18772733 - Mapping the Road to Proficiency A table of...

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Unformatted text preview: Mapping the Road to Proficiency A table of Specifications provides a travel guide to help teachers move students toward mastery of standards. Thomas R. Guskey hen the standards movement began in the United States more than 15 years ago, most educators welcomed the idea. The enthusiasm that greeted the first set of clearly articulated student learning goals, published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1989, led other professional organizations to follow suit. During the next decade. the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Council of Teachers of English all developed standards in their respective disciplines. States also took up the task, with Kentucky leading the way in 1990, Today, 49 of the 50 states have established standards for student learning. Thoughtfully constructed standards guide education reform initiatives by providing consensus about what students should learn and what skills they should acquire. Standards also bring much-needed focus to curriculum development efforts and provide the impetus for fashioning new fortns of student assessment. But to bring about significant improvement in education, we must link standards to what takes place in classrooms. For that to happen, teachers need to do two important things: t1) translate the standards into specific classroom experiences that facil- itate student learning and (2) ensure that classroom assessments effectively measure that learning (Guskey, 1999), Some states, school districts, and commercial publishers have developed teaching guides that identify instruc— tional materials and classroom activities to help teachers meet the first chal— lenge. Rarely, however, do teachers get 32 EDUCATIOan l..li«\Dl£RSHl|“/NLWEMBER 2005 help in meeting the second challenge— developing classroom assessments that not only address standards accurately, but also help identify instructional weaknesses and diagnose individual student learning problems. Translating Standards into Instruction and Assessments Large-scale assessments provide evidence of students' proficiency with regard to the standards developed by states and professional organizations. These assessments are well suited to measure the final results of instruction and, thus, to serve the purposes of summative evaluation and account» ability. But teachers cannot be concerned only with final results, Their primary concern lies in the process of helping students reach proficiency. Large-scale assessments just don't offer teachers fl intt‘ltt’t: need to translate stz-itidarcls into exp-xt'iciires that tacilitaiie student; learning. much heip in that respect. They tend to he too broad and are administered too infrequently. In addition. teachers often doiii receive their results until several weeks or months alter students take the tissessiiient. To understand the difference between assessing the final product and supporting progress toward that product, we might consider a youngster learning to play tennis. if you were concerned only Wth suinmative evalur ation and accountabilin you would need to. have a clear mental picture of a "proficient" tennis player—the standard that you wanted the student to attain at the end of the learning process. Your mental picture might include approaching the ball, positioning the racket correctly, swinging smoothly. returning the ball to the other side ol the court. and lollowmg the rules of the game. You would then need to identify specific criteria for judging the students perlorniance and finally develop it tubnc describing various levels ol profi- cicncy on each ol these steps If you were a tennis coach, howeveiz that mental picture would he only your starting point. From there, you would go on to divide the aspects of your desired fll‘tdl performance into various components. You would probably think about matching the iacliet to the student's size and strength; aditistiiig the students grip for backhand and .‘ms t. l=.llil‘\. titti- -i-' s forehand returns; explaining the impor- tance of watching the ball; and demon— strating the hacltswing, return, and followsthrough. You would introduce important terms. such as service line, bacheourt. and volley. You would also need to explain the rules and deSt'ribe how to keep score. Building on this analysis, you would conSIdcr an appropriate sequence of learnng steps, perhaps ordered iit terms of difficulty or complexity You would present basic elements. such as watching)t the ball. before such advanced elements as achieving appror Jriate follow-through and recovery. As you taught you would check for any special problems the student may expe- ienec and correct them when they appeared. You would also need to )eeoine aware of individual differences among players and adapt your teaching to those differences. For instance. some ilayers do well using a traditional closed stance; others do hetter width a note open stance. In addition you would probably make a point of complimentng the Student whenever impress was evident and providing eassurance during ehalienging times. And, of course. you would emphasize the enjoyable aspects of the game and give the student opportunities to expes neiice these. This exampie illustrates the complex process that takes place in effective standards-based teaching and iearning, To organize instnictional units and plan appropriate classroom actitities‘ teachers must unpack the standards— that is, determine the various compo: nertts of each standard that students must learn and then organize and arrange these components in a mean— st t‘t titisiox .\.\tti t't tiieiti it \t DI ‘\|.Et|t‘\ti \! 33 FIGURE 1. General Format for a Table of Specifications Terms Symbols Operations ingful sequence of learning steps. Teachers must make adaptations for individual learning differences to ensure that all students understand, practice, and master each component as they progress toward the final goal. As part of this process, teachers need to develop procedures to formativer assess learning progress, identify learning problems, and determine the effectiveness of their instructional activities. A Tool to Link Assessments to Standards One tool to analyze standards for instruc- tion and assessments is a table of specifica- tions: a simple table that describes the various kinds of knowledge and abilities that students must master to meet a particular standard. Growing numbers of teachers are discovering how this strategy, described years ago in the work of Ralph Tyler (1949) and Benjamin Bloom (Bloom, Hastings, 6: Madaus, 1971), can help them align their class- room instruction and assessments with curriculum standards. As a planning tool, a table of specifi- cations serves two important functions. Knowledge of Rules 8: PI'll'ICIpleS TABLE OF SPECIFICATIONS Processes 8t Procedures New Specific Relations Patterns identify Vocabulary: Information: Guidelines Sequences Describe Words Persons Organizational Order of Recognize Names Events cues events or Distinguish Phrases Data operations Compute Step5 Tables of specifications bring added validity and utility to classroom assessments. First, it adds precision and clarity to teaching. The information in the table helps teachers break down standards into meaningful components that exactly convey the purpose of the instruction. It also clarifies for students the learning goals of a course or unit so that students understand what they are expected to learn. In fact, many teachers use tables of specifications as teaching guides, sharing their tables with students to reinforce students' understanding and learning progress. Second, a table of specifications serves as a guide for consistency among standards. the steps needed to help students attain them, and procedures for checking on students’ learning progress. Although this alignment is 34 EDL'L'AIIONAL LEADERSHIP/NOVEMBER 2005 Analysis 81 Synthesis Use Compare illustrate Contrast Solve Explain Demonstrate infer Combine Construct Integrate essential in standards-based teaching and learning, teachers often neglect it in their planning (Guskey, 1997). For example, many teachers stress that they want their students to develop higher- level cognitive skills~such as the ability to apply knowledge to new situ- ations—but administer quizzes and classroom assessments that tap mainly the skills that are easiest to assess, particularly knowiedge of facts and definitions of terms. Developing Tables of Specifications To develop tables of specifications, teachers must address two essential quesnons regarding the standard or set of standards in question. The first ques— tion is, What must students learn to be proficient at this standard? in other words, what new concepts, content, or material are students expected to learn? Teachers often use textbooks and other learning resources as guides in addressing this question. But textbooks should not be the only guide. Teachers should feel free to add to or delete from what the textbook and Other learning materials provide to better match the standards and better fit students" learning needs. The second essential question lh‘ What must students be able to do H-‘ttlt what they learn? In answering this dues tion‘ teachers must determine what particular skills, ahtltties, or capaeittes must pair up with the new eoneepts and iiittlei’tal. For example, will students stniply he required to know the steps ol the scientilie method ol investigation or should they he .ihle to apply those steps in a elassroom sciens tilie experiment? Teachers generally lintl it he plul to otitliiie their answers to these two ques— tions Using some ol the eategories in the Tltyoiioitii of Educational Oliiettires (Bloom. Englehart. Furst. Hill, {\r Krathwohl. 193(1). These categories 'epr'esei‘tt a hierarchy til let'els‘ moying rrom the simplest ltiitds ol learning to nore adyaneed cognitive skills. Figure l tp. 34) shows the categories that eachers in a Wide variety ol suhieet areas lind most tisel'ul: I lx'iioivledgr of trims. 'l'erins include iew vocabulary. such as names. expres— sions, and syrrihols. btudents may he expected to know the (lCllttlttt'II‘iS ol liesc terms. reeognize illustrations of litIIn. Llctetnittie when they are used correetly, or recognize synonyms t?x.1tr1ples include the teriiistttttoi and product lor a n'tathematies standard dealing \\'t[l't multiplication and Pltttttle \‘_\'H!ltt'\'t\' tor a scienee standard related to plant lth I lx‘iitiielt'tltze of tar ts. Facts include details that are tn'iportttnt in their own right and those that are essential for other ltinds ol' learning. aniiiples ol lacts are "The 1.7.8. Senate has ltlt‘ members, two elected lrotit each 0! the 30 states.” and "\N’ealthy lamtltes or church ollieials commissioned many wellslttiown Wetrlifi ol art and music I" I it e n ta l. 'pietiti re, o f .1 you 't’thII‘Q‘ .i tennis eoarh, forming a Clear I L 'pi:'0fic:i<-:11f"tennis pl;‘iyer Would he- oiily your starting; point. piodueed during the Renaissante ' I knowledge it] rules rind print tplt‘s 'l hese generally luring together or destrihe the relationships among1 a titinthet‘ ol litets. 'l'yplettlly. they eontietn patterns or sehemas used to organize iiiaioi‘ concepts. Other terms lot rules and prtneiples melude needing-rs. settl- loltls. gttidt‘liiies. and tiiettiiimttiontil cues lflx'ainples include the t‘tiltttttLttitttVL‘ pi tiieiple related to a mathematics stan‘ dard and the rules lor snhiect/yerh agreement incorporated in it language arts standard. I Knowledge of {notesses and prote- tlitres. To demonstrate their prolicteney on some standards. students must know the steps involved in a certain process or procedure. Frequently, they tnust reeall these steps [[1 a speeilie Amulet-i: '. it-it Stt'ittwsiw‘ \. sequence For example. students may he expected to lxnow the speetl'te patterns oi eharaetet‘ development used in a novel, the appropriate order ol' steps in it mathematics prohleit‘i. or the sequence ol events iieeessaiy to enaet legislation I .*\l"tllf_\- to make translations Transla- tion requires students to express partth ular ideas or concepts in a new way or to take phenomena or events in one lorm and represent them in another, equivalent lorm it implies the ahility to identity, distinguish, deserihe. or compute. In general. students eriiploy translation when they put an idea in their own words or teeogiitze new examples ol general principles they have learned Examples include having students identity the granitiiatieal errors L'.tt‘§-Ili.l. |.\t tit :n-th 35 in sentences or convert temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius. l Ability to make applications. Making applications means using terms, facts, principles, or procedures to solve prob— lems in new or unfamiliar situations. To make applications, students first must determine what facts, rules, and proce- dures are reievant and essential to the problem and then use these to solve the problem. The ability to make applica- tions involves fairly complex behavior and often represents the highest level of learning needed to be proficient on a particular standard. For example, writing a persuasive letter using appro- priate elements of argument and correct grammatical forms requires the student to make applications. I Skill in analyzing and synthesizing. Because of the complexity of analyses and syntheses, these skills typically are involved in standards for more advanced grade levels. Some teachers, however, believe that students at all levels should engage in tasks involving analysis and synthesis. Analyses typi- cally require students to break down concepts into their constituent parts and detect the relationships among those parts by explaining, inferring, or comparing/contrasting. Examples of analyses include distinguishing facts from opinions in editorials published in the newspaper or comparing and contrasting George Washington and Ho Chi Minh, each considered the “father” of his country Syntheses. on the other hand, involve putting together elements or concepts to develop a meaningful pattern or structure. Syntheses often call for students to develop creative solutions within the limits of a partic- ular problem or methodological frame- work. They may require students to combine, construct, or integrate what they have learned. The assignment “Write a paragraph explaining how knowledge of mathematics and science helped Napoleon’s armies improve the accuracy of their cannons“ would require synthesis, Once they become familiar with the format of a table of specifications, most teachers have little difficulty breaking down standards in terms of these cate- gories. Those who use textbooks or other learning materials in developing tables usually find these resources to be helpful in answering the first essential quesuon (What must students learn to show their proficiency with regard to this standard?) but less helpful in addressing the second question (What must students be able to do with what they learn?) And because tables clarify the learning structures that underlie standards, many teachers use them both as teaching guides to help plan lessons and as study guides for students. Advantages of Tables of Specifications Although developing tables of specifi— cations can be challenging at first, 36 EIJticA'rtONAL LEADERSHEPINOVtMBhk 2005 teachers generally find that doing so offers several advantages. First, analyzing standards in this way helps teachers link instructional activities more meaningfully to standards. If faced with several narrowly prescribed standards, for example, teachers can use the table as a framework for combining those standards and devel- oping relationships among them in effective instructional units. On the other hand, if confronted with a very broad or general standard, developing a table can help teachers clarify the individual components that students must master to demonstrate their proficiency. Tables of specifications also bring precision to teaching, By analyzing standards according to the categories in the table, teachers identify the different subskills that students may be required to learn and bring attention to the rela— tionships among those subskills. Students may need to know the defini~ tion ofa term, for example, to under- stand a fact pertaining to that term. Knowing two or three facts may be :2 m E s E E E o FIGURE 2. Table of Specifications for a Social Studies Unit on Maps TABLE OF SPECIFlCATlONS Knowledge of Facts Geography The skill of map-making is Geographer very old. Map Early people based maps on inaccurate information. Scale Legend Topography Inaccurate maps affected early explorations. Topographic features Longitude Latitude Rivers deter- mined the . location of man Coordinates V early settlements. essential to understanding a particular procedure. Similarly, knowing a proce— dure will probably be a prerequisite to being able to apply that procedure in solving a complex problem. Clarifying these relationships makes instructional tasks more obvious and improves the diagnostic properties of classroom assessments. Although this kind of analysis may guide teachers in choosing classroom activities. it does not dictate specific instructional practices. Teachers may address the “what” questions in devel— oping a table of specifications in exactly the same way, and yet teach to that standard very differently. One teacher, for example, may use a discovery approach by introducing a complex problem or application to students and then helping students Rules 8: Principles Travel routes came first. Earth features influence many human activities: Semements towns, and cities were established along major travel routes and intersections, especially rivers. I The routes traveled I The location of towns and cities I Occupations I The things eaten Occupations were based on the needs of travelers. determine the facts, rules, or processes needed to solve the problem, Another teacher may USE an advanced organizer approach by first explaining important rules or procedures to students and then posing complex problems to which students must apply those rules and procedures. In other words. preci- sion does not prescribe method. Clari- fying our goals does not dictate how we will reach them. Finally. and perhaps most impor- tant, tables of specifications bring added validity and utility to classroom assessments. They help teachers ensure that their assessments provide honest evidence of students’ learning progress. accurately identify learning problems, and provide useful informa- tion about the effectiveness of instruc- tiona] activities. Processes & Translation Procedu res Application Describe how geography affected early travel routes. Explain why major cities developed in their current Describe why 'DCaUOfiS. accurate maps were important to early explorers. Identify specific points or loca- tions on a new and unfamiliar map. Identify lines of longitude and lati— tude on a map. Use a map in planning a travel route. Describe how longitude and lati- tude help locate points on maps. Linking Classroom Assessments to Tables of Specifications To serve formative evaluation and instructional purposes well, classroom assessments must include items or prompts for each important concept or subskill related to the standard being measured. By matching assessment items or prompts to the elements outlined in the table of specifications, teachers can ensure that their assess- ments measure all these important skills and abilities. Consider, for example, the table of specifications shown in Figure 2, devel- oped for an elementary school social studies standard related to the use and interpretation of maps. Although a largemscale assessment may include only one or two problems asking students to use or interpret maps, a classroom ASSOClATlON FDR SUPERVISION AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT assessment designed for formative eval- uation purposes would look very different. it would include items that assess students‘ knowledge of relevant terms, facts, principles, and procedures related to maps, as well as other items that measure their skill in translating that information into new forms. It would also include constructed or extended-response items that require students to apply their knowledge in using or interpreting maps. (Note that this particular elementary standard does not require analysis and synthesis skills.) Incorporating items that draw on this wide range of cognitive skills enhances an assessments diagnostic properties and makes it more useful as a learning tool. Suppose students are unable to answer a complex, high—level assess— ment item that asks them to look at a map showing various geographic features (two major rivers and their intersection, mountain ranges. flat and steeply sloped areas); to identify the location on the map where a major settlement is likely to develop; and then to explain their reasons for selecting that location. A closer look may reveal that some students correctly answered earlier items in the formative assessment demonstrating their knowledge of the necessary facts and principles. but could not apply that knowledge in this practical, problem-solving situation. Such students clearly need additional guidance and practice in making appli- cations. Other students may answer this high—level item incorrectly because they did not know the requisite facts and principles, as evidenced by their incorrect answers to those items appearing earlier on in the assessment. These students need to return to aetivi- ties that help them gain this basic To bring about significant improvement in education, we must link standards to what takes place in classrooms. knowledge. Although such a distinction in students’ learning needs matters little to those concerned only with summa- tive evaluations of students” proficiency, it matters greatly to teachers concerned with helping students attain profi— ciency. Linking classroom assessments to tables of specifications also guarantees consistency and thoroughness. In analyzing their formative classroom assessments, teachers often find items they cannot locate on the table of speci— fications. Such items usually tap trivial aspects of learning that are unrelated to the standard, and they can be revised or eliminated from the assessment. At other times, teachers find essential learning elements included in the table that are not tapped in their classroom assessment. In such instances. teachers must expand the assessment to include measures of these vital aspects of learning. As a result, classroom assess- ments become more thorough, complete, and effective at serving their formative purposes. Destination: High Achievement for All In developing tables of specifications, teachers identify the signposts that students must reach on the way to demonstrating their proficiency on standards. Although some teachers initially find the process challenging, most soon discover that it not only improves the quality of their classroom assessments but also enhances the quality of their teaching. Analyzing 3B EDULAIIUNAL LtADERSHIPINox-EMHER 2005 standards in this way clarifies what students need to learn and be able to do, With that focus established, teachers can concentrate more fully on how best to present new concepts and engage students in valuable learning experiences. A table of specifications is much like a travel guide. Although it never limits the pathways available, it enhances traveling efficiency, enjoyment of thejourney, and the likelihood of successfully reaching the intended destination. References Bloom, 13. 5., Englehart, M. D., Furst, E.j., Hill, W, H., 61' Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. hand~ book 1: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay. Bloom, B. 5., Hastings]. T., Est Madaus. G. F, (1971). Handbook major-motive and summative evaluation of student learning. New York: McGraw-l-lill. Guskey, T, R. (1997). Implementing mastery learning (2nd ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Guskey, T. R. (1999). Making standards work. The School Administrator, 56(9), 44, Tyler, R. W. (194-9). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 2005 Thomas R. Guskey. Thomas R. Guskey is Professor of Education Policy Studies and Evaluation, College of Education, University of Kentucky, Taylor Education Building, Lexington, KY 40506; 859-257-8666; guskey@uky.edu. He is author of the upcoming book Benjamin 3. Bloom: Portraits of an Educator (Rowrnan 81 Littlefield Education, 2006). Copyright of Educational Leadership is the property of Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. The copyright in an individual article may be maintained by the author in certain cases. Content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. ...
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18772733 - Mapping the Road to Proficiency A table of...

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