EDU 6600: Final Project

Courtney Swanson                                                                                                                         EDU 6600                                                                                                                   Communication and Collaboration Entries and Artifacts

School Context

My school is located in a suburban area surrounded by homes and a large apartment community. Many students come from military families, which increases turnover within the school. 46.7% of our students receive free and reduced lunch. The school is 4 years old and equipped with brand new equipment and technology. Our school has about 550 students with an average class size of 25 students. Our school has a full-time child psychologist and school counselor. Students receive support in Title I, Special Education, ELL, OT, and SPT.

Our school focuses on professional development opportunities to enhance instructional practice and provide a safe learning environment for students.  I share a leadership position on the Learning Improvement Team (LIT) that meets to share strengths and needs of our Professional Learning Community (PLC). This ensures that all team members are following norms and have the resources they need to implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum with effective teaching strategies. The LIT team member also contributes district-wide as a Math Team Leader. The Math Team Leader meets with teachers within their grade level and across the district to share student data, discuss progress, and develop activities and assessments that will improve student learning. These meetings allow me to learn new protocols our PLC can use to analyze student data and implement shared strategies to improve student learning. To address our school improvement goals, I will focus on increasing collaboration through the implementation of Professional Learning Communities. Our PLC team meets weekly for 45 minutes to discuss students’ needs, teaching strategies and next steps to improve student learning. This artifact PLCNormsGoalsCycle shows our team norms, team goal, and the PLC cycle we follow.  The PLC allows us to be in charge of our own learning. According to Zepeda (2012), “Though the interactions of the group, teachers can gain a sense of belonging to a community of learners with a focus on a particular aspect of teaching and learning” (p. 181). The PLC cycle helps us analyze student data, develop an instructional plan, and  implement new strategies to improve student learning. The PLC cycle steps include: studying current levels of student understanding, selecting an area of focus, planning instruction to build on strengths and weaknesses, implementing instruction and collecting evidence of student understanding, analyzing impact of changes to discover what was effective and what was not, and applying new knowledge to the next cycle.

School Improvement Goals

Goal 1: Students meet or exceed high academic standards by acquiring the knowledge and skills essential for the success in post-secondary education, the world of work, and citizenship.

Goal 2: All students demonstrate the individual character qualities, emotional strength and social skills to succeed. They contribute to the betterment of school and community and demonstrate the knowledge and skills that reflect responsible citizenship.

To address each school improvement goal, I will present 2 exhibits that demonstrate educator learning and 2 exhibits that include effective community involvement strategies. The exhibits will address specific areas of improvement needed to reach each goal. Each exhibit will utilize professional learning opportunities to make instructional decisions that will help students reach these goals. I will draw upon resources that helped me develop my professional plan.  These include texts from book studies, undergraduate course work, and my studies in the graduate program at SPU.

Goal 1: Students meet or exceed high academic standards by acquiring the knowledge and skills essential for the success in post-secondary education, the world of work, and citizenship.

Specific Need: Our district recently adopted a new math curriculum, The Math: Getting It Project, to address a need in students’ math education. The goal of the new curriculum is designed to provide students with the tools and skills they need to build conceptual understanding that they will apply across grade levels. When math gets challenging, students are able to draw upon conceptual frameworks they have built since Kindergarten. Loupas and Holmstrom (2013), co-directors of The Math: Getting It Project, state,

The Math: Getting It Project addresses a troubling problem in mathematics education: Students frequently do not ‘get it’ when they progress beyond 4th grade into fraction concepts, and later when they reach pre-algebra and higher mathematics courses. Why? Compelling research points to the persistent absence of instructional strategies designed to deeply embed core mathematical structures in student thinking, primarily when students first learn fractions but also throughout K-12 math learning programs. These strategies, however, are crucial to the improvement of math achievement at every level” (Homepage, 2013, para. 2).

For third grade, there are two specific concepts taught at the beginning of the year that students need to master through conceptual models. Our work as a PLC has been to develop students’ understanding using strategies to develop students’ conceptual understanding. Applying what we learn about student data is often the most challenging. It is easy to share student data and determine what students have difficulty with but our team needs to continue with the cycle. We need to improve our own skills and brainstorm teaching strategies that we can implement to increase student understanding. Smylie, Conly, and Marks (2011) state,  “Well intentioned teachers can be committed to great teaching, and still, the beliefs, habits, and strategies they have adopted over the years may work against them” (p. 11). This is where working collaboratively can be powerful because teachers can learn the strengths and weaknesses of all the classes and then work as a team to share and implement strategies that will benefit the students. In our PLC, we want to utilize the knowledge and skills of all members of our PLC to plan instruction based on pre-assessment results.  According to Hirsh and Hord (2010), “School leadership overall is ultimately enhanced by the different knowledge and skills brought by a variety of people and by the commitments that are developed among those who perform leadership tasks together” (p. 275).

For the beginning of the year, our focus was reviewing addition and subtraction facts and strategies students learned in 2nd grade. Students would then apply these strategies to learn addition and subtraction with regrouping. Below is our PLC’s timeline for using pre-assessments and analysis of student data to plan interventions needed for addressing Goal 1: 

  • Establish PLC Norms              
  • Review and Practice Protocols              
  •  Pre-assess math facts- addition and subtraction  
  •  Pre-assess addition and subtraction with regrouping (paper pencil and interviews)  
  •  Identify students: Got it, Almost Got It, Far to Go
  •  Determine students invited to After School Program
  • Math fact intervention
  • After School Program          
  • Whole group instruction- addition and subtraction with regrouping                              
  • Formative assessment- share with PLC student progress, make decisions about next steps for instruction  
  • Implement intervention for regrouping
  • Continue interventions- use formative assessment to track progress                                                      
  • Summative Assessments- regrouping post-test (paper pencil and interview)    
  •  Before Winter Break: Pre-test multiplication
  • Introduce Lesson Study
  • Go over guidelines for lesson study
  • View sample videotape lesson on applying subtraction strategy to subtraction with regrouping
  • Practice filling out Lesson Study Data Sheet
  • Practice filling out Lesson Study Reflection Sheet
  • Create schedule for observations        
  • Begin observations for multiplication strategies

Exhibit Type A: Educator Learning

Example 1: After School Program- Addition and Subtraction Math Facts

Learning Target: Students will be able to solve addition and subtraction facts fluently using the appropriate strategy.

With my PLC, we pre-assessed students’ math fact proficiency with the Eagle Addition and Subtraction Facts Diagnostic Test. The following artifacts PLC1 PLC2 PLC3 show PLC meeting minutes in which my team collected student data based on pre-assessments, analyzed results, and determined interventions needed. We defined the criteria students needed to meet to determine who “Got it”, “Almost Got It” and who was “Far to Go.” This determined the placement in the Eagle Math Timings students would participate in during class and also who would qualify for the After School Program. We also used pre-assessment results of math fact strategies previously taught in the 2nd grade Math: Getting It Project curriculum to determine which students needed support in the After School Program. This artifact documents the PLC minutes used to determine who needed support with these strategies. PLCMathStrategies

One of the interventions for students who needed support with math facts and strategies was participation in the After School Program. As a Math Leader, I was a part of the team who created an adapted version of the curriculum designed to teach students to apply addition and subtraction strategies to learn math facts. The adapted version was designed for the After School Program. After School Program only runs for a short time so the activities were shortened and designed to help students “catch up.” The following artifact AfterSchoolMath shows the adapted sequence of  lessons taught during the After School Program. 

Example 2: Assessment Interviews

Learning Target: Students will accurately add and subtract with regrouping.

As a Math Leader, I had the opportunity to pre-assess third grade students from 3 of 4 elementary schools in the district. While students completed addition and subtraction with regrouping problems, I had them explain their thinking throughout the process. This artifact Mathleader is a PLC reporting form that documents discussion with my PLC team members about the math interviews that would take place. The data from the interviews educated leaders on students’ background knowledge and skills/strategies students are applying to the new learning. The artifact below is a summary of data results I collected from a classroom.


Our interview notes and data from each class was then taken back to our PLC teams. We shared results and common misunderstandings so teachers could use this assessment to plan for upcoming lessons.  For example, this data shows that students needed the most support lining the digits up correctly in paper/pencil format. Students knew when to regroup but weren’t sure what it means or how to do it. Students were successful with adding numbers without regrouping if they were able to line up the digits correctly.  As a result, our PLC team determined instructional strategies that would be implemented when teaching addition with regrouping. We knew to emphasize using place value to line up the digits correctly. We knew our students needed work with the place value mat to conceptually understand why they have to regroup. We knew our  students needed to physically regroup 10 ones cubes for 1 ten and 10 tens for 1 hundred before moving to the algorithm. 

With my PLC team, we developed formative assessments to use throughout the unit to determine next steps for teaching that matched the skills needed for both the pre- and post-assessment. Each student received guided and independent practice for each activity leading to the learning target. First, students had to show the conceptual model on the place value mat by lining up the blocks according to place and regrouping the blocks when needed.  We used observation and student interviews so students could explain how they knew where the ones, tens, and hundreds go and explain how and why they regrouped. Students then had to apply this model to the algorithm and explain aloud how they matched. Students used the place value blocks to model each problem. The following artifacts include a student’s pre-assessment and my interview notes. IMG_0801


Once students were able to explain this connection they were ready to solve the algorithm without the place value mat and blocks. The artifacts below are examples of formative assessments we created as a PLC team that connected to the learning target. The students had to solve the problems correctly and explain aloud or in writing the steps they took to solve the problem.



Each student completed a post-assessment similar to the pre-assessment where they were asked to line up the digits and solve addition problems with regrouping. Each student had to solve a mixture of addition problems (regrouping and no regrouping) to show they knew when and how to regroup. These problems also included 3-digit with 2-digit to assess if they were able to line up the digits vertically according to place.

Next Steps

Based on our assessment results, our PLC will continue to have students solve addition and subtraction with regrouping and apply it when learning to solve addition story problems. The assessment results show that continued practice is needed to develop fluency.  These students need many opportunities throughout the year to apply regrouping so they can solve algorithms fluently. We will continue to ask critical thinking questions so students are explaining how and why they are using certain steps to solve the problem. We will continue to use the place value mat to ensure students conceptually understand regrouping. 

In order to continue to work towards Goal 1, while utilizing opportunities for educator learning, I plan to introduce lesson studies to my PLC team. We have been encouraged by administration to observe each other’s teaching to gain insight on different teaching strategies we can implement in instruction. We haven’t done this before, so I think introducing lesson studies will provide us with a protocol for observation and feedback. What lesson study offers that I think would improve the work of our PLC team is the opportunity to be the researcher. According to Zepeda (2012), “Lesson study involves a team of teachers observing and collecting data as one teacher teaches the lesson” (p. 227). Rather than just sharing instructional strategies with team members, the team members are observing to help the teacher improve and to see instructional strategies used in action. Rather than solely looking at student work, teachers are also observing the instruction and student responses. Another teacher observing gives the teacher another set of eyes to informally assess student understanding. Zepeda (2012) states, “When teachers analyze and discuss instructional practice and the resulting samples of student work, they experience some of the highest caliber professional development available” (p.233). This type of professional learning requires trusting relationships within a team. In order to practice the lesson study process in a non-threatening environment, I will use a videotape of my teaching that we will observe as a team Videotaped Lesson for Lesson Study. This way we can practice as a team identifying instructional strategies used and providing feedback. Prior to the videotape, we will discuss guidelines for lesson study using this artifact Intro_to_Lesson_Study_. We will review the Lesson Study Data Sheet Lesson_Study_Data_Sheet and practice completing the form while we watch the videotape lesson. We will then practice completing  the Lesson Study Reflection Sheet Lesson_Study_Reflection_Sheet following the video. The reflection sheet connects the teaching that was observed with new learning for the teacher observing. The reflection allows the teacher to reflect on what he/she learned while watching the lesson and new learning that can be applied to his/her teaching. Once we have practice the lesson study process, we will schedule observations for multiplication, which is our next area of math focus. 

Goal 2: All students demonstrate the individual character qualities, emotional strength and social skills to succeed. They contribute to the betterment of school and community and demonstrate the knowledge and skills that reflect responsible citizenship.

We want to improve our students’ ability to make positive choices, to contribute to a positive learning community, and to work productively with others. As a member of the Positive Behavior Support Committee, we meet to discuss school-wide behavior expectations and plans for supporting positive behavior throughout the school. Structures already in place include:

School-Wide Promises: I promise to respect myself and others, I promise to respect school property, and I promise never to hurt anyone on the inside or the outside.

Gold-Card Rewards: Students receive monthly rewards for following school-wide promises

Think Time: Students who need support following the promises after reminders go to “Think Time.” The student goes to another classroom and completes a think time form.  The student reflects on the promise he was not following and what changes he can make in order to contribute to a positive learning environment.

Specific Need

In my Professional Learning Community, we identified specific needs our grade level team was experiencing that were not addressed by the current work of the committee.  We discussed what our students continued to need support with to help improve our progress toward the school improvement goal. A common thread was that students needed support working collaboratively and making positive choices when working with others. We wanted to improve our classroom management strategies so they not only focused on the individual but supported collaborative work among students. We wanted students to understand the value of working with others and respecting all ideas. We also wanted to provide opportunities for students to be involved in assessing their own behavior and contributions as individuals and as group members.  Our observations included:

-Students consistently take a passive role and do not contribute to their group.

-Some students disagree with partner feedback and do not compromise in a productive way.

-Some students have trouble listening to other ideas or choose to let other students do the majority of the work.

-Students have difficulty following the UPP promises outside of the classroom and problem solving at recess.

Below is the timeline for addressing Goal 2:

  • Third grade team collaborates in PLC to identify specific needs for supporting positive behavior                            
  •  Students collaborate to create expectations for roles in group work         
  • Students collaborate to create expectations for all group members connected to elements of cooperative learning
  • Third Grade Team collaborates in PLC to create self- and peer-assessments based on expectations students created    
  •  Students practice cooperative learning skills in group work (fluency practice, math facts, science lessons)  
  • Invite counselor to teach “Bucket Filler” lesson                                
  • Students reflect on behaviors needed for a positive learning environment
  • Students complete goal setting form for behavior, work habits, and academics.          
  • Students and/or teacher share goals with parents at conferences and discuss how parent can help the child reach his/her goals
  • Begin sending home weekly self-assessments for behavior with teacher comments and require parent signature
  • Students complete 2nd goal setting form to reflect on previous goals and set new goals.
  • Goal setting form will be sent home and require parent signature. Second conference will be held if needed.

Exhibit Type B: Community Involvement

Example 1: Routines and Assessments

In our PLC, we focused on specific instructional strategies we could implement to improve student collaboration. According to Charney (2002), we need to find connections in others and to feel ourselves members of many groups. We need to teach children to give care as well as to receive care. We must also help them learn and want to contribute. Our students created expectations for working in groups and practiced modeling positive behavior. Examples for building community include:  knowing student names, taking turns, sharing, making room in a circle, joining activities and small groups, being friendly, cooperating, and solving conflicts. Students created expectations for specific roles that follow these guidelines. The students modeled what the expectations would look like and sound like for each role so they were prepared to work productively in a group setting. As a PLC team, we wanted to incorporate more opportunities for students to participate in cooperative learning. “An underlying purpose of cooperative learning is to make each group member a stronger individual in his her own right” (Dean, Hubble, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p.35). Cooperative learning provides a structure for students to learn from one another. It allows each student to engage and participate in the learning. Students are not only engaged in learning the content but are developing social skills and positive relationships with their peers. Cooperative learning includes organized groups and establishing accountability. Cooperative learning techniques help students develop social skills, promote student self-esteem and help to provide positive race relations. The five elements of cooperative learning include positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, individual and group accountability, and interpersonal and small group skills (Dean, Hubble, Pitler, & Stone, 2012).  Students created group expectations connected to the five elements of cooperative learning so they were accountable for expectations they agreed would lead to a positive learning environment. As a grade level team, we used this feedback from students to create self- and peer-assessments so students could reflect on their contributions to group work. The artifacts below show assessments students completed. These examples show that all students are held to high expectations and taking responsibility for their behavior and contributions.

IMG_0797        IMG_0794

At each scheduled conference time in November, the parents are informed about their child’s progress. Since my students needed support with positive behavior choices, I thought this would be a great opportunity to involve parents in helping their children reach goals they have set for academic, work habits, and behavior. According to Henderson & Mapp (2002), “When school staff engage in caring and trusting relationships with parents that recognize parents as partners in the educational development of children, these relationships enhance parents’ desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children’s educational development” (p. 45). It is important that my families understand that our partnership is vital to their student’s progress. I want them to feel welcome and comfortable to ask questions and share concerns. One suggestion for improving parent involvement is to recognize that even if parents cannot be present at school, helping their children at home is a also a valuable contribution (Henderson & Mapp, 2002, p. 46).  At conference time, the students shared with their parents the  goals they had set for academic, work habits and behavior and how they planned to accomplish the goals. This goalsetting form SettingGoals1 is used as a tool to inform families about their child’s progress but also allows the parents to be involved because they are agreeing to help their child with his/her goal.

Next Steps

At the next report card period I plan to have students complete this goal setting form SettingGoals2 so they can reflect on their prior goals and set new goals. I also plan to send home a weekly self-assessment. Below is the artifact I created, in which both the student and I will assess their progress throughout the week. I plan to provide parents with teacher comments. There is a space for parents to write questions or comments. The form is to be returned with a parent signature. When the form is returned, I will be able to respond to any questions asked via notes, e-mail, or by phone. This self-assessment will be a tool I can use for two-way communication because the parent has a space to ask questions or leave comments.



Example 2: Bucket Filler Lesson and Class Norms

Since students were having trouble following the UPP Promises outside of the classroom and problem solving with their peers at recess, I wanted to revisit school-wide behavior expectations. Together we created t-charts and modeled examples and non-examples of behaviors that meet the school wide promises. These promises include: I promise to never hurt anyone on the inside or out, and I promise to respect myself and others. This artifact Expectations shows that students know behaviors that follow the promises throughout the school. Since students were having trouble getting along and problem solving at recess, I invited the school counselor to our classroom to give a lesson on “bucket fillers.” Bucket fillers show respectful behavior such as working well with others, helping, giving compliments, and inviting a friend to play. Students had the opportunity to practice these skills with different students in pairs and groups. In the artifact below, students wrote the behaviors they needed to have for a positive learning environment. Examples include: never hurting anyone on the inside or outside by solving a problem calmly, not saying mean things to people or about people, not making the problem bigger, treat people the way you want to be treated and be a bucket filler.


Next Steps

I will continue to monitor student behavior throughout the year to determine if additional accommodations or support from the school community is needed to support positive behavior.


Charney, R. (2002). Teaching Children to Care: Classroom Management for Ethical and Academic Growth, K-8. Greenfield: Northeast Foundation for Children.

Dean, C. Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). Denver: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Hirsh, S., & Hord, S. (2010). Building hope, giving affirmation: Learning communities that address social justice issues bring equity to the classroom.  Journal of staff development, 31(4), 10-12, 14,16-17.

Loupas, J., & Holmstrom, A. (2013). University Place School District. The Math: Getting It Project. Retrieved March 10, 2013, from

Smylie, M.A., Conley, S., & Marks, H.M. (2011). Exploring new approaches to teacher leadership for school improvement. In E. Hilty (Ed.) Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education (pp. 265-282). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. (Chapter 25).

 Zepeda, S. (2012). Professional development: What works (2nd ED). Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education

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One Response to EDU 6600: Final Project

  1. Pingback: EDU 6600: Meta-Blog | Courtney Swanson's bPortfolio

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