Teachers in Teams–A report from Little Rock

Though this post isn’t particularly helpful to new Mac Users (but I AM typing this on my new Mac), I want faculty to know about the good work your colleagues are doing to learn more about collaborative teacher teams.

Lauren DuPriest, Laura Pattison, Marlene Getzendanner, Sue Davenport, Stacy Chalmers, Julie Moor, Linda Cherniavsky, Patty Johnson, Anna Major, Maureen Miller, Sam Gough, Ellen Vesey, Jim Justice, and I are attending a “PLCs at Work” conference in Little Rock (special thanks to Arkansas native Becky Doster for local recommendations!).

Westminster teachers collaborate every day, and many of us are already involved in teams–such as PLCs–that have a specific focus on student learning and growth. 

Like many of you, we’ve been inspired to focus more on such things as:

  • Learning rather than teaching
  • Collaboration rather than isolation
  • Defining essential learnings
  • Supporting ALL students (not just those in our classes)
  • Using common and formative assessments, research, and data to improve instruction and learning
We can’t wait to get back to school and learn more. I hope you’ll consider listening to some of our experiences–and sharing some of your own. 






About thadpersons

Dean of Faculty, husband, father of two, English teacher, and waterskier.
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8 Responses to Teachers in Teams–A report from Little Rock

  1. Anna Major says:

    “Grades trump feedback when given together.” This quote from one of the sessions really struck me and has made me think considerably about my grading practices. I am especially thinking about essay grading with this in mind. When I return student essays, I always give quite a bit of narrative feedback pointing out strengths and weaknesses of the work, along with suggestions to work on when completing the revision; however, I also always include a grade on the paper. Should I just give the narrative feedback, with no grade whatsoever? Maybe on the in-class writings I will only give narrative feedback and allow the students to do a revision before a grade is assigned. Then do I allow them to do another revision? As you can see, I’m simply thinking out loud here, and I would love to hear some ideas from others who have experimented with this. I think I do want to try providing just formative feedback without a grade to see how it affects student learning and the writing process in general. After all, we are striving to turn our focus towards the needs of the learners in our care.

    • tsadtler says:

      I’ve been amazed at the power of rubrics when implemented “smartly.” I’ve used rubrics in grading for 15 years, but only recently (last two years) have I given students say in the wording of the rubric, and only recently have I had them listen to sample work and come to a common understanding of what “proficiency” means. The result is a group of kids that can identify strengths and weaknesses, accurately place them on a 4-point scale, then perform their own work with a goal of 3 or 4 in mind. Whether they achieve it is uncertain, but at least they are familiar with the path! I’ve only done this with speaking assessments, but I’m about to give my first major writing assignment in Spanish 2 and you have prompted me to do the same development process with the kids.

      As far as grades, I only see the need for a grade if the assessment is destined for the grade book. As long as my kids understand that a 3 out of 4 is a mark of proficiency, as long as they can predict what that 3 sounds like and can prepare themselves to hit that benchmark, I don’t care what it equates to on a 100-point scale. That said, the language PLC has created an excel spreadsheet that converts a 4-point rubric to a 100-point scale. You’re welcome to it.

  2. Maureen Miller says:

    First and foremost, this was a great conference and I believe we all learned a lot that we are excited to bring back to Westminster. The concept of PLC is fairly new to me and I imagine to many of you. I’d like to take a minute to throw out some basics so we can all start on common ground. As we learned this week, clarity precedes competence. We must understand our goals before we can begin to accomplish them.

    It is defined as on-going process of improvement where educators collaborate and use action research to bring better results for all of our students. The three big ideas include:
    1. Learning as a fundamental purpose. We create clear objectives that both teachers and students utilize in the learning process.
    2. We are committed to a collaborative culture. We co-labor about what we want our students to learn and how we will monitor it.
    3. We are hungry for results rather than intentions. We look for evidence that our practices are making a real difference in student learning. We design common assessments as the tool to measure student learning. Next, we take the time for intervention and differentiation because our ultimate goal is that ALL students learn.

  3. Jim Plondke says:

    Rock in Little Rock. Thanks to y’all for participating in this conference and bringing your expertise back to Westminster. We are working hard here to “hold down the fort” while you are gone.

  4. Julie Moor says:

    Returning from Little Rock with great enthusiasm and ready to share thoughts and ideas with the ES faculty – particularly about possible ways to adjust our schedule so there is more time during the day to collaborate with one another. The exciting thing about our PLC work is that it fits so well with our vision statement. Though not the be all and end all; if participation in a PLC becomes the norm at Westminster we will be taking a huge step toward making our vision a reality.

  5. Jennifer Lalley says:

    why no JH teachers???

    • thadpersons says:

      Hi Jen–
      As the Junior High has the most established PLCs of the three divisions, the school wanted to over-invest in the other two divisions as part of a moving the whole school forward on “teaching in teams”. Thanks for being part of the vanguard. We missed you guys and look forward to partnering with and supporting you.

  6. What do you want them to learn? How are you going to know if they’ve learned it? What will you do if they haven’t? What will you do if they have?
    These are the four essential questions of the PLC. Each question is focused on student learning. That is the goal of the PLC team – improving student learning. The PLC team achieves this goal through collaborative learning on the part of the teachers involved. In a PLC, the teacher is a reflective learner using his peers as mirrors to improve his practice. You wouldn’t apply makeup without a mirror. Why would you teach without one?

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