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Learning is everyone's job!

The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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Failing Freshmen: How We're Using Data to Make Our Students' Struggles More Visible
February 8, 2016
By Jenny Ozbirn
Instructional Partner
Florence City (AL) Schools
Sometimes complete understanding of student data warrants more than a departmental discussion in order for a faculty to feel ownership and responsibility for the whole.
At the Florence Freshman Center, we are concerned about the students who are failing core classes and recognize the dire need to work together to weave a safety net that we all can feel good about. In order to begin this process, it was important to see the big picture.
The concept I'm describing here is a work in progress, but I have high hopes that it will prove to be beneficial. Knowledge is power, and sometimes going back to the drawing board to physically graph things is what needs to happen for people to see the possibilities.Read More
The Benefits of Teachers "Looking at Student Work" Together
January 29, 2016
By Jill A. Edwards
Instructional Partner
Florence Middle School
Florence City (AL) Schools
How often does a teacher intentionally assign something to students with little or no thought, care, or belief that the task is beneficial? The answer to this is almost never! Teachers work hard to provide quality instruction.
However, sometimes intention and reality conflict. Taking the time to look at the work our students produce in response to our assignments provides an opportunity to calibrate and refine the level, quality, and explanation of the work we ask them to do.
One way to do this is to gather with other teachers and use a protocol to examine sample student work products. Of course, teachers look at student work every day. But when teachers are asked to collaborate and share their observations about a variety of assignments, the impact can be astounding.
While the idea of sharing in this way may feel uncomfortable at first, consider that when student work is brought to the table, one benefit is the opportunity to really reflect on the standards the assignment is intended to assess versus the expectations of the assignment itself. 

Putting the LASW Protocol on the table

Recently, I asked our teachers to use the CCR Standards and the LASW protocol from the National School Reform Faculty website titled "Standards & Looking at Student Work".
Our teachers meet collaboratively regularly, but the use of a protocol has helped give meaning and purpose to these meetings, and has provided an opportunity to focus on student work.Read More
Engineering Productive Classroom Discussions (Part 3): Scaffolding Student Conversations
January 26, 2016
In this three-part series, author and ABPC senior consultant Jackie Walsh shares research-based strategies that can invigorate the classroom learning environment, making it a place where student participation in rich academic conversations is routine.
In Part 1, Jackie highlights the five-stage discussion model she and co-author Beth Sattes recommend in their new ASCD book. In Part 2, she introduces introduce three student capacities essential for productive discussion: social skills, cognitive skills, and use-of-knowledge skills.  In her final post, Part 3, Jackie explains how teachers can scaffold conversational skill-building, using three forms of classroom discussion.
You may also be interested in listening to a webinar featuring Jackie and Beth, hosted by ASCD in December 2015. It's free and simple to use!
by Jackie Walsh
It is not enough to present the skills of discussion to students; teachers need to actively scaffold student development of these skills.  Teachers can scaffold directly – through modeling and coaching – or indirectly, by selecting structures and protocols that will shape and guide student interactions.
The goal is to nurture and support student learning of the skills to the point that students are able to use them independent of the teacher’s intervention. In our book, we refer to these different settings for discussions as "forms" and present three identified forms on a continuum—moving from more teacher control to more student responsibility.

The Teacher-Guided Discussion

In teacher-guided discussion, teachers assume the role of a “master” discussant who models and coaches student apprentices. As a model, the teacher intentionally spotlights selected skills, thinking aloud to students about what she is doing and why.
For example, pausing when a speaker stops talking (Think Time 2) is particularly important in a discussion so as to allow the speaker time to reflect and add to a statement. At an appropriate point following this type of pause, the teacher might say:
“You probably noticed the few seconds of quiet following Jeremy’s comment. This allowed him time to think about what he had said and to decide if he wanted to say more. And he did! During a discussion each of us needs to use this pause to think about what a speaker has said and decide what we think about it. Do we agree? Or disagree? Do we have something to add?”
Teachers can strategically use think-alouds to explain what they are doing as they model key discussion skills.Read More
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