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Saturday / October 19

What Did We Learn Today? Reflecting on Evidence of Learning 

Every single one of us is a learner at any and every stage in life. Part of how we navigate that learning is through understanding that reflection is part of the process. One of the ways we continue to grow and improve is taking time to look at what is working and what is not. Reflection can help us learn from our mistakes, help others around us, and even spur great ideas. The power of reflection can be strong, but in order to gain from it there needs to be time for it to occur. Too often, time is limited, yet agendas are full and the opportunity to reflect is missed, which means the opportunity for learning may have been missed as well.   

The question, “What did we learn today?” supports creating a space for teachers to take a moment to pause and reflect on the impact of their collaboration and actionsIt allows PLC+ collaborative teams to look at evidence of learning, reflect on that aggregated and disaggregated evidence of learning, and then move forward with this evidence in mind (Fisher et al., 2020)Taking time to discuss what was learned as a result of the evidence analyzed helps PLC+ teams to identify the fruits of their labor whether it was focused on establishing teacher clarity, engaging in an analysis of student data, or identifying the adult learning needs of the team that need to be supported in order to move student learning forward. No matter the focus of the time the PLC spent together, carving out moments to identify takeaways and aha’s supports developing the efficacy of the PLC.   

Evidence as a Driver of Collective Efficacy 

John Hattie’s Visible Learning research has captured the profound impact collective efficacy can have on student achievement. However, efficacy has to move beyond just possessing the belief that all students can learn and the adults in the system have the capacity to make it happen. Evidence of impact needs to be partnered witbeliefs so teachers can evaluate the impact of instruction on student learning. The question, “what did we learn today?” invites PLC+ teams to use evidence explored to identify which learners made gains and which learners did not. It centers discussions on impact and allows teams to see whether their instructional practices are having the desired outcomes on student learning. In addition, evidence analysis offers insight into how students approach learning tasks and can help to identify strategies that will complement the learning needs of students so they can master targeted objectives.   

One of the most powerful ways teams can develop collective efficacy is through mastery learning experiences. It is crucial that teams experience small and quick wins as this sends the message that the tasks they are holding themselves accountable to are achievable. At the same time, mastery learning experiences support the team’s intrinsic drive and motivation to take on more as they move forward. Building in time for PLC’s to engage in a reflection focused on what was learned allows teachers to highlight successes connected to learning as a result of the time they spent together. Even if those successes were uncovering a new common challenge or discovering adult learning needs, any insight gained as a result of the work the team engaged in is a celebration and should be treated as such.   

Reflection through the Lens of Progress and Achievement 

Part of a PLC+ team’s reflection on what was learned comes from looking at how students have progressed in their learning as well as where they are against academic grade level readiness. One of the ways teams can examine progress and achievement is through the use of an effect size calculator. Effect size measures order of magnitude. It can be similarly compared to a Richter scale for earthquakes. Effect sizes can be used to create a scatter plot to provide teams with a visual that helps identify why some students are not making progress and act quickly to support it. To calculate an effect size you need pre and post assessment data that measure the same skills. This QR code will allow you to download an Excel file that you can use to create the visuals. These discussion questions can support teams in using effect size information (Fisher et al., 2020, p. 123): 

  • What is the overall impact of the unit? Is it sufficient, or do we need to make changes? 
  • What changes did we implement during the course of the unit? What impact did those changes have? 
  • Which students had negative growth? Why do we think that is? What do we need to do about it? 
  • Which students had minimal growth? Why do we think that is? What do we need to do about it? 
  • Which students had exceptional growth? Why do we think that is? What do we need to do about it?  

In addition to the benefits of calculating effect sizes to examine student progress and achievement, there are many other benefits as well: 

  • Growth is a celebration. There are a lot of students who show tremendous growth before they catch up with their achievement. Coupling growth and achievement allows teachers opportunities to see the impact they are having on moving learners forward. While the goal is for all students to meet grade level learning objectives, teachers need to celebrate the progress their students are making as a result of the actions they have taken.   
  • PLC+ teams need to have a constant focus on equity. Looking at the progress and achievement of all learners supports PLC+ teams in maintaining that focusAnalyzing which students are high achievement and high progress, low achievement and high progress, high achievement and low progress, and low achievement and low progress can present trends that PLC+ teams can respond to.   
  • Evidence of student learning is feedback of impact. Examining progress and achievement provides teachers with direct feedback of the impact their instructional decisions are having on student learning. As a result of the feedback, teachers are able to adapt their teaching so that all students are able to achieve their learning goals 

Reflection as a Non-Negotiable 

The strength that can be created through the power of a PLC+ team’s reflection on learning is too valuable to be absent. Collective commitments to reflection will ensure it is a practice that becomes commonplace.   

Written by

Karen T. Flories has 15 years of experience in education including special education and high school English teaching, as well as serving in the role of Literacy Director and Executive Director of Educational Services. She is currently a full time Professional Learning consultant for Corwin.

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