Let's Start at the Very Beginning ... A Very Good Place to Start

 The following post was written by Kathy Sturges, FIP Specialist for the Southwest region.

Sometimes just getting started with a new venture can seem daunting!  This year, I have the pleasure of working with a brand new cross-content professional learning team (PLT) at the Richard Allen Academy in Dayton, Ohio to support their learning about Formative Instructional Practices (FIP).  This middle school team consists of a physical education teacher of eight years, a science teacher of 15 years, an intervention specialist new to the school, an English language arts teacher just launching her career, the Director of Special Services, and the Director of Academics.  It is such a thrill to have two building leaders engaged with the team!

This group of committed learners meets weekly for one hour to deepen our collective understanding of FIP.  Our meetings are framed around an agenda with learning targets.  We have established norms to guide our learning and each member of the team has a unique role that rotates monthly (with the exception of the snack provider, which rotates weekly!).  Our first task was to develop an inquiry question that could cross all content areas and guide our collective learning this year.  The question that guides us this year is, “How does achievement improve when students take ownership of tracking mastery of their learning?

Currently, we are completing Module 5: Student Ownership of Learning, Peer Feedback, Student Self-Assessment and More on our own and during our collaborative team meetings. We debrief our learning to deepen our collective understanding of the content.  Each week we also share one new formative instructional practice that we tried in our classrooms and we problem solve challenges that some of us may be experiencing.  The hour passes quickly but thanks to our agenda, we are able to stay focused. 

As their coach, I have been invited to come into their classrooms and watch for specific formative instructional practices so that I can provide each teacher with feedback.  It is exciting to watch these learners try out new strategies … in an effort to teach students how to become more engaged with their learning, to know what strong and weak work looks like, to assess their work, and begin to give each other feedback!

For example, the science teacher was recently teaching her students about how the Earth’s crust consists of major and minor tectonic plates that move relative to each other. To demonstrate this concept, her students engaged in a lab that was guided by a self-assessment tool to ensure that they completed each step of the inquiry project. 

The Intervention Specialist works with a math teacher who is not on the team but is learning much about formative instructional practices through their co-planning and co-teaching.

Perhaps the most exciting part is that the teachers have come to appreciate the unique role that each plays in the overall academic development of their students while embracing universal formative instructional practices that benefit ALL students!  Our team is just getting started.  We are in our formative stage, developing trusting relationships with each other and daring to “try out” some new practices!  This is a very good place to start!  It is a pleasure it is to work with such a committed learning team! 

Are your teams working to integrate formative instructional practices more intentionally?   Share in the comments below or use #ohFIP on Twitter.