Engaging Coaches and Teachers
The New York Formative Assessment Project utilized Syracuse City School District mathematics coaches (called ISTs or Instructional Support Teachers) to provide site-based professional development for teachers to implement formative assessment in mathematics. To apply this “turn-key” training approach, coaches required two new skill sets. First, coaches learned the research, definition and attributes of formative assessment, including what formative assessment looks like in an elementary mathematics classroom. Second, coaches learned strategies and approaches for improved site-based teacher learning. This involved the coaches moving from providing traditional stand-and-deliver professional development to teachers, towards direct support of teachers as they implemented new strategies in their classroom. To do this new type of work, coaches worked with NYCC project staff to learn how to more effectively model lessons, provide feedback to teachers based on observation of classroom lessons, and facilitate teacher professional learning communities. In this way, coaches provided a range of support to teachers as they implemented formative assessment strategies, and these supports were differentiated based on teacher, team and building needs.
Through the district’s Math Science Partnership grant funding, each of the pilot teachers in grades 4 and 5 received 1/2 day per month of release time during which time coaches and teachers worked together on formative assessment practices. During these sessions coaches worked with teachers to review articles, analyze data, and review upcoming units to apply formative assessment practices. In year 2, coaches used this time to model lessons with specific attributes of formative assessment and observe teacher lessons to provide feedback on formative assessment implementation.
- Presentation Agenda, Materials and Summary of Kick-Off Event
- Invitation to Formative Assessment Kick-Off Event
- Expectations of Teachers Participating in the Formative Assessment Project
- Formative Assessment Techniques
- Communication Skills Resources for Coaches
- Surveying Teacher Concerns: Guidance for Program Implementation Using Concerns-Based Model
- Benefits of Formative Assessment: Research Highlights
- Book Selection: How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students
- Support for formative assessment involved building knowledge in both content and process. While coaches had good content knowledge in mathematics, there was significant learning that needed to take place on formative assessment content, as well as on how to support teachers to implement these practices in the classroom.
- Shifting towards a mode that provides direct support for teachers – and moving away from stand and deliver professional development sessions toward a classroom modeling and coaching approach – was a significant change in practice for math coaches. This shift required NYCC project staff to provide a balance of structured protocols and modeling. This was designed to ensure a safe environment in which all math coaches across the district would be required to demonstrate their use of coaching and modeling techniques. Coaches reported significant gains in their understanding of how to “ teach” using formative assessment through their experiences modeling formative assessment lessons for each other and for teachers. Coaches reported that modeling formative assessment lessons:
- helped them to understand the issues teacher might face as they work to change current practice;
- deepened their understanding of formative assessment by helping them see how to apply all the principles of formative assessment in a lesson or unit plan; and
- encouraged them to re-examine their understanding of core content and do further work to strengthen their content knowledge in the subject area (in this case, mathematics).
- Coaches benefited from knowledge about differences between working with a teacher as a “consultant” – providing information and guiding teacher learning in an “expert” role – versus as a “coach”, working collaboratively to improve practice.
- It is as important to build coaches’ knowledge of formative assessment content as it is to provide training and modeling on how to bring the content to teachers and building leaders to support effective implementation. Enhance coaches’ skills as growth agents.
- Professional development sessions with coaches should be closely linked to classroom instruction. Ensure that coaches have opportunities to model formative assessment lessons to other teachers or coaches as part of their professional learning experience.
- When working within existing structures, identify the processes, structures, programs, and ways of working in that culture. Use these as the starting point from which to make program changes.