I have spent several days the last few weeks consulting at school sites with principals and instructional coaches. One of the topics we have discussed was how to engage teachers in collaborating with next school year’s teachers in setting learning goals for advancing students.
Much of my work with PLCs includes setting learning goals for students and then collaborating to plan the paths to learning. Often I request that the previous year’s teacher assist in setting the learning goals because of their knowledge of the students. As we have been examining current student assessments and planning for the last quarter of the year, options have begun to emerge for connecting with next year’s teachers as part of the final assessment.
An example would be fourth grade students in April completing a writing task on which fifth grade teachers provide some comments on strengths and recommendations for improvement. The students rework the piece and submit again. 5th grade teachers then score the work on the beginning of fifth grade rubric. The 4th and 5th grade teachers now meet and set writing goals for the new 5th graders. Such shared goals especially set prior to teachers knowing which student will be in their individual classes are a great start toward functioning as grade level and vertical teams.
This writing example can provide a great way to link middle school and high school teachers. The 8th grade students producing writing samples that receive feedback and are eventually scored by freshman teachers provide great communication between the teachers as to “what’s important”. Freshman teachers with those students’ results in hand are in a position to set goals for incoming students and plan for initial instruction. I could envision engaging the students in goal setting as they compare their entering “best work” with required grade nine standards.
I believe this early goal setting is especially critical for students with advanced achievement. Without teachers having focused goals for these students, they can often be overlooked because the teachers’ immediate attention is drawn to students who are below grade level.
A primary school team developed a plan for the end of the year reading assessment, in this case running records, to be conducted by next year’s teachers. So, second grade teachers will complete a running record on first grade students. Then with those results and input from the first grade teachers they will set goals for students’ reading achievement in second grade. This should prepare teachers to begin the year with instructional plans in place…hitting the ground running.
A principal recently identified how current students at one grade level had made a surprising increase in their achievement during this school year. We discussed the importance of next year’s teachers being aware of that level so that the instructional plans for the fall are adjusted appropriately. An unaware teacher starting “as usual” could be missing the opportunity to maximize the learning advances.
I think that bringing teachers together to look at student work and performance, reaching consensus on current achievement and creating target goals builds team. It encourages a respect of each other for roles played and a commitment to ‘do what it takes’ to reach targeted student achievement outcomes… a more than one year process…teaching is a team sport and a public act!