Examining and Elevating Education:
Dr. Boberg's Blog
As the Academic Dean of The Episcopal School of Dallas, Dr. Eric Boberg is charged with articulating, overseeing, and leading ESD’s learning and teaching priorities, promoting ESD’s Mission, supporting a system of practice that attracts and retains exemplary educators, and implementing and refining a professional growth system for faculty. Boberg earned his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas at Arlington. He has his MBA from TCU’s Neeley School of Business and his Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
If you have a question about ESD's curriculum or trends in education, please email Dr. Boberg. He will post answers to common questions here.
The Continual Process of Academic Review
Over the past two years The Episcopal School of Dallas has adopted and refined several programs and processes aimed at creating a collaborative culture of continual academic review. Instead of awaiting the stages of our external 10-year ISAS accreditation process, we are proactively working to make academic review part of an internal, on-going activity of collective reflection on the practice of teaching and learning. In addition to the continuation of curriculum mapping and the development of learning plans, two crucial pieces of the puzzle include the recent adoption of the Danielson Framework for Teaching and the conversion of the Learning and Teaching Team into a in-house accreditation committee.
Teachers are leveraging the resources associated with Google Apps for Education to create and share their revised curriculum maps and learning innovation plans--both of which embrace the framework of Wiggins' Understanding by Design (UbD). UbD asks educators to work backwards from their desired learning outcomes in order to design appropriate instructional and assessment strategies that align with those outcomes. Similarly, the school can vertically align its curricula by starting with our desired goals for our graduates and working backwards to ensure that we support those goals at each step of the way for each of our students.
While course curriculum maps (working sample) provide a birds-eye view of the scope and sequence of enduring understandings, essential questions, and significant skills and content related to a particular course, a teacher's learning plans (working sample) highlight a few particular lessons or strategies that a teacher is currently working on, either individually or as part of a group. Within Google Drive, teachers and administrators can search these documents by department, division, teacher, or key words, including specific materials (e.g., a book, resource, or technological tool), certain strategies (e.g., flipped instruction or Socratic seminar), or particular UbD elements (e.g., understandings, questions, skills, or content). Teachers can also link rubrics, instructions, and samples to provide greater details.
As part of our formal curricular review, these documents have already illuminated several enduring understandings that our teachers value across divisions. Two of the leading enduring understandings are related to the 21st century literacies or themes of global awareness and environmental awareness. Currently six learning plans have over-arching learning goals related to the desire to get students to understand and develop a mutual respect for diverse cultures:
- Art manifests the essence of culture, including values, norms, gender roles, and familial roles.
- Architecture manifests the essence of culture, including social, economic, political, and religious relationships.
- Inventions reflect and change cultures.
- Geography influences needs, culture, opportunities, choices, interests, and skills.
- As a form of propaganda, art (most notably literature and architecture) can intentionally be used to depict and direct cultural expectations and values.
- The culture of Texas today continues to be shaped by diverse cultures from around the world.
- An analysis of film can reveal differences in cultures.
- Observations of and reflections on the natural world help inform an understanding of self.
- Individuals can take individual and collective action towards addressing environmental challenges.
- Observations of and reflections on natural settings--historical, social, and environmental--inform an understanding of self in connection with the past.
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of society's impact on the natural world.
These final four learning plans alone involve all students in 1st, 9th, and 11th grades in interdisciplinary projects that teachers at each level have designed and implemented together.
In addition to the UbD curricular framework, ESD has adopted the Danielson Framework for Teaching to help guide teachers in their instruction and professional growth. The Framework for Teaching is a tool for assessing and enhancing the teaching practice along four domains with 22 components. Domain 1 includes competencies related to Planning and Preparation such as demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy, demonstrating knowledge of students, and designing student assessments. Domain 2 focuses on the teacher's ability to create an effective Classroom Environment through such skills as managing student behavior and creating an environment of respect and rapport, while Domain 3 hones in on Instruction more intently, including the teacher's ability to communicate with students and use assessments in instruction. Finally, Domain 4 includes broader Professional Responsibilities related to reflecting on teaching, maintaining records, and participating in a professional community. The Framework includes a rubric for each component of each domain that assesses teacher's abilities from unsatisfactory to distinguished. As the community continues to the develop the details of how we will fully implement the Framework, we have already created rubrics for our in-house review that align with the four domains and use the same scale of evaluation.
While trained observers (e.g., department chairs and division heads) will be primarily responsible for teacher observations related to classroom environment (Domain 2) and instruction (Domain 3), the Learning and Teaching Team (L&T Team) will make observations, commendations, and recommendations at the department level by division for most of the the activities related to Domains 1 and 4, and some of the components of Domain 3. In addition to other resources, the team will survey teachers about their experiences and teaching practices; examine teachers' use of Schoology to organize and maintain materials and academic records, to communicate effectively with students, to provide formative feedback for learning, and to use a wide array of the resources; and examine the nature and completion of teachers' curriculum maps and learning plans. This year the L&T Team will begin its annual review with a close examination of the instruction of mathematics and world languages.
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