I was excited to see Evidence Based Practice (EBP) as one of the topics for this year’s class because I have been looking for ways to show that the skills I teach during my library classes are skills that will help my students succeed not only in school but later on in their life when they are in college or working at their first job. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out a way to prove this using data. After filling out the SLMPE Rubric this year and my principal’s question, “How are you going to improve your score?”, I realized that I needed to create a long term plan for the library and in this long term plan, I needed to address student achievement.
After attending several sessions on EBP at AASL this year, I still didn’t really have a clear idea of how exactly to measure the impact of my classes on my students’ achievement. With further reflection, I began to realize that one of my weaknesses is in getting closure with my students because I don’t give out grades and therefore don’t always follow through on assessing their projects. This is something I need to work on in the future and EBP gives me the incentive to figure it out. But where do I start?
Since I attended Ross Todd’s AASL workshop, The 4th E = Evidence!, I decided to look again at the EBP Action Plan Template and use it as a starting point. One of the areas that I think I am strongest is in formulating a question that requires students to use what they have learned into a synthesized answer. But how do I measure this? Looking over the workshop’s slides, I found on slide 38, “Students’ final products showed improved ability to analyze and synthesize information.” This is what I would like to measure but how do I measure that they have improved? Is this from the beginning of the year to the end of the year? Is it from one project to the next project? Is it from the beginning of one project to the end of the project? I still have so many more questions than answers at this point.
And then after discussing my mental block with another teacher, I had an aha! moment where I realized that I am overthinking it all. If I am looking for evidence to prove that my students have improved their ability to synthesize information, then I just need to look at the answers that the students have provided to my deeper thinking question. If students successfully answered the question using information they have learned through their research project, then they have improved their ability to synthesize information. So if 18 out of 20 students complete this task successfully, then I have evidence that 90% of students have improved their ability to synthesize information. With this in mind, now all I need to do is go collect that evidence and continue to create questions that make my students think harder.
The past few years my school has struggled on standardized tests. In an attempt to increase scores, my building is focusing on increasing the complexity of our questions and also working on the student’s writing process. For the past several years, I have helped teachers move their projects away from just regurgitating facts to having the students create something new with their learning. I have used deeper thinking questions as well as other strategies to help increase my students’ achievement related to question complexity.
This year I have focused more of my efforts on the writing process with my students in grades 1 through 6. I have required more writing in general just by having them write down what they have learned but I have also started to work on the review and edit process as well which I have never done in the past. I have even introduced some of my young students to Google Docs which gives me the power to look at the different stages of their writing and how it specifically changed from a rough draft into a final, mostly perfect copy.
I really liked Joyce Valenza’s idea of an end of the year focus group and learning from students what they feel they learned and what could be improved. This is something I will be doing this year and hopefully many years to come.
With the clearer vision of where to look for data, I will pursue additional ways to gather including reintroducing an exit ticket that I used for part of the year last year but stopped when the research projects began. I now realize that I should have continued to ask students to reflect on what they accomplished that class. If nothing else, this would have been a good way for the students to reflect on how well (or not) they worked that day.
I am a long way from feeling confident with EBP but also feel that I am on the right path and just need to remember to find it when I get distracted by the proverbial squirrel.