We did not have the opportunity to address some of the questions asked during the “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th. For the next few BACC posts, I will share my experience and perspective on some of those unanswered and sometimes thorny questions.
Several participants asked questions about assessment. One participant from Virginia asked about informal assessments. Another from Fort Mill noted that she does not “give grades” in “library class.” Other participants who were not school librarians noted that they were pleased to be “reminded” of the benefits of coteaching with their school librarians. I inferred that they were including joint assessment as one of those benefits.
In my experience, sharing responsibility for assessments can be one of a school librarian’s calling cards—a way to introduce a coteaching benefit that many classroom teachers and specialists will respond to positively. Designing, gathering, and analyzing formative assessment data collected before, during, or after a lesson or unit of instruction is an essential activity for all educators.
When educators coplan for assessment, they can practice articulating a rationale for the lesson or unit of instruction. In “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline,” Bradley A. Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling suggest that coherent instruction helps educators test and refine hypotheses about effective teaching and learning. In their article, they provide a series of questions that can help educators self-assess their lessons. One example is this: “What evidence did we collect during and after the lesson to help us evaluate student progress and study the relationship between teaching and learning” (26).
One of the critical skills for 21st-century school librarians engaged in collaborative lesson planning is being able to align standards and to codevelop learning experiences with student outcomes in mind. Many school districts across the country have focused professional development on Understanding by Design (UbD) as codified by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. In short: When educators plan, they begin by specifying what they want students to know and to be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit of instruction. Educators also determine how they will measure student learning outcomes at the beginning of the planning process.
Codeveloping anticipation guides, exit slips, graphic organizers, checklists, rubrics, and other assessment and student self-assessment tools is an excellent strategy for creating the context/expectation for shared responsibility for assessment. With this level of collaboration, most educators will feel comfortable with each other’s assessments of student work. However, one excellent strategy to help ensure inter-rater reliability is to coassess a few “anchor papers/products” that demonstrate various levels of mastery. Then both educators will know when they see an exemplary product, an average one, and/or a “needs more work” example. They will also learn when their instruction supported individual student’s learning and when it did not.
When you coplan in the role of a school librarian, keeping the focus on outcomes helps position your collaborative work and the role of the school library program at the center of academic achievement. This is essential to the value others place on your work, especially principals who are charged with the role of instructional leaders. When we plan appropriately for instruction, coteach, and coasssess lessons, we experience job-embedded professional develop and provide the same for our colleagues. We also serve as co-instructional leaders with our principals.
The bottom line: Educators must assess student learning outcomes in order to measure their teaching effectiveness. Let’s keep on improving our instruction by coplanning for assessment and sharing responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of our teaching.
Ermeling, Bradley A., and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling. “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 22-26.
Image Caption: Fifth-grade students completing a graphic organizer for the Advanced Building Background Knowledge lesson in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA, 2013).