Thursday, June 07, 2018

Program Assessment: Improving What You Do

Recently a colleague wondered about the curriculum program she teaches. She is a highly skilled educator with a strong education foundation and a positive outlook on all things teaching and learning. This educator always forges strong relationships with her students and has their best interests in mind when she makes professional decisions.

In a rather cavalier way, I responded that you have to think about the program in general and decide what will stay and what will go. Later though as I thought of my reply, I realized that it might be better to give a more comprehensive answer to her question of how to assess a program and what to do to develop that program.

To assess the teaching/learning program, I carry out a number of specific steps including the following:

  • I assess each unit during and after I teach that unit. My assessment includes the following points:
    • Were the students engaged throughout the unit? More specifically, what parts of the units engaged the students most and why?
    • Were all students engaged? What kinds of students were readily engaged and which students seemed distanced and uninterested in the unit?
    • Did all students learn? What assessments demonstrated who learned a lot and who didn't learn that much? Did students learn the expected concept, content, and skill? Did they learn other important lessons or information? 
    • How did students make the learning their own--how did they personalize the unit study?
    • How did parents and other family members react to the learning--were they engaged, supportive, enthusiastic?
    • Were the materials clear and easy to access and understand? What learning materials and activities did students gravitate more to and what were less interesting, memorable, or helpful?
  • I typically write a full assessment of each unit in my blog so I can refer back to that information later when I have time to update the unit on my own and with others.
  • I assess the unit through the lens of current research. I keep up on the research related to the unit by daily reading and research, then compare what I've done with what the research shows to be beneficial, engaging, brain-friendly, and timely. 
  • I continue to build my knowledge too as the better I understand the foundational concepts and information related to the unit of study, the better I can teach it.
  • I make time in the summer to assess the program altogether. I use the following questions to assess the program:
    • Were students engaged and happy?
    • Did students learn?
    • What projects and activities did students like most?
    • Which projects and activities resulted in the best learning leaps?
    • Where is current research and pedagogy not included in the current program, and where should we embed that?
    • Where are we not meeting expected learning standards in the curriculum, and how can we change the curriculum to meet those standards?
    • Where did we find we had enough time for the teaching and where did we find we needed more time? How can we change the order of teaching and time for specific units to better fit it all in?
    • Do we have to retire some learning/teaching events to make room for more important learning?
    • Do we have to update units to make them more timely and engaging?
    • What special events and programs really made a significant impact, and what programs and events were less interesting and impactful?
  • After assessing the program, I update the curriculum map for the following year to make room for the most engaging and productive learning. I also make space for new professional learning to in order to keep my teaching fresh and timely too. 
As educators we need to continually evolve with regard to our own learning and our program efforts. It's important to make time to assess each unit on your own and with colleagues in an ongoing fashion. It's similarly important to assess the program together and on your own, and make needed improvements, changes, and additions. This is what fosters the good teaching and learning possible.