Targeting Instruction

There is much debate over what makes a good teacher. Some will argue that the "bottom line" of education is that a teacher should raise standardized test scores. Some will say that a good teacher inspires a love of learning. I think it should be a combination of both. There is also much debate about the role of assessment in education and many different arenas of research that support one approach or another.  

What most educators will all agree on is that the best thing that a teacher can do is target instruction well. Most schools have curriculum maps in their data base that outlines what are overarching understandings, essential questions, knowledge, skills, learning plan and supporting resources help students navigate to these learning standards. This "Understanding by Design" or UBD approach is used by many schools and is a clear method of outlining a unit of study.   I think UBD maps are a very conscientious designing of instruction, however I've always found that stage 3 of the map, the "learning plan" is an area where I've struggled in the past to ensure that every single learning standard is methodically taught, and assessed.

Good instruction scaffolds learning through introductory activities such as independent practice/homework, labs, projects, practice tests and final tests. How to ensure that it gets done, and is done well? Can we also create a student friendly version of the curriculum wherein students can reflect on their own learning in order to re mediate areas of instruction?   What's worked well for me are online study guides. They organize and link learning activities to learning standards and there is record of how well students have met that standard (introduced/developed/mastered) through a variety of formats. Many of my colleagues use online study guides in a format that works well for them and the nature for what they're teaching. Here are a couple from my math and science classes:  


 Grade 7 Math

Unit 1 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Into to Algebra
Unit 2 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Rational Numbers
Unit 3 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Graphs, Sequences and Functions
Unit 4 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Exponents and Roots
Unit 5 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Percents
Unit 6 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Perimeter Volume and Area
Unit 7 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Statistics and Probability
Unit 8 Curriculum and Practice Guide (Performance Based)-Multi-Step Equations
Grade 7 Math Curriculum and Practice Guide-MASTER  


Grade 6 Science

Unit 1 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Diversity of Life
Unit 2 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Simple Machines
Unit 3 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Properties of Matter
Unit 4 Curriculum and Practice Guide-Inside Earth
 Grade 6 Science Curriculum and Practice Guide-MASTER  

With "Google Apps" students can have an online version which they share with me and I can check on with them with regards to general level of understanding and whether or not I have to reteach any areas of difficulty. They're a very effective learning tool for self-reflection on part of the students and a valuable resource for me!