Learning Progressions in K-8 Classrooms: How Progress Maps Can Influence Classroom Practice and Perceptions and Help Teachers Make More Informed Instructional Decisions in Support of Struggling Learners

Synthesis Report 87

Karin K. Hess
Center for Assessment

January 2012

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

Hess, K. K. (2012). Learning progressions in K-8 classrooms: How progress maps can influence classroom practice and perceptions and help teachers make more informed instructional decisions in support of struggling learners (Synthesis Report 87). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.


Executive Summary

This report describes perceptions and practices of Hawai段 teachers using progress maps (learning progressions) to inform their understanding of how struggling learners progress during the school year in language arts or mathematics. Participants included (K-8) elementary and middle school teachers from six Hawai段 public schools. Each teacher selected five students in his or her classroom to document progress and collect work samples from at least two quarters during the 2010-2011 school year; several of these students were ones who might have been eligible for and participated in an Alternate Assessment based on Modified Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) if Hawai段 had developed one. Multiple data collection tools and processes were developed for use in this project and are described in the report.

This project was part of the work that Hawai段 engaged in as part of the Multi-State GSEG Toward a Defensible AA-MAS. The project used progress maps initially developed through the Tri-State (Georgia, Hawai段, and Kentucky) Enhanced Assessment Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Grant #S368A060005).

Data from this project were used to analyze and document how having an underlying learning progression schema might influence teachers implementation of strategies to support struggling learners, with a specific focus on:

(a) formative assessment practices and lesson planning;

(b) progress monitoring; and

(c) collaborative student work analysis.

Eight findings from the year-long effort addressed (a) teachers reflections on practice (instruction, assessment, and instructional decisions), (b) teachers perceptions on learners and learning pathways, (c) facilitated collaboration sessions), and (d) unanticipated activities. This report addresses each of those, as well as the implications of the project for professional development support.

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Introduction

Currently there is little existing research to help educators understand how the lowest performing students at each grade level can best learn increasingly more complex concepts and skills in each content domain. Therefore, there is a critical need for new thinking that explicitly describes the best instructional practices, high-quality resources, and effective professional development strategies for meeting the goal of teaching academic content to students with a variety of unique learning challenges. While both the No Child Left Behind Act of 2000 (NCLB) and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) require that all students have access to grade-level general education curriculum, there tends to be a lack of targeted support for special education teachers to acquire deep content knowledge in order to meet that goal. Both deep content knowledge and a repertoire of instructional skills are essential to teachers when one considers the diverse needs of learners. In the past, educators have tended to rely on generic supplemental instructional resources, remediation when students fall behind, or adapting instructional materials on a day-to-day basis to meet the needs of their students. These approaches fall short of having a comprehensive and systemic solution.

Corcoran, Mosher, and Rogat (2009) present a case for addressing this void with the use of learning progressions:

We are convinced that it is not possible for the reform goals with respect to 殿ll students to be met unless instruction in our schools becomes much more adaptive. That is, the norms of practice should shift in the direction in which teachers and other educators take responsibility for continually seeking evidence on whether their students are on track to learning what they need to if they are to reach the goals, along with tracking indicators of what problems they may be having, and then for making pedagogical responses to that evidence designed to keep their students on track, or to get them back on track, moving toward meeting the goals. This, of course, is a description of a formative assessment process in action. We are additionally convinced that teachers will not be able to engage in such processes unless they have in their minds some idea about how students learning in the subjects they are teaching develops over their time in school, as well as some idea of the ways of responding to evidence of their progress or problems that are likely to be effective. We have been looking for promising ideas about what this metaphor of 登n track (or its obverse - 登ff track) might mean in terms that could be accessible to and useful for teachers and their students. One such idea that has attracted growing attention in education reform circles is the concept of learning progressions. (p. 8)

The focus of the Hawai`i Progress Maps project was on instructional practices and supports for all at-risk students, including students who would be eligible for an alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards (AA-MAS) - also called the 2% assessment. In this regard, a research study was proposed to examine how collaboration between general education and special education teachers, integrated with the use of Hawai段 Progress Maps (learning progressions) in language arts and mathematics could help to better meet the instructional needs of struggling learners. The student population included, but was not limited to, those students who would be eligible to take an AA-MAS.

In light of emerging literature about the potential of learning progressions to improve teaching and learning for all students in science, mathematics, and language arts (Biggam & Itterly, 2008; Confrey, 2011; Corcoran, Mosher, & Rogat, 2009; Hess, 2008, 2010, 2011; Hill, 2001; Masters & Forster, 1996; NRC, 2001; NRC, 2007; Pinnell & Fountas, 2007; Wilson, 2009), a study was proposed to focus on the implementation and use of Hawai段 Progress Maps developed and refined during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years. Teachers who were involved during the initial development phase (2007-2008), as well as educators involved in field testing the progress maps (2008-2009) were invited to participate. Inclusion of some educators knowledgeable in the purpose and use of progress maps was important because both general education and special teachers would be recruited for the study, and having some teachers with prior background knowledge of both the academic content of the Hawai`i benchmarks and progress maps and of processes for using them as tools for examining student learning would be very beneficial. Ideally, teams of teachers working in the same schools were to be recruited (e.g., a special education teacher working with a classroom teacher to support the same students at a particular grade level or grade level teams working with the same content across multiple classrooms).

Throughout the study, educators were asked to expand their content knowledge and teaching skills and to document and reflect upon information related to the use of progress maps in language arts or mathematics. This included processes for collegial collaboration in setting expectations for learning and analyzing student work, instructional planning using the learning continuum described in the progress maps, and use of formative assessment strategies and tools to make instructional decisions. Professional development sessions would be planned to provide ongoing guidance to participating teachers in the use of strategies for formative assessment, instruction, collaboration, and data analysis.

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Progress Maps and Learning Progressions

Learning progressions, progress maps, developmental continuums, and learning trajectories are all terms that have been used in the literature over the past decade to generally mean research-based, descriptive continuums of how students develop and demonstrate deeper, broader, and more sophisticated understanding over time. A learning progression can visually and verbally articulate an hypothesis about how learning will typically move toward increased understanding for most students. There is currently a growing body of knowledge surrounding their purposes and use, as well as ongoing research in identifying and empirically validating content-specific learning progressions (Hess, 2010a).

A conceptual view of learning progressions (Hess, 2008) is one of overlapping learning zones along a continuum of learning. At the lower end of the progression are 渡ovice performers (at any grade level), who may (or may not) demonstrate the necessary prerequisite skills or understanding that is needed to be successful (e.g., essential skills/concepts that can be built upon over time). At the other end of the continuum are 兎xpert performers. Learning progressions descriptors help to 砥npack how learning might unfold for most students over time, moving from novice to expert performance (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1. Conceptual View of Learning Progressions

View of learning progressions in overlapping bubble text.

In Figure 1, the Zone of Proximal Development/ZPD (Vygotsky, 1978) is the range of actual to potential learning each person demonstrates at any given time. A conceptual view of learning progressions (Hess, 2008) is one of overlapping learning zones along a continuum of learning.

What distinguishes expert from novice performers is not simply general mental abilities, such as memory or fluid intelligence, or general problem-solving strategies. Experts have acquired extensive stores of knowledge and skill in a particular domain. But perhaps most significant, their minds have organized this knowledge in ways that make it more retrievable and useful.... Most important, they have efficiently coded and organized (chunks of) this information into well-connected schemas...which helps them to notice features and meaningful patterns...that might be overlooked by less competent learners. The schemas enable experts, when confronted with a problem, to retrieve the relevant aspects of their knowledge.... Doing so, effectively moves the burden of thought from limited capacity of working memory to long-term memory. (NRC, 2001, pp. 7273)

In other words, long-term memory is not about a collection of skills and knowledge, but connections among skills and knowledge built upon over time.

In this report the terms 斗earning progressions and 菟rogress maps are used interchangeably to describe what within-year progress might look like for most students. Given that the project asked teachers to pay close attention to and document how their struggling learners progressed during the school year within the general education curriculum, there was an expectation that the progress of these students might not be 鍍ypical and analyzing teacher observations and a collection of student work might provide insights into the actual progress made.

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Staffing for the Progress Maps Project

Strand 1 Activities focused on identifying and tracking the progress of five (5) struggling learners. Teachers documented which tools, processes, and strategies for assessment and instruction seemed to be working effectively for these students. Karin Hess, Senior Associate at the Center for Assessment, Dover, NH, designed the study with the Hawai段 Department of Education and National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) advisors, developed the data collection tools, met with teachers several times to conduct focus groups, interviewed school leaders and teachers, conducted classroom observations, oversaw the ongoing collection of student work samples, and guided the data analysis activities with teachers at the end of the project. Jeri Thompson and Pam Paek, also with the Center for Assessment, supported these project activities.

Strand 2 Activities provided several days of professional development to project teachers, guiding their use of the Hawai段 Content and Performance Standards planning model in using student work analysis protocols and lesson and assessment planning. Valerie Kurizaki coordinated the planning and delivery of these activities with the help of three Hawai段-based professional development providers: Mary Frances Higuchi, Lisa Leong, and Tricia Tamayose-Okamura.

Hawai段 Department of Education staff were the essential glue who held this complex project together: recruiting and monitoring teacher involvement, organizing meetings and on-site school visits, acting as liaisons with school leaders, facilitating collection of data, and providing valuable trouble shooting and assistance throughout the school year. Maxine Nagamine, State Educational Specialist, Special Education Services Branch, and Milton Ching, Resource Teacher, Curriculum and Instruction Branch, played an integral role in the success of the project.

For additional information about what learning progressions/progress maps are, go to any of these websites or refer to the sources listed in Resources.

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Methodology, Questions for Inquiry, and Timelines

What Was the Purpose of the Project?

This project was designed to examine how the use of Hawai段 Progress Maps in language arts and mathematics (K-8) and collaboration among general education and special education teachers can help better meet the instructional needs of struggling learners. The progress maps used in this study were developed specifically to 砥npack how students in Hawai段 would achieve the Hawai段 benchmarks (grade level expectations of the Hawai段 standards). While care is needed in interpreting the project outcomes as representative of all teachers (in Hawai段 or elsewhere), the results of the study have some potential to be generalized to other locations and contexts in terms of how using an underlying learning progressions schema might influence teacher collaboration practices and instructional decisions in support of all learners. In other words, the results of this project could open the door to new research questions in this area, including school-based action research that seeks to better understand how learning develops.

What Questions Did the Project Try to Answer?

The purpose of inquiry within qualitative research is in understanding the world from the point of view of those who live in it. Our general approach to this project was that of constructivist research, borrowing the term from Guba and Lincoln (1994), who identify their qualitative research work as constructivist. The term references the acknowledgement of the social construction of knowledge. Constructivist researchers are interested in the co-construction of knowledge between researcher and researched, and thus this project approached the analysis and interpretation of data collaboratively with the teacher participants in order to make sense of how learning progressions could influence their day-to-day practice. Self-reporting surveys, interviews, and focus groups were several means used to invite teacher participants to provide their reflections on the effectiveness of the tools and protocols employed.

The learning progressions project began with two broad questions which were later refined in order to develop specific data collection tools and protocols. The initial questions were framed in this way:

  • Who are the struggling learners and what is working for them (e.g., targeted instructional strategies, use of formative assessment, extra scaffolding)?
  • How can Hawai段 Progress Maps be used to support the struggling learners, including students with disabilities (e.g., periodic formative assessments, strategies used when examining student work, development of pre- and post-assessments)?

Revised Questions for Inquiry (with sub-questions for possible exploration during data collection, interviews, or data analyses - not all questions will be fully discussed in findings).

1. In what ways are progress maps currently being interpreted and used by Hawai段 teachers, K-8?

  • Are progress maps seen as a depiction of what could be taught (e.g., domain map), what should be taught (intended curriculum), where the student is on a learning path (e.g., what the student has/has not learned), some combination of these, or something else?
  • What factors (e.g., prior content knowledge, teaching experience, professional development and collaboration opportunities) may influence teachers understanding and use of progress maps?
  • Are there any unexpected or unintended uses of progress maps being evidenced?
  • Do teacher perceptions (e.g., of content, of students) change over time or with use?

2. How does the use of progress maps impact understanding of how to teach the content and use assessment tools and assessment evidence in instructional planning?

  • Are there distinct differences between the content areas in how teachers used progress maps?
  • What instructional strategies for assessment were generated during use; which strategies were found to be most useful and which were not as effective?  How can acceptable or useful assessment strategies be characterized?

3. How does the use of progress maps impact teacher expectations and instructional decision making specifically for struggling learners?

  • To what extent do the participants (members of the same school team) need to have a shared understanding of the content contained in a progress map?
  • Are there differences in use of progress maps for struggling and non-struggling or typically progressing learners?
  • How important is collaboration or professional dialogue to the problem solving process for meeting the needs of struggling learners?

4. What contextual factors support or hinder the use of progress maps to meet the needs of struggling learners?

  • What organizational aspects are necessary (e.g., school leader support, structures that allow for professional dialogue, teacher leaders within a school, general education-special education collaboration time, etc.)?
  • Are some teachers more successful than others in using the progress maps? Why?

 

Who Participated in the Project and What Were They Asked to Do?

Staff of the Hawai段 Department of Education made on-site school visits to recruit general and special education teachers and encouraged teams of teachers from the same schools to participate in the project. Classroom teachers working directly with a special education teacher and teachers with prior involvement or knowledge of the Hawai段 Progress Maps development or field testing were given priority. In the end, prior developers and field testers of the progress maps only made up about 40% of the total participants. Prior knowledge of the progress maps did not seem to hinder teachers ability to understand and use the progress maps in the project, in part because the initial training session provided extensive background information on their development, purpose, and use.

The resulting teacher teams ranged from as small as two teachers at one grade level in a school, to teams that included all of the teachers (17) in the school痴 mathematics department for grades 6, 7, and 8. There were four school teams of six or fewer teachers and three school teams of seven or more. Only one school had both a mathematics and language arts team involved in the project. Three special education teachers participated 登fficially in the project, while other special educators working in schools with the participating teachers were engaged in many of the school-based activities in support of students. A few special education teachers even participated in the focus group interviews with project teachers they worked with because of their informal involvement. Forty-eight teachers began the project: thirty mathematics teachers and 18 language arts teachers. Two language arts teachers were unable to finish, but did participate for most of the school year. All teachers received a stipend for their participation in the project.

For the purpose of further explaining the roles and responsibilities of participants, two parallel 都trands describe activities facilitated by either the Center for Assessment staff (strand 1) or the Hawai段 Department of Education staff and consultants (strand 2). Activities for both strands were required and ran simultaneously during the school year. The focus of this report is primarily on Strand 1 - activities related to teacher practices and perceptions and what they learned from the data collection and analyses for five struggling learners. Strand 2 activities related to employing the six steps of the Hawai段 Content and Performance Standards planning model for general unit and assessment planning, or HCPS III IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS MODEL. (For more information about how this model applied to use of progress maps, go to http://tristateeag.nceo.info/attachments/046_Intended%20Use%20of%20Progress%20Maps.pdf.)

Strand 1 Activities. Teacher participants were asked to identify and then track the progress of five (5) struggling learners in their classrooms, including at least two students with disabilities. Teachers documented which tools, processes, and strategies for assessment and instruction seemed to be working effectively for these students. During the year-long project, facilitators from the Center for Assessment, who designed the study and the data collection tools, met with teachers on-site several times to: (1) introduce the project and explain the use of the various data collection tools, (2) make school visits to conduct focus groups and interview school leaders and teachers, (3) make school visits to conduct classroom observations and oversee the ongoing collection of student work samples, and (4) to guide the data analysis activities with teachers at the end of the project. Ongoing e-mail communication was maintained with all project teachers, school leaders, and Hawai段 Department of Education staff who monitored teacher involvement and provided valuable trouble shooting and assistance throughout the school year.

Strand 2 Activities. In support of the Strand 1 activities, the Hawai段 Department of Education used project funds to hire a coordinator and three on-site professional development providers to work with project teachers, guiding their use of the Hawai段 Content and Performance Standards planning model in three full-day sessions. Strand 2 activities during year 3 and their relation to progress map development during years 1-2 are described in detail in a second paper by Valerie Kurizaki, the project professional development coordinator, Educating Struggling Learners: Reflections on Lessons Learned about Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (Kurizaki, 2011). A summary of the evaluations for these sessions is included in this report, as they relate to analysis of student work and assessment development.

 

Project Expectations

  1. (Strand 1) Select a content area (reading or mathematics), progress map, and grade level to focus on. Use the tools provided (e.g., learner characteristics descriptors, student profile descriptors, student work analysis form) and available school data (e.g., last year痴 report card, pre-assessment for unit of study, diagnostic or state assessment) to identify five struggling students in reading or mathematics for the study.
  2. (Strand 1) Administer a short (math or reading) pre- and post-attitudinal survey to each of the five students. Several grade appropriate and content specific surveys were provided to participants.
  3. (Strand 2) Use the progress map chosen and a collaborative process to develop/use assessments, plan instruction, and examine or discuss student work and student progress. Three full-day meetings were scheduled during the year to facilitate this planning across school teams. Complete pre- and post-evaluations for these sessions.
  4. (Strand 1) Collect assessment and instruction data on five selected students for quarters 1 (July-Oct), 2 (Oct-Dec), and 3 (Jan-Mar) only. This information is documented on forms 2 and 3 (Appendices D and E).
  5. (Strand 1) Meet with outside research consultant at school either in the second or third quarter. This was an interview or focus group with participating teachers at the school to learn about how progress maps were being used to support struggling learners. Teachers had the chance to ask questions about the data being collected for the five students.
  6. (Strands 1 and 2) Complete two required surveys designed to guide reflections and documentation of student progress.
  7. (Strand 1) Fourth quarter (April-May) Pull data and work samples for each student together across teachers, grade levels, and schools. Teachers bring their data to this meeting for facilitated group analysis.

 

Summary of Required Project Meetings

Meetings were held on weekend or nonschool days, except for the school site visit day when classroom observations and focus groups were conducted.

  • Day 1 (July 2010) Large-group orientation meeting for overview of tools, processes, and data collection. This day included a half day professional development session on designing pre- and post-assessments. Professional resource books were purchased that included instructional planning ideas along a learning continuum. Books were distributed to all teachers at this meeting.

ELA teachers received their choice of one of these professional books:

    • Literacy profiles: A framework to guide assessment, instructional strategies and intervention, K-4
    • Developmental continuums: A framework for literacy instruction and assessment K-8

Math teachers received their choice of one of these professional books (based on progress map content chosen):

    • First Steps in Mathematics: Chance and Data
    • First Steps in Mathematics: Space
    • First Steps in Mathematics: Measurement, Volume 1 or Volume 2
    • First Steps in Mathematics: Number, Volume 1 or Volume 2
  • Day 2 (August 2010-Strand 2) Professional Development session: large-group facilitated collaboration general training for how to use the student work analysis (SWA) forms and protocols to benchmark student work.
  • Day 3 (August/September 2010-Strand 2) Professional Development session: large-group facilitated collaboration using Hawai段 Student Work Analysis (SWA) form and mid assessments given - different days for math and reading. This session focus was for examining actual student work from formative/mid-assessments.
  • Day 4 (October/November 2010 or January/February 2011-Strand 1) On-site school visits - scheduled either in quarter 2 or 3. Outside consultants interview each individual, grade level team (e.g., general education and special education teachers), and conduct focus group after school with all teachers at that school. (This structure varied depending on how many teachers were involved at the same school.) Some meetings were conducted after school and others during teacher prep times following a classroom observation. Dates were scheduled based on school schedules and availability of teachers.
  • Day 5 (March 2011-Strand 2) Facilitated collaboration sessions using SWA form and assessments - different days for math and reading. This day was for examining actual student work from post and final assessments.
  • Day 6 (April 2011-Strand 1) Large-group data analysis day during April: both content areas met on the same day. Two Center for Assessment staff facilitated content-specific discussions and data analyses. Teachers brought portfolios of work samples collected for five students during the school year and summarized findings across classrooms.

 

Photo of teachers examinging a student portfolio.
Grade 7 teachers from Kapolei Middle School share data about student progress while examining a student portfolio at the April 2011 meeting. From left to right: Christine Kerr, Lynne True, Joy Nekomoto-Yamada, Roy Imamura, and Julie Lum, math department chair.

 

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Summary of Lessons Learned

Data Collection Tools

Data from multiple sources - interviews, school-based focus groups, and self-reporting surveys - as well as student work samples were collected and analyzed by Center for Assessment staff in order to describe classroom assessment practices, the frequency and nature and use of formative assessment tools and strategies, and use of assessment data to plan instruction.

  • All project teachers participated in either an individual interview or focus group, or both. (Focus group and interview questions are included in Appendix C.)
  • Data collection for student work samples were organized using the tools in Appendix D (Form 2: Sample ELA Data Collection Tool for Tracking a Single Benchmark), Appendix E (Form 3: Sample Student Profile for Language Arts for Data Collection Tool for Tracking Multiple Benchmarks), and either Appendix F (Form 1: Learner Characteristics for Reading) or Appendix G (Form 1: Learner Characteristics for Mathematics) for reading or mathematics, respectively. More than half of the teachers actually used the student profile (Appendix E) for all of the students in their classes, not just the five struggling learners identified for the study. This was a testimony to its perceived usefulness and will be discussed further in the section, Unanticipated Activities below.
  • Self-reporting formative use surveys were administered at the end of the project (April 2011). Thirteen English language arts (ELA) teachers, 26 mathematics teachers (including one special education teacher), and 3 special education teachers who identified themselves as teaching both ELA and math completed a survey describing their formative assessment practices. (The Burns Formative Assessment Use Scale - for Teachers was adapted for use in this project with permission from R. Burns, 2010.) The formative use survey asks about frequency of using practices such as (1) the use of aligned rubrics and annotated student work to describe expected performance to students, (2) providing written or oral feedback, (3) student self-and peer-assessment practices, (4) modifying assessment based on formative evidence, (5) being intentional when designing formative assessments, and (6) examples of formative tools most frequently used.
  • All teachers also completed a pre- (August 2010) and post- (January 2011) survey after attending the facilitated collaboration sessions with Hawai段-based workshop leaders. The surveys included demographic information and project process questions (e.g., use of strategies for using student work analysis to plan instruction or assessments), as well as questions specific to workshop activities. (These surveys can be found in Appendix H and Appendix I.)
  • Professional development facilitators (strand 2 leaders) also completed a survey asking them to reflect on and evaluate the facilitated collaboration sessions.

Data analyses are discussed below under the following topics and draw from various data sources described above:

  • Teachers Reflections on Practice: Instruction, Assessment, and Instructional Decisions
  • Teachers Perceptions: Learners and Learning Pathways
  • Facilitated Collaboration Sessions
  • Unanticipated Activities
  • Structures and Supports: Implications for Professional Development

 

Teachers Reflections on Practice: Instruction, Assessment, and Instructional Decisions

Finding #1:

As a result of the project activities - using Progress Maps to plan assessments and instruction and to track progress of individual students - all teachers identified an increased use of many formative strategies and tools. (See summary in Table 1 for selected descriptors.)

Table 1: Frequency and Use of Formative Assessment Strategies

Examples of formative strategies that were used usually or almost always by most participants

Math Teachers
(n=25)

ELA Teachers
(n=13)

Special Ed Teachers
(n=5)

I assess using rubrics aligned explicitly to the Hawai段 benchmarks and grade level standards.

76%

100%

60%

I use planned formative assessments (questioning probes, pretests, open-ended questions) to provide me with information that guides my next steps for instruction.

84%

100%

100%

The written or oral feedback that I give students about their work explicitly addresses how they did or did not meet the Hawai段 benchmarks.

72%

92%

60%

My students have opportunities to assess their own work and get feedback prior to handing it in for a final grade.

60%

53%

60%

My units of study include opportunities for students to engage in and get feedback on the kinds of problems that will be on their tests or exams.

96%

69%

40%

I use homework for purposes other than grading.

92%

85%

80%

I modify my instructional strategies when a student does not do well on a quiz or assessment.

88%

100%

80%

I modify my instructional strategies on the spot while teaching when a student or group of students does not seem to understand.

92%

100%

100%

I schedule class time for students to revise their work and provide ongoing feedback to them during that process.

76%

85%

80%

However, it appears that it was the general education teachers whose practices incorporated the most frequent use of formative strategies linked to grade level benchmarks when using the progress maps. For example, general education teachers tended to link scoring rubrics and feedback explicitly to progress towards the Hawai段 benchmarks and standards, while most special educators did not. And while one might expect a special education teacher to modify instruction on the spot while teaching (as confirmed by the five special education teachers who responded), researchers were surprised to see how many general education teachers also were using formative assessment data to modify instruction in various instructional situations. Also, special educators did not employ peer and student self-assessment strategies as frequently as did their general education colleagues.

Finding #2:

Progress Maps provided a clearer understand of what 努ithin grade level progress could look like; therefore, teachers were able to use a variety of instructional strategies and tools to monitor that progress. Teachers were asked on the formative uses survey to 電escribe any additional strategies you frequently use to know how well your students are progressing before giving them a performance-based summative assessment. All teachers were able to identify several effective progress monitoring strategies. That said, there were also some lessons or assessment materials observed that showed a lack of understanding of how to make learning more accessible to students with disabilities. Since this was true of some general education and special education teachers, we can only surmise that the concept of universal design for learning is a broader issue that cannot be directly addressed using progress maps or formative strategies and should be a topic considered for future professional development across Hawai段 schools, district wide. Universal design for learning refers to a research-based framework for designing instruction that works for all students by using flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs (CAST, 2011).

With regard to supporting English language learners (ELLs) - many of whom were identified as 都truggling learners in Hawai段 classrooms - researchers observed many teachers at all grade levels employing strategies to support these learners (e.g., acting out situations for math problem solving to be sure students understood the context of the problem, building content-specific vocabulary skills for better communication, using visuals and models to support vocabulary development and use). These strategies were seen by teachers as generally beneficial to all students, including students with disabilities.

Below are the most common responses given when asked about progress monitoring strategies employed by project teachers. Surprisingly, the general education teachers used observations and formative warm-ups and exit cards more frequently than did special education teachers to monitor ongoing progress. Special education teachers tended to rely on pre-, mid-, and post- assessments of a larger grain size than did classroom teachers (see Table 2).

Table 2: Additional Strategies Used to Know How Students Are Progressing

General Education ELA Teachers

Grades K-5: Teacher observation, small group work, conferencing, warm-ups and exit tasks, pre-assessments

Grades 6-8: Warm-ups (formative probes) at the start of class, checks for understanding during the lesson, graphic organizers, small group/pairs work

General Education Math Teachers

Grades 2-5: Teacher observation, small group work, conferencing, warm-ups and exit tasks, pre-assessments

Grades 6-8: Warm-ups (formative probes) at the start of class, checks for understanding during the lesson (pair-share, hold up fingers to show degree of understanding 0-2-4, exit cards), conferencing or small group work, pre-assessments

Special Education Teachers

Pre- and mid-assessments, practice summative assessments with extra supports, quick checks for understanding during the lesson (specific strategies not named)

Finding #3:

When asked specifically what, if anything, teachers had changed in their day-to-day practice for developing and using assessments with progress maps, many teachers commented that they had a new lens for developing and using assessment evidence, especially the pre-assessments.

  • Many of the teachers noted that they gained a clearer understanding of the state standards and grade level benchmarks. 的致e taught these benchmarks for years, but never really understood them this deeply before using the progress maps to break down the benchmarks.
  • Less experienced teachers spoke about the many benefits of collaboration and use of the progress maps to clarify understanding of the benchmarks: 的t (the project) helped me focus on the benchmarks. I test per benchmark now. Before I would give a test covering three benchmarks and give a grade. Now it helped me focus on (content of) standards and benchmarks more. I知 a new teacher so it was eye opening - the assessments I was giving, the planning, and the assessments I should be giving. I have a poster on the wall so students know and reflect on what they need to do to move up on the map.
  • Knowing the content was essential. Teachers who did not have deep content knowledge, especially special and general educators teaching math, stated that they benefitted greatly from collaboration activities with colleagues and admitted that without deep content knowledge, they could not have developed strong assessments or been as skilled in interpreting assessment results.
  • Pre-assessments were used to determine 兎ntry points onto the progress maps and to differentiate instruction for individuals or small groups. This was a new insight and use of pre-assessments that was brought to light while using the progress maps.
  • Teachers learned that the most useful pre-assessments were the ones that focused on the foundational (or prerequisite) skills needed to be successful, and not on the 兎nd point of the continuum (the benchmark). 鄭t first our pre-assessments were too difficult, included too much, and students could not show what they knew, if anything. Then we figured out that we needed to focus on the prerequisite skills needed to get ready to learn the skills in the benchmarks. That made a huge difference in getting usable assessment evidence. Again, having deep content knowledge was identified as critical to the process and progress maps supported breaking down benchmarks into teachable chunks. Teachers used assessment evidence from pre-assessments to determine where to begin the instruction - starting with foundational skills or with skills closer to what 殿pproaching proficient looked like.
  • Formative assessment data was found to be a new way to flexibly group students for targeted instruction or support all along the learning continuum, even those students who teachers thought had a solid understanding of the grade-level content. One teacher noted, 的t was a real eye-opener. Some students who I thought were proficient were actually below proficiency according to what they could and could not do on the formative and mid-assessments.
  • Well designed pre-assessments helped teachers to decide how to best use instructional time: what to teach and what not to teach. 撤retests allow me to skip over benchmarks students already know from previous years, so I make up time that way. The pre-assessment is good way to find out where they are now and what I need to re-teach.

Finding #4:

Another observation made by most teachers was that their assessments now had greater clarity and focus; therefore, assessment data became more useful to them in guiding instruction. Teachers often saw flaws in the commercially available assessments they had been using and chose to redesign many assessments they had used in the past. There was strong agreement that collaboratively developed common assessments seemed to strengthen the resulting assessments and provide better opportunities for analyzing results and sharing instructional strategies across classrooms.

  • Teachers noted greater clarity and focus in their collaboratively developed assessments using progress map descriptors and including prerequisite skills. 展hen we looked at our first results and the assessment we used, we said, 層hat were we thinking? This is an awful assessment!After the first pre-assessment was given and results were analyzed, most teachers revised their thinking about what to include in a pre-assessment, thus improving the quality of assessments used.
  • Teachers noted that when there was greater clarity in the assessment tasks, assessment results were more useful in terms of what to do or teach next. 的 never really thought about each individual benchmark, and generally taught and assessed many of them at the same time. So I never knew what the next steps might be when they didn稚 get it.
  • Teachers frequently told us that the progress map descriptors and better designed assessments helped them to go deeper into the content with instruction. 的 don稚 just touch the surface of the benchmark now, but go more in depth.
  • Assessment prompts and assignments: Many teachers told us that they now rethink the purposes of specific assignments and write them with more detail and specificity about the outcomes they expect from students.

 

Teachers Perceptions: Learners and Learning Pathways

Finding #5:

Above all, teachers told us that having the progress maps gave them greater insight into what to teach next when a student was not making progress and to see all students somewhere on the progress maps. Teachers perceptions of the slowest progressing students shifted for some (not all) teachers who began to see students according to what the students could do, not what they could not do. 的知 not seeing this student as 礎ehind the other students like I might have before. I see where he is on the progress map; and now I have an idea of how I can help him.

  • Time and again, teachers stated that they began to understand what a path to proficiency or 殿pproaching proficiency might actually look like and could now plan lessons to get there. The indicators in the progressions presented the 澱ig picture of what students could do that teachers could build upon. More than half of the project teachers started to use the progress maps with parents and students to describe progress in concrete terms.
  • Teachers found that they had to know the student better in order to 菟lace them on a learning continuum - because they needed more specific formative assessment data, they started to design assessments with more targeted purposes. 擢irst quarter pre assessments are more informative, since they tested the skills students needed to know to move ahead.
  • Many teachers told us that they had been using the grade-level benchmarks for years, but never really understood the benchmarks in a way that laid out a path to get there (meaning how to teach to get there from wherever the student started).
  • Teachers told us they had discovered a new way to keep track of progress: 哲ow I had a visual organizer of where students were and what I had to do next.
  • Teachers told us their confidence in interpreting progress for themselves and students was enhanced: 擢or seventh grade, it helped us improve our assessments. We made this assessment and compared it with the progress maps. We found that we had to adapt tests and add in questions to properly assess what students know. The result was more rigorous than what we (originally) had planned to assess. It changed the language used in the assessment and how we speak to students. Progress maps allow us to speak to the progress upfront with students, so they know what they need to do for it to be good enough. It痴 completely taken the guesswork out for us and the kids. They feel more comfortable and confident with what they need to learn.

 

Facilitated Collaboration Sessions

The facilitated collaboration sessions are referenced in a companion report by Valerie Kurizaki (2011), Educating Struggling Learners: Reflections on Lessons Learned about Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. These sessions were planned and led by four Hawai段 educators as part of the Strand 2 activities. Center for Assessment staff realized early on in the project that having two separate strands might be somewhat confusing to teachers. In strand 1, teachers were using the progress maps and tools provided to track the progress of five students; while in strand 2, they were bringing full classroom sets of student work to analyze. We regret that more effort was not made to better tie the activities of the two strands more closely throughput the project. It was not until the January focus groups and teacher interviews that researchers realized this gap was as significant as it was for many teachers who expressed that it was like being involved in two different projects. Teachers did not always see the connections between the activities in the two strands as clearly as the leaders of strands did. This was easily explained when questions finally surfaced and could have been avoided.

Finding #6:

The use of student work analysis (SWA) protocols, combined with Progress Maps, was a major game changer for making instructional decisions. While teachers told us that in the past they had looked at evidence in student work to give a grade, they had not considered using SWA to target instruction for groups of students, nor were they always sure of what to teach next when students struggled.

  • The idea of 都orting papers was a new idea for many teachers: 的 never thought of sorting papers according to what students were able to do or not do. That really changed my thinking about next steps for instruction.
  • SWA processes were sometimes seen as too cumbersome and unmanageable because of the lengthy protocols used early in the project during the facilitated sessions. A more streamlined protocol was designed (Appendix J) late in the project to address this problem voiced by many middle school teachers who teach as many as 150 students.

Finding #7:

Participants noted time and again the benefits of collaborative planning to both design assessment tasks and analyze student work together. Many teachers expressed that after the initial collaborative facilitation session to teach them how to use the process of SWA with colleagues, they would have preferred to simply have quality time with colleagues in a less structured format so they could self-direct the SWA activities.

 

Unanticipated Activities

Finding #8:

During the school year, many schools, as well as individual teachers, initiated practices related to the use of Progress Maps that were not required, but supported the implementation of Progress Maps more fully and became embedded in day-to-day practice. We believe that many of the teacher-initiated practices have continued beyond the life of the project.

  • School Wide Portfolios - One middle school initiated whole-school portfolios guided by the use of progress maps. This resulted in more than half of the project teachers using the student profile (Appendix E) for all of the students in their ELA and math classes, not just for the five struggling learners identified for the study. Student work was collected and used with the progress map descriptors in the profile during parent and student-led conferences during the school year. One elementary school that involved most of their teachers in the ELA part of the project asked if they could use the math student profiles next school year to expand the use of progress maps school-wide to both ELA and math.
  • Classroom environments - Classroom and school visits by Center for Assessment staff during the year provided a unique lens into how teachers were using progress maps beyond the requirements of the project. Students were using progress maps for reflection and goal setting before and after testing in one eighth grade math classroom. The teacher told us that this change moved students from setting general learning goals to more specific ones, because students were more clear about a visible path for their own learning and what was being assessed.
  • Classroom environments - Another way that teachers used the progress maps to make the learning pathway visible to students was through posting samples of student work along a continuum and promoting student dialogue and peer and student self-assessment as it related to specific 菟it stops along the learning pathway. Teachers in these fifth grade classrooms used formative assessment checklists (based on the progress map descriptors they were focusing on) to monitor small group dialogue during problem solving activities. They were then able to immediately adjust instruction based on informal notes taken. Below is a photo of one teacher痴 bulletin board, taken during an on-site visit. It displays the progress map descriptors along the learning continuum with samples of what student work looks like along the learning pathway. Students move their markers (sticky notes) along the path when they achieve the next level and all students support each other in getting there. The class goal is for everyone to achieve at the highest levels.

 

Photo of a display of progress maps in a classroom.
Fifth grade teachers at Mililani Uka Elementary School, Evelyn Ibonia, and Margeaux Ikuma, display descriptors of the levels of the progress maps they are working on and then post student work samples so students can see how the work becomes more sophisticated over time. Students work together to get everyone to the 塗igh end of the progression by the end of the unit. The sticky notes represent students in the class and are moved from 屠ust starting to match the progress map descriptors as they make progress to 堵ot it.

 

Structures and Supports: Implications for Professional Development

There are several simple but important takeaways from this project. While they may seem obvious, we list them to be sure that future efforts to implement a learning progressions schema in classroom practice does not overlook what may be essential to its success.

  • Everyone needs time and support structures for collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.
  • Teachers need a SWA process that is manageable and practical to use.
  • Special education teachers must become fully integrated as a member of the planning and instructional teams.
  • Everyone needs to know the content to really make a difference in support of struggling learners.
  • Clarity saves time: strong instructional and assessment models, common language, and shared expectations will benefit all teachers and all students in the long run.
  • Build school wide consensus for recognizing high quality in assessments, expectations for students (and evidence of real learning), and proven instructional approaches to get there.
  • Last, but perhaps most important, work to build 斗eadership density within each school (Hess, 2000). School administrators can provide collaboration time, support structures, and the resources needed to support full implementation of learning progressions; however, it is the master teachers who will lead the school in these efforts, if enough of them come to deeply understand purposes and uses of progress maps. This is called leadership density - many leaders within a school who can inspire and mentor colleagues along the way.

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Resources

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Hess, K., (Ed.) (December 2010b). Learning progressions frameworks designed for use with the common core state standards in mathematics K-12. National Alternate Assessment Center at the University of Kentucky and the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.nciea.org/publications/Math_LPF_KH11.pdf

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Appendix A

Sample Classroom Observation Summary Form - MATH

Survey form presented as a figure.

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Appendix B

Sample Classroom Observation Summary Form - ELA

Survey form presented as a figure.

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Appendix C

Sample Questions for Teacher Interviews & Focus Groups

Sample questions presented as a figure.

Sample questions presented as a figure, continued.

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Appendix D

Form 2: Sample ELA Data Collection Tool for Tracking Progress and Instructional Strategies for a Single Benchmark

Sample data collection tool presented as a figure.

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Appendix E

Form 3: Sample Student Profile for Language Arts (Data Collection Tool for Tracking Multiple Benchmarks)

Sample student profile presented as a figure.

Sample student profile presented as a figure, continued.

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Appendix F

Form 1: Learner Characteristics for Reading

Form 1 (reading) presented as a figure.

Form 1 (reading) presented as a figure, continued.

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Appendix G

Form 1: Learner Characteristics for Mathematics

Form 1 (math) presented as a figure.

Form 1 (math) presented as a figure, continued.

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Appendix H

Student Work Analysis (SWA) Meeting Evaluation Survey #1 (August 2010)

SWA meeting survey (1) presented as a figure.

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Appendix I

Student Work Analysis (SWA) Meeting Evaluation Survey #2 (January 2011)

SWA meeting survey (2) presented as a figure.

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Appendix J

(Streamlined) Student Work Analysis - Formative Assessment Tool

Student Work Analysis - Formative Assessment Tool presented as a figure.

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Appendix K

School Leader Survey

School leader survey presented as a figure.

School leader survey presented as a figure, continued.