Yesterday I wrote about the NYC public school requirement that every student have a “learning goal” in every subject. Today I will talk about teacher goals. (What, did you think teachers could slip away without goals? Everyone must have goals!) In setting these goals for themselves, teachers must follow the Continuum of Teacher Development (you have to buy it to see it), a rubric devised by the New Teacher Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Based on constructivist assumptions, this rubric was originally devised for new teachers. Now all teachers must use it to evaluate themselves. Apparently that has been deemed such a success (in advance) that Quality Reviewers use it to observe lessons and rate schools (see slide 13).
I first encountered the Continuum of Teacher Development as a new teacher. My official mentor from the Department of Education, a gracious and knowledgeable woman, would help me fill out the sheets for each category. This took up much of our meeting time, and it had to be done. My mentor spent much time with me in the classroom and at play rehearsals, so it wasn’t all paperwork. I reconciled myself with the paperwork requirement, thinking that after my first year I would not have to deal with the Continuum again.
I was wrong. The Continuum is now for everyone. And a strange rubric it is. Each category and subcategory contains descriptions for the levels Beginning, Emerging, Applying, Integrating, and Innovating. What does it take to be an “innovative” teacher, according to the rubric? First of all, it takes a willingness to hand over the authority to the kids. Second, it takes… er, well, I don’t know what it takes. The descriptions of the “innovative” level are sometimes hard to understand.
Here is a sample of the levels from the subcategory “Facilitating learning experiences that promote autonomy, interaction, and choice”:
Beginning: Directs learning experiences through whole group and individual work with possibilities for interaction and choice.
Emerging: Varies learning experiences to include work in large groups and small groups, with student choice within learning activities.
Applying: Provides learning experiences utilizing individual and group structures to develop autonomy and group participation skills. Students make choices about and within their work.
Integrating: Uses a variety of learning experiences to assist students in developing independent working skills and group participation skills. Supports students in making appropriate choices for learning.
Innovating: Integrates a variety of challenging learning experiences that develop students’ independent learning, collaboration, and choice.
Now just what does one do when the students need to learn something specific and follow the teacher’s directions? I suppose teachers are supposed to outgrow the belief that students need to do anything of the sort.
Here’s another sample, this time from the subcategory “Engaging students in problem solving, critical thinking, and other activities that make subject matter meaningful”:
Beginning: Focuses questions on fact and key concepts to support learning subject matter.
Emerging: Asks critical thinking questions to relate facts and key concepts of subject matter. Some issues within the subject matter are identified by the teacher.
Applying: Engages students through activities and questioning strategies that develop skills in identification and understanding of key concepts and issues. Supports all students in problem posing and problem solving.
Integrating: Engages students in analysis of key concepts and facts through activities and questions that consider multiple perspectives. Supports students to initiate problem posing, problem solving, and inquiry.
Innovating: Facilitates regular opportunities for students to design and implement inquiries and problem solving to analyze content and draw conclusions, considering multiple perspectives within and across subject matter.
I am a pretty good reader, but I find the last description incomprehensible. Nor do I understand how first graders learning to read (or, for that matter, high school seniors taking introductory physics) are going to “analyze content and draw conclusions, considering multiple perspectives within and across subject matter.”
I see nothing “beginner-like” about good, solid instruction in the subject matter. I see nothing so “innovative” about having students analyze things they have not learned. What matters is how well the teacher knows and teaches the subject. The method of teaching the subject will vary according to grade level, topic, students, and the teacher’s own judgment.
Yet the rubric is being used to evaluate schools.