Deconstructing the Teacher-Based Team 5-Step Process

This post was written by Barbara Israel, School Improvement Specialist at Battelle for Kids.


“Real reform occurs when teachers convene, trade ideas, implement and refine them in their classrooms, and become sounding boards and resources for one another.” —Diana Lam

To me, that quote reinforces the idea that the most important education improvement work is happening in teacher-based teams (TBTs). I recently had the opportunity to wear my teacher hat once again. (Picture me smiling!) I facilitated the learning for two very different groups who were grappling with the same concern: how to marry the best of formative instructional practices to the 5-Step Teacher-Based Team process. One group was made up of teachers from a high-performing suburban district, and the other included teachers and administrators from a large urban district. 

We started by “deconstructing” the 5-Step Process. As we worked through this process, it became apparent that formative instructional practices are what drive the process; they are the underpinning skills that teachers need in order to fully participate in and benefit from the TBT structure. Let me share a few things I learned as I worked with these groups to understand the connections between the 5-Step Process and formative instructional practices:

Is the 5-Step Process Really 5 Steps?
Step 1, as defined by the Ohio Improvement Process, states that teachers will collect and chart data to identify how students are performing/progressing. When the team is functioning at an exemplary level, according to the OIP Implementation Criteria and Rubric, they are using data from common assessments—aligned to standards—that are regularly given to all students. The rubric also indicates that rubrics with defined benchmarks are used by all team members.

This completely aligns with the four core components of formative instructional practices, particularly collecting and documenting evidence of learning. However, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when looking at this step with the FIP lens:

  • Which data are you collecting?
  • How are you collecting these data?

If the assessment used has not followed the guidelines for sound assessment design (validity, reliability, free of bias) then how useful are the data teachers are bringing to the table? One could argue that there’s actually a “Step 0” to the 5 Step Process. Step 0 is about making sure that teachers have the necessary skills to create assessments or evaluate existing assessments to determine if they will provide accurate data to fuel the remaining steps of the 5-Step Process. 

In order to ensure accurate assessments, teachers need to work together to deconstruct the standards. This allows the team to agree on the essential learning—what students need to know and be able to do. From there, the team can then think about what mastery will look like and how to best assess the progress toward mastery. The deconstruction process helps teachers consider differentiated expectations for entry level knowledge, mastery, and readiness to go beyond a certain standard. 

“How will we collect and document evidence of student learning?” is an important question for TBTs to ask and be able to answer. All of this conversation should occur before the first assessment is given, hence Step 0. 

The idea of “Step 0” really resonated with the groups I was working with. When given the opportunity to turn and talk, district leaders and teachers alike quickly connected the dots and began to focus on professional learning needs for teachers and teacher leaders. They understood that these skills were important; not just for things like SLOs and teacher evaluation. They knew that the ability to measure student progress regularly throughout the year maximizes achievement for every child.

With the right assessment literacy skills, TBTs can come together over student work and move forward from Step 1 with confidence in the accuracy of the data they are collecting and charting. And if teachers are benefiting from this rich exchange of information, ideas, and support, then the students are the real winners!

Check out this module to learn more about assessing student learning.
Module 3: Collecting and Documenting Evidence

You can also preview a pre-release version of the new Measuring Student Growth in the Classroom module. Follow these instructions to access this module:

  • Visit and click the “Log In” link at the top right corner of the page.
  • Use your Ohio Student Progress Portal account information to log into the website.
  •  Click “My Learning” in the BFK●Learn section of the dashboard.
  • Under the Quick Links header on the right, click “Enroll in Learning”
  • Select the Courses tab to search for individual modules.
  • Find FP0050 – Pre-Release Version: Measuring Student Growth in Classrooms, select, and click “Enroll”