On Thursday of this week, administrators, department chairs, and the President of the Burlington Education Association (Teacher’s Union) begin training in a process that will help to develop “a shared vision of quality instruction” across the district. The “Look 2 Learning” framework is not about teacher evaluation. In fact, the teacher is not the focus of the observer. The focus of this process is the student.
Essentially the “Look 2 Learning” process is a sampling technique. While it is often said that teaching is an art, this statement is only partially true. There are aspects of teaching, like any profession, that have been researched and identified as highly correlated to higher student achievement. The “Look 2 Learning” process identifies these focus areas.
Ultimately, administrators and teachers can look for evidence of these focus areas in several minutes of classroom observation. Frequency of the visits provides information from which groups of teachers can reflect and hopefully, adjust their practice or select more focused professional development.
The “Look 2 Learning” process has everyone focusing on the most critical aspects of instruction related to improving student achievement. Those areas are as follows:
1. Clear objectives: Do the students know the point of the lesson or unit? Research indicates that students need to be clear on the objective of a lesson or unit if the lesson or unit is to be most effective.
2. Aligned Content: While we do not all need to be on the same page, every public school district in Massachusetts delivers a state curriculum as identified by the state standards. We have to teach the appropriate content if our students are to perform to their maximum potential on the state exams of this content.
3. Bloom’s Taxonomy: We should aim to develop curricular units toward the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Benjamin Bloom is a foundational researcher in regards to student learning. A lower level Bloom’s activity would be a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. A higher level Bloom’s activity involves students synthesizing their own knowledge. Worksheets are not all bad, but only worksheets will not maximize levels of student achievement.
4. Student Engagement: Are students engaged in their learning? Research confirms common sense in that students who are actively engaged achieve higher levels of learning and behave better. In other words, creativity is critical and student management is ultimately an instructional challenge.
Anyone participating in a “Learning Walk” needs only several minutes in a classroom to find evidence of the four critical components of effective insrtruction from the perspective of the student. The data from the “Learning Walks” is collected and compiled. The data will then be periodically shared with grade-level teams (elementary), teams (middle), departments (high school).
For instance, “I was in 30 fifth-grade lessons over the last two months all throughout the day. I observed clear evidence of objectives 75% of the time, aligned content 80% of the time, higher level Bloom’s lessons 25% of the time, and high levels of student engagement 30% of the time.”
This information is not punative. The data is used for reflection. What is working. What is not working. Was the investment in a particular program being implemented in the classroom. Was the professional development effective in improving as aspect of teaching or is more professional development needed?
By being transparent about the aspects of instruction we, through research, are prioritizing, we can begin to develop a “shared vision of quality instruction” as a district – The “Burlington Way.” These four focus areas can look different and allow for individual teacher creativity. The critical question becomes what the students can accomplish and achieve as a result of what they experience in class.