Quality Teaching Rationale
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Successful teachers have a deep understanding of the subjects they teach, use appropriate instructional methods, and apply various classroom assessment strategies. These teachers participate in sustained, intellectually rigorous professional learning regarding the subjects they teach, the strategies they use to teach those subjects, the findings of cognitive scientists regarding human learning, and the means by which they assess student progress in achieving high academic standards.
Teachers may acquire deeper understanding of their subjects through various means. For example, they may serve summer internships in appropriate organizations, attend extended institutes with follow-up activities throughout the school year, take traditional university or electronically delivered coursework, perform the activities of individuals involved in that field (for instance, conduct historical research), or participate in face-to-face or electronic subject-area networks. Whenever possible, however, it is important that teachers experience firsthand as learners the instructional approaches they in turn will be using with their own students. They may also attend workshops and courses with classroom follow up, participate in study groups, visit or watch videotapes of high-performing classrooms, observe demonstration lessons, or receive classroom coaching. Because it is natural that teachers will teach as they themselves are taught, it is imperative that the instructional methods used with educators be congruent to the greatest extent possible with those they are expected to use in their classroom.
Teachers depend on other knowledge and skills to facilitate student success. Examples of such additional content include classroom management, fundamental technological skills that increase teacher productivity, as well as mentoring and coaching skills for teacher leaders. Again, teachers must experience appropriate staff development designs to facilitate the desired outcome for students.
Because classroom assessment when appropriately conducted can improve student learning as well as gauge achievement, it is essential that teachers have a range of methods at their disposal that promote learning as well as measure it. Therefore, successful professional development efforts regularly include opportunities for teachers to acquire formative classroom assessment techniques appropriate to the subject matter and types of performance called for in state or local standards.
Fortunately, teachers' acquisition of this knowledge and these skills can occur relatively simultaneously. For instance, teachers may be learning new instructional approaches and assessment techniques while they are deepening their understanding of curriculum content. Teachers who are learning research-based instructional skills may find that their progress is limited by a lack of subject-area knowledge in a particular area and request an on-the-spot explanation of a particular concept. Teachers who are developing or learning how to use a scoring rubric for assessment purposes may at the same time be deepening their content knowledge.
In their role as instructional leaders, district and school administrators make teacher content knowledge and skills related to curriculum, instruction, and assessment high priorities. They do so by designing teachers' work days to include ongoing professional learning and collaboration and by providing teachers with data to assist with formative classroom assessment. In addition, they create a district and school culture of innovation and continuous improvement by visiting classrooms regularly to observe instruction and by engaging in frequent conversations with teachers individually and collectively about instruction and student learning.
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