Book Cover

Teaching for Student Learning has been written for experienced teachers to help them become more accomplished as they pursue topics associated with student learning, assessment, teaching practices, curriculum design, and school improvement and change. This Fieldbook, designed as a Website to accompany the text, has been influenced by what we know about how teachers learn and grow and how schools can improve.

Becoming an accomplished teacher is a long-journey. For all of us it begins while we are still students and observe our teachers year after year. For many, the process continues with college coursework on teaching and learning and with participation in a variety of clinical experiences. With purposeful action and careful reflection, the journey continues during our first years of teaching as we slowly discover our own style and as we move from novices to teachers with expertise. This Fieldbook has been written to support teacher learning whether it is part of an advanced university-based class or as a part of school-based faculty study. Most of the tools and activities found in the Fieldbook can be assigned by university instructors as part of fieldwork requirements in advanced courses on teaching and learning. Others have been designed for teachers to use on their own or with others for the purpose of examining school-wide issues and taking steps to make classroom and school environments more productive for student learning.

The nature and content of the Fieldbook has been influenced by our long-standing beliefs about how teachers learn and what constitutes effective learning experiences. On the one hand, teacher learning requires knowledge about how people learn and about practices known to be effective. This kind of knowledge is often obtained more effectively in formal college courses and/or in-service workshops. However, many aspects of professional practice can be learned only through experience. Teacher learning, then, is more fully realized when it is job-embedded and/or when teachers are organized into learning communities for the purposes of pursuing common goals and acquiring skills by joining together using collaborative experiences and reflective discourse. Experience alone, however, particularly when it is unexamined, also does not lead to new insights or more effective practice. In every situation, time for thoughtful reflection is required and learning experiences must be relevant to the personal needs and concerns we have as teachers and to the context in which we work. Activities and tools in the Fieldbook have been designed to meet these criteria.

We have organized activities and tools to correspond to chapters in the book. However, this does not mean that they need to be used in any special or sequential order. Fieldbook activities can be used by individuals in a variety of ways. For example, some are intended to be used by individuals working alone; others are best accomplished by joining with a few colleagues or work team. Still others are meant to engage larger learning communities of teachers. The Fieldbook Chart at the end of this section provides a chapter-by-chapter overview of Fieldbook activities and provides a quick glance at the variety and depth of these activities.

Overall Strategies for Using the Fieldbook in University-based Classes

The amount of time instructors devote to this particular text will depend on the overall purposes of the course and other textual materials being used. In some instances, whole courses will be designed around the topics covered in Teaching for Student Learning. In other instances only selected chapters will be used. Regardless of time allocations, tools, and activities found in the Fieldbook can provide an important resource for teaching the course. One approach for using the activities found in the Fieldbook is described below:

Step 1: Provide students with a brief overview of the chapter(s) topic(s) providing rationale and advance organizers.

Step 2: Assign selected Fieldbook activities to be completed by a specific date. We are making the assumptions that most graduate classes for working teachers meet weekly. Most of the activities ask teachers to collect data about their own teaching or from other teachers in their school. Some can be completed in a single week; others will take longer. Some can be completed by working alone; some require working with a classmate or colleague.

Step 3: After Fieldbook activities have been completed, students should share the results of the inquiries in pairs or small groups and reflect on what it means for their practice.

Step 4: Use the results of the data and small groups dialogue as springboards for lectures or whole class discussions on the topic being studied.

Overall Strategy for the Using the Fieldbook for Faculty Study

The topics and size of Teaching for Student Learning has been designed for use by school faculties or faculty study groups who choose to study and reflect on their own classroom and/or school-wide practices. Many of activities in the Fieldbook have been designed to facilitate this process. Obviously, a school faculty’s efforts to facilitate their own inquiry and reflection could follow many approaches. Below are suggestions about how a faculty or group of faculty might proceed.

The content of the foundational chapters (Chapters 1–4), although they strive to provide practical application, are more theoretical as compared to other sections of the book. One way to consider the topics of student learning, curriculum, and motivation would be to use a “Jigsaw Approach” (See Chapter 13). Small groups of teachers could be assigned a particular chapter. Their job would be to read the chapter and then share major ideas and implications with other teachers on the faculty. All teachers could complete selected activities in the Fieldbook associated with chosen topics.

Differentiation and assessment practices used by effective teachers are the topics of Chapter 5 and 6. Using selected activities in the Fieldbook would be an effective way to help individual faculty members to consider their own practices, to compare these with others in the school, and to have discussions about school-wide practices. The latter could lead to some school-wide agreements about how the faculty as a whole might provide a more coordinated approach on such things as use of “flexible grouping” in support of differentiation or “performance assessment” as a critical feature of student evaluation.

Chapters 7–14 provide information and guidelines for the use of particular teaching models or strategies. One way to approach these chapters would be with the use of “classroom observation with coaching” or “lesson study.” Both of these teacher-learning strategies are described in Chapter 15. Teams of teachers could select a particular strategy(ies) for which they would like to become more proficient. They would then study the strategy and plan to use it for a particular lesson. Members from the coaching team or lesson study group would observe the lesson using the observation guides provided in the Fieldbook and coach and/or lead conversations about how the lesson went and perhaps how well it conformed to recommended procedures. After each member has had a chance to practice and be coached on a particular strategy, team members would get to together and discuss how they are doing. Protocols are provided in the Fieldbook to facilitate the work and the discussions of coaching teams.

Chapter 15 provides perspectives and information about school-wide practices, educational change, and the importance of teacher learning. Activities and tools included in the Fieldbook are meant to help faculty members collect information about their students and their school, guidelines for using this information, and procedures for entering into joint problem solving and thoughtful reflection. These activities can be used by a variety of school groups: total faculties, specified learning communities, or by grade level teams in elementary schools or subject area departments or other specialized groups at the secondary levels.

Chapter 15 also describes in some detail about how teachers can join together to examine and discuss samples of their students' work. Many teachers find this type of activity to be difficult. However, we have provided a variety of guidelines and protocols to make this process easier and more rewarding. Finally, although it is a teacher learning strategy that has been around for a long time, we believe that “book study” done correctly can lead to teacher growth and to greater understanding of our practice and our students.

Activity Charts

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