The resources in this Spotlight center on improving standards-driven instructional practices, with a comparison of four student-centered learning practices, details on the innovative Plan-Observe-Debrief (POD) collaborative lesson planning approach, and a success story from Nevada, where teacher learning huddles are impacting student writing.

Student-Centered Learning Practices: Exploring Connections Between Four Popular Approaches

Every school aims to produce self-directed and confident learners, but the path to get there may be markedly different. Nonetheless, four different student-centered approaches have emerged and been adopted by school districts. These include:

  • formative assessment,
  • deeper learning,
  • culturally responsive and sustaining education, and
  • personalized learning.

Moving Toward Instructional CoherenceAs different as these approaches may seem, they share important commonalities, write the authors of Moving Toward Instructional Coherence: How Four Popular Student-Centered Approaches Deepen Identity, Agency, Equity, and Community. This paper examines each in more detail and concludes that though they may be seen as competing with each other, “The four approaches of engaging in formative assessment, deeper learning, culturally responsive and sustaining education, and personalized learning share a common aspirational commitment—to provide student learning experiences rooted in developing identity, prioritizing learner agency, educating for equity, and honoring and activating community assets.”

School leaders can integrate the approaches in search of more effective instruction, too: “When instructional practices from two or more of these approaches are intentionally implemented together, they can help strengthen student engagement and provide culturally and socially rich, relevant, and deep learning for each student.”

Plan-Observe-Debrief Cycles: Collaborating to Improve Lesson Planning

Webinar ImageSchools in need of change may be interested in a powerful new framework for collaborative lesson planning: POD cycles. During a multi-day POD cycle, teachers design a lesson together, observe each other delivering the lesson, and then give each other feedback on what they saw in the classroom. Instructors and school leaders can learn the finer points of how it’s done in a recorded webinar featuring teachers and principals who have implemented the process in the Atwater Elementary School District in Atwater, California.

The webinar, part of a series that focuses on WestEd’s Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement framework, explains how PODs work and what they can accomplish, using the experiences of Atwater’s elementary school teachers and principals to illustrate and illuminate the process. The webinar covers important steps, strategies, and structures to create standards-based and rigorous lessons that will engage all learners and how different POD designs can be created to serve the needs of individual teaching teams and groups of students.

Learning Huddles: Improving Instruction in One Nevada School District

Teachers collaboratingMost teachers participate regularly in grade-level meetings. But while typical grade-level meetings can devolve into discussions of student behavior or planning for school special events, teachers in the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada, use their grade-level meetings to improve their reading and writing instruction with short, focused “learning huddles.”

Learning huddles are short (30 minutes) and have a specific, templatized routine. Teachers volunteer as facilitators, timekeepers, or notetakers for each group, review their action plan from the last meeting, and then spend 20 minutes analyzing a data set before deciding on the next steps to improve instruction. The learning huddles are quick and simple, and in Washoe County, they’re proving effective.

Subscribe to the E-Bulletin

Stay informed about WestEd’s research, resources, services, events, and career opportunities by subscribing to our E-Bulletin. Our June 2024, Volume 1 issue examines research and shares resources to help instructors and administrators improve standards-driven instructional practices. The issue features the following:

  • 2024 Summer Learning Opportunities
  • How to Transform and Improve Standards-Based Classroom Instruction
  • Supporting High-Quality Teaching Across Subject Areas
  • Using A Standards-Driven Framework for Improving Teaching and Learning
  • Instructional Coaching: Practical Strategies for Success
  • Collaborative Lesson Planning to Improve Instructional Practice
  • Accelerating English Learner Success with Formative Assessment
  • Improving Instruction with Teacher Learning Huddles and Inquiry Cycles

Follow Us on Social Media

Join us on Facebook and LinkedIn to share your experiences in improving instructional practices.