  • Create a public service announcement (PSA) that persuades teens to drink more water.
  • Drive yourself to define a question, and then prove it to your classmates.
  • Convince grocery shoppers to return their shopping carts.
  • How can we convince our principal that we should have a party in December?

🌏 Broad Theme: The project tackles big ideas.

  • What does it mean to read?
  • How conflicts lead to change?
  • How does math influence art?
  • How do writers persuade others?
  • How are good and evil depicted in different cultures?

💬 Opinion: Students need to consider all sides of an issue to form and justify their opinions.

  • Should pets be allowed to attend class?
  • Why has a woman never been a U.S. president?
  • What makes a good astronaut?

🚥 Divergent: Students make predictions about alternative timelines and scenarios.

  • What if Rosa Parks gave up her seat?
  • What if the world ran out of oil tomorrow?
  • How might your city change if the climate became an average of 10°F warmer?
  • What if the USA switched to the metric system?

🚀 Scenario-Based: Students take on a fictional role with a mission to accomplish.

  • You’re a NASA engineer, and you build a moon base. What are the ten most important things to include, and why?
  • Imagine you are King George. What would you have done differently to keep American part of England?
  • You are the CEO of a company designing a new social media app. Present a business plan to your investors that explains how your company will make money.
  • You’ve been hired to revamp your local shopping mall. Come up with a plan to increase business.
  • How would you spend $1,000,000 to help your community?

🚧 Scaffolded Around Framing Words: BIE has a tool to help you develop driving questions called a Tubric. It provides possible framing words, actions, audience, and purpose. If you’d rather not take the time to construct a tube, you could use Rhoni McFarlane’s Developing Inquiry Questions chart, or TeachThought’s PBL Cheat Sheet.

  • How can I create a campaign to reduce bullying in my school? (From Rhoni McFarlane)
  • How can we find a solution to permanently reduce litter in our school? (also, from Rhoni McFarlane)
  • How can we as first graders create geocaching sites to promote physical fitness in our neighborhood? (From Washington Discovery Academy)

So, the Big Deal IS?

Tony Vincent (2014) made a good point:

“A driving question guides a project, which can take days, weeks, or months to complete. It’s a big deal. You want to make sure your question is a good one. How do you know if a question will push students toward a quality project? Do the project yourself! If you do your own project ahead of time, you might encounter some bumps in the road that you didn’t anticipate, giving you the chance to refine your question or modify your assessment instrument. If you do your project alongside students, you can model thinking skills and perseverance. By doing your own project, you’re showing your students that the driving question is such a big deal, even if you want to answer it.”

Plaster You Driving Question

In the hall way, on the wall, on the door —.

Vincent says:

“As the leader of your classroom, you are in the best position to know what will work with your students. You know a lot about their interests and abilities. You know the time you have, the resources available, your curriculum, and the learning standards. Considering all this and concocting a meaningful question that will spur students to investigate and learn is no easy task. But, since a driving question can make or break a project, it’s worth the effort.”

Vincent cites Phillip Schlechty, who says teachers need to ask themselves, “What is it that I am trying to get others to do, and what reasons might they have for doing such things?” Answering a well-crafted driving question can be a terrific reason for learning!

The next blog explores integrating assessment best practices into PBL

What You Need to Know 8 Key Elements of Project Based Learning

A Public Product and Sustain Inquiry

A good project must be meaningful to the students. It also has to fulfill an educational purpose. But that’s not all. Overall, there are 8 elements essential for any project to be successful:

According to The Key Element of Project Based Learning article,

The key elements of project-based learning are:

Key Elements of PBL image
8 Key Elements of PBL

There is more to project-based learning than just giving students a project to do. Most practitioners agree that to satisfy the requirements of being a genuine PBL lesson, many key elements need to be present.

Key skills and knowledge

During the PBL lessons, students should learn more than just language. They should also learn information and content related to the topic of the project. This can be done in the form of research using the internet, library, or even through interviewing relevant people.

Students should also develop a wide range of skills, including team working and collaboration.

Sustained inquiry

PBL instruction usually happens over a prolonged period, and so is carried out during many lessons. This can cause timetabling problems. It can be best to keep 15-20 minutes of the lesson for PBL work and develop the project for many weeks.

Authenticity

This is an important aspect of PBL and is key to motivating the students. If they feel the project is not based on a relevant and authentic problem, they are much less likely to get involved and engaged with the work.

A public product or outcome

There are many possibilities for the outcome of the project work.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • A presentation
  • A video
  • A play
  • A book or ebook
  • An app or piece of software
  • A work of art (picture, sculpture or piece of music)
  • A useful product

Student voice

It’s important that the teacher takes a step back and lets the students direct the projects. Teachers can be tempting to step in, direct and redirect, but this undermines the ultimate goals of PBL.

Reflection

Reflection and self-evaluation can be difficult for students who are more familiar with being evaluated. Many students may need help to develop reflective ability. Make it clear that their ability to be self-critical and improve themselves is one of the criteria that you will use to assess their progress.

A challenging problem

There are many types of problems you can base PBL around.

Remember that students don’t have to fix the problems, they just need to create some form of document that offers a solution to the problem

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Creating an invention that addresses an everyday problem
  • Starting some kind of company that serves a particular need
  • Addressing an environmental problem
  • Create a weekly or monthly magazine or podcast
  • Design the perfect school

You can find more suggestions here: 10 Ready-to-Borrow Project Ideas

Critique and revision

This can be a difficult area for students to handle meaningfully. Giving constructive feedback to peers is a skill and one that needs to be developed. Both the ability to ask for and offer useful feedback is also an important part of working collaboratively in teams.

Part of your PBL cycle of instruction should include tips and useful expressions to help structure constructive feedback.

 

PBL Projects : Staying on Top of It

Rebecca Chambers, author of Operation Project Based Classroom, How Do I Stay on Top of All These Projects article had some ups and downs of her Changing the World projects two months in. She is excited to share what is happening in her classroom with anyone who will listen, and “then there are days that I drive home ready to burst into tears because I feel so out of control”. Rebecca’s experience with PBL is a good example of a teacher who struggles with PBL at the beginning and paints a picture of how she deals with it.

Chambers explains, “Managing a project-based classroom is probably my biggest challenge right now. I am by no means an expert at all. In this post, I will outline how I am trying to keep it all together.”

Chambers took her cue from Don Wettrick’s blueprint in Pure Genius and “embarked on our project based learning by looking for issues around the school that the students could find solutions for.”

Project Development Cycle

Chambers had her students work on projects that will go through the 5 steps:

  1. Brainstorm projects and write up a proposal.
  2. Work on project until completion date.
  3. Reflect on the project.
  4. Negotiate mark with teacher.
  5. Start Over

Proposal

Chambers requires her students to complete a proposal that includes the following:

  1. The issue they will explore / come up with a solution.
  2. Step by Step instructions that include a completion date and mini goals to get there.
  3. At least 3 curriculum expectations that they will be covering as they complete the project.
  4. How many points their project is worth.

Chambers felt the proposal was a life safer, but on the other hand, it is also pain in the ass. She explains, “Once the proposals are complete, they are what keep the students on track and give them guidance. It makes them accountable and really helps them to stay motivated (for the most part). However, getting the proposals completed is tough. Since students have never mapped out their own learning before, they require a lot of guidance and help. It is really hard for me to give each person / group the attention they need. There is one of me and 30 of them!! So I have recruited some former students, friends of mine who work from home, our former VP who is now retired, and a set of grandparents to come in and help me with this process. This has been a huge help, especially in the brainstorming stage.”

Another challenge Chambers found is that “since the students started their projects at the same time, most students were finishing up their first projects all at once. This meant that I was having to negotiate / conference with students when they finished, but then they required help to get started on their next project proposal. This was very overwhelming for me, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it!! But we all powered through and got them all going on a second project. I am finding that now that we are at the mid way mark, most students have such different deadlines, it makes it so much easier. I have the ability to negotiate with only a few groups a week, as well as helping those who need it on their next proposal or those who need help on the projects that they are working on.”  

One good thing Chambers says is that students can start their projects once the proposals are completed and approved. She had to run around to each table and was tired by the end of the day.

Chambers says it became unmanageable when “trying to figure out who was finishing up, who needed to work on their reflection, who needed to negotiate, and who was starting the process all over again”. She explained that “I had my students sharing their proposals with me in Google Classroom and was attempting to keep track of all of them there. I found this very difficult, so I decided to use the board below to keep myself and the students updated on who was at each stage. For a couple of weeks, I fixed this board up every morning and then would go over it at the beginning of each class. I found it very helpful for me for a bit and just recently found it hard to stay on top of. I have now abandoned this method and am trying out a new tracking method.”

Proposal Project Board Image
Project Board Proposal

Chambers’ new way of tracking where students are in the project is by having students “fill out a project list (they add their projects to it as they go), I ask that they hand write or print out a copy of their proposal, and I have created a file folder for each student to keep track of all of their projects”.  She said that “Now when they get a proposal approved, a copy of it goes into that folder, and I put what the project is, how much the project is worth, and when it will be completed into a spreadsheet. I have new whiteboards with every student on it with their project and dates, and I will update my whiteboards probably once every two weeks or so.”

Students List Image
Students List

Chambers’ final thoughts were “My next step is to create a Google form that I think I will fill out once the proposal is approved”. She explained that “I am hoping that this will provide me with a spreadsheet where I can sort the students and keep track of each of their projects etc. We will see how that goes.” She says, “We are very much in a trial by error / learn by failure situation in my classroom. If you have a PBL classroom and have any suggestions, I am SO open to any help you might give.”

Conclusion

The 8 Key Elements of Project Based Learning are a look into what PBL consists of. I will dive into more PBL subjects in the future. I hope Rebecca Chambers experience helps you to start your PBL a little easier.

The Next Blog explores authenticity of a Project.

Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make: Effective Elements of Instruction

Effective Instruction Image

The Elements of Effective Instruction

According to the article “The Elements of Effective Instruction” by Great Schools Partnership, these 5 elements of instructional practice are intertwined to foster student engagement with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes and achievements, and it is a necessary foundation for fostering student ownership of learning. So, what happens if you don’t follow any of the 5 elements? Classroom Chaos!

Classroom Chaos Image
Classroom Choas.

5 Elements of Effective Instruction – Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Let’s consider the first element: Student Engagement

Student Agency Image
Engagement: Part of Student Agency

You can see that engagement is part of the student agency. When you have meaningful activities relevant to learners, given by their interest, and self-initiated with appropriate guidance from teachers, it gives students voice and often choice in how they learn.

The elementary school setting I was in the school culture is more of compliance. If you don’t do your homework, there will be consequences. It is more of a traditional teaching style. The big disadvantage is no motivation to learn. On the other hand, students are compliant.

When you don’t have student engagement, you are doing disservice to students, because “engagement is more about what you can do for your students,” said George Curos. Without student engagement, there is no way students can figure out what they can do for themselves (Empowerment).

If you want to learn more about Engagement vs Empowerment, read the article “Student Engagement vs Empowerment“. I found this chart from the article that gives advice on empowerment:

Empowerment Table Image
Empowerment Table Advice Offered by George Curos

What happens when students do not feel safe and respected in the classroom? There is no engagement and risk taking from the students.

This leads to the next element: Learning Environment

According to “The Elements of Effective Instruction,” article the learning environment is a shared domain between students, teachers, families, and other partners. Positive and meaningful relationships are the foundation of a productive learning culture. I understand this is a big task for teachers to take on, considering the pressures from COVID-19 in the past 3 years, and teachers are feeling burnt-out.

I experienced burnt-out myself in the last few years of my teaching career. You feel depressed and alone. You cannot think straight. It is just a vicious cycle. I do not want any teacher to experience burnt-out. So, please take care of yourself mentally and physically.

The key here is to establish positive relationships with families and students. I found this Brain Blast Teacher-Student Relationship Building Graphic from Twitter. It gives ideas, do’s and don’ts.

Teacher Student Relationship Image
Teacher Student Relationship Building

My Blog Post: How to Develop Student Ownership What They are Learning mentions Strategic Learning Practice Curriculum 1 and it states:

“Each and Every student is supported by relevant standards with Measurable and Achievable Outcomes that are Accessible and Drive ALL Learning.”

You notice the words “Measurable and Achievable Outcomes” in the strategic learning practice. This is another element of effective instruction: Clear, Shared Outcomes.

I mistakenly focused only on activities and not on outcomes when I was teaching.

Outcomes anchor and guide the choices of instructional activities, materials, practice assignments, and assessment tasks. Teachers and students need to share and internalize it. When students understand outcomes, they can use them to set goals, guide learning, and prompt self-reflection.

The two key traits of outcomes to remember are:

  • Learning outcomes are clear – both long-term (e.g. graduation standards and performance indicators) and short-term (e.g. learning targets)
  • Clear descriptions of what success-criteria looks like are established and shared

If you are struggling with success criteria, check out my blog post: 3 Effective Ways to Help Students Achieve Criteria for Success or read The Success-Criteria Playbook by Doug Fisher.

Varied Content, Materials, & Methods of Instruction is another element of effective instruction.

From the Developing Student Ownership book, Rober Crowe and Jane Kennedy (2017) state in Strategic Learning Practice Curriculum 2:

“Each and every student is supported by units and lessons that provide an Integrated Approach and that support conceptual redundancy of the Learning Outcomes.” (pg. 26) Students must own their learning, but they must answer the following questions:

  • How does learning in various ways – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – support mastery of the skill?
  • How does the current learning relate to previous and subsequent learning?
  • How can I use this learning in the future?

All this is related to varied content, material, and methods of instruction. This element of instruction is about teachers selecting content and materials to engage and meet the needs of all learners. Students explore ideas and information in various ways, and access learning through multiple entry points.

You can access learning through listening, speaking, reading and writing to support mastery of the skill. I know that materials sometimes provided by the district can be limited, and teachers have to buy materials themselves. But when you think about if students are not supported by units and lessons that provide an Integrated Approach, what would happen? Students are not able to achieve outcomes.

Here are the Key Traits provided by Great Schools Partnership for this element:

Key Traits:

Content

  • Instructional materials and activities reflect the identities of learners in the community and the diversity of our world.
  • Content is selected and explored in ways that foster and reflect an understanding of multiple perspectives and critical issues.
  • Teachers select materials for instructional activities to meet the needs of a variety of learners.
  • Students have choice in materials and topics in order to meet learning outcomes.

Process

  • Students make meaningful choices about their learning, and are taught how to make those choices well.
  • Students learn new information in different ways–inquiry, investigation, presentation, etc.
  • Student groupings are flexible, varied, and intentionally matched to the activity and learner.
  • Students use a range of methods (differentiated homework, reading, activities) and supports (including technology) to advance their learning.
  • Time and structures support reteaching and extension of learning, as needed.
  • Resources and materials improve accessibility for a variety of learners.

Assessment

  • Students have choices about how they demonstrate their learning.
  • Students use multiple and varied pathways to reach common ends.
  • Students use varied tools and supports (including technology) to demonstrate learning.
  • Assessments are relevant, authentic, and purposeful.

Do you see what it takes to create units and lessons? So far, these elements are intertwined, but there are two more elements to consider:

Complex Thinking & Transfer:

This element has to do with Rigor. My blog post: What You Need to Know Two Components in Path to Rigor I use Marzano’s definition: complexity is the cognitive load required by the standard. Marzano’s taxonomy has 4 levels: Retrieval, comprehension, analysis, and knowledge utilization.

All this has to do according to the Great Schools Partnership are:

  • Every student is capable of complex thought and transfer of learning.
  • Higher order thinking promotes student engagement.
  • Learning that promotes transfer of knowledge and skills prepares students for the future.
Achieving Rigor Image
Rigor

You can see from the chart above that most student learning occurs at the comprehension and retrieval level. This is at the low end of the spectrum. I mentioned in the post that rigor is important to planning, because taxonomy is the tool teachers must use to scaffold learning, from introducing new content at the foundational level to helping students deepen that content. The end goal is for students to reach higher levels of cognitive complexity with autonomy.

The 5th and last element of effective instruction is Practice & Feedback.

Key traits of practice and feedback are:

Practice

  • Routines, strategies, and instruction support student learning of essential skills and knowledge by providing opportunities for practice.
  • Opportunities for practice allow students to work independently, cooperatively, and with teacher guidance.
  • Students practice applying complex skills over time within and across disciplines.

Feedback

  • Teachers give students feedback that is timely, specific, and actionable.
  • Students are taught how to give, interpret, and use feedback in their learning.
  • Students have opportunities to give, receive, and use feedback to revise essential pieces of work.

We know these key traits are the essential elements of the feedback loop. Without it, you would not close the gap between what students know and what they are able to do.

Conclusion

With this blog post, I try to pull in my blog posts on Standards-Based Learning and Student Ownership of Learning to give you a big picture of how effective instruction works. It took over a year to put information on the Teacher Clarity Website, to where I think it makes sense. It is a process you have to reflect on and put into practice.

Reference

Great School Partnership. The Elements of Effective Instruction. Retrieved from:

https://www.greatschoolspartnership.org/resources/elements-of-effective-instruction/

Gracie, L. Jan 20, 2020 STUDENT ENGAGEMENT VS. EMPOWERMENT

Retrieved from

https://blog.tcea.org/student-engagement-vs-empowerment/#:~:text=Couros%20goes%20on%20to%20further,%2C%20interests%2C%20and%20future.%E2%80%9D

How to Develop Students to Own What They are Learning

Strategic Learning Practices Image
What Students Know and Do

Introduction

To ensure students demonstrate an increase in ownership of learning, authors Crowe and Kennedy focus on practices in curriculum by using Strategic Learning Practices, which research shows increase the opportunities for learning – by increasing the opportunities for student ownership.

Review

In my previous Blog Post, What is the Look and Sound of Student Ownership?, I mentioned that students with an ownership mindset know they have the authority, capacity, and responsibility to own their learning, according to the Developing Student Ownership book. Authors Robert Crowe and Jane Kennedy define curriculum as what students need to know and do at the end of a lesson, unit, or course. Crowe and Kennedy emphasized that students must demonstrate an increase in ownership by clearly articulate answers to the following questions:

  • What am I learning?
  • Why am I learning?
  • How will I demonstrate I have learned it?

So, how does a teacher build the authority, capacity, and responsibility needed for student ownership of their learning? Crowe and Kennedy suggest that a teacher must model the thinking behind ownership, explicitly teach the skills of ownership, and most importantly, be willing to delegate the authority, capacity, and responsibility to the students.

Authors of Developing Student Ownership show how to move students towards ownership by having teachers strategically decide when to offer the following three learning practices:

Strategic Learning ProcessEach and Every Student must be able to answer the following questionsReflection: How well do you develop students to own their learning
Curriculum 1: Each and every student is supported by relevant standards with measurable and achievable outcomes that are accessible and drive all learning· What skill am I learning?
· Why am I learning this skill?
. How will I know I have learned this skill?
How often and how well do you offer this support?
· The learning outcome aligns with a relevant standard and uses appropriate academic language
· The learning outcome aligns with what the standard calls for
· The learning outcome identifies how the students will show the demonstration of the learning
· All student learning is driven by the learning outcomes and can be attained from the lesson
Curriculum 2: Each and every student is supported by units and lessons that provide an integrated approach and support conceptual redundancy of the learning outcomes.· How does learning in various ways-listening, speaking, reading, and writing-support mastery of the skill?
· How does the current learning relate to previous and subsequent learning?
– How can I use this learning in the future?
How often and how well do you offer this support?
·  The unit or lesson integration includes opportunities for students to listen, speak, read, and write about the learning outcome
· The unit or lesson integration offers students a focus on both the content standards and the learning practices
· The unit or lesson provides students with conceptual redundancy through multiple, varied interactions with the same concept
· The unit or lesson aligns with previous learning and builds to subsequent learning
Curriculum 3: Each and every student is supported by access to curriculum materials that match the content and rigor of the learning outcomes.· What materials am I using to support this learning?
· How do these materials support this learning?
What other materials could I use to continue this learning?
How often and how well do you offer this support?
· The curriculum materials build to master the relevant standards with measurable and achievable learning outcomes
· The curriculum materials are specifically selected to support the content of the standard for learning outcome
· The curriculum materials specifically selected to support the rigor of the standard or learning outcome
– The curriculum materials are accessible to all students.
Moving Student to Ownership

Strategic Learning Practices

In Strategic Learning Practices, authors lays out the following:

  • Clearly define each learning practice
  • Describe what implementation looks and sounds like in the classroom
  • Share teacher planning questions and offer examples of how students have been supported with these learning practices in various content areas and grade level
  • Explain how these practices directly lead to increased student ownership

Curriculum 1 As an Example

Curriculum SLP1 Image
Curriculum Strategic Learning Practice 1

Authors (2018) define each aspect of this practice:

“Relevant standards are the skills or content from the standards that are both appropriate for the students’ grade level and for the time of year. The verb or action of the standard is key. Identifying the verb and action helps the teacher recognize the appropriate level of learning, both in terms of where students fall in the course of their education (grade level) and where they fall in the instructional sequence (time of year).” (pg 17)

“Measurable and achievable outcomes clearly define what students are learning and how they will know they have learned it. What students are learning is the skill or content directly derived from the standard. It incorporates the language of the standard itself. How students will know they have learned it is directly related to the product or demonstration that shows the learning. This demonstration measures the level of application and is the measurable aspect of the objective. The measurable outcome must be achievable in the time parameters of the lesson.” (pg. 17 and 18)

“Outcomes that are accessible allow all students to understand and articulate what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how they will know they have learned it. Accessibility is dependent on the student. For example, visual learners will need to read the outcome, auditory learners will need to hear the outcome, and social learners will need to discuss the outcome with peers.” (pg. 18)

“Outcomes that drive all learning imply that learning time is precious and should not be squandered. In other words, every minute in the lesson is utilized for the teaching and learning of that outcome.” (pg.18)

The Practice in Action

What does this practice look like in the classroom?

Mrs. Lavetti’s high school American History Class:

On the board she wrote the outcome:

“Students will connect insights gained from the specific details to develop an understanding of a primary source, in order to accurately take Cornell notes on Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.”

When you talk to students and ask them questions:

You: “What are you learning?”

Student: “I am learning to make connections from specific parts of a text to gain insights about and better understand the primary document Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.”

You: “How do you gain insights?”

Student: “I gain insights when I not only look at the parts of a text, but also pull the pieces together to understand the document as a whole. In this case, we are looking at the specific details that Abraham Lincoln used and how they connect together to express his larger idea.”

You: “How will you know that you have learned this?”

Student: “I will use Cornell Notes to accurately cite evidence from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which I will use later to analyze Lincoln’s overall meaning.”

You: “What are Cornell Notes?”

Student: ” Cornell notes are a way to take notes that help me remember what was in Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. There is a place for the main ideas – see here I have the headings for each of the four paragraphs – and a place for my notes from the speech to remind me what the important ideas are in that section.”

You: “Why are you learning this?”

Student: “After we finish reading Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, we are going to write an essay about the overall purpose of this speech. Finding specific evidence from this source will help me write a better essay.”

You asking Mrs. Lavetti this question: “How was the student able to answer your questions so clearly and with confidence?”

Mrs. Lavetti: “My students did not answer questions at this level, because I simply posted a strong objective on the board. I had to intentionally plan how I would support them. First, I need to know what skill they would learn, how they would show it, how they would use it in the future, and how I would explain every step of the way what we are doing – what, how, and why I am teaching and what, how and why they are learning.”

Mrs. Lavetti used the Strategic Learning Practice Curriculum 1 as a frame to help her plan how she wanted to offer this support, according to Crowe and Kennedy.

Authors offer the following planning questions (Table 1.6) that helped Mrs. Levetti her support focus:

Curriculum 1 Questions Guide Image
Questions to Guide Implementing Strategic Learning Practice Curriculum 1

Implementing the Practice

What does the standard call for?

Reading standard 1 for literacy in History/Social Studies at Grades 11-12:

“Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.”

Which component of the standard will students learn in the lesson?

The standard is divided into 3 teachable parts (the what, or the skill aspect of the outcome):

  1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources
  2. Connect insights gained from specific details
  3. Connect insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole

Mrs. Levetti reviewed the learning progression for Reading standard 1 at the earlier grades to find out what has been learned.

11-12 RH1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

9-10 RH1: Cite specific textual evidence to support the analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

6-8 RH1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

The continue practice of the skill is to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources while the new learning for 11-12 grade students is to connect insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

This provides Mrs. Levetii with the academic language students need to learn of this skill.

How will my students demonstrate the learning?

Write an explanatory essay that answers the question “What was the purpose of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address?” Students gather evidence while reading.

Why are my students learning this skill?

Students will need to take explicit notes – Cornell Notes

Mrs. Levetti used planning questions to help her plan the curriculum aspect of the lesson. She is ready to determine how she will teach this, because she has decided the two most crucial aspects of her lesson:

  • The skill her students are learning.
  • The demonstration of the learning

To ensure her students own this information, so that she can increase the probability of their learning, she must ask herself the following questions:

How will I share this information with my students?

Introduce objective at the onset of each lesson, and review it throughout the lesson as needed. For visual learners, the objective is posted. For auditory learners, the objective is stated out loud. And for social learners, the objective is discussed with peers.

How will I check that my students understand the goals of the learning?

Periodically throughout the lesson, students share with a partner and remind each other what they are learning (skill), how they will know they have learned it (demonstration), and why they are learning it (future use of learning).

Ensure students understand the value of owning their own learning:

How will my students understand that knowing these aspects of the learning will support ownership of their learning?

  • It involved student participation.
  • Everyday we reflect on our learning. Once a week, students reviewed the learning progressions and rank themselves.
  • The ranking determines:
    • What skills could they teach another student?
    • What skills do they feel with a little more practice they would master?
    • What skills do they need more support with?

My Take Away

After more than a year of reading and searching for books that offer a good explanation of the unpacking process, I believe I finally found a book that I am impressed with. My website Teacher Clarity is built on the premise of the components of clarity, by using various books to explain the premise and give clarity to teaching. Developing Student Ownership has opened my eyes to how important the unpacking standards process is.

My understanding of unpacking standards changed when I read the Strategic Learning Practice for Curriculum 1. I never thought about outcomes, because I only see activities, which is not the big picture presented in the standard. I had to rethink the planning process and how I proceeded. Strategic Learning Practice helps me do exactly that. It provided guiding questions to help teachers support student learning.

You can view How to Develop Students to Own How They Are Learning post next.

What You Need to Know Two Components in Path to Rigor

Introduction

Rigor Image
Rigor

The Path to Rigor has two components-complexity and autonomy. This is according to authors Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano, The Essentials for Standards-Driven Classrooms.

Complexity, authors define, is the cognitive load required by the standard. There are four levels in Marzano’s taxonomy: Retrieval, comprehension, analysis, and knowledge utilization.

Authors also describe four levels of student autonomy: low, medium, medium-high, and high. Most teaching occurs at low levels of complexity and autonomy, while the newest standards require high levels of both. Authors note there is still a gap between the standards and actual instructional practice. See Chart Below:

Achieving Rigor Image
Achieving Rigor

Complexity A Defining Feature of Rigor

Simply stated, complexity refers to the cognitive demands of the tasks in which students are expected to engage. Authors show how to determine the complexity of a task you are designing by using Marzano Taxonomy. The taxonomy has two dimensions: complexity of the task itself and the type of content knowledge embedded in the task.

Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano explain that by moving from the most complex to the least complex, the levels of complexity are knowledge utilization, analysis, comprehension, and retrieval. You can see this in the above chart.

Authors note each level involves many cognitive processes, i.e. retrieval (lowest level) involved recognition, recall and execution.

There are two types of knowledge: Declarative and Procedural. Declarative is informational, and has its own hierarchy in terms of complexity. Authors note that terms and phrases are important at the lowest level. Details are a level up, and the highest level are generalizations, principles, and concepts.

Authors explain that the complexity of a given task is then jointly determined by the cognitive complexity of the task itself and the complexity of declarative knowledge in the task. So, a retrieval task focused on an important principle might be more difficult than a comprehension task focused on details.

Procedural knowledge includes mental and psychomotor procedures. Authors explain that these two types of procedural knowledge have their own internal hierarchies.

Mental procedures are the lowest level of procedural knowledge, i.e. single rules such as spelling rules. Above the single rules are algorithms and tactics-also referred to as strategies, i.e. how to perform subtraction and how to read a specific type of map. At the highest level are the big procedures called macro-processes, which involve many interacting with single rules, tactics, and strategies, i.e. the process of writing an expository essay.

According to the authors, the complexity of a task that involves its cognitive complexity jointly determines mental procedures and the type of mental procedure it is focused on.

Autonomy in the Classroom

Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano believe teachers need to gradually release responsibility for learning to the students to achieve true cognitive complexity and autonomy – the intent of the standards.

Authors (2017) explain that students value reflection and learning when they have true autonomy, and take initiative to learn more. The responsibility for learning must move from the teacher to students. Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano emphasize this shift hinges on the teacher’s ability to shift from teacher-supported learning to peer-supported learning. “Students become self-guided and take control of their learning,” (pg. 45-46) written by authors. Students know when they have met their learning targets, and how to seek help when they struggle.

Authors (2017) believe there is a balance between teacher as coach who offers supports and guidance, and teacher who asks guiding questions as a facilitator. “The teacher monitors the temperature of the learning. Teachers know their students well enough to know how and when support and guidance might be needed.” (pg. 46)

Planning Instruction Important Part of Rigor

Rigor is important to planning, because taxonomy is the tool teachers must use to scaffold learning, from introducing new content at the foundational level to helping students deepen that content. The end goal is for students to reach higher levels of cognitive complexity with autonomy.

Marzano Taxonomy Image
Marzano Taxonomy

So far, authors have explained how students reach higher levels of cognitive complexity with autonomy. Now the focus is on performance scale. Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano emphasize that the scale drives your planning, instruction, and the design and timing of your assessments. They believe The Essential Model maps the process to create a clear pathway to rigor for you and your students.

Standards Based Classroom Image
The Essential Model

As you can see from The Essential Model above, Standards-Based Planning is discussed in my blog post What You Need to Know Standards-Based Planning Process. The focus now is on teachers’ work together to create common, standards-based scales for their lessons. Authors define performance scale as a continuum that articulates district levels of knowledge and skills relative to a specific standard. This will allow teachers to use minute by minute, day by day formative assessment strategies to track individual student progress and adjust and differentiate instruction. Plus, prioritize feedback and celebrate learning progress when they have evidence of it.

Clustering Targets into Lessons

The key concept is that a cluster of targets will become your lesson plans. When clustering targets, we look for connections of concepts, or themes, between standards, often called strands. Then, we consider how to weave these learning strands for our students, while intentionally planning gradual release. Learning targets that will build foundations are the lower levels of complexity at level 2 on the scale. This is where building the academic vocabulary, connecting to previous learning, and building on the foundational learning by connecting to the higher levels of the scale, according to the authors.

In the Essential model, a lesson is not about span of time, but a chunk of content. Authors note it might take a day or two days. It is the target, or group of targets, that drives your lesson now. Figure 3.2 and Figure 3.3 This is another big shift in the way you think about a single lesson, according to the authors.

Performance Scales Part 1 Image
Performance Scales

Fig 3.2 Scale for 4th grade ELA

Authors note that the scale and clustering of targets for each lesson is sometimes as one target, and sometimes there are several targets. Teachers make these instructional decisions depending on cognitive demand and autonomy for that lesson.

Performance Scales Part 2 Image
Performance Scales

Fig 3.3 Learning Targets for 4th ELA

Authors note the sequence of lessons builds from lower levels of taxonomy (level 2 of the scale) to the highest level of taxonomy (level 4 of the scale). At the same time, the teacher is planning for increased autonomy.

Lesson 1, from Fig. 3.4, has three targets that come from level 2 on the scale, but we can still see within the lesson a building of knowledge from retrieval (recognize, recall, execute) to comprehension (describe).

You can see lesson 2, Fig. 3.5, follows the same pattern, but with a different strand of knowledge.

Lesson 3 is explained in the chart above.

Performance Scales Part 3 Image
Performance Scales

Fig. 3.7 and Fig. 3.8

Bring the analysis back from the previous lessons to build autonomy in lesson 4. Lesson 5 takes students to level 4 of the scale at the taxonomy level of knowledge utilization, where it truly brings all the learning together, from focus individual targets to the full intent of the standard where rigor lives.

Lesson Planning

Authors reiterate that we are no longer planning lessons around an activity or chapter in a textbook. In other words, you are not starting with something for students to do, because when we start with activities, it is often the case that we never do entirely reach the standard. Authors (2017) note that the standards are driving the way we teach, and every lesson is designed to meet one or more learning targets. So, “By breaking down the standard into learning targets, and aligning instruction to the taxonomy, we can feel more confident in our students’ ability to achieve the intent of the standard.” (pg. 55)

Planning Instructional Strategies

Instructional Strategies Image
Instructional Strategies

Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano present the 13 Instructional Strategies in the Essential model, which provide a learning path for students to ultimately engage in complex tasks. According to the authors, the first six strategies are generally used for foundational learning or introducing new content. Authors note this learning is usually lower in complexity, and includes the basic knowledge and processes that are more complex thinking is built on.

The next six strategies are applied to learning targets devoted to taking content previously learned and engaging students in deep thinking. Authors explain the purpose of the lessons for those learning targets is to have students think deeply about the content. These lessons require students to be analytical.

The final strategy is that students are thinking critically with full autonomy and knowledge utilization level. However, authors emphasize that this depends on the taxonomy level of the standard.

Review

Marzano Resources provides a webinar A Guide to Standards-Based Learning. The webinar introduces key steps for transitioning to standards-based learning, and explains how teachers and leaders can leverage concrete tools to navigate the transition one step at a time. Viewers can expect to:

  • Learn about the rationale for standards-based learning
  • Understand how standards-based learning looks in hybrid, online, and in-person environments
  • Discover tools that will help you successfully navigate the transition to standards-based learning

Conclusion

Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Marzano believe teachers will need to achieve classroom rigor. Teachers will need to plan instruction carefully, beginning with unpacking their standards and cluster learning targets on a scale aligned to the taxonomy. Once the scale is developed, it becomes the backbone of the teacher’s lesson plan. Teachers then create lessons using the instructional strategies suited to the targets and taxonomy levels of the targets. It is hard work, but you do not have to do it alone.

Reference

Moore, C., Toth, M. D., Marzano, R. J. (2017). The Essentials for Standards-Driven Classrooms A Practical Instructional Model for Every Student to Achieve Rigor, learningscience.com

Marzano Resources.  A Guide to Standards-Based Learning https://mkt.marzanoresources.com/l/837863/2021-08-20/vrbx3

What You Need to Know Standards Based Planning

Process of Standards Based Planning Image
Standards Based Planning

Introduction

Standards Based Planning Process includes planning lessons and units built on standards, and creating assessments that measure student progress toward standards.

From ASCD article on Developing Well Designed Standards Based Units

The Process of Standards-Based Planning

Identify Essential Standards

Authors, Carla Moore, Michael D Toth, and Robert J Mariano (2017), of The Essentials for Standards-Driven Classrooms, point out the key concept of identifying essential standards versus supporting standards:

  • Is this standard a prerequisite for learning in other grade levels?
  • Does this standard connect to multiple subject areas?
  • Is it measured on standardized assessments?
  • Is the standard something the students need to know to be successful in school and life?

Authors believe the first two steps are crucial to determine what the essential standards are and how to group them to successfully master standards-driven planning. Standards are rarely taught in isolation. Most of the time essential standards and supporting standards are interrelated.

Grouping Standards into Measurement Topics and Units

The key concept is that standards are tested together and should be taught together. Grouping standards into units is the next step once standards you need to teach are identified. This will ensure that you are teaching standards cohesively, according to the authors.

Authors show two ways to group standards into units. One way is to determine which standards is to see which ones rely on each other for learning. Another way is if you know which standards are tested together, it will give you a good idea of which standards to teach together. Authors call such groups of standards ‘measurement topics.’ It is an excellent way to create your units planning lessons around measurement topics and supporting standards.

Tips for Grouping Standards into Units:

  • Don’t teach your standards in isolation. Map out how you will teach your standards, and group them into appropriate measurement topics. Plan your unit at the standard level.
  • Identify essential standards and group them with supporting standards. Understand which standards are supporting others. Students often need to learn the supporting standard before the essential standard. Remember, there is a progression.
  • Keep in mind, the purpose of assessment is to determine whether the standards have been taught and learned as intended.

Unpacking the Standards to Create Learning Targets

Look for the verbs with their associated knowledge. Both combined to determine the student actions. This key concept comes after you have grouped standards into units. Authors explain that the associated students action answers a simple “what?” question. For example:

Academic Standard: CCSS: ELA-Literacy RI.4.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and second hand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Verbs: Compare, Contrast, Describe

Learning Target: Verb (Student Action) + Knowledge

  • Compare similarities of a first-hand and secondhand account of the same event or topic
  • Contrast differences between a first-hand and secondhand account of the same event or topic
  • Describe the differences in focus
  • Describe the differences in the information provided

Authors (2017) state “A learning target is a short descriptive phrase that includes a verb and student action, and details the essential knowledge and skills students must understand and be able to perform to demonstrate understanding of academic standards.” (pg 28)

Once the verb and knowledge are identified, this becomes your learning target. Authors note that a learning target represents a chunk of learning toward the standard.

Authors point out that teachers make many mistakes in the field as they learn to do this. One mistake is that a teacher might “under-chunk” a standard, which means the teacher has not broken the standard into sufficient learning targets. The chunks of the standard are still too large for students to absorb. Authors note that standards have lots of pieces that need to be pulled apart into digestible bites of learning for the students. For example:

Academic Standard: CCSS. ELA-Literacy. R.I. 4.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and second hand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Under-Chunked Learning Target

  • Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic.
  • Describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

You can see the learning targets are now too large, and it will make it confusing and difficult for students to understand. When students miss these crucial learning targets, it will be difficult for them to master the standard.

Another error teachers make is to “over-chunk” the standard into too many small targets. For example:

Academic Standard: CCSS>MA.NS.1B: Understand p+q as the number located a distance [q] from p, in the positive or negative direction, depending on whether q is positive or negative. Show that a number and its opposite have a sum of 0 (are additive inverses). Interpret sums of rational numbers by describing real-world contexts.

Over-Chunked Learning Target

  • Understand the sum of two rational addends
  • Show that a number and its opposite have a sum of 0
  • Interpret sums of rational numbers
  • Describe real world contexts

Authors point out that the larger idea, the full intent of the standard, is now lost by dropping some knowledge necessary for the student action to be complete. “Understand the sum of two rational addends” is only part of the student action, and by removing “as the number located a positive or negative distance away from the first addend,” large pieces of learning are omitted. It is worth remembering that you are weaving strands of knowledge together to help your students not only master the standard, but also understand the world.

You can learn more about how to design learning targets in my blog post Raise Trajectory of Learning.

Unpacking Standards to Create Learning Targets

Look for the verbs with their associated knowledge. Both combined to determine the student actions. This key concept comes after you have grouped standards into units. Authors explain that the associated students action answers a simple “what?” question. For example:

Academic Standard: CCSS: ELA-Literacy RI.4.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and second hand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Verbs: Compare, Contrast, Describe

Learning Target: Verb (Student Action) + Knowledge

  • Compare similarities of a first-hand and secondhand account of the same event or topic
  • Contrast differences between a first-hand and secondhand account of the same event or topic
  • Describe the differences in focus
  • Describe the differences in the information provided

Authors (2017) state “A learning target is a short descriptive phrase that includes a verb and student action, and details the essential knowledge and skills students must understand and be able to perform to demonstrate understanding of academic standards.” (pg 28)

Once the verb and knowledge are identified, this becomes your learning target. Authors note that a learning target represents a chunk of learning toward the standard.

Authors point out that teachers make many mistakes in the field as they learn to do this. One mistake is that a teacher might “under-chunk” a standard, which means the teacher has not broken the standard into sufficient learning targets. The chunks of the standard are still too large for students to absorb. Authors note that standards have lots of pieces that need to be pulled apart into digestible bites of learning for the students. For example:

Academic Standard: CCSS. ELA-Literacy. R.I. 4.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and second hand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Under-Chunked Learning Target

Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic.

Describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

You can see the learning targets are now too large, and it will make it confusing and difficult for students to understand. When students miss these crucial learning targets, it will be difficult for them to master the standard.

Another error teachers make is to “over-chunk” the standard into too many small targets. For example:

Academic Standard: CCSS>MA.NS.1B: Understand p+q as the number located a distance [q] from p, in the positive or negative direction, depending on whether q is positive or negative. Show that a number and its opposite have a sum of 0 (are additive inverses). Interpret sums of rational numbers by describing real-world contexts.

Over-Chunked Learning Target

  • Understand the sum of two rational addends
  • Show that a number and its opposite have a sum of 0
  • Interpret sums of rational numbers
  • Describe real world contexts

Authors point out that the larger idea, the full intent of the standard, is now lost by dropping some knowledge necessary for the student action to be complete. “Understand the sum of two rational addends” is only part of the student action, and by removing “as the number located a positive or negative distance away from the first addend,” large pieces of learning are omitted. It is worth remembering that you are weaving strands of knowledge together to help your students not only master the standard, but also understand the world.

Organizing Targets into A Scale

Organize your chunked learning targets into a performance scale. This is a key concept that the taxonomy creates the progression of learning. Authors define a performance scale as a continuum that articulates distinct levels of knowledge and skills relative to a specific standard. Performance scales drive lessons, activities, assignments, and assessments when used as intended.

Marzano Taxonomy Image
Marzano Taxonomy

Authors use the analogy of an education GPS, leading you and your students, letting you know where you are in the journey, how much farther you must travel to reach your destination, and what lies ahead. Authors point out that performance scales articulate a distinct level of knowledge and skills relative to achieving the standards. Once organized according to their appropriate taxonomy levels, become a progression of learning that guides your journey.

Authors (2017) state that “performance scales organize learning targets into useful structures and make teaching visible to students.” (pg. 33) For example:

Elementary-English Language Arts

CCSS.ELA.Literacy. RI.4.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

4.0 Students will be able to: Decide whether a first-hand or secondhand account best conveys the event or topic, justifying conclusions with grounds, backing, and qualifiers.

3.0 Students will be able to: Compare and contrast a firsthand and second hand account of the same event or topic.

2.0 Students will recognize and recall specific vocabulary, including:

firsthand account, secondhand account, perspective, integrate

Students will be able to:

Describe the similarities between a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic.

Describe the differences in focus in a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic.

Describe the differences in the information provided in a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic.

Identify whether a text is a firsthand account or a secondhand account of an event or topic.

Identify the focus (point of view, author’s perspective, etc.) of firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event or topic.

Integrate information from two texts on the same topic, in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

1.0 With help, partial success at 2.0 and 3.0 level content.

0.0 Even with help, no success.

Above example of performance scale, you will notice that the scales provide learning targets directly from the standard. At level 3 of the scale are learning targets at the highest level of complexity (taxonomy) of the standard. At level 2, are foundational learning targets that contain prerequisite knowledge and processes that are not always explicitly stated in the academic standard. Level 2 also explicitly targets learning targets in the standard, but at lower thinking levels. Level 4 requires a level of processing or cognitive complexity that requires students to deeply dive into the content of academic standards and extend their learning. Level 4 targets require students to engage at higher thinking levels than the actual standards.

Planning for Student Evidence and Assessments

According to The Essentials for Standards-Driven Classrooms, planning for assessments is a crucial step in lesson planning. A key concept author points out that performance scales drive assessments, and planning assessments before you teach will clarify expectations of your students. Planning assessments help show how your students will demonstrate their knowledge to you. It also helps you keep a strong focus on the learning required and the evidence that learning has occurred.

Authors emphasize that assessment questions or performance tasks must match the level of rigors in terms of both students autonomy and cognitive complexity required by the learning target. Assessments should be strategically given throughout the unit of instruction to guide teaching, and all assessments are not necessarily tests or quizzes. Authors suggest informal assessments can provide more useful and timely information about student learning.

Standard(s)Learning TargetsTaxonomy LevelStudent Evidence at Target Level
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.Decide whether a firsthand or secondhand account best conveys the event or topic, justifying conclusions with grounds, backing, and qualifiers.Knowledge Utilization: Decision MakingStudents decide which account best conveys the event or topic, and justify their conclusions with grounds, backing, and qualifiers.
Compare and contrast a firsthand and second hand account of the same event or topic.Analysis: MatchingStudents accurately evaluate and analyze similarities and differences from different accounts of the same event or topic.
Summarize the focus and information in the firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event or topic.Comprehension: IntegratingStudents accurately summarize the focus and information of the firsthand account, then accurately summarize the secondhand account.
Recognize whether a text is a firsthand account or a secondhand account.Retrieval: RecognizingStudents accurately highlight key words or phrases that indicate whether the person writing the text is a part of the event or not.
Identify the focus (point of view, author’s perspective, etc.) of firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event or topic.Retrieval: RecallingStudents’ words (verbal or written) accurately identify the focus or point of the text.
Sample of elementary ELA standards with learning targets, taxonomy level, and student evidence aligned to taxonomy and learning target

You can see from the chart that we start with a standard, break the standard into learning targets, identify the taxonomy level, and create student evidence. Authors suggest that after creating evidence, you want to check this work by asking if this student evidence aligns with the taxonomy, the learning target, and the intent of the standard?

Conclusion

Creating accurate standards-based performance scales and planning aligned lessons and assessments are no skills teachers develop overnight. Authors point out that this process can take three years. You will learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t, when and why students seem to meet some targets easily, and missing others. However, the effectiveness of your performance scales, assessments, and instruction will be evident in your data.