It’s January and teachers and students are halfway through the school year. Students have received approximately four months of instruction focused on the goal of acquiring the knowledge and skills they will need before they leave their current grade. In many schools, a mid-year or interim assessment has been or will be conducted. In other schools, teachers will utilize their own assessments. How can you use this valuable assessment data to inform instruction for the next four months?
The Inquiry-Based Model as a Teacher Tool
Inquiry-based learning has been used in classrooms for several decades. It invites participants to formulate “academic content by posing, investigating, and answering questions” (view source). Using inquiry in this way encourages the formulation of questions and answers to work toward a discovery or solution. Teachers, too, can benefit from using this method to work toward their own pedagogical discoveries.
The Big 3 Questions: What? So What? Now What?
Teachers can begin with a process of developing authentic questions that will draw distinctions between what is known and what is not known about student progress. Some examples of this type of questioning include:
- What data do I have and what does it show about the class as a whole?
- Where are students currently performing on a specific set of skills?
- What results are different than what was expected?
- What information about individual students is surprising?
While mid-year data doesn’t provide all the answers to these questions, this information is essential to teachers as they begin the inquiry process.
2. So What?
Once teachers have developed these questions and some working answers based on the information they have, the next step is to determine the impact on teaching and learning for the remainder of the year.
- If these trends continue, what are the likely effects on individual students and the class? How important would those effects be to overall student achievement?
- What seems to be working effectively and how important is that to student progress?
- What isn’t working as well as it needs to and how important is that in the long term?
3. Now What?
Identifying the What? and So What? enables teachers to create the Now What? Developing an effective plan for the next four to five months is based on the knowledge, experience, and willingness of the educator to more deeply address the instructional needs of the class. Teachers often find the greatest success by choosing one or two strategies that can be easily added to lesson plans and implemented in upcoming weeks.
Increasing Checks for Understanding
Create more frequent, informal opportunities to check for understanding of lessons as they are being taught. Click the links and view the resources below for examples of informal assessments:
- Red and Green Walk Arounds (see slide 29 on link)
Experiment with Different Instructional Methods and Strategies
Flip the Classroom
Flipping allows more time in class for students to work with the support of the teacher and provides the teacher with more time to observe and assess. Watch this 60-second intro to flipping:
Scaffold Instruction Using The Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework
This method works well for moving from teacher-centered to student-centered classrooms while providing needed support.
Incorporate More Review
Engaging activities and games are a fun way to provide students with more quality time to review content. There are many resources available free online, such as options for adapting the Concentration Game by grade and subject, as found here.
Incorporate More Differentiation and Allow Students to Choose
Designing lessons with more choices allows students to better demonstrate their knowledge and enables teachers to better meet the needs of all students. Using Think-Tac-Toe or Menu Boards such as those found at this site can increase student motivation and engagement.
Teachers and administrators who have used these Big 3 questions as a component of inquiry often find that they provide the direction needed to solve school challenges. Check out this Ted Talk by Linda Cliatt-Wayman for one principal’s story.