How do we as educators ensure that the empowering intent of assessment remains front and center, while helping students built self-efficacy skills in tandem with content skills? In this episode, we present the five principles of assessment empowerment—learner context, learning environments and relationships, appropriate purpose, responsive learning cycles, communication—and offer listeners strategies they can try for each. Our guests are E. Caroline Wylie, principal research scientist and research director in the K12 Teaching, Learning and Assessment center at ETS, and Erin Beard, content design coordinator for NWEA and host of the previous season of The Continuing Educator.
Jacob: Welcome to "The Continuing Educator." I'm your host, Jacob Bruno. As a reminder, this season on "The Continuing Educator," we focused on building student agency. We've explored student agency from so many different angles and perspectives this season. And I'll be honest, I've been looking forward to this episode since we began planning the topics for the season.
Here in the seventh episode, we'll be discussing whether formative assessment and responsive teaching practices empower student agency. Spoiler alert, they do. But we've got two great experts here who are going to help us dig in. Now, these terms may seem familiar for some or new or maybe unaligned to others. Bear with us. The great guests we have today are going to help us drive to clarity and, importantly, action and application in our classrooms.
So today, I'm happy to welcome my first guest, Dr. Erin Beard. Erin Beard has more than 17 years of practice as a secondary teacher leader in Southern Oregon, where she lives with her partner, three children, four cats, one dog. I want to say, "and a partridge in a pear tree."
Erin is a content designer at NWEA and received her doctorate in educational methods, policy, and leadership from the University of Oregon. Her dissertation explored the intersection of student-involved assessment for learning, equity, and trauma-informed practices. She is currently collaborating with her colleagues to generate professional learning experiences and thought leadership in areas of responsive teaching and learning, student goal setting, and quality classroom assessment. Welcome, Erin.
Erin: Thanks, Jacob.
Jacob: Glad you're here.
Erin: Me, too.
Jacob: I am also so excited to welcome our second guest, Dr. Caroline Wylie. Caroline is a principal research scientist and research director in the K12 Learning, Teaching, and Assessment Center at ETS. She completed her postgraduate certificate in teaching high school mathematics and a doctorate in educational assessment from Queen's University in Belfast.
Her current research centers on issues around balanced assessment systems with a focus on the use of formative assessment to improve classroom teaching and learning. She has led studies related to the creation of effective, scalable, and sustainable professional development focused on formative assessment, on the formative use of diagnostic questions for classroom-based assessment, assessment literacy, and on the role of learning progressions to support formative assessment in mathematics and science.
You can see we have two experts here in the areas of formative assessment and responsive teaching and learning. One other thing I'd like to call out about Dr. Wylie is, while she's been engaged in a wide variety of teacher, professional learning projects throughout her career, the ones I'm most excited about is her early days at ETS as the developer of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certificate for middle and high school science teachers, and elementary school art teachers.
She is currently the principal investigator of an Institute for Educational Sciences-funded project that is examining the technical characteristics of an observation protocol focused on formative assessment for use by teacher peers to support professional learning and the relationship between observations, feedback, and changes to practice. Caroline, welcome to the show.
Caroline: Thank you.
Jacob: I'm so glad you're both here. You bring such expertise in an area that, frankly, I think, as educators, we're never quite there. We can always get better in terms of our practice around formative assessment or responsive teaching and learning.
But before we get too far, let's start with these definitions. I mentioned formative assessment. It appeared in both of your introductions, responsive teaching and learning, others may say assessment for learning. Caroline, we'll start with you. Are these synonyms? And what are we after when we're talking about these terms?
Caroline: Sure, that's a good place to start. They're very, very close. I think they share a lot of features in common. So formative assessment is the process of students and teachers both eliciting evidence of learning, thinking about where learning is going against a set of clearly and commonly understood learning goals, success criteria, and using evidence of where students are to make decisions about where to go next. And that might be the next question to ask. It might be deciding how to group students differently. It might be students deciding what they need to do next.
So, in some ways, maybe responsive teaching is a subset of formative assessment because it's focused on the teacher being responsive rather than formative assessment, which has both the student and the teacher role in that process.
Jacob: Very insightful. Thank you for that clarification. Erin, what would you add?
Erin: For me, I think I see formative as part of the responsive teaching and learning cycle that hopefully the teacher and the learners are partners through the whole cycle. And they are working together to respond and make decisions from the beginning stages that continue throughout the whole cycle, which is making sure they have solid learning relationships in order to elicit and use evidence.
It takes a lot of trust. It takes collaboration, and that doesn't necessarily come to us naturally. We have to practice that, nurture it. We're working on how do we interrupt some assumptions we have about our learners and actually collect information from them about their strengths, their interests, their funds of knowledge, and have that inform as we move forward in this learning partnership.
And then taking that foundational work into well, what are our goals, how do we know how to get to our goals, why do we have these goals, and why, in the students' point of view. And then moving through some of what people are familiar with the formative cycle, formative assessment cycle.
After that, we're, "Okay. Now that we know our goals, how we're going to measure the success? Now let's move forward and do this together, responding, making those decisions together about, do we need to move sideways, forward, or backward? What's next? How do we celebrate when we've hit those goals and stretch beyond them, determine what is next in the bigger picture?"
So that might be, what's the next set of goals, or what's the next placement, or whatever the case might be. The whole cycle is full of responsive moves by educators and the learners.
Jacob: Erin, thank you for that. And thank you as well, Caroline. I want to stick with this for just another moment because I believe that I know. In your careers, and you both have worked in this space for quite some time, most of your professional careers I would offer, I continue to encounter practitioners, policymakers, leaders, that continue to conflate formative assessment as a noun instead of a verb. Why do you think that is? And for our listeners today, why is it important that we clarify in our mind what we're after here is, as you both indicated, action oriented? Caroline, let's start with you.
Caroline: Yeah, I think for folks that are outside of the classroom, not involved in the day-to-day teaching and learning process, and they think about what is within their control, and often that's purchasing something, it's a lot easier to think about formative assessment as a thing that you buy, a system that students log into and test, and you get a report on a, you know, a decision then about what to do next. I think that's easier to make sense of, in some ways, if you're not close to the classroom.
But it reduces so much of what is possible and takes away, in many ways, the role of the student as a learner. And I know a lot of this season has been focused on agency. And so thinking about the part of formative assessment that is really about actively engaging students in understanding what are the learning goals.
And, you know, the more Erin talked, the more I'm like, "Oh, these things are synonymous. They're not different." That, you know, as part of the formative assessment process, you want students to understand the learning goals, think about what they know already with relation to those goals, bring in their funds of knowledge, because that's a shared... It's an individual set of understandings that students have and then it becomes a classroom community set of resources that become part of the learning.
And so that process is what we want teachers to be really thinking about, that eliciting of evidence and not a score to say, "A student scored, you know, this on a particular test." But I've got evidence of students are struggling with something, they're able to do something, they're able to work together to deepen their knowledge because they each have a part of the understanding that's emerging.
And so that's more complicated. It requires teachers to have learning opportunities. It requires teachers to have opportunities to work together to develop shared learning goals, to work together to think about how to elicit funds of knowledge, to work together to figure out what to do with those funds of knowledge once you know about them.
And so, buying a test is a whole lot easier than supporting the breadth of learning. But the payoffs, I think, the research would say, the payoffs are much better.
Jacob: Let's stick with that question of the research for a second, if you don't mind. You both have dedicated the better portion of your careers to these topics. I suppose, what I'm after here is why? And what is the research that tells you this is not only a good investment of your time and professional efforts, but also that of educators and the students and the ecosystem around the student as well? Erin, do you mind if we start with you?
Erin: Sure. I think I learned the hard way, like many other educators do, that I was creating more work for myself and not necessarily contributing to the learning success of my students and had many great mentors who persistently helped me reflect on my practice and keep, you know, figuring out why, asking why, being in involved in group or individual inquiry. "Why am I feeling so exhausted? I'm, you know, checking off this list of things. I'm supposed to be doing peer feedback. I'm supposed to be doing self-assessment. Why aren't these things working?"
And I think one of the reasons can be is teachers, like me, educators, think assessment is a thing and not understanding that it's really this holistic process that takes a shift in mindset, a shift, I described, from being a learner manager, which was kind of traditional models, we managed students, that was the expectation, to now we want to make sure we're empowering all students to learn and grow.
And so that takes a shift that impacts then, "Okay, well, what structures then in my day-to-day do I need to shift to make sure I am actually empowering students, not managing them?" And that takes time. And then the practices in those structures, what do I need to shift?
And with a lot of help, with a lot of reading and study, I, slowly but surely, made shifts where I started to feel the relief that I was authentically sharing the hard, heavy lift of learning with my students. And their learning outcomes were better. If you want to get into quantitative data, you know, their summative grades, for example, I had to do a lot less retakes, redoes at the end of a quarter.
I was a secondary teacher, so you can imagine what that can still feel like. Because we engaged in responsive learning cycles throughout our units and our learning journey, there was a lot less misunderstanding, confusion, stress at the end, in those reporting times because they were an active agent in the cycle.
So that's what fires me up is like, "Oh, man, I wish I knew the secret sauce way earlier." You know, I want to share what was helpful that I experienced as educator and what I know as my students experienced and share that information.
Jacob: That's compelling. Erin. Thank you for sharing your journey there. Caroline, how about a bit of yours and if you don't mind speaking to kind of the global research in these areas as well?
Caroline: Sure. So my journey was a little different in that I am a math teacher by training. I trained as a math teacher when I was in Belfast and moved to the States to work at ETS for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Project and spent several years on that project.
And it was an amazing project to be a part of because I saw so many videos of classroom practice. I mean, that's two of the assessment entries as part of that portfolio or video. So as someone who had trained as a math teacher but really had, you know, not much classroom experience, this was revelatory. It gave me language to talk about teaching and learning and assessment. That was great. And it was an opportunity to see some really amazing teaching practice. That project is looking to certify and recognize accomplished teaching.
But finally, there came a point where I was interested in not just being part of a process that said, "Yes, this is accomplished teaching," or "No, this is not yet there." I wanted to be part of something that was more about how do we support teachers in a learning journey become more accomplished.
And I was fortunate enough that Dylan Wiliam had just come to ETS in the early 2000s, where he was looking to think about the work that he had done with Paul Black. They've done this huge literature review. They had pulled together an amazing body of work that was suggesting that certain practices that we now sort of think of as different components of formative assessment have positive impact on student learning. But he was ready to also say, "But what does it take?" They had done some work in England around training teachers but wanted to think about doing that at a different scale.
And so this was an opportunity for a team of us at ETS to really work closely with him and to grow in our own understanding of how do we translate this body of research into knowledge and ideas and frameworks that teachers could not be just handed over as, "Here's the thing that you need to start doing, you know, incorporate these top five practices into your classroom, and you know, everything will be great." But how do we help teachers reflect on their own practice and make decisions about what to change and doing that in the context of learning communities?
So, you know, as a group of folks working with Dylan, we certainly felt very compelled by the research evidence that he had done and that others, many others, were bringing to this area. And then we had opportunities to work alongside teachers and first, you know, develop our own ways of talking about formative assessment, develop our ways of talking about teacher learning, develop then ways that allowed us to be a little more hands off, and so thinking about the role of teacher learners, working with their own colleagues and peers. And that has sort of ended up being, you know, part of a lot of what we did, and ways in which I've continued to think about that role of teacher learners in a variety of ways.
Jacob: I really appreciate that. In both of your answers, there's such rich experience so much to dig into. Obviously, listeners, we're not going to be able to unpack everything in this conversation. But I hope that you and that we all will continue to dig into as Erin and Caroline both share these certainly high leverage practices with a deep research base.
And so Caroline, you mentioned Black and Wiliam's research. We see this echoed in John Hattie's meta-analyses as well, right? Several of the highest leverage practices incorporate elements of whether we call it assessment for learning, formative assessment, responsive teaching and learning cycles. I'm seeing nods. You can't see them. But I am getting, I think, unanimous agreement, is that fair? Thanks.
Erin: I mean, I want to take a moment to fan girl. Dr. Wylie is here who, you know, her work has certainly influenced me in my journey. And I so love that you bring up Dylan Wiliam because, you know, he has certainly influenced me, influenced us.
I mean, one of the inspirations for the shift in, you know, "Do we say formative? Do we say responsive?" He put out a tweet at some point saying that, you know, he called it a mistake to call the process formative assessment because people get hung up on the word assessment. He said, "I wish I would have used the word like responsive."
So out of honor to you, to Dylan Wiliam, to others who have been at this work for a very long time that we hear it, we're using it, and we're trying to contribute as well.
Jacob: You both are very focused on how we can help educators understand and grow in their practice in these areas. And so, I think you both mentioned PLCs or learning communities or learning teams or what have you, this sustainable community of practice, ways to dig into teaching and learning, and the intentionality we need to have here.
I suppose, before we get too deep down that path, and I do want to come back to it, again, the topic of the season is building student agency. So I'm wondering if we can take just a moment for you to draw the connections that you see between the topic today, responsive teaching and learning or formative assessment, as we have been discussing, and the connections, the enabling factors to building student agency. Whoever like to jump in first?
Erin: Well, I think, for me, it was really looking at the Dylan Wiliam framework for formative assessment and like the outcome. The outcome is we have self-directed learners. And until I really, you took the time to dig into that framework, that didn't necessarily stick with me. I was hung up on the practices, the components, rather than, what are these components? Where are we going with it? What's the point? Is it just to check these things off the list that I did them or I did them with my students?
But no, we're doing this in a way that results in student self-efficacy agency. So that was the beginning of the aha of, "Oh, I have to shift my way of thinking about the aim of this." And in the research, this can be called like there's the letter and the spirit of assessment for learning. So I got the letter, but I didn't have the spirit.
And so working, again with help and slowly but surely understanding the spirit, as I'm doing this, to grow and eventually hand over this to students. They're not just supposed to be successful in my class. We want healthy, happy, contributing human beings. And so with that, I worked on making sure my spirit was just as robust as my letter, putting those together, so I could partner with my students to make that shift, to put the framework that existed for a long time. It just took me having that realization to enact it properly.
Caroline: I think that's great. I think that partnership with students is so powerful. And I think that is the connection between all of these ideas.
So I was working on a presentation for next week for a teacher conference with a colleague at work, and we're thinking about formative assessments and, you know, where teachers and students are now in this almost kind of sort of post-COVID place where we are. And so for the presentation, we're focusing in on pre-assessment and the importance of thinking about really understanding where students are in their learning at the beginning of a new unit, given there may have been and likely was variations and interrupted learning from last year.
But the other part of what we're talking about, partly because I've been listening to the podcast, I've been thinking about student agency. And so we're incorporating that as part of the workshop. And I said to Laura today, you know, as students see teachers engaging in pre-assessment and see them do something with that information, and use that to inform learning, it's sending, I think, a really important signal that the teacher believes that learning is malleable, that the students are all in different places, and that they all will get towards an end goal.
And I think in some ways that modeling is such an important piece of them supporting students take on those beliefs about their own learning and allowing them to not just think about where they are with respect to a set of learning goals, but also think about on how they want to add, to modify, take on greater ownership of learning goals in the future. But I think that modeling behavior is really such a critical connection between all of these ideas.
Jacob: Wow. Allow me to fan girl for a moment. Can I say that?
I really appreciate that. And it occurs to me that this is no quick fix. You know, Erin talks about the awakening in her practice and the gradual change. Just, again, I'm seeing nodding that this is a journey. This is not the work of a workshop or the work of a Summer Institute even, but this is the work of a career, right?
The things you're talking about, both of you, the aspects of responsive teaching and learning or formative assessment or assessment for learning, they are many and they are varied. I love that you brought up the modeling that, as you know, has been a theme throughout this season.
Another piece that you've both mentioned in one form or another in your conversations is eliciting evidence of student thinking, eliciting evidence of student understanding. And I think I'm reading this right, but I wanted to pressure test this with you, sharing that with students and empowering both myself as a teacher and, in connection, collaboration with the student to take action on that evidence. Is that fair?
Erin: Yeah, I would even say have the students collect it, elicit it and, you know, put them in charge of some of those pieces. Because then, they again have agency. They can see the goal. There's lots of different paths to get there. "What are some other ways that we could collect evidence? How can you be in charge of that? Do you have a better idea of how to collect evidence? Okay, now we've collected it, what are we going to do with it together?"
So it's far more visible and mysterious partnership to the goal, which the ultimate goal is self-efficacy. And we have learning goals to get there on that journey.
Caroline: Yeah, I was just thinking about a teacher that I observed quite a few years ago. But she really was impressive in a number of different ways. But we observed her use an entrance ticket. And just what you're saying about that student role made me think of it.
So she used an entrance ticket at the start of the lesson. She had some suspicions about what maybe students had or had not fully learned from the previous lesson. They wrote it up on sticky notes. And she went through a process with the students of reading out each of the anonymized responses, not asking students to identify, but asking, "Is this evidence of what we are learning? Is this showing the evidence that we want?" She had teach art of, you know, sad face/happy face.
And the majority of the responses were not on the, "We fully got it yet." There was a lot of responses in sort of that in between the line, "We're not quite there yet." And so she finished this, and she said to the class, "So what does this tell me?"
And the students muttered things like, "Oh, we're stupid." "We don't get it." And she immediately jumped in with, "No, that's not it at all. It's that we're not there yet in our learning. But it's okay. I thought that might be the case and I have this extra activity. And that's what we're going to spend the rest of the lesson doing."
And I was talking to Laura about this today. And I said, you know, we're sort of characterizing this as, you know, these students have...they're not yet there in developing their own agency because, you know, there was nothing in how she had evaluated or worked with them to evaluate what each of these sticky notes showed in terms of their learning that was negative, that was punitive, or summative. And yet, the students were still taking away this, "This means we failed." And she was so quick to jump in.
And, you know, we didn't see what happens to that class beyond that one lesson. But, you know, I have to assume that that mindset shifted for students by hearing that. And probably not from that one lesson but hearing repeated reminders from the teacher that they were demonstrating evidence of learning not yet there. And that both the teacher's responsibility and their own responsibility was to figure out what was next.
And so I don't remember why I started that and what did that particular story, but that's...
Jacob: I'm glad you did. It's the beauty of these conversations, right? And we'll pull on the threads of the ideas that we're sharing.
And so I'm going to pull on one as well, Caroline, and it is this notion, right? And I think all of us that have worked in education for more than a year have heard, and the longer we're in, the more we relate to the phrase, "Oh, if I could go back to the first couple years of teaching and apologize to my students," right? Because it is an art form. Our profession is complex. And as we invest in our own practice, you know, as you would expect, you reap the rewards, and your students reap the benefits.
But in hearing you say, the example of the teacher you observed, what really stuck with me, and I'd be interested in your reflections, Erin... And I know, by the way, you have your own... I think your 9-year-old child's teacher is also very gifted in this area, right?
So I say this though, as I'm listening to your reflection, Caroline, the opportunity that that educator took to not only elicit evidence from the students, but then engage them in talking about what the evidence means. That is such a misstep, and I'll tell you, in most of my instructional practice. And that missed opportunity, those things are going on in the minds of so many of our students, "I am checking out," "I am not good," "I am dumb," you know, all of these things.
And luckily for her students, she was able to elevate that and then interrupt that thinking and model, as you say, a powerful pivot in relation to self, and that gets to self-efficacy and student agency. So anyway, I'm making meaning here. Erin, I'll pass to you.
Erin: Oh, I love the example because I think it's a great illustration of the different kinds of evidence that we have all the time. And evidence doesn't just have to be the scores or the outcomes on the tool that you're using, but the observations or the verbal responses or whatever kind of responses from learners of, "What maybe got in your way?" or "What helped?"
So it reminds me, I would play Kahoot! with my students, which is a fun way to do some practice. But I'd also have them do, as they went through, was make little symbols about, what do they think help them get the question, correct? Did they have to peek on their partner's answer? Or, you know, what maybe gotten their way? Why did they choose incorrect answer? Was it a matter of like, actually not knowing the information or the question, I've wrote the question in a bad way, or their finger hit the wrong button?
And so whole of that, their symbols, their verbal explosions...right, you can picture playing Kahoot! with middle schoolers...was all valid, very important evidence for all of us to then come back together and like, "Okay, what does all of this mean?"
It means, "Oh, well, maybe for some of you, Kahoot! is not a great tool to be using because it's too much like a game, and it's distracting, and your finger keeps hitting the wrong button. So what are some other ways you can show me how you're doing?" And put them in charge, like, "You show me. You know the goal, show me what you know."
For others, it was like, "Miss Beard, you write terrible questions. Let me make the next Kahoot!" "Sure, you go for it." So all that information is valuable evidence that's going to inform responsive moves by the learners and the educator.
Caroline: The other funny thing that might teach us, remembering now, about that observation is that to go back to sort of thinking about the teacher learning part as well. So I was there with a colleague, and we were watching this lesson thinking, "Wow, she is so good." And she was a younger teacher, "Maybe younger teachers are coming out of pre-service education just way better, ready to go than I ever felt I was prepared. And so maybe we don't need a whole this professional development work that we're working on." Like, literally, she was so good. That's what we were thinking about.
And, you know, we talked to her at the end of the lesson and said, "Like, where did you go to pre-service? This was, you know, really good." And she finally was like, "No, this is how I've changed my teaching. I've been in a learning community. We've been learning about formative assessments. This is not what I was trained to do."
And so it was not quite gratifying that that's not what's happening in pre-service education. But it was a relief to know that the professional development work we had been working on was not going to be, you know, out of date immediately.
But that value of teachers learning together is, you know, I know something we've come back to a couple of times. And I think those opportunities to then share the kinds of practices, Erin, that you're talking about, become really critical so that teachers aren't all inventing their own ways through the things and sort of unpacking how they learned versus how they want to be [inaudible 00:35:14], the learning community thing. The process, it just seems so important.
Erin: And I like how a learning team, a PLC, can mirror the responsive learning cycle and empowered learning team. Empowered learners can mean adults and not adults. And so we can get an ecosystem going, multiple levels of responsive teaching and learning cycles that align and work together rather than contradict and get in the way.
Jacob: I'm glad you named that because that's, you know, as I'm listening to the two of you, that's where my mind has been going. You know, we're talking, again, our focus is on how to build student agency. And yet, we keep coming back to us as educators and building our own efficacy and our collective teacher efficacy.
So, you know, again, you see, to Caroline's modeling comment earlier, while we can model things like how to do peer-to-peer feedback or how to evaluate evidence of learning, is there also a realm here for our intentional practice improvement to model building efficacy at the teacher level or collective efficacy across a group of teachers and how that plays out of for students and their peers?
Erin: I say definitely, I think the mind frame I was describing earlier, the learner manager, learner empowered, that goes for, you know, if you think of teachers as learners or teachers as professionals. We have managed them for a very long time, you know, with mandated curriculum or stick to this script. Whereas, well, in order to actually empower our non-adult learners, the educators need to be empowered as learners too.
And what does that look like? How do we build that to increase efficacy and agency for the educators? They feel it, they embody it, they can model it, they're going to be more successful with the students, the non-adults.
What I've noticed is when teachers are managed, but they're expected to be a learner empower, that doesn't go so well. Maybe it's just the grumpy secondary teachers that I'm familiar with, but you can feel that contradiction. And so trying to get, again, this entire ecosystem, going and working in the same direction that, at every level, we need learner empowerment, so that we build individual group efficacy to respond and empower learning no matter what the level might be.
Caroline: Yeah, and I think teachers come thinking about changing practice from different perspectives. They're motivated by different things. And so we definitely saw teachers that heard about the research around formative assessment and immediately were fired up to try some things. I mean, I think, Erin, your own example is testament to that of just wanting to try some things and so wanting peers to be along that journey with you.
We also saw other teachers that were more skeptical or reluctant, you know. They were part of a grade level team, but they weren't really buying into it. And so I think the power of learning communities is also to provide existence proofs that are not the research. It's not some study in England or in a different content area or a different grade level. It's an existence proof from a peer saying, "Wow, I just had the most amazing conversation with students. I never realized they thought about this topic in such sophisticated ways until I started opening up space for them to talk about it."
That's contagious, hearing those from peers, or having a peer say, "Stop being such as stick in a mud, just give this a go." Those are really powerful, and no professional developer can come in from the outside and say the kinds of things to another colleague in the school the way that their, you know, classroom teacher next door, their grade level buddy can say.
And when I think of all of the teachers that I've seen that are really powerful in what they're doing in the classroom in terms of supporting student agency, often those are the ones that have had really close collaborators, where they've worked through the process of how to support student learning, of how to scaffold them into taking more responsibility.
Because these are hard things. And so being able to do this with a collaborator or someone that you feel safe with, I think, accelerates the learning, and accelerates the sticking out when it gets challenging.
Jacob: I appreciate that call out, that encouragement to stick with it, to not only rely on books and research and external consultants coming in, but really the people that are in practice teaching with you in your building, in your department, etc.
It kind of leads me to think, and I know we all admire thought leader, author, educator extraordinaire [inaudible 00:41:03], once I was in a room where someone asked her, "Oh, my gosh, this is all so great. Where do what where do we start?" And she said, "Start somewhere. Go slow. Don't stop." It's so great.
And yet, I want to ask you, guys. I want to ask you both. There is a lot of research base here. And you two, in particular, see a lot of the great professional learning that is happening and even some of the emerging tools, resources. Caroline, I know you're doing research on some and putting some out. And Erin, even your comments to assessment empowerment earlier kind of speak to this constantly evolving and informed level of intentional practice here.
What excites you? And what would be something that you would certainly point our listeners to learn more or to dig in more? Erin, let's start with you.
Erin: Well, certainly something that caught my attention were resources that pulled a couple different threads together. And the threads that especially caught my attention, interested me, sparked me was this notion that if we do responsive teaching and learning practices, well, we are addressing equity. We are addressing unfinished learning. It is trauma-informed practice in action.
So previously, in my experience, I had navigated those topics separately. That's how PO was set up, professional development was set up. I go to my assessment training, then I go to my equity training, I go to my trauma-informed training. And then, after doing more learning, including, I think, Dr. Wylie, it was article you did with Margaret Heritage, where it's the intersection of those things happen when you do responsive teaching and learning, well, when you're partnered with students in these processes.
So in case that's inspirational to any other listeners, you know, finding the intersections, finding how these strands can be pulled together in these practices, can be inspiring, can be a place to turn to. So Dr. Wylie's article about those intersections, other places where that's happening, is in our blog post on our website. Trying, especially, you know, coming out this last year and a half, two years, people's bandwidth had been used up. People are tired. So where we can point out, "Hey, you are doing these three things really well when you focus on this one thing can bring relief." So that's what I have to offer.
Jacob: Thank you, Erin. Caroline, to you.
Caroline: Yeah, thank you. I mean, I will say, for me, I've found these podcasts really great to dig into because I have felt disconnected from classroom practice for the last 18 months, almost two years now. And so not being in the classroom, not seeing teachers, not meeting with teachers, I feel like I just don't have current examples of what's happening that is really strong to share. So I've really appreciated the voices of who all have been represented here.
And I like what you're saying, Erin, in terms of the intersections. And I think there's really important work that's emerging right now and thinking about intersections between things like culturally responsive teaching and learning, and equity work, and formative assessment. These things shouldn't be separated out in the same way that disciplinary content knowledge is really important. That's something I had the great opportunity to work with Margaret on thinking about intersections between mathematics and ELA and science and social studies, and how formative assessment plays out differently.
Thinking of the spirit and the letter, the nature of the disciplines are different. And so formative assessment is supporting learning in different ways, in the different disciplines. And I think that's, again, not to circle back again to teacher teams, but it's really important to be able to talk about formative assessment in the content area, and really think about what are critical learning goals.
And I think of my own practice. And like, I don't know that I was ready to do that. I don't know that I could have stood up in front of a group of students and said, "Here's why linear function is really important." You know that's not something I was prepared to do, but it's so essential for students that they understand the why of the learning, and that they get to see that bigger picture.
Jacob: So inspirational. This has been a hard couple of years. And the one thing I can tell you, and I know you've heard as well and certainly our listeners are living this, for many, many educators and students, this year has actually been harder than last year. And so investing in practice versus surviving day-to-day, you know, is always a balance. But I appreciate so much the words and the body of work that both of you have shared and will continue to share with the field.
As we begin to wind down now, I'd like to ask each of you to share your closing thoughts around building student agency, be that advice or additional resources, etc., that you would point teachers to relative to our topic today. Erin, do you mind if we start with you this time?
Erin: Sure. I can recommend one thing that was helpful for me, which was asking myself, sometimes multiple times a day, am I acting as a learner manager or learner empowerer? And just asking that one question over and over and over helped to make small shifts that compounded and paid great dividends in my own time and energy, and the learning success of my students, and their levels of self-efficacy and agency.
So you can start with one little question, asking, maybe there's time bandwidth to actually you act on the answer, but just starting to get in the habit of asking that question and trying to, slowly but surely, move more towards the learner empower end of things.
Jacob: Thank you, Erin. Caroline?
Caroline: Coming back to thinking about the student role in formative assessment and then really focusing on, as a teacher, what are the scaffolds and the supports that are needed to introduce students to the ideas of having a voice in their work, of reflecting on their work, and engaging with it in ways that are different, perhaps, from how students have been engaged in that work previously. I think it's to really think about how to bring them into that process gradually, so that they're successful as they move along and change how they think about their work.
And then I think it's about encouraging teachers to find their tribe. So my husband is an artist. He's a photographer. And I watch him all the time reach out and find more people to be part of his tribe as he's learning about the business of being a photographer. And so, sometimes, he's the expert. Sometimes, he's the person that people come to with questions about how to, you know, maintain a database of your art or... But other times, he's reaching out to people for advice. And I think that's a great model of someone who's learning and leading at the same time in his field.
And so I think for teachers to find that group, whether it's ideally their grade level team, their content team. Or if not, it's someone in their district. It's someone that they have access to that they can really be a support for, learn with, and learn from.
Jacob: Thank you both. I am walking away from your final comments thinking, Erin, about the small steps that you're asking teachers to invest in their practice towards these elements of responsive teaching and learning cycles for the good of the practice, for the good of their students. And Caroline, additionally, encouraging modeling students to take those same small steps or an echo of those small steps in their own journey towards agency, and for all teachers and students to do that in community. It is a beautiful, and research will tell you, a very effective notion for getting our practice and our students where we all hope they will be. So thank you both, again, for joining us today.
Erin: Thank you.
Caroline: This was really fun.
Jacob: Absolutely. And thank you, listeners, for joining us on "The Continuing Educator." We have one episode left this season. So tune in next week, where we'll be talking about goal setting and its role in creating student agency.
Remember, if you want to learn more, certainly we've named a lot of great thought leaders and research, look for the writings of Dr. Beard and Dr. Wylie, they will certainly be directional. But we named many others throughout the podcast today. I encourage you to dig in there and really focus on the intersectionality to both Caroline and Erin's point of the practices herein.
Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast, if you haven't already, wherever you gather your podcasts. And follow our blog, Teach Learn Grow, for more insights, ideas, and resources to support your continued growth. We'll see you next time on "The Continuing Educator." Until then, we hope you have a great week and continue your professional growth journey. Goodbye.