I recently worked with a group of teacher leaders who were preparing to have PLC teams identify evidence of progress that was present or missing from their year-long PLC goal. Initially their only focus was on student assessments. I asked them to consider evidence regarding how the process they planned had been implemented as well.
Consider a medical example:
Lower blood pressure
Strategy (Patient Behavior)
Decrease salt intake in diet
Educational Support (Coach Behavior)
- Deliver training on label reading to understand salt content.
- Provide information on low salt alternatives.
- Create tracking systems to record salt consumption.
That backward plan then is implemented by the educational support beginning the process. As we collect evidence, the first consideration would be, “Was the training on label reading provided?” Is there evidence that the client can read the labels and classify foods accordingly? How much information on alternatives was provided? Was the client given a tracking system? How useable was it? Is there evidence that the client is using the tracking system? Is there evidence that the data is accurate? Does the tracking system identify that the client has decreased salt intake? How substantially?
Now we are ready to take the client’s blood pressure. Without considering the evidence concerning the process, we cannot assess the appropriateness of the plan for future use with this client or others.
Now let’s examine an example with a PLC:
Team Goal for Student Achievement: To increase the quality and depth of student independent and collaborative learning events/projects.
Student Learning Production Behaviors: These are actions/behaviors/practices that students take to create the desired student achievement outcome.
- Goal Setting
- Working on “interest driven authentic tasks”
- Investing effort on repeated iterations
- Using feedback from others
- Agency for problem Solving
Teacher Behaviors: What actions/behaviors do teachers take to initiate, motivate, and support the desired student learning production behaviors?
- Teach the desired student behaviors (i.e. how to set goals, ways to request feedback, elements of effort, etc.)
- Schedule opportunities for student production behaviors
- Conference and coach the student behaviors
- Spark student interest and curiosity
Like in the medical example, implementation begins with the educator behaviors. That might mean assessing which of the learning production behaviors students have developed and which ones need to be trained and coached? It might start with exploring students’ reactions to topics and issues from the local or global community? Teachers listening to and learning about students is key.
As you start to collect evidence you would begin with teacher behaviors. What actions can we document teachers have taken to initiate the plan toward the desired goal? What have teachers learned about the students and how is that shaping the design of learning opportunities?
A student learning goal of this complexity requires a lot of observation of students. What evidence can we find that indicates the implementation of the student learning production behaviors? What evidence do we find in the goals that students have set? How many iterations are present prior to students “finishing” tasks? Which students are practicing which of the important behaviors? Are students aware of/conscious of specific learning production behaviors they are implementing?
Now as we assess the depth and quality of student learning events and projects, we can seek connections or insights to the plan. If our early evidence does not indicate changes in teacher or student behaviors, reaching the outcome is unlikely and modifications should be made early. Evidence of changes in student learning production behaviors provides positive feedback and motivation to teachers for investing in their change of practice.
As school leadership teams plan backwards to develop processes to initiate and support continuous student growth, they should develop “evidence indicators.” What “look fors” illustrate that the leadership behaviors implemented are producing the start of changes in teacher and student behaviors? Way too often plans are developed, initiated and then left unattended until a measurement of student outcomes is taken. Without evidence of the process, that outcome provides little new learning for the eductors.