Do I Add More Supports, or Change My Teaching?

This is an essential question to ask when a student struggles. It’s an essential question to engage educators in asking when they analyze data together to improve teaching for equity and EL excellence.

I ask it frequently when I teach—and the answer is never the same. The answer is always specific to the students in front of me and what I see. This question is an invitation for humility and reflection.

Essentially, any time a student “doesn’t get it” or “doesn’t engage,” I’m reflecting: is this an indication I need to provide more supports like reteaching or feedback in this lesson? Or, is this evidence that I need to gut this lesson and start over with a different approach? It is a combination of both?

Be In Inquiry About Your Impact

This inquiry stance is dramatically different than assuming my curriculum and my lesson plans are golden, and that if kids struggle, they need the help, not me. It’s different than always reacting to low performance with reteaching, extra scaffolds, or a referral to a specialist.

An inquiry stance dares me to question even a strategy I LOVE, a teaching strategy I ENJOY, and even (gulp) a teaching strategy I trained every single teacher in my district to use. An inquiry stance dares me, my team, and our entire school system to evolve.

Our observation data is key in assessing whether we need to step up the scaffolds or dramatically change our methods. As I described in previous posts, to get good observation data, we first need to get clarity about our learning intentions, then actively engage students in high-level tasks relevant to our goals. Then, observe with curiosity to learn what strengths students bring to this task, and what challenges they experience.

That’s the easy part.

In our next post, we’ll get more nuanced about what we see (and don’t see) in a lesson, and how that shapes our next steps.

(Note to readers: Due to sudden closures during COVID-19, I paused the next blogs in this series so that I can produce content relevant to the urgent needs of our communities at this time. This series will return, when we can apply the learning to classroom teaching).

I lead professional learning and design curriculum to realize the vision that every kindergartener who enters public schools will graduate high-school prepared to thrive in a changing world.

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