27 January 2014

EQUIP: Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products

The Opportunity
 Since leaving the high school classroom a few years ago,  I have worked in jobs where I have been facilitating workgroups and convening people for the creation of collaborative products and/or processes, so when I learned of an opportunity to be part of a workgroup myself, I decided to apply. A few months ago, Achieve's EQuIP initiative placed a national call for reviewers to serve on a panel that would review Common Core aligned lessons and units.  I decided to apply and am certainly glad I spent the time and brain power to do so.  The application process required me to use EQuIP's rubrics to review CCSS lessons and units and provide feedback to the unit developers.  I submitted my review and feedback which was then double-blind scored for effectiveness and accuracy according to previously established norms.  A few weeks later, I received an invitation to sit on the Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products Peer Review Panel.

Last week I left the snow and frigid temperatures of Lexington, Kentucky and flew to Washington National Airport where it was actually just slightly warmer than it was when I left Lexington.  I headed to the Westin Arlington Gateway and an evening reception where I met some of the educators from across the country with whom I would work for the next two days.  I met classroom teachers as well as other people like me who support teachers (my day job) and teach teachers (my adjunct gig).

The Process   

Our meeting objectives
  • Norm the use of the EQuIP Rubrics and Quality Review Process 
  • Deepen the ability of peer reviewers to write constructive and criterion-based feedback
  • Calibrate overall ratings among peer reviewers in each content area grade-band cohort
  • Review CCSS aligned instructional materials

We began working toward these objectives early on the first full day, and we engaged in rich and meaningful conversations about the Common Core and constructive feedback.  For those of us familiar with providing this type of feedback to students, the feedback Achieve was seeking for us to provide on the unit reviews made complete sense.  After these conversations, we reviewed a common unit and used the EQuIP rubrics and feedback forms to evaluate the unit and practice providing constructive feedback. 

Prior to attending the meeting we each used the tools and rubrics to evaluate a unit.  When we came together, we then calibrated ourselves with our table groups and the whole group to ensure norming as well as deep understanding of the rubric. This led to robust conversations about how we understand the rubrics.  We practiced again on two additional units; each time the conversations after our individual evaluations were essential to the overall process.

The Achieve team formatively assessed our progress and adjusted the meeting goals as the two days progressed.  By the time we left at the end of the second day, I felt extremely confident in the forthcoming work.  We will work individually to evaluate and provide feedback on units that are sent to us in the coming months, and then we will conference call with a small group to discuss our evaluations and work toward a collective feedback form.  Therefore, anyone receiving feedback on units will know their work has been reviewed using a highly calibrated model by multiple individuals collectively.

The Tools

We used the EQuIP rubrics and learned about training materials available if we wish to use them in our own states, districts, and schools.  The rubrics and the feedback forms are organized around four dimensions.

I.     Alignment to the Depth of the CCSS
II.    Key Shifts in the CCSS
III.   Instructional Supports
IV.   Assessment


The Takeaways

The tools, processes and experiences will be useful to me in my day job leading the Common Assignment Study for Kentucky as well as in my work with future English teachers from our local university.  I see us using these tools to engage in discussion and to make professional judgments about the products we create.

Two intense days of conversation were a good reminder of how teachers I support might feel when they are working collaboratively with other educators from across the country.  We certainly all have Core standards in common as well as an understanding of Key Instructional Shifts that came with the CCSS, but we also all have our own professional judgment and expertise.  I was pleased to hear our Achieve facilitators say "This is not scientific; it requires professional judgment."  I appreciate this statement because I feel it honors teachers as professionals, especially when teachers are the ones developing units or lessons.