Saturday, February 11, 2012

Help Needed ! Classroom Observations and Student Thinking

This post is a bit of a deviation.
My school ( is using a walk-through observation process for teacher professional growth.

We have a fairly simple observation form (posted here soon) with one of the six categories measuring "Student Engagement". It is this category of the six that I am hoping to focus upon to be able to better share what I believe needs to happen.

The more often I have post-walk-through conversations with teachers, the more I am seeking to clarify the language that I believe needs to be added to our form (and subsequent discussions). Student engagement is not enough. (See below.)

I am assuming that educators/researchers out there must have written something on this topic, but I'm struggling to come up with additional models.

In the absence of not finding much, and after talking with teachers to help craft the language a bit, I want to share my thinking below in the hopes that others who read this might be able to point me in the direction of similar research with additional / clarifying ideas.

So... help needed !  Point me in the right direction to learn more.

I hope the descriptions below will be clear enough gain insight into what I am thinking. I am hoping to find more research or models that clarify the distinction between Stage 2 and Stage 3.

Classroom Activities and Student Engagement Levels

- What types of activities promote student thinking?
- What types of activities are linked with various forms of assessment?

Actually Chittenden used the word "initiative" not "engagement,." An actor (and his or her audience) can be highly engaged, but he/she is not the author of the language, the decision-maker, the initiator (of thinking / learning) . (in  Deborah Meier's comments after the article)


1. Activities That Passively Engage 

The nature of the activity allows students to drift in and out of the lesson
EXAMPLE:  Students listening to a lecture who are subsequently called upon at various points to answer questions.

Possible Assessment Type: Loosely formative for an entire class because the teacher may have a general sense of whether some students can answer some questions. But this method is nearly  impossible to measure the understanding of all students regarding key concepts.

2. Activities That Engage 
The nature of the activity makes it fairly obvious if some/all of the students are on task, but not necessarily showing high levels of initiative (thinking and decision-making)
EXAMPLES: Students looking up answers from text/source; recording information (notes) from the board during a lecture; carrying out the rote directions of a task, such as a lab or reading from a text.  

Possible Assessment type: Usually (but not always) these activities can be used as a formative assessment for all students.  But Stage 2 (Engaged) are different than Stage 3 (Initiative) formative assessments in that they tend to measure effort and completion of a task without being able to legitimately assess the level of each student's understanding.

3. Activities That Engage in Thinking / Decision-making (Initiative)
The nature of the activity requires all (or almost all) students to function on a task that requires them to author language, demonstrate understanding, or make decisions.
EXAMPLES:  Putting examples into categories; coming up with examples and non-examples for concepts; sorting events into a timeline;  taking a quiz or test; deciding whether statements are “always true”, “sometimes true” “never true”;  summarizing in writing;  matching;  listing similarities and differences from given examples; having students ask “one important” question to demonstrate clarity of understanding; deciding and describing most important idea(s); self evaluations, peer evaluations; having students develop/select rubric indicators, criteria or exemplars; authentic assessments that meet the GRASP indicators - keeping in mind that various indicators of GRASP can be demonstrated / assessed  specifically

Possible Assessment type: Usually (but not always) are  good formative assessments, quickly allowing each student (or groups of students) to demonstrate understanding of key concepts so that future instruction can be altered. Some of these can be summative assessments as well. 


1. Lessons cannot operate in Stage 3 at all times.
2. All lessons should have multiple opportunities for students to work in Stage 3, especially in assessing understanding of planned objectives.
3. Teacher use of Stage 3 formative assessments are met with differentiated instruction as needed (pre-planned, if possible).

No comments:

Post a Comment