Category Archives: 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills to Connect Teachers and Coaches: Module 3

Module 3 of EDTC 6105 and my definition of the problem

For this week my program is focusing on 21st century learning. The topic alone brings a lot of questions forward, what is 21st century learning? Does it matter to teachers and students? How do you measure 21st century learning? My search for resources didn’t really narrow down my options much. Since we are focusing on peer coaching and thinking about how we define 21st century learning and how to use that definition in our coaching, I started to wonder, do teachers and coaches define 21st century learning in the same way? I think that often we do, but for a large portion of teachers maybe it isn’t even considered because of all the other worries and concerns that come with teaching in a classroom with nearly 30 unique individuals from different backgrounds and environments in the same room. Teachers are busy, they have a lot on their plates as I’ve said before on this blog, so I think 21st century learning might not be on the forefront for many teachers. I wonder how coaching can help teachers to move toward sharing the same definition technology coaches have of 21st century learning, and integrating that learning into their practice.

In framing my question it is important to note that teachers and coaches are in vastly different circumstances at least based on my limited experience as a coach. The pressure I feel as a coach is different than the constant pressure I felt as a teacher to bring my students to standard in a subject that they didn’t necessarily like or in an area of need that supported my growth goal. I want to share that struggle with teachers and offer support that will help them achieve those goals. However, coming from the realm of the classroom teacher and having been a teacher in a dual language classroom for the last 8 years gives me insight into what teachers experience. Based on my reading I have tried to think critically about some ways that teachers and coaches can work together to see growth in students while at the same time improving teaching practices in classrooms.

The Coaches Role

As a coach I feel like part of my job is knowing the latest research and knowing and being able to visualize ways that teachers can subtly change their practice in order to improve student learning. Many teachers do this same research and learning while teaching full time, but I have to acknowledge that in moving into a coaching role part of my responsibilities include knowing the current best practices in teaching pedagogy and specifically technology integration. It doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than teachers, but it is still worth stating that part of my role includes researching how to help teachers move toward incorporating 21st century learning into their classrooms. As a coach, I have additional resources and time available that teachers do not always have. I can use that time to research how to support growth in teaching practices and instruction.

One other benefit from a coaches role is the exposure I have to different classrooms. As a classroom teacher I maybe got to see 2 or 3 different classrooms a year max, instead I had to learn what teachers were doing from reading, or listening to them describe their practice. Recently in my coaching role I was able to tour every classroom in 8 different elementary schools. That exposed me (although briefly) to a couple hundred teachers and their approach to teaching literacy, math or another subject and showed how they were integrating technology. That is many times the exposure I would have gotten to different classroom as a teacher and I’m not even considering the classrooms I have visited at other times this year as a co-teacher.

Not surprisingly because I’m an instructional technology coach, I think that technology might play a prominent role in allowing for better differentiation in the classroom and might lead us to improving our teaching in a way that lifts students to a higher level of achievement, including mastering 21st century skills. Foltos, (2013) makes the role of a coach clear when he writes that a “coaches job is to encourage innovation.” He goes on to add that, “without this kind of outside stimulus, drawing on prior learning may only succeed in supporting the status quo,” (Foltos, 2013). As a coach, I’m available to be the outside stimulus that can aid in integrating 21st century learning into the classroom.

Challenges for Teachers

It might sound easy so far, just organize a meeting with a coach and voilà, 21st century skills will arrive. I must acknowledge that integrating 21st century skills into your teaching will not be a quick and effortless process, change is usually difficult and often slow. As I reflected, I drafted a quick list of things that might qualify as constraints to a classroom teacher:

  • Lack of time
    • No formal collaboration time – or fragmented focus during that time
  • Curriculum
  • Evaluation
  • Standards
  • District or school policies
  • Lack of training

This is just a quick list I came up with while outlining this post, it isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but I’d love to hear of you have other constraints that might keep you from integrating 21st century skills into your teaching. Or, on the other hand, if any of the things listed actually drive you to integrate 21st century skills into your teaching.

What to Try

I think a great place to start is to “define the skills and competencies your students will need,” as Foltos, 2013, shares in Peer Coaching. Then match those competencies with school goals, and pick one skill to work on. Slowly add to those skills to change your practice. This is the work that coaches and teachers can do together to lead to more 21st century skills being taught in all classrooms. Another good resource is the 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them from the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation. The author defines these skills as:

  1. Adaptability
  2. A desire to learn
  3. Confidence
  4. A knack for teamwork
  5. An empowering nature
  6. A global mindset

If you consult other sources you might see different skills. From what I have read there doesn’t seem to be consensus about what skills are definitely 21st century skills. seemed to focus much attention on critical thinking and how to teach it. Notably, incorporating PBL into undergraduate education courses led to more effective critical thinking skills as noted by Ventura, Lai & DiCerbo (2017). It also seems to be different if you are talking about teachers skills or students skills. I think both are important because to teach skills to our students, we need to possess those skills. Many of the skills listed above are facilitated through technology. Similarly, there is the graphic of 9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers from 


I believe that in partnership with instructional technology coaches if they are available, or with the right mindset when using technology student learning will increase.

I would encourage teachers who are able to pick a skill they want to learn and email or call a coach to begin working on learning that new skill. Have a learning goal in mind, a project or a lesson where you integrate that skill or tool into your teaching. Try to think beyond that even to see how students could use the same tool to produce something that demonstrates their learning. Then continue to use those skills in a number of lessons or a unit. Another idea for how to work with a coach would be to offer personalized learning to students. Develop fluency in tools that lend themselves to this personalization. Finally, ask questions. Ask your coaches, ask your students maybe even ask of yourself. How can the work be improved, extended, modified to reach more students? That is how we empower students to be 21st century learners and it’s one of the ways we demonstrate that learning to our students. Here is a quote from The Global Digital Citizen Foundation that just might sum up how difficult and necessary it is to work to define 21st century learning and to incorporate it into our teaching. A final quote comes from 4 Common Misconceptions about Teachers We Must Rethink.

When writing lesson plans, you need to connect to curriculum, design essential questions, and create challenging projects. Students need something to strive for that will develop skills for living successful and happy lives. This isn’t a lesson that comes from any textbook, either; it has to come from the mind and heart of a passionate teacher.

Doing those difficult things will certainly lead to increased development of 21st century skills in teachers and students.


4 Common Misconceptions About Teachers We Must Rethink. (2017, September 10). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from

9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers. (2016, December 30). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Ventura, M., Lai, E., & DiCerbo, K. (2017). Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking. Pearson. Retrieved from

Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2017, February 24). 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from

21st Century Technology Hierarchy of Needs

It’s interesting…just like the ISTE tech standards over the years have shifted from very skill based standards to much more global digital learning standards, so have the discussions around teacher tech standards. Are we getting ahead of most teachers in that discussion though? Is the reason for that shift partly because we believe everyone has got the basic standards or that we just can’t wait for everyone to catch up and need to push the conversation forward?

ISTE Coaching Standard 1d says that coaches need to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.” With the speed at which technology changes, this suggests that there will always be a need for people in districts that are the innovators and early adopters and I would suggest that those people need to be in three strategic areas in order for real change to happen. First, the district leadership from Superintendent to Principal need to be on board with the possibilities that technology brings. It would be most helpful if they embrace technology use to the point that they use and model it’s use with their staff and actively expect it from their teachers. Second, there have to be classroom teachers who are innovative and stretching the district and their tech departments to think differently, try new things and use technology in creative ways that pave the way for change. Finally, I would make the case that, if there isn’t strong leadership at the principal level, there is a role for Instructional Technology coaches (or whatever they are called in your district). Coaches whose whole focus is on learning and leading around “initiating and sustaining” technology innovation can be the keys to translating technology for the teachers and administrators that aren’t on the forefront of technology.

I’m a Digital Learning Specialist in my district. We changed our name this year to what, we hoped, better reflected the focus of our work. Our goal is to help students learn with digital tools. It’s about the learning first. Unfortunately, we are still seen most of the time as “the tech people” which translates to the problem solvers and fix it people. It’s not what I want to be doing. A few years ago, when our technology just didn’t seem to be working and teachers were frustrated and ready to give up, it struck me that what was going on was similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I developed a digital version using some thinking that I found online and I regret not keeping track of the author.

My thinking was, and still is, that some teachers are functioning at the bottom of the pyramid in basic needs and safety/security. If things don’t work, they don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to problem solve their way out and they get stuck. Innovators will find a work around or figure out how to fix it. The folks functioning at basic and safety levels will never progress beyond that level until their tech works they way they want it to work and it works reliably.

Usability comes next and is essential. There are no two ways about it, there is a certain level of skill needed to tackle technology tasks. Some folks will need to be “trained” on each new piece of technology. Others will learn technology in a more conceptual way and will be able to adapt what they learn to other digital tools. The help button question mark  is the help button in almost any program you come across now and many other icons are becoming standard across website, like the stack of three or four horizontal lines that denote a menu of choices. These however are skills. In 2005 THE Journal ran an article about the the 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have (Turner 2005) These were very skill based but I think many of them are still relevant. Downloading and installing software is becoming a thing of the past now that so many things are web based and our storage options are becoming more web based as well and you can exchange PDA knowledge with SmartPhone and you’ve got a lot of it covered.

Interestingly, they redid the survey in 2014 (Thompson 2014) and you can already see a shift away from just skills toward a change in attitude (willingness to learn), connection, collaboration, and communication. All important 21st Century Skills as defined by the P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning)

10 Skills Every Educator Should Have.

  1. Searching the web effectively
  2. Mastering Microsoft Office & Basic Word Processing
  3. Being Willing to Learn New Technology
  4. Connecting with Social Media
  5. Sharing and Collaborating via YouTube & Blogging
  6. Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Devices
  7. Reaching Out with Emails
  8. Making Your Point with Presentation Software
  9. Googling It
  10. Getting Ahead in the Cloud

These skills I believe are also a part of the upper parts of my Tech Hierarchy of Needs which come with Proficiency and allow for creativity. Until we give teachers the skills to become confident and successful with technology, some of them will have trouble reaching the newer Technology standards reflected in the ISTE Educator Standards which seem to assume that most teachers are already proficient tech users. The problem is, I don’t think that’s realistic to expect yet. It’s certainly a worthy goal and one many educators can reach but there are still teachers and students who will need help with the bottom half of the pyramid for awhile.


Turner, L. (2005). 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Thompson, G. (2017). 10 Tech Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

The 21st-Century Skill & Art Form – The Feedback Loop


This week in my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, I am continuing to explore ISTE Coaching Standards 1 and 2 by investigating what effective student learning looks like. Just as norms are an essential part of a peer coaching relationship, so too is a shared vision for what effective 21st-century education looks like. This shared vision creates a starting place for any collaborative work.

As Les states, “Communication and collaboration skills are vital to helping coaches build a relationship with peers, based on respect and trust, and assist peers to develop answers to the issues they face as they work to improve teaching and learning for their students.  Effective coaches use these sets of skills and trust as a springboard to encourage their learning partners to take risks and adopt innovative teaching and learning practices. ” 

As we begin thinking about the 21st-Century skills that teachers must interweave into their curriculum, I believe that one of the most important is communication.  This communication piece led me to my question for this post.  Precisely, how can we communicate to educators that quality professional development can come from your professional learning network?  When I imagined this conversation with a potential person I am coaching I wondered if they might not appreciate a line like this.  Perhaps this educator would not like that I used a “buzz” phrase like PLN or that I asked them to break out of their comfort zone.  As it states in Designing Classroom Environments“Teachers must be enabled and encouraged to establish a community of learners among themselves (Lave and Wegner, 1991). These communities can build a sense of comfort with questioning rather than knowing the answer and can develop a model of creating new ideas that build on the contributions of individual members. They can engender a sense of the excitement of learning that is then transferred to the classroom, conferring a sense of ownership of new ideas as they apply to theory and practice.”  This is why I decided to take a deep dive into Stone & Heen’s book Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and art of Receiving Feedback Well

Within the book the authors explain how giving and receiving feedback is a skill and even goes as far as to say it is an art form.  I will admit that at times in my life when I have received critical feedback without any positive elements it was tough to recover and become motivated to work afterward. I had a couple of particularly harsh interactions with an AP Literature teacher in high school and with one of my bosses when I first became a teacher.  It is just happenstance that these were both women whom I admired and obviously wanted positive reinforcement but instead received some feedback that led me down unproductive paths.  As the authors wisely explain “we swim in an ocean of feedback. Each year in the United States alone, every schoolchild will be handed back as many 300 assignments, papers, and tests.  Millions of kids will be assessed as they try out for a team or audition to be cast in a school play.  Almost 2 million teenagers will receive SAT scores and face college verdicts think and thin” (pg 2).  And as the end goal within this process is to always keep those teens or students in mind I want to look at specific element within the “Learning Design Matrix” (Learning Design Matrix.doc) “receive real-world feedback on their work from an audience or subject-matter expert from outside the school.”  Then to take that feedback and “Reflect on, revise and improve their work while engaged in learning”.  These two elements of receiving feedback, taking it, processing it, and then making productive changes is indeed a learned skill.

Applying this feedback loop to Adult learners who can then pass it along to our students of the future. 

Stone and Heen go one to say, “it doesn’t matter how much authority or power a feedback giver has; the receivers are in control of what they do and don’t let in, how they make sense of what they’re hearing, and whether they choose to change” (pg. 4).   Now that I have changed careers and moved into the EdTech sphere and received a new title that probably did not exist in the same capacity twenty years ago I can say the review process is essential.  Keeping an open two-way communication between a whole team is a constant necessity, from morning stand-ups, sprint meetings, project managing, and weekly check-ins.  It is important to give constructive feedback to peers on their work and receive feedback in the same manner.  It must push the project forward, and if something you are excited about gets push to next quarter or next year, you have to think about the company as a whole.  I say all this because as an educator I felt much more self-propelled.  My day-to-day was consumed by what and how I wanted to proceed through the material.  I was able to read the room, and I knew my students the best to gauge where to go next.  Teachers are all very skilled project and program managers, and I wish they were perceived more so in the professional world.  Needlesstosay I mean to explain this because when I entered my new world of EdTech the number of stakeholders in “my” projects grew.  The ownership of plans and projects is shared and constantly refined as more minds are consulted.  Therefore, I would state that for peer coaching, teaching, learning, and 21st-century skills this feedback loop is instrumental to teach.  And as Stone and Heen wrap up their argument of the necessity for feedback they explain “Indeed, research on happiness identifies ongoing learning and growth as a core ingredient of satisfaction in life” (pg. 4).  Meaning that humans crave the continual learning process, but the only way to get better at something is through practice.  If we are trying to motivate students and teachers, we must make it clear that we are not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings or put anyone down.  As peer coaches and teachers we see this all as practice to help encourage the user to gain experience and eventually become proficient at a particular skill.



Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2015). Thanks for the feedback: the science and art of receiving feedback well. London: Portfolio Penguin. doi:

ISTE – The Empowered Learner: My Hero Project

The next step in my coursework in the Seattle Pacific University, Digital Education Leadership program is to work my way through the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) 2016 student standards. First, looking at ISTE standard 1 – Empowered Learners, and specifically for my students I will focus on how “students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways” (ISTE, 1c). I look at professionals outside my academic or educational field and see how every job now integrates technology in some way. Continuing on that line, I am curious about ways to practically implement tech into the middle school language arts classroom.  Also, how can I help facilitate my students to see the connections between their desired field and necessary tech skills by implementing these practical units?

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 3.23.56 PM.pngAs Dr. Charles Kivunja explains in the International Journal of Higher Learning; in his piece entitled “Teaching students to learn and to work well with 21st century skills: Unpacking the career and life skills domain of the new learning paradigm” shifting workplace is changing things quickly, and students need to adapt to the new expectations. “In the 21st-century work environment, working conditions are changing at a very fast and increasing pace. As a result, employers actively seek out graduates that are not only resourceful and adaptable, but also able to be flexible and have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and environments and to welcome new ideas, and new ways of completing tasks” (2015, pg. 3).  I currently work in a district that has a pretty complete curriculum scope and sequence that I need to fit my idea within.  Therefore, I attempted to find ways for my students to use technology and still demonstrate their learning within the confines of the predetermined middle school language arts units.  Specifically, the reader’s workshop units with titles centered around themes in the district “Young Wonders” in 6th and “Courage to be an Individual” in 7th grade.   I took into consideration that the skills I wanted students to work on were “flexibility and adaptability (which) lead to success whereas the lack of these skills leads to stagnation and failure” (2015, pg. 3).  With these pieces in mind, I found a simple blog post on Edutopia, A Hero’s Journey for the 21st Century by Betty Ray from February 22, 2012.  Now she wrote it four years ago, but I think her message in this post and then the following links to the actual projects she references are certainly still relevant.  

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 4.22.51 PM.pngBetty Ray makes it clear that it might be time to put aside the Homer and the Star Wars and concentrate more on the community and who is a hero to the students.  The My Hero Project gives a chance for the students to use 21st-century skills with autonomy and the ability to deliver the project in different mediums. This project creates all kinds of new quests and outlets for expression for the young people. As we have new issues of identity and digital citizenship to combat with and educate our students about. With this project, the student’s ability to self-express becomes limitless.  For example, the 2016 Emerging Artist Award went to a young man named Trey Carlisle.  In their press release about his project and success with the My Hero project it stated —  

Since 8th grade, Carlisle has been telling important stories to fight injustice and has produced award-winning documentaries that speak out against violence and discrimination. Trey’s is a passionate voice for positive change in the world.Deeply committed to social justice, Carlisle learned about filmmaking through The Righteous Conversations Project, an organization that pairs teens with Holocaust survivors to share their important stories. When he had an opportunity to travel to Cambodia with a group called Digital Storytelling Adventures, he created the short film “Us and Us,” a documentary about dehumanization.

I also read the teacher’s guide, and I think it has a ton of great ways I could link this project to my students and the unit in the middle school classroom.  And to reference Dr. Kivunja again, “there is an increasing awareness that the skills that led to success in the 20th century are no longer sufficient to lead to success and prosperity in the 21st century. Aware of the need for change in teaching, learning, assessment and work so as to be effective participants in the 21st-century conditions” (2015, pg. 2).  I believe we need to shift mindsets to ensure we are truly created successful citizens of the next generation. 

Project Website –

My Hero Project –

Resources –

Kivunja, C. (2014). Teaching students to learn and to work well with 21st-century skills: Unpacking the career and life skills domain of the new learning paradigm. International Journal of Higher Education, 4(1), p1. Retrieved from

My Hero Educators Guide. (2012). Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Ray, B. (2012, February 22). A Hero’s Journey for the 21st Century. Retrieved January 14, 2017, from

Resources for Co-Planning Learning Activities


Image from:
Image from:

When I first started to research different resources to help co-plan with my learning partner, I kept thinking about my problem very narrowly.  My triggering question is below.

Triggering Question:

What are some good resources/processes I can use to determine how to best co-plan with my learning partner with 3rd grade math?

I kept coming back to what specifically could I help my peer with increasing learning for math when the real question I was looking for was “What can I find to help my learning partner expand her thinking about 21st century learning?”  Planning activities that involve solving a problem or higher order thinking is where we want our students to be at, but before I am able to get to that point I need to help my peer understand it’s importance in the first place.  The picture at the top of this page reminds me of this as well.  As a teacher we are also learners and when I help plan activities with my partner we are jointly learning how to create effective learning activities that will help with student outcomes.

Transformational Practice

“Coaching that is truly transformational… must address teachers’ emotional intelligence, non-verbal communication, and underlying beliefs. (BPINC 2015.)

The quote above is from a resource I found titled, “Best Practices in Instructional Coaching, (2015.)” which, again, helped to reaffirm my findings.  I need to not only be aware of how I am communicating and responding to my partner, but I must also address underlying beliefs that he/she has.  It also prompted me to change my own underlying beliefs.

As someone who is not overly familiar with teaching math I assumed that I might not be as helpful as someone else in planning activities who has experience.  However, this document discussed that what’s more important than knowledge of content is actually knowledge of pedagogical and educational best practices.  Primed with this new information I feel like I am able to move onto the next step and think more about the technology integration piece.

Technology Integration & 21st Century Learning

We have been focusing on increasing the quality of learning activities, but what also interests me (since this is a Digital Leadership program,) is how does technology fit into all of this?  In Les Foltos book, “Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration,” he talks about the power of using technology when it strongly aligns with pedagogy and goals and not just using it in the same ways as traditional teaching. (Foltos 2013.) 

My main take-away from using this in planning activities is to ask the following questions to make them think critically about how they are using technology.


Using these questions will help me to plan using technology in a way that elevates learning.


One standard that I am working towards for this module is Coaching Standard 2.

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

By trying to work out the best resources for helping my learning partner plan activities and increase learning I am actively striving to achieve this standard.  If I take the resources that I have found for planning activities and combine that with critical questions about the usage of technology then I will be more successful in achieving this goal.  What I have found over the past couple of weeks is that becoming a coach takes lots of practice and while it has felt new and uncomfortable at first to assume this role I am slowly starting to see what direction I should be taking and I am excited to follow.


Best Practices in Instructional Coaching. (2015, December). Retrieved from Practices in Instructional Coaching – Iowa Area Education Agencies.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


Effective Use of 21st Century Skills – EDTC 6105


Flickr - Caroline Buckey
Flickr – Caroline Buckey

When I first heard of 21st century learning it was this nebulous concept that at the beginning felt overwhelming and I wasn’t sure what elements about it related to technology.  However, the deeper I have researched the more I’m starting to understand how this learning model contributes to more in-depth understanding and engagement during learning activities.  This excites me yet I have a tendency to want to dive into the deep end before I am able to swim.  There are so many possibilities and avenues to explore with this model that I needed a way to make it easier to approach for both myself and my learning partner.

My triggering question for this learning module is:

What is a concise definition of 21st century learning and how can I use to collaborate with my coaching partner in a way that is accessible?

The whole concept of 21st century is learning is that we give students the necessary skills to succeed in all aspects of life once they leave school.  It’s about acknowledging,rather than ignoring, cultural shifts and giving students tools: such as, creativity, innovation, technology, and career skills (H. 2013).

What I’ve found most useful in developing a definition for 21st century learning is the framework from  It encompasses Key Subjects (3Rs), Learning and Innovation Skills (4Cs), Life and Career Skills, and Information, Media, and Technology Skills. The link above shows a more in-depth look into each of these areas.  (Framework for 21st Century Learning).

It’s also not enough for me to understand what it is about.  As I approach coaching another teacher I want to be able help them come up with a way to incorporate these skills into their classroom.  In the book “Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (Foltos 2013), there is a 21st century learning activities checklist that puts the above skills into four different categories.  This tool makes it easier to see what kind of activities can be done to approach 21st century learning.

The activities listed are straightforward, however, it is a rather large list and would be overwhelming if faced with the task of tackling even a couple of items for one lesson.  Foltos (2013), continues to discuss in his book that peer coaches believe that it is better to take small steps towards improving a lesson and may even wait awhile to introduce the checklist and instead have them come up with their own ideas first.

We also talked about this during my cohort’s weekly hangouts.  Part of the discussion was on having teachers pick one or two areas they want to focus on for a specific lesson and to go from there.  I agree with the idea that this would provide a less intimidating way to begin this process.

ISTE Coaching Standards 1 

Teaching, Learning, Assessment

f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

As I am looking into more about 21st century skills I am constantly thinking about how I would use this to coach a colleague.  This module has made me think about what aspects of 21st century learning would be most beneficial to other teachers as I have mentioned above.

P.E. and 21st Century Skills

As a P.E. teacher, I thought I would include this video focused on social skills using the 21st century model.  Sometimes I find myself thinking that it is hard for me to incorporate the things I am learning about different models in my classroom in physical education, but I find people like this that remind me that there are a variety of ways to include these skills.  I encourage people to think outside the box when incorporating new learning models.


So What is My Concise Definition?

My conclusion is not so much a concise definition, but more of a collection of ideas that form the whole picture for me.  The P21 Framework for 21st century learning gives a great overview of the learning model and I believe that using that along with the learning activities checklist is a great start to working with others.  I am finding a theme throughout this quarter that the simple approach tends to be the most effective and it is what I’m sticking to for now.


21st Century Skills: Social Skills – Support & Inclusion [Video file]. (2014). InYouTube. Retrieved November 6, 2016, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Framework for 21st Century Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from

H. (2013). 21st Century Learning is Not A Program. Retrieved November 08, 2016, from

Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Digital age learning environments proposes that technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. This module focused on performance indicators: B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments D […]

Reflection on Professional Development


The winter quarter for the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University has begun with the course, Program Evaluation and Professional Development. This online class taught by Dr. David Wicks and Suzanna Calvery, focuses on the ISTE coaching standards. This particular course examines standards 4 a,b, and c.

It is the midpoint of the course and this post reflects my learning on professional development and evaluation. In addition to the weekly readings, a program evaluation project has been included which provides an opportunity for me to “understand and implement a program evaluation of professional development” (Calvery & Wicks, 2016).

To better understand program evaluation and professional development, I explored the following three areas:

  • The value of evaluating school programs to improve on professional learning.
  • Aligning professional learning around the needs of students.
  • Differentiating professional development to meet the needs of teachers.

Evaluating School Programs

First, I delved further into the definition of program evaluation and how it relates to professional development. Supplementary readings led to further researching rationales for using systems to evaluate technology professional learning. Guskey (2002) suggests using evaluations to improve professional development programs by collecting and analyzing information for five evaluation levels. All of these levels are contingent upon the other, meaning that “success at one level is usually necessary for success at higher levels” (para. 6). Below is a summary of the five levels of professional development evaluation that Guskey recognized for program evaluation ( 2002).

  1. Level 1 gathers information on the participants’ reactions. Usually this information is gathered at the end of a session in the form of simple questionnaire. It measures participants overall view of the session.
  2. Level 2 addresses the participants’ learning. For this level, participants provide more input on the ‘knowledge and skills learned’ during the session. Were specific learning goals obtained?
  3. Level 3 level examines organization support and change. At this level, the focus is on the organization support and policies that occur after the professional development.
  4. Level 4 focuses on the participants’ use of new knowledge and skills. Evaluation at this level examines the impact of using the new knowledge and practices. Did the skills acquired at the session make a difference in the classroom?
  5. Level 5 examines student learning outcomes which can affect the overall impact of a program.

Also Guskey mentioned that evidence needs to be collected, “collect good evidence about whether a professional development program has contributed to specific gains in student learning” (2002). By collecting evidence or information, schools can determine the effectiveness of a program. It provides insight on whether the school’s needs and goals are being met for students and teachers.

The last feature that Guskey conveyed for planning professional development is to improve student learning by reversing the order of these levels. Work backwards. By keeping the end goal in mind, students’ outcome and planning for professional learning becomes more efficient and easier to evaluate (2002).

While researching information on program evaluation and professional development in general, I found several interesting articles that related to the need for evaluating professional development in educational technology.

Evaluate Professional Development in Technology

For the most part, technology professional development focuses on developing the educator’s knowledge and skills in using hardware or software programs. Researchers, Borthwick & Pierson (2008) noted that professional learning is “improving technology teaching and learning rather than the technology use” (p.1). This suggests that schools need to first evaluate the needs of their teachers to determine the type of professional learning that would impact student learning. Although Borthwick & Pierson go on to say that, “the major challenge that remains is measuring the effectiveness of educational technology professional development on teaching and student learning” (p.20).

Measuring Effective Technology Professional Development

In another study by Pierson & Borthwick (2010), professional development presenters collect data by providing surveys that are meaningful and can be used for future planning. Researchers, Lawless & Pellegrino noted that assessments should look beyond whether participants were satisfied with the presenter. But rather, the focus should be on the “impact the professional development activity had on pedagogical change or student learning” (as cited by Pierson & Borthwick, p. 126). Successful evaluating models should include “three theoretical constructs” or TPACK (p.127). TPACK is a model used to describe the three types of knowledge needed by educators to integrate technology practices into teaching and learning. The three knowledge areas intersect: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technology knowledge. This framework is a guide for teachers to consider when implementing technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Aligning Professional Development Around the Needs of Students

The next area I explored was on designing professional development that expands educators’ knowledge and skills and the need to use the best practices that impact student learning. Again, I reviewed Guskey’s (2002) model of evaluation planning and he suggests to focus on student learning by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • What improvements in student learning do we want to attain?
  • What evidence best reflects those improvements?
  • What new policies or practices must be implemented to gain that impact? (Guskey, p. 46, 48).

School reform advocate, Hayes Mizell (2010), insists there is a strong link between student achievement and school improvement strategies, which includes professional development. To ensure quality professional development, Mizell (2010) suggests educators form ‘learning teams’. Teams “analyze student achievement data to identify learning problems common to students in a particular grade.” Then educators work collaboratively two or three times a week to address the learning goals and determine the needs to “help students overcome learning challenges”(p. 11). As teachers become more skillful, “they reduce or eliminate variations in performance and begin to take collective responsibility for the success of all students, rather than just their own”(p. 11). Therefore by analyzing student data and state standards, schools can determine appropriate professional learning for their teachers.

Planning for Educational Technology

Part of this course work centers, not only on professional development for knowledge and skills in subject areas, but on technology planning. The National Education Technology Plan Teaching selection focused on several important factors for planning educational technology, one section addressed the need for appropriate technology teacher training. School districts must provide professional learning that ensures “ all educators are capable of selecting, evaluating, and using appropriate technologies and resources to create experiences that advance student engagement and learning” (para. 3). Therefore, including the technology standards for teachers and students is crucial when developing a district’s technology professional learning plan.

Differentiating Professional Development

Districts develop various PD opportunities for teachers throughout the school year, but steps need to be in place before planning any professional learning. Johnson (2015) suggests presenters or school leaders use “pre-needs” assessment tools to craft their workshop sessions. She recommends sending out surveys, using tools such as Google forms, Padlet and Nearpod, to participants to gain better understanding of the audience’s knowledge on the topic. Then Johnson provides “ a tiered resource that supports the differentiated needs of the group” (para. 5).

In another article regarding differentiating professional development for educators, Zdonek (2015) agrees with Johnson, that surveying teachers before workshop sessions is crucial. As a result, this allows presenters to “tailor the PD session to meet teacher needs, designing small group sessions with flexible grouping to instruct teachers at their varying readiness levels” (para. 7). She encourages districts to ask teachers their area of interests when planning for PD sessions. Teachers seem more engaged when their interests are considered. Zdonek notes the importance of schools encouraging teacher leaders to facilitate small group sessions. That “sometimes teachers are more open to listening to someone in a similar position to themselves than they are in taking directives from an administrator” (2015, para. 10).

The most important part of differentiating professional development for educators is to provide “opportunities for continual assessment”.  Teachers need time to discuss and “reflect on how they are incorporating the given area of development into their classroom practice” (2015, para. 11). In addition, teachers need opportunities not only to set goals but also to assess their progress towards these goals (2015, para. 12). Although most importantly, teachers need to become more involved in their own personal learning.

Teachers Owning Their Professional Learning

As teachers, we complain there is not enough time spent collaborating with colleagues or that professional learning may not meet our needs. Vaughn and McLaughlin (2011) in a case study examined the question, “What types of professional development promotes change in teachers’ practices?” They came to three conclusions:

  1. Outside stakeholders such as administrators need to address teacher involvement in the professional development.
  2. One-size-fits-all professional development does not always meet the needs of all teachers. Just as teachers differentiate instruction for their students, professional development needs to be differentiated for the needs of teachers.
  3. “A higher level of change occurred when teacher had ownership over their learning and a role in decision making” (p. 54).

Vaughn and McLaughlin (2011) concluded that teachers need to set their own growth goals and intentionally seek out professional development that meets their goals and the needs of their students. Teachers are central to their professional development and therefore need to be involved, promote, and advocate for better learning opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Over the past few weeks, I explored the best practices used in successful professional development systems. I found that it is important to look at student data when planning for professional development. And finally, districts need to consider differentiating their professional development in educational technology to effectively meet the needs of their teachers. In the coming weeks, I will delve into the role of administrators and the infrastructure changes that need to occur when supporting technology within our schools.



Borthwick, A. & Pierson, M. (2008). Transforming classroom practice: Professional development strategies in educational technology. In A. Borthwick & M. Pierson (Eds.), Transforming classroom practice: Professional development strategies in educational technology. (pp. 1-21). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from

Calvery, S. & Wicks, D. (2016). Professional Development and Program Evaluation. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington.

Guskey, T. J. (2002, March). Does it make a difference? Evaluating professional development. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 45-51.

International Society for Technology in Education (2016). Retrieved from

Mizell, H. (2010). Why professional development matters. Learning Forward. Oxford, Ohio. (pp. 1-24). Retrieved from

Pierson, M. & Borthwick, A. (2010). Framing the assessment of educational technology: Professional development in a culture of learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 26(4), 126-131. Retrieved from

Vaughan, M. & McLaughlin, J. (2011). What can motivate teachers to learn? Ask them. Learning Forward 32 (5). Retrieved from

Walker, T. (2016, winter). Finding a tablet strategy that makes sense. NEA Today, 34(3), 44-47.

Zepeda, S.J. (2008). Professional Development: What Works, Evaluating and assessing professional development (pp. 31-49). Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education.

Zdonek. Pauline. (2016, January 15). Why don’t we differentiate professional development? [Web log post]. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Peer Coach Reflection


EDTC 6105 Reflection

Review on Peer Coaching

This quarter during the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, the focus has been to develop peer coaching skills, to understand the role of a peer coach, to incorporate 21st century learning, to define effective learning, and to collaborate with a colleague to improve on a lesson (Wicks and Foltos, 2015). Aligned with this learning were three specific ISTE Coaching Standards:

1)  Visionary Leadership

2)  Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, and

6)  Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

For the last week of the course, conversations in the class turned towards identifying what areas are needed to support coaches. This led me to ask the question:

What kind of support and resources are necessary for a first year peer coach?

Support from Administrators

As I began work on my coaching plan for the quarter, it was apparent from the questions on the plan, that it is crucial to acquire support from an administrator. Thoughtful questions included, “How will you communicate with your administrator and other staff about this coaching plan? and What resources will support your coaching?” (Foltos, 2015). I wondered, what makes this support system between a principal and coach imperative for becoming a successful coach.

According to Foltos (2013), “Building schoolwide coaching programs is something they [coaches] can’t do alone. They need support from their school’s principal and their colleagues” (p.172). Coaches from a school in Dallas shared that their successes as coaches were due to the vision, guidance, and support of the principals and assistant principals. Therefore, the relationship between the coaches and the school’s leadership is critical in sustaining coaching and in “building capacity for innovation” (p. 173).

Besides needing support from school leaders, coaches are encouraged to share information with their principals and other teachers about their work surrounding coaching. By sharing their successes with school staff, it reinforces the powerful work being done by coaches and teachers using the coaching model (Foltos, 2013).

On another note, in Aguilar’s (2014) blog, she mentioned that while it is vital that coaches work closely with the administrators at the school, she suggests that school principals not conduct the coach’s evaluation. Coaches need to be evaluated by someone at the district level because if the administrator is the evaluator, “the already-present complicated power dynamic between the two is heightened” (Aguilar, 2014). Then Aguilar (2014) suggests several ways to help administrators better understand the importance of creating the support that is required for the success of their coaches.

Support with Professional Development

In addition to receiving support from administrators and districts, coaches need professional development. In Aguilar’s (2013) last chapter, “What is Professional Development for Coaches?” she provides a list of learning activities to help coaches improve on their skills. I have highlighted three of these:

  1. Role playing with other coaches to improve coaching skills.
  2. Use the Consultancy Protocol a process for helping individuals to work through a problem. A Consultancy is a structured process for helping an individual or a team think more expansively about a particular, concrete dilemma.
  3. Journal writing about the  daily events of your coaching experiences. Aguilar (2013) suggests a minimum of 15 minutes daily of journal writing reflecting on questions such as:
  • What happened in today’s coaching session?
  • What was challenging in today’s coaching session?
  • What kind of impact did your coaching have on your collaborative teacher? How do you know?
  • What indicators were there today that your co-peer made progress towards his/her goals? What are the next steps? (p. 284)

Also Foltos (2013) encourages coaches to communicate their learning and the work of others by joining teacher blogs or other online tools to share collaborative activities (p. 174). In, Student-Centered Coaching: A guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals, author Diane Sweeney also emphasizes the importance for coaches to maintain their skills through professional development with a coaching team (2013). Sweeney along with other coaches, developed a model for supporting a team of coaches. These components are professional development sessions that focus on the following:

  • coaching practices,
  • curriculum and instruction,
  • small-group coaching observations, and
  • one-on-one coaching with another coach (Sweeney, 2013, pp. 162-163).

The small-group coaching teams set up coaching labs to support their new coaches.

Coaching labs provide coaches with the opportunity to meet with a small group of colleagues and observe a fellow coach who acts as a lab host. The goal of the labs is to provide coaches with time to observe one another’s practice, as well as time for rigorous reflection. Participating coaches walk away with new ideas and tools for their own work and are able to take time in their busy professional lives to reflect (cited by Sweeney, 2013, p. 165).

Sweeney (2013) also suggests a “year at a glance” calendar to support new coaches and it can be used as a tool for developing a curriculum of coaching support (p.164).

By researching this last piece of the coaching standard (6): Build content knowledge and to “regularly evaluate and reflect on their [technology coaches] professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experience,” it has led me to reflect over my own learning experience for the quarter.

My Peer Coaching Plan:

As mentioned earlier, one of the requirements for the Educational Technology Leadership course was to use the learned skills and to coach a peer through a lesson plan. After the lesson was taught, we worked together to develop a lesson improvement plan. My coaching plan involved collaboration with a Kindergarten teacher to create a lesson for introducing the computer station. Later, students would work independently using reading and math programs to support their learning. The goals aligned well with the district’s technology standards and the Kindergarten CCSS for English Language Arts. Below are questions for the reflection piece for this course. The following questions were provided by the professors to assist me through the reflection piece of my coaching experience.

What worked well?

Sitting down with the collaborative teacher and co-planning the norms and expectations of the computer station worked well. By discussing our plans, it helped us to think through the different aspects of the lesson and the areas of concern. Once the lesson activity was designed, I had several opportunities to observe the students’ in the computer station. This gave me insight into our lesson and the learning of the students. Later, the collaborative teacher and I reflected on the lesson and then determined our next step in the lesson. Also, I liked that we set short and long term goals for this project. As I continue to support my colleague, it will be interesting to see how the students have progressed in this workstation.

What needs to change?

Time to meet was a challenge for us. I felt we had to rush through our collaborative time or we had to eat and talk about our plan during lunch. One change that I envision would be to set an appropriate time to focus on this task. Another is to begin collaborating with my colleagues  at the beginning of the year, instead of later in the school year. My colleague suggested having a calendar of set times and days for visiting and planning with each other.

Also, I would consider how to better incorporate 21st century skills at the computer station. For some students this may be their first time to encounter computers. I am thinking that the sooner in the school year we introduce the computer work station to the students, the sooner they will develop the computer skills that will allow them to utilize the learning programs.

What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses as a coach?

My strengths are that I have many years of experience in content knowledge and pedagogy to support and co-plan with classroom teachers. Areas of weakness that I struggle with are carefully crafting questions that lead teachers to develop independent thinking or solutions. Then also I need to paraphrase more during our conversations, so that I clearly understand my partner’s conversation.

Based on your learning and experiences to date, what additional learning and support is necessary to make you more successful?

Additional support that I would need is to work with other peer coaches in the district, especially with the technology coaches. I foresee joining monthly coaches’ meetings and visiting other buildings to become familiar with the district’s technology coaching model.

Also at this time, I need more opportunities and PD in working with adult learners. I am realizing that teaching adults versus younger students is astoundingly different. As a new coach, I need to be better prepared to work with adult learners.

What can you do to meet these needs on your own?

To continue improving on my technology knowledge, I have registered for several technology professional development courses provided by the district. My professors have suggested completing online certification programs that are used in my district to support my learning. Using social media such as Twitter and joining discussions on #etcoaches will keep me up to date on the discussions surrounding coaching.

What can your school provide?

I would need continuing support from my administrators and staff to sustain my efforts as a coach. There needs to be opportunities for me to work with a variety of staff members to build capacity for teaching and learning. In addition, I envision time to share my work as a coach with the teachers and staff. To communicate regularly about the wonderful teaching and learning that is happening at our school. 


Reflecting over my question stated at the beginning of this post, “What kind of support and resources are necessary for a first year peer coach?” My answer becomes quite clear. For a new coach to be successful there needs to be a deep commitment from administrators and teachers when using the coaching model. To support coaching within schools and districts, coaches need professional development with other coaches. Coaches must maintain their own learning by reaching out to professional learning communities that will enhance and impact their learning. I realize that the first year as a coach will be a challenge, but I am encouraged to know that there are resources to support new coaches.


Aguilar, E. (2013). Art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. Somerset, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from

Aguilar, E. (2014, October 9). 10 ways for administrators to support coaches. (Weblog post). Retrieved from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Foltos, L. (2015). Peer Coaching Plan [Class handout]. Digital Education Leadership, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.

National School Reform Faculty. (n.d.). Consultancy protocol. Retrieved from

Sweeney, D. Developing systems and structures to support coaches. Student-centered coaching: A guide for k-8 coaches and principals (pp.161-164). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wicks, D. & Foltos, L. (2015). Educational Technology Leadership. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington.

Using Formative Assessments for Lesson Improvement

During the quarter for the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, the focus has been to develop coaching skills, to understand the role of a peer coach, to define effective learning, and to incorporate 21st century learning. And now module four probes further into coaches collaborating with peers to improve learning activities (Wicks and Foltos, 2015). The ISTE Coaching Standards for this particular week, continues to address standards 1 and 2: Visionary Leadership and Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, which aligns well with lesson design and lesson improvement.

Process for Improving Lessons

Process for Improving Lessons

Examining the Lesson-Improvement Process

The first building block in the process of lesson improvement is to create a task for students. A task that is meaningful for students, includes real-world problems, and problem solving skills (Foltos, 2013). Part of creating an effective task is to use essential questions, that involve students to create products that demonstrate their learning  according to Grant Wiggins’ (November 15, 2007) article, What is an Essential Question? The lesson improvement process then begins with creating student tasks.

Next coaches and teachers should define standards, such as state standards, 21st century skills, and technology standards, that address the lesson and align with the skills needed for mastering of the content (Foltos, 2013). Aligning the standards along with creating a task supports the lesson improvement process. Related to defining the standards, is the task of developing skills that align within the learning activity or context. “How does the learning activities address the standards? Is there any prerequisite knowledge necessary for learning?” (Foltos, 2013)

Then the student directions are important when looking at the lesson improvement process. Students need choice in what and how they learn, collaborative opportunities with their peers, resources to engage in the tasks, and the student directions must be aligned with the standards that are being taught (Foltos, 2013).

Another important building block in the process of lesson improvement involves reflection and feedback by the coach and the learning partner. This crucial part of the process provides the learning partner with valuable information on the work towards improving the lesson activity. This also, according to Foltos (2013), provides an opportunity for coaches to practice their communication skills when offering feedback to their peers.

Along with providing reflection and feedback to improve lesson designs, coaches and learning partners must examine the assessment plan.  Bransford and colleagues (cited by Foltos, 2013, p. 129) suggest that along with summative assessments, “educators must use formative assessment, which gives learners opportunities to receive feedback at benchmarks along the way, ‘to revise and improve the quality of their learning.’ Many educators use formative assessments such as rubrics, checklists, self-assessments, and observations to monitor their students’ progress. The assessment plan of a lesson needs to align with the standards and the learning activities so that it accurately measures the learning of the student (Foltos, 2013).

The last building block of the lesson improvement plan is to identify the curriculum resources, information resources, and technology resources that are important to improving the lesson.

By communicating and working collaboratively on improving teaching practices and learning for students, the lesson improvement process guides coaches and learning partners through a step by step process for effective teaching.

After spending some time reflecting on the lesson improvement process with colleagues and my learning partner, I decided to revisit the formative assessment piece of the process by asking,

What practices could coaches use with their learning partners to improve the quality of learning tasks? How do formative assessments impact effective teaching and learning?

Using Formative Assessments to Inform

Heritage’s (2007) article, Formative Assessment: What do teachers need to know and do? provides an in depth look into formative assessment practices and the value of using these practices in instructional planning. The author defines formative assessment as “a systematic process to continuously gather evidence” (p. 141), or data on learning. By examining the data, teachers identify the current level of learning and then readjust the lessons to meet the needs of students (p. 141). And this  is crucial for coaches and teachers when examining ways to improve lessons. According to Heritage, educators need four knowledge base skills when utilizing formative assessment: 1) domain knowledge, 2) pedagogical content knowledge, 3) knowledge of students’ previous learning, and 4) knowledge of assessment (p.142). Below are brief explanations of these skills and its impact on teachers and their practices.

Knowledge Base Skills

First, teachers need to understand the concepts within a domain and to demonstrate understanding of the learning progression towards the desired learning goal. Furthermore, teachers need to examine student performance to determine if the goals were mastered and if not, then to  provide appropriate feedback. Along with understanding student metacognition, teachers need to help students self-assess their learning. By recognizing and monitoring their own learning, students are capable of using strategies to move forward in their learning (Heritage, 2007, p.142).

Then, pedagogical content knowledge is important because teachers must be familiar with  multiple models of teaching practices and instructional strategies. Having this knowledge guides teachers to better differentiate the instruction for all students (p. 143).

Next teachers need to build on students’ previous learning which includes: 1) students’ level of knowledge and skills in the content area, 2) students’ understanding of concepts, 3) the attitudes that students are developing, and 4) students’ level of language proficiency (p.143).

Finally, teachers must clearly understand the range of formative assessments and the purpose “to promote further learning, its validity hinges on how effectively learning takes place in subsequent instruction” (Heritage, 2009, p. 143).

Heritage’s article distinctly emphasizes that teachers need basic knowledge skills to further improve on lessons which impact student learning.

Using Formative Assessments to Bridge Teaching and Learning

 Wiliam (2013) began his discussion on formative assessments with the statement, “Our students do not learn what we teach.” Reading further to better understand this quote, Wiliam suggested that having carefully planned lessons and learning activities does not necessarily guarantee that students learned the content. But by using assessments, educators can determine “whether the instructional activities in which we engaged our students resulted in the intended learning” (p. 15).

This article is another reminder for educators that there are many layers to formative assessment. Coaching a collaborative peer through the different layers is necessary when enhancing a lesson plan or learning activity. According to Wiliam (2013), “The term formative should apply not to the assessment but to the function that the evidence generated by the assessment actually serves” (p. 15).  My colleague, Annie Tremonte commented on the function of assessments as, Constantly a challenge and this requires TIME. I have struggled to get to this place with groups I’ve worked with. We can become really good at collecting data, but getting buy-in to spend time working on what to do with it is still tough”(A. Tremonte, personal communication, November 22, 2015). Also adding to this conversation was my professor, L. Foltos, “Teachers may not be sure what to do with the data collected, and may turn to their coach to turn the data into something they can take action on” (L. Foltos, personal communication, November 23, 2015). Thinking about these two comments, coaches may need to use a process or a tool for diving into data such as Dianne Leahy’s Looking at Data to support their learning partner.

When there is time to look at the data, formative assessments are usually used as a quick check of whether students understood the learning target. Then the teacher provides feedback to individual students or with a small group of students who “misunderstood” the concept. But Wiliam suggests to delve further into how the assessment will best serve the needs of the students by considering the following  key points in learning :

  1. Where the learner is right now
  2. Where the learner needs to be
  3. How to get there (2013, p.16)

The last point, how to get there, provides a starting place for coaches and peers to begin the conversations for setting academic goals and co-planning strategies to improve the lesson and the learning of students.

“There will never be an optimal model, but as long as teachers continue to investigate that extraordinarily complex relationship between “What did I do as a teacher?” and “What did my students learn?” good things are likely to happen” (Wiliam, 2013, p.20).  After reading this quote by Wiliam, I am reminded again that there is not a teaching model that works for every classroom. Teaching is based on the instruction surrounding the student, the teacher’s style of teaching, and the context of the situation. Using formative assessments, as mentioned by authors Heritage and Wiliam, are just one piece of coaching that moves collaborative teachers toward the improvement of their lessons.

In reviewing the coaching standards and the learning objectives for this module, effective coaching takes practice and knowledge in understanding the role of a peer coach, defining effective learning,  incorporating 21st century learning, and in collaborating with peers when improving learning activities. Examining formative assessment is one building block towards working on lesson improvement. My research has led me to believe that as a coach, I need to probe further when utilizing formative assessments and to align these assessments better with the state standards when working with peers to improve a lesson.

Self-Assessment for Module 4

To assess my goals for this module, I discovered the Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning (Chappuis, 2000, p. 224) tool to analyze my learning.

Blog 4-5References

Chappuis, J. (2009). Seven strategies of assessment for learning. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Heritage, M. (2007). Formative assessment: What do teachers need to know and do? Phi Delta Kappan, 89 (2). Retrieved from

Leahy, D. (2004). ATLAS Looking at Data. Retrieved from

Wicks, D. & Foltos, L. (2015). Educational Technology Leadership. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington.

Wiggins, G. (2007). What is an essential question? Retrieved from

Wiliam, D. (2013). Assessment: The bridge between teaching and learning. Voices from the Middle, 21(2), pp. 15-20. Retrieved from