In an opening keynote for a Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute in Washington, DC, Richard DuFour presented “Hard Facts, Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense in Education.” Rick stated teachers are engaging in educational malpractice if they don’t work in a collaborative environment.
He went on to explain that in a collaborative environment, members of the team should work interdependently towards a common goal with all held mutually accountable. But the focus of the collaboration is critical. Energy and attention should focus on student learning. Professional Learning Communities look to evidence that their students are achieving the identified knowledge, skills, and dispositions and use that information to drive their instructional decisions.
So what is the best way to collect and use evidence? DuFour shared research supporting the use of formative assessments.
A focus on the use of formative assessment in support of learning, developed through teacher learning communities, promises not only the largest potential gains in student achievement, but also provides a model for teacher professional development that can be implemented effectively at scale.
Dylan Wiliam and Marnie Thompson (2007)
To the extent that teachers work together in teams to 1) analyze, understand, and deconstruct standards, 2) transform standards into high quality classroom assessments, and 3) share and interpret results together, they benefit from the union of their wisdom about how to help students continue to grow as learners.
Rick Stiggins (2005), p.82
Two strategies seem especially promising for schools. One is to expand the quality and variety of formative assessments; a second is to promote and organize collective inquiry into and discussion of student progress and achievement based on a range of assessments.
Judith Warren Little, (2006), p.9
Working in true Professional Learning Communities will help eliminate what DuFour refers to as the “educational lottery” of our children’s school experiences. If research identifies the effectiveness of teachers working in collaborative teams using formative assessments to increase student achievement and educators continue to resist, should educational malpractice be the charge?
Little, J.W. (2006). Professional Community and Professional Development in Learning-Centered School. Washington, D.C: National Education Association.
Stiggins, R. (2005). Assessment for learning: Building a culture of confident learners. In R. DuFour, R. EAker, & R. DuFour (Eds.), On common ground: The power of professional learning communities (pp.65-83). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
Wiliam, D., & Thompson, M. (2007). Integrating assessment with learning: What will it take to make it work? in C.A. Dwyer (Ed.), The future of assessment: Shaping teaching and learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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