The provision of feedback to teachers is a part of their professional development, helping them in identifying areas for improvement and ways to achieve higher results. This feedback report includes a detailed analysis of Danielle Troetti’s English Language Arts class given in the eighth grade. The major objective of the lesson was the development of skills necessary for creating insightful questions based on readings (a short story). Based on the analysis of the lesson plan, the video of the class, the resources provided to the students, and the students’ submitted questions, it is possible to note that the lesson was aligned to the current standards. The quality of the lesson in question was high as the students were engaged during the class and revealed proper results at the end of the class. The teacher can be provided with the next steps for improvement, where the focus can be made on the use of technology.
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This report dwells upon the English Language Arts class run by Danielle Troetti. Students of grade 8 work on the development of questions based on the short story “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman. The students are grouped into groups of four, discussing their ideas regarding the story and questions that could be put. The lesson is high-quality as it is aligned to the existing standards and instrumental in helping students to acquire specific skills. The teacher creates a favorable atmosphere and learning environment where students are encouraged and willing to voice their ideas. The educator provides feedback and encouragement to students depending on their levels. However, Ms. Troetti does not use technology extensively, although the use of such resources as the SMART board and projector could make the provided instructions even more effective. Irrespective of this gap, the teacher should not be placed on a plan for improvement. It is possible to work on the next steps for the teacher’s further professional growth.
Addressing Students Effectively
One of the examples of an effective address to students is Ms. Troetti’s talk at the beginning of the class. Domain 1 (Lesson design) of Teacher Growth Rubric is associated with the need to make every lesson an element of a “coherent and focused sequence with meaningful connections” made to past activities and learned material (Mississippi Department of Education [MDE], 2019, p. 13). The educator refers to previously learned topics and acquired skills that were related to making questions to a literary work (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 0:45). By this reference to the previous lessons, the teacher sets the ground for further learning, making students prepared for further work. It is necessary to add that the teacher also addresses students effectively, working in groups. She refers to the established objectives to help learners to remain focused and achieve the objectives announced at the beginning of the lesson.
The instructor also uses nonverbal cues effectively to highlight the most critical points and draw students’ attention to some aspects. For instance, the teacher utilizes her voice to draw learners’ attention and make sure that everybody can hear her. The teacher is not motionless, which also makes students more attentive. Students follow the teacher who is on the move, talking about past experiences and further challenges.
Addressing the Class More Effectively
Ms. Troetti draws students’ attention to the objectives of the lesson, which is an important part of the learning process since students should understand the major goals to be attained and the overall purpose of the session. However, the class seems rather unengaged when the objectives are read aloud by one of the students. Only several learners willingly participate in the lesson activities and respond to the teacher, while the majority of students are quite passive. The teacher could address students in a more effective way on this occasion.
The major improvements to be made are related to Standard 6 associated with managing “classroom space, time, and resources (including technology when appropriate) effectively for student learning” (MDE, 2019, p. 12). First, Ms. Troetti placed the objectives in a corner, and some students needed to turn around to view them (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 1:45). The objectives could have been provided on the SMART board, which was in the center of the classroom, and all students would see them clearly. The placement of desks was more appropriate for drawing students’ attention to the board. The use of technology was also justified as it could draw more attention to the objectives. The use of slides or even the same list of objectives adjusted to the SMART board could be a significant improvement.
In her lesson plans, the teacher pays considerable attention to the three primary qualities of questions (they should be text-specific, higher-order, and open-ended). The provided rubric sheds light on these qualities, but can it be made more specific and effective? When open-ended questions are described, the correct definition is given. However, can a rubric contain more hints? The description of higher-order questions contains information regarding the use of question words. This data can also be utilized when explaining the ways to craft open-ended questions. The student’s responses show that several learners have not grasped the material appropriately. Their questions were not higher-order or open-ended.
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The teacher makes sure that all students have their rubrics at the beginning of the lesson (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 0:12). Could a rubric be improved by adding question words to the section concerning open-endedness? The teacher could also pay students attention to the matter before they start their discussions and, one more time, before they submit their answers to the teacher at the end of the lesson. Could the teacher provide question stems on the SMART board at the end of the lesson? This would not disrupt the learning process but could become an opportunity for students to evaluate their questions. When providing the question stems to the group of struggling students, could the teacher be more specific about the exact elements of the question. Could she stress the need to utilize question words to make it clearer to the students?
It is also rather unclear why the teacher does not use technology, although it is clear that the classroom is properly equipped. Would the use of technology distract students from the core objectives? Could the teacher use color to highlight the major features and components of the questions to be asked? Why was not the SMART board utilized? Finally, the teacher refers to previously studied material, which is an important element of any class and a way to comply with the existing standards. However, the teacher could have been more precise and could have provided some of the questions discussed previously. Was this avoided in order to prevent students from mere copying and following patterns rather than creating their own questions?
Equitable Access to Educational Resources, Technologies, and Opportunities
The lesson can be characterized by the proper use of hand-outs and equitable access of students to these materials. Students have the necessary text rubrics, discussion questions, and other resources. Ms. Troetti makes sure all the learners have these materials at the beginning of the class and during the lesson (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 0:12). During the class, the teacher remains compliant with the standards and makes sure that all students have equitable access to opportunities. She helps struggling students by providing them with additional resources, such as question stems (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 25:13). Ms. Troetti explains how resources can be utilized in the most effective way. The teacher willingly equips all learners in need with these additional scaffolding opportunities. However, it is important to add that technology is not employed, which can be regarded as a limitation.
Formative and Summative Assessment Strategies
According to the plan developed by the teacher, she planned to utilize a set of formative assessment techniques, including text annotations, reading charts, submitted questions, and monitoring during group work. During the class under analysis, Ms. Troetti employed all these strategies. At the end of the class, she asked students to provide the questions they created on the cards provided to them. The teacher gave detailed instructions regarding this submission and emphasized the importance of this assignment. The assessment of students’ responses during group work was also conducted (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 04:09). The teacher managed to monitor the work in all groups and give feedback and additional instructions and support when necessary (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 28:33).
The assessment during instruction is rather effective as the teacher identifies the learners who are struggling and the ones who may go deeper into their discussions. As mentioned above, the teacher provided question stems to two students who had difficulties with making questions (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 25:13). The teacher reviewed the progress of the boy and had an opportunity to trace the exact issues the student had. On the other hand, Ms. Troetti also provided hints encouraging some groups to dig deeper and explore diverse aspects during their discussions (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 28:33). These cases suggest that formative assessment is a tool that enables the educator to remain flexible and help students to complete tasks and achieve their academic goals.
Plan of “Next Steps”
Although some flaws can be identified, the quality of this lesson is high, and Ms. Troetti does not need to be placed on a plan of improvement. The educator should be provided with a plan for further steps, which will be instrumental in achieving higher results and becoming a more effective teacher. It is possible to justify this decision by reviewing the teacher’s performance in terms of the teacher growth rubric domains (MDE, 2019). The areas to focus on during further development will also be identified based on the rubric.
As for lesson design (domain I), the teacher has detailed lesson plans that are aligned to the current standards and are built on the materials previously learned. Ms. Troetti also collaborates across disciplines as history lessons are mentioned in the lesson plan. During the class under analysis, the instructor clearly refers to the material studied previously several times at the beginning and in the middle of the class (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 10:55). At the end of the class, the teacher also ties the tasks the students have been working on to their future work (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 34:35). This attention to sequencing makes learning more effective as students understand the purpose and relevance of each assignment and are encouraged to work hard.
Scaffolding is also present during the instruction, which enables students to build on their prior knowledge and remain focused. For instance, Ms. Troetti provides clear instructions, referring to the previously learned material, she also uses group work as the basis of this lesson, and she manages to provide effective feedback to all student groups. The given instructions are student-centered, and the teacher uses non-verbal cues and wording based on students’ reactions (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 10:50). It is also clear that the educator understands each learner’s level, which is obvious in the way students are grouped. The students’ level is quite similar, which is a beneficial approach to helping students in achieving their academic goals. Struggling students receive more instructions and additional materials to help them make questions (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 25:13). Those who advance in crafting creative and insightful questions receive feedback and more insights from the instructor (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 30:44).
As far as domain II is concerned, Ms. Troetti makes sure that the objectives are clear by referring to them several times and tracing any unclear bits. The students are encouraged to self-correct and help each other, which is clear with a girl asking her peers different questions regarding their results (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 34:17). The teacher answers the students’ questions during their group work, and these questions are related to the instructions and the strategies to employ when creating questions. Formative assessment (teacher’s feedback and student work monitoring) is instrumental in keeping the class on track, fully engaged and committed to reaching lesson objectives.
The culture and learning environment (domain III) is effective, but this area may need certain improvements and will be associated with the majority of steps to be undertaken further. On the one hand, Ms. Troetti creates a safe and appropriate learning environment for students. The learners are engaged to participate in discussions and voice their ideas. The teacher supports and encourages students to work in groups and build on the ideas they develop (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 28:40). An excellent example of encouraging a student is to provide feedback, praise the effort, and mention one’s belief in the student’s potential (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 33:36). The student is glad to receive such feedback and is willing to share his questions with peers. He eagerly explains his word choice and other aspects linked to his questions (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 35:39). The teacher also uses resources quite sparingly. She provides question rubrics, texts, and question stems (if necessary).
On the other hand, technology could have been used more effectively. The teacher does not use any kind of technology during the lesson. Ms. Troetti provides lesson objectives on the flipchart, which is a good choice for many occasions, but in this case, the location of the flipchart is not optimal. Some of the students find it difficult to turn around and see the written objectives or even have eye contact with the educator. Such situations may lead to students’ disengagement, so they should be avoided.
The SMART board could be used to enhance students’ engagement in diverse settings. The primary purpose of the lesson under analysis was discussion and group work, but the instructor could have utilized the SMART board to refer to previously learned material and point at the most important components of questions to be asked. The classroom is equipped with the projector cart, projector, and the SMART board, so these resources could have been employed to facilitate the learning process. A very brief PowerPoint presentation or even a single slide with certain words and phrases highlighted in different colors could enhance student’s learning.
It is necessary to add that the analysis of the questions submitted by students suggests that the students acquired the necessary skills and built the ability to create proper questions based on readings. The progress is not even, as the level of students’ learning is not similar. Some students show rather high achievements as they create insightful questions and explore the essential aspects of the reading. Some students display only moderate achievements as some of them created close-ended questions irrespective of the attention paid to that matter. Nevertheless, when monitoring the group work, the teacher could identify exact difficulties and help students to think critically and create questions. The educator could also see the progress these students made as she came to guide work in groups several times.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the ‘next steps’ to be taken should include the analysis, as well as research if needed, regarding the utilization of technology to achieve diverse lesson objectives and teaching goals. Ms. Troetti could develop a plan or a framework for using technology during her classes. The plan will be discussed and elaborated on if necessary. Some other steps to take can be related to helping struggling students. The teacher creates a supportive atmosphere but lets students work on their own and try to complete the assignment without additional resources. When the educator sees that assistance is needed, she provides additional materials.
It is possible to add more collaboration to this kind of work. For instance, the teacher could provide the students with the materials and ask them to develop two questions using the given cues. During the lesson, the struggling students tended to work individually after they were given the additional materials (“Questioning poetry,” 2016, 26:30). However, they could be encouraged to work together (in pairs, for example) to develop several questions that could be later written in their cards.
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Further steps can be associated with the work in groups of four rather than working in pairs. Pair work dominated the classroom, which is not inappropriate or harmful. However, it can be beneficial for the teacher to research and discuss different ways to run and guide group work. The students could be given specific cues and asked to elaborate on them and create questions, including the elements they were given. Finally, the class could be made more dynamic with students joining different groups and providing some insights to other students. All in all, the teacher effectively manages the class and achieves her teaching goals. Clearly, the teacher will continue developing knowledge and skills to provide high-quality educational services.
Mississippi Department of Education. (2019). Teacher growth rubric: Observation and feedback guidebook.
Questioning poetry (Troetti). (2016). Achieve the core.