Change—Replacing Good with Better

Change—Replacing Good with Better

This post was authored by Sandy Shedenhelm, Senior Director at Battelle for Kids. A version of this post originally appeared in the Battelle for Kids Learning Hub. 

Change is difficult. I was reminded of this recently when my husband Matt accepted a new job in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We had a good life in Ohio, but we decided to go for a better opportunity to secure our future. So, after living in Columbus, Ohio for 45 years, I was off to live in a new place where I knew no one but Matt and our realtor.

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Rejuvenate Yourself, Rejuvenate Your Practice

Summer vacations are underway across the state. As teachers, we all look forward to summer as a time to relax and rejuvenate after a long school year of hard work. We set plans to catch up on all of the chores we overlooked during the school year because we just did not have the time. As a teacher, each summer I planned to read the books piling up on my nightstand that I was just too tired to dive into during the school year. I made resolutions to get organized, spend more time with family, and complete projects that were left unfinished. Summer is our well-earned time to take care of ourselves.

This summer, in addition to taking a break to rejuvenate yourself, consider carving off time to rejuvenate your practice. Summer is the time when you can step back from your work and reflect on what worked well and what you want to improve, without the pressure of the day-to-day responsibilities of the classroom. Here are some suggestions and resources to help you think about your practice over the summer.

  • Search for FIP on Pinterest. There are lots of boards created by educators that catalog ideas for formative assessment, keeping track of student learning, effective feedback and more! You can start with my Finding FIP board. When you find some ideas you would like to try, pin them onto your own FIP board so they’ll be handy in August.
  • Plan ahead for the next school year by creating Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) and master rubrics aligned to Ohio’s New Learning Standards. You will benefit from this upfront planning many times over! PLDs, rubrics and blueprints make instruction and assessment so much more efficient and valuable that they are well work the effort. To learn more about creating these tools, enroll in the Designing Sound Assessment module series.
  • Have just a few free minutes? Check out some of the new videos on the FIP Video Library. You’ll see how other Ohio educators are using formative instructional practices to improve student achievement in their classrooms and schools.
  • Learn more about the expectations in Ohio’s New Learning Standards. Choose a FIP in Action or Creating Clear Learning Targets module to learn more about the content and rigor of the standards and begin deconstructing your standards into clear learning targets. Focusing in on the target learning will help you to focus your instruction on what really matters and, of course, save valuable classroom time during the school year. 
  • Have you finished the Foundations of Formative Instructional Practices modules? What comes next in your learning? Check out the course selector tool to pick your next module.
  • Challenge yourself to improve student ownership in your classroom by implementing three new practices this year. Some good examples are illustrated in the FIP in Action modules. See Kindergarten Opinion Writing, Science Grade 5, or Math Grade 8

I know how hard teachers work throughout the year and how important it is to take time to rest and focus on yourself for a little while. It’s important to take the time to read a book just for fun! It’s also important to take some time to engage in professional learning while your head is clear and you aren’t rushed. It will help you to think ahead and make some adjustments in your practice for the new school year and will help you revitalize your enthusiasm for your work.


New Module: Designing Sound Assessment: Putting the Pieces Together

No matter how good each of your assessment components is, the ultimate challenge is to put those pieces together into a meaningful and informative whole.

Poorly designed assessment wastes time and effort – but worse yet, it actually undermines student engagement and success. On the other hand, sound assessment design will help you ensure that you and your students practice and gather the right kinds of evidence, in the right amounts, to point you toward appropriate next steps in learning.

In DSA: Designing and Critiquing Sound Assessment, you will be using everything you have learned in the Designing Sound Assessment series. You will be using every piece of the puzzle to provide a complete, accurate picture of student learning.


But, sound design does not just mean using each method well – it also means balancing the four methods of assessment in order to help make the most efficient use of our scarcest resource of all: time.

Be efficient and save time by asking yourself:

  • What is the fastest, reliable means to measure what my students know and can do?
  • What combinations of evidence will provide a clearer picture of student learning?
  • How can I reserve my “highest-cost assessment” – that is, my extended written response and performance tasks – to address the richest, highest-priority, learning?

So, are you ready to put the pieces together? If so, I invite you to enroll in the online module (Ohio Portal login required) where you will learn to:

  • Understand the importance of purpose and efficiency in sound assessment design.
  • Design and critique sound pre-assessment that measures where students ‘enter’ the learning.
  • Design and critique sound interim assessment to know where students are as they ‘progress’ through the learning.
  • Design and critique sound post assessment that measures where students ‘exit’ the learning.


Moving Beyond Student Engagement to Student Ownership

It is widely known that students who are actively engaged tend to have greater positive academic results than do disengaged students. But isn’t student ownership of learning what we ought to be aiming for? 

To help us answer this question, let's start by seeing if you can identify behaviors associated with student ownership. Take a minute to complete the short assessment below.

Student Ownership or Something Else? Can you identify which behaviors are associated with student ownership?

Adapted from: Reaching Every Student: Student with Disabilities module

How did you do?

Did you mistake student participation, involvement, and engagement for student ownership?  Although these terms are often used synonymously and are generally accepted as best practice, they are not the same. Certainly, students should participate, be involved in, and likewise be genuinely engaged in activities in their classrooms, but these behaviors do not necessarily support student achievement. For example, busy off-task students can appear to be actively engaged. Likewise, student participation can be increased by student-to-teacher or student-to-student interactions without supporting student learning if it is untethered to learning targets. 

Don’t get me wrong-- actively engaged students are a good indication of some very important positive aspects of classroom culture and perhaps of the relevance that the learning holds for its students. In those same classrooms, however, most of the learning is generally teacher-led where the teaching, assessing and evaluating is done formally—not with but instead to students.  The purpose of focusing on student ownership is to shift the instructional dynamic in classrooms. When student ownership is the goal, classroom teachers and students are clear about where they are going, where they are, and how to close gaps to accomplish the intended learning targets.  Students are supported and empowered to recruit and use feedback intended to help them move their own learning forward. 

How do you ensure student ownership of learning?

It is important to understand that student ownership must be cultivated over time. Ownership is not a magical gift or a developmental milestone. Students rarely know how to ‘own’ their learning—they must be shown how.  It is also vital that you believe that students at all ages, grades, and subjects and across different achievement levels can be prepared to own their learning. How? Here are two actions you can take to cultivate student ownership that will transform the nature of teaching and learning in your classroom:

1.       Begin to shift from a teacher-focused to a student-focused classroom environment.

The intentional use of formative instructional practices (FIP) will help you and your students to focus on the right skills and content, collect accurate evidence of student learning, and provide effective feedback.  Start asking and answering these questions:

  • How will we prepare our students to know where they’re headed over the course of a year, an instructional unit, or a lesson?
  • How will our students set personal goals and track their own progress towards these goals? 
  • How will our students learn to receive, recruit, and use feedback? How will our students learn to support each other’s growth? 
  • How will our students communicate their goals, progress, strengths, interests and needs?

2.       Don’t mistake student ownership for something else.

To get a better idea of what student ownership looks like and how to create a culture of student ownership, take advantage of the various FIP Your School resources.  They can help you expand your understanding and provide many examples of student ownership in action. Almost every FIP module involves building student ownership! Start with the modules that best address your current needs or interests, and that are the best fit the grade or subject you teach. You can also view videos from the FIP video library to hear from teachers and students who recognize the value of students owning their learning.

Remember, there is no FIP without student ownership. It is at the heart of what FIP is all about.

Universal Design for Living and Learning (Republished from Oct '14)

As Virginia Ressa and I presented our session, Reaching Every Student through Universal Design for Learning and Formative Instructional Practices, last week at the Educators Connect for Success Conference, it occurred to me that this blog from last October was worth revisiting. 

To download our presentation from the conference, click here. 

It feels unimaginable. It's a typical summer day and you're riding your bicycle along a nearby bike trail. Then, suddenly a 3 1/2 ton tree that once stood 80 feet tall, falls and crushes you, paralyzing you from the waist down. You return to your home in a wheelchair after six weeks only to realize you cannot get into your own house due to steps at every door. Then, once that obstacle is addressed, you discover that you can’t access the bathroom because the doorways are too narrow; your use of the kitchen is extremely limited because you can’t reach the cabinets or have access to the oven.

Rosemarie rossetti, ph.d.

Rosemarie rossetti, ph.d.

When this happened to Dr. Rosemarie Rossetti in 1998, she realized that her own home had intensified her disability. Moreover, since her business was in the basement, even her livelihood was being compromised.

But Rosemarie is an accomplished Central Ohio woman with a history of ingenuity and determination. Once she stumbled upon the concept of Universal Design, she set her sights on building a new home—her dream home—one that not only met her own needs, now that she was effectively 4-foot tall while seated in her wheelchair, but equally those of her husband, Mark Leder, who stands over 6- foot tall.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Building her new home began as a necessity and evolved into a mission. Now, 16 years later, Rosemarie’s dream house is nearly completed, and, through a community effort, is a model for best practice in universal design (UD). In fact, it is the highest rated UD house in North America!

What is universal design? Simply put, UD is designing from the inside out; constructing and crafting environments that serve the needs of all of its dwellers. It is less about retrofitting spaces for accessibility by adding features or modifying structures; it is moreabout well-designed spaces that require fewer individualized modifications. Everyone benefits.

Rosemarie and her husband collaborated with several builders and interior designers to meticulously create what is now a life, work, and education space. They recruited support along the way from a myriad of sponsors and volunteers, and will soon be opening their home to the public. Here, architects and designers can learn more about the features of this Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home (it is also a green home), and how the concepts can be integrated into their own design thinking.

What about your own design thinking? Do you think about instructional design and learning spaces in the same ways that Rosemarie thinks about home design? Universal Design for Learning (UDL) borrows the concepts that Ronald Mace put forward in 1988 concerning architecture, and applies it to teaching and learning. Universal Design for Learning is an orientation to student learning that focuses on all students and how we create adaptive environments that are good for all of them. UDL focuses on the ways we assure that learners can adequately receive information, express their understandings, and meaningfully engage with peers. UDL is entirely consonant with FIP. After all, formative instructional practices (FIP) are about how teachers create ways to increase student ownership by focusing on helping students to know where they are in their learning, where they are going, and how they can get there. FIP teachers constantly examine if their efforts result in students becoming clear, confident and self-reliant on their path to mastery.

The Reaching Every Student module series focuses on UDL principles. The three modules extend the foundational module learning by asking educators to carefully consider the components of FIP and to make sure that their decisions increase each student’s ownership and mastery of their learning. 

Specifically, the new Formative Instructional Practices: Reaching Students with Disabilities module deepens teachers’ understanding of how to best use FIP to meet the needs of students with a range of special needs by using FIP to maximize their achievement and growth.

This module is intended for classroom teachers that are interested in improving instruction for all of their students, including students with disabilities. It is also for intervention specialists who may be beginning their FIP journey. It is meant to be used as a companion to the Foundations of FIP and FIP in Action Modules.

Below is an example of what we mean by UDL and FIP thinking.  You will see that there is NO RETRO-FIT IN FIP! To find many more ideas to meet the needs of all your learners, enroll in this module. The module provides strategies and most importantly, ways of thinking about options intended to augment FIP effectiveness.

The story of Rosemarie Rosetti’s demonstration home is inspirational as well as educational. I encourage you to visit for more information, pictures and a virtual tour. Volunteers are needed to guide tours. So, if you have time, or if you know of students needing service credit, contact Rosemarie at

For more about Universal Design for Learning, you can also visit this resource:

FIP for Future Educators

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the Future Educators Association (FEA) Ohio conference at Ohio Dominican University. The conference, aimed at preparing future educators, invited high school students from across the state who are interested in pursuing teaching as a future career to participate.

Patty Griffin, state coordinator of FEA at the Ohio Department of Education, shared with us her thoughts on the event. “The FEA Ohio Conference was a huge success due to the hard work and dedication of the Executive Committee and Ohio Dominican University. The aspiring teachers in attendance were engaged and excited as they learned, interacted, competed, and enjoyed their day!”

The FIP Your School Ohio team hosted a session attended by the students and their advisors. We asked the students to discuss several prompts with a partner in order to encourage connections between their own learning experiences and their future experiences in education as teachers.

Give an example of a time you experienced clear learning targets and expectations. What happened as a result? Give an example of a time you had a negative experience with unclear expectations. What happened as a result?

 True or False: All practice work should be graded.

True or False: Feedback is basically just advice related to learning.

What would the education experience look like if we challenged students to identify their own needs, set their own goals, and find their own way?

I am sure that you will see the essence of FIP behind the prompts. As these young educators thought about their own learning experiences they were soon confirming the importance of asking and answering the central “FIP” questions for themselves, and their future students--"Where am I going? Where am I now? How can I close the gap?"

 By the end of the sessions, students and their advisors were left with a challenge and an opportunity:

Challenge: Cultivate ownership of learning now and in the future by having clarity about the learning targets, collecting and documenting evidence of student learning and providing effective feedback.

 Opportunity: Advisors can provide their students with the opportunity to learn more about FIP by enrolling their students in the FIP modules!

Amy Mahaffey, FEA advisor and Teacher Academy Instructor at Butler Tech and Fairfield High School, is excited for opportunity for advisors and their students to take the FIP modules.

“Battelle for Kids and the Ohio Department of Education are changing the way educators view assessments through FIP Your School Ohio. They are challenging educators to think about what assessments could or should look like. Through their partnership with Future Educators Association, advisors are offered free professional development opportunities with the online FIP modules. We can share these 21st century classroom practices with our future educators and ‘show’ them how even assessments can be designed to be student-centered. My hope is that FEA advisors embrace this opportunity and share their learning with their students, colleagues, and administrators!” 

And though no one can predict what changes will come as technology advances, one thing is for sure: you can never go wrong with FIP. We were so impressed by the students’ reflective thinking, clear #passion2teach (which was the official hashtag used at the event), and thoughtful responses that demonstrated the beginnings of an orientation toward formative assessment and instruction. Good luck to these future educators!!

It is never too early or too late to learn about and use formative instructional practices. It does not matter if students are in pre-school, high school or college. It doesn’t matter if students plan to enter the field of education, engineering or earth science. What matters is that all students need to know where they are going, where they are, and how to close their gaps so that they can achieve their dreams!

Learn more about how dual-enrollment high school students can enroll in FIP modules