|DEMS Grade 2 Team - Wes Sanders, Tiffany Flanders, and Ghinwa El Masri|
Last year, if you were to walk in to one of DEMS 2nd grade classrooms during a summative assessment, you would see students independently using their knowledge and skills on an authentic performance tasks. Students are modeling, problem solving, and communicating their reasoning of rich tasks in multiple ways using their knowledge of the mathematical concepts. Students might be scattered around the room or at their tables with their heads down carefully reading and crafting answers to each question. Some students would get up to read the rubric making sure they were meeting the criteria set forth by the teachers.
While this may not be unique in many classrooms, the real collaboration success story comes with what happens before and after the students are assessed. These rich task have been collaboratively created by the grade 2 teaching team. Using various resources, these teachers will create an assessment that provides students the opportunities to use the mathematical practices in an authentic performance task. Knowing their targets and standards carefully allow them to modify their instruction to meet the needs of their students. As Tiffany Flanders clearly stated if she wants her students to model, reason, and problem solve, then she has “to change my instruction to allow them to practice those.”
Classrooms have been set up in stations that allow for students to conceptually understand the mathematical concepts using manipulatives and models prior to being introduced to the standard algorithms. It is not uncommon to see more than 6 different ways students have solved the same problem. The criteria of the rubrics are clear and have become standard procedure for the students use in the class during practice and during assessments.
After assessments, teachers can sometimes be seen gathering around a stacks of student work. This collective ownership of student learning is one of the cornerstones of collaboration success. Instead of 3 teachers teaching 20 students each, it becomes more like 3 teachers teaching 60 students. By going through student work together, teachers can better adapt their future assessments and instructional practices for the next unit.
Dozens of articles are written to discuss the importance of collaboration and how schools can embed collaboration in their school culture. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (2011) suggests that a school’s professional learning culture is collaborative when:
- teachers engage in frequent, ongoing formal and informal conversations about pedagogy and teaching practice (Australian Professional Standards for Teachers)
- teachers work together to research, plan and design effective teaching strategies and programs
- teachers engage in professional dialogue to evaluate and modify teaching strategies and programs
- teachers engage in regular classroom observation and feedback and can articulate how changes in their practice impact on student outcomes
- there is collective ownership of learning goals and outcomes, for both the individual and whole-school
- teachers undertake leadership roles that include initiating and leading professional discussions with colleagues to evaluate practice (Australian Professional Standards for Teachers)
- collaboration is prioritized and sufficient time is given to investing in the practice
While the grade 2 team at DEMS continues to strive to meet all of the criteria to the best of their ability, a huge congratulations should be given to them with what they have been able to do in their mathematics classes last school year. With a new team member coming on board, the collaboration practices already established will help this team be successful for the upcoming year.
Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. (2011, February). Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/apst-resources/australian_professional_standard_for_teachers_final.pdf