Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pollack's Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time, Chpt. 2

Last Friday, I stayed up late to read all of Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time by Jane E. Pollock (I know, my social life is totally worthy of envy). The basic tenets of the approach look like this:

1. Choose clear and specific goals, called “targets” or “benchmarks.”
2. Plan instruction specifically to address your targets.
3. Target assessment using a variety of methods.
4. Record and report feedback that is directly tied to targets.
The first step (described in Chapter 2) is one I’m very familiar with. The backward design gospel according to Wiggins and McTighe demands that before any other planning takes place, the teacher needs to decide on the specific standards that will be addressed, and then filter those standards into understandings and skills that should be communicated to students. Similarly, Pollock notes that it is important to “Descriminat[e] between declarative and procedural knowledge” (28, 35-36). I found her explanation of a total curriculum document that includes a “philosophy document, course description document, standards for the subject area, grade level benchmarks…and specific content, unit titles or projects, unit plans with resources, [and] unit/project planned with lessons and assignments,” as well as ways for teachers to work together (with time lines, even—insert Snagglepuss voice here) on these documents, really helpful because they are concrete (Pollack 37-42).

Between each chapter and the next is a vignette from a teacher who is living the gospel according to Pollock. While less helpful than the chapters in terms of “how-to,” each account shows the different levels of finding the grail of improved student learning.

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