School Improvement in Maryland

Professional Development Ideas

The reading comprehension formative tools have been created to build teacher capacity to

  1. Develop a deeper understanding of the state content standards, and
  2. Model a process for teachers to use to diagnose student strengths and needs to inform instruction.

Reading experts from across the state served as an Advisory Group to this project. They wrote questions, had teachers field test the questions and participated with the teachers in the audio taped discussions.

The result of their efforts is a series of formative questions by grade level, an audio discussion of a team of teachers reaching consensus on what would be a proficient response and a number of student responses accompanied by audio discussions with the team of teachers diagnosing student strengths and needs and deciding what they will do next instructionally with their class and individual students.

The discussions model for grade level teams how they need to reach consensus on proficient performance for their grade level on a specific assignment / assessment and how to diagnose their student’s performance against that criteria to inform their instruction. It is critical that at least grade level teams of teachers understand and communicate to students consistent expectations of proficient performance on the Maryland content standards.

Schools and districts may also want to incorporate the tools into their professional development activities. The protocol used to facilitate these discussions is described in greater detail in “About the protocol used.”

Sample professional development activities

Outcome: To develop a deeper understanding of the intent of the indicator/objective

  1. Ask participants to examine the context in the VSC of the specified objective
    • What is the relationship of the objective to the indicator and standard?
    • What are students being asked to do on this objective?
    • What is the cognitive demand of the objective?
    • When is that objective first introduced in the VSC?
    • How does the objective develop across the years?
    • What would you expect a student to know before he/she came to your grade level?
  2. Read “Understanding the Objective” on the formative tools web site.
  3. Ask participants if their understanding matched the information in “Understanding the Objective.”

Outcome: To determine what a proficient response should include

  1. Have participants read the text, “Persistence” and the question that students were asked.
  2. In teams, ask participants to reach consensus on what a 6th grade student would need to include in a response to this question.
  3. After teams have reached consensus, have them listen to the Pikesville team reach consensus.
  4. Ask them to respond to the following questions:
    • Did your team arrive at the same conclusion as the Pikesville team?
    • If not, in what ways did you differ?
    • Did their discussion change your mind in any ways?
    • In what areas did the Pikesville team agree most quickly?
    • In what areas did they have more difficulty agreeing?
    • Were there any unresolved issues at the end of the discussion?
    • If you used your definition of proficiency and they used their definition, how would diagnosing student responses be different?

Outcome: To diagnose student strengths and needs and to determine where to go with the student next instructionally

  1. Have participants read the text, “Persistence” and the question that students were asked.
  2. Provide participants with handouts of student responses
  3. In teams, have participants diagnose student responses by answering the following questions:
    • What does the student demonstrate that they know and can do?
    • What does the student still need to learn (or at least demonstrate that they know)?
  4. In same teams, have participants identify instructional next step.
    • What would you like to ask the student to give you better information about what they know?
    • What would you focus on in your individual feedback to the student?
    • What would you have them do?
  5. Have participants listen to the Pikesville team diagnose student responses.
    • What were the points of agreement? Disagreement?
    • What were the best strategies?
    • Did you hear any new ideas?
    • What would you model for your students?
    • After reading all of the class papers, what would you do instructionally with the whole class? With groups of students?
    • For students who had a proficient response where would you take them next?
    • What would you have them do while others are still mastering proficiency?
  6. Show participants annotated student responses.

Outcome: To develop consistent interpretation of student performance and consistent application of the criteria for proficiency.

  1. Have teachers field test one of the questions with their class(es).
  2. Ask students to bring three student responses to a grade level team meeting. The papers should represent a paper from the top, bottom and middle of the class.
  3. Follow the protocol on the formative tools web site.
  4. At the end of the protocol, ask the team the following questions:
    • Do you have a good idea of what your students know and still need to learn from this activity?
    • Do you have a good idea of what you will do instructionally next?
    • Did you get any new ideas for instructional strategies from the discussion?
    • Did you revise your thinking in any way about what your students knew or still needed to learn?