Can Common Assignment Improve Student Outcomes?

Back-to-school time finds many teachers searching for resources to help them develop students’ literacy skills for better college and career readiness. Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC), Getting Smart Advocacy Partner, has created an instructional design platform that provides free online tools and resources for creating literacy-rich assignments and courses across content areas. LDC CoreTools is a guided online experience that supports teachers in planning and creating curricula, allowing them to effectively collaborate with colleagues across their school or across the nation.

LDC instructional units (“modules”) were used in the Common Assignment Study, a three year effort created to evaluate if collaboration using common content, common assessments and Common Core State Standards could be possible across states, effectively improving student outcomes and teaching quality. The results, and the feedback on using LDC modules, are something we thought educators would be interested in learning more about.

College and career readiness standards, paired with continually improving technology, provides new opportunities for teacher collaboration. Reaching across district boundaries and state lines, teachers are sharing useful resources and strategies, co-designing lessons and writing curricula.

For example, The Fund for Transforming Education and The Colorado Education Initiative recently concluded the Common Assignment Study, where two districts from each state co-developed and piloted common assignments in selected middle and high schools. As the study progressed, additional teachers and schools were tested, helping refine the common assignments and related protocols to ensure their quality, utility and value for use within districts.

Participating teachers from each state developed and taught two instructional units per year that exemplified the content knowledge and skills embedded in the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and the Colorado Academic Standards. The units contained common performance tasks for students, including modules from LDC. While researchers are still working on final feedback results, they have shared preliminary results:

  • Feedback indicates teachers felt more confident in their teaching as they had more tools at their disposal and they could see student achievement scores and engagement improved.
  • Initial feedback from teacher/student/principal perception surveys was positive, with participants feeling more could be done because there were more participants providing feedback.
  • It was noted that often collaboration can be a struggle, especially when dealing with two districts in different parts of country with different district demands. However, the majority of teachers felt it was worth the effort.
  • Students were very interested in what their counterparts in the other district were doing, and it became a friendly rivalry displaying school and state pride.

Evaluating the LDC Modules

Renee Boss is Initiative Director for The Fund for Transforming Education. Her Kentucky-based organization seeks innovative education solutions leading to greater success for all students. Recently, we had the opportunity to follow up with Renee about her work and exactly how LDC supported it.

Q: How does using LDC improve your work?

A: One of the one ways LDC improves my work is through its collaboration options. We live in an increasingly collaborative world and through LDC you can collaborate with teachers anytime, anywhere. This also provides an excellent chance for teachers to model collaboration behaviors for students, who will need these skills to become successful in life.

Another useful feature of LDC is the collection of so many resources and so many minds together. By that I mean that you don’t have to recreate the wheel to meet the needs of students. You can find what you need and adapt existing tools.

LDC also improves my work through two features: the Instructional Ladder and its hardwiring to academic standards. Those two staples of what LDC is about allow those in my organization to work better together, teachers to work better together, and helps all users think about the skills needed to complete the final LDC task at the end of the model.

Q: How do you use LDC CoreTools?

A: Because of the virtual collaboration capabilities with LDC CoreTools, we are able to connect with other teachers from anywhere in the world and share teaching strategies with one another. This is especially helpful when thinking about discipline specific instructional strategies for the content we teach. Using the Curriculum Library in LDC CoreTools, teachers are able to browse to find LDC mini-tasks and modules that they can use, adapt, and share with other teachers.

Q: Why would you recommend LDC CoreTools?

A: LDC CoreTools is important for its collaboration properties. It’s so beneficial to be able to collaborate in LDC CoreTools easily with teachers. It’s user-friendly; you can work with teachers across the country. Not only can you co-create tasks, but you can share with other teachers who are teaching the same thing or you can provide support.

Q: Any additional thoughts?

A: Another advantage of using LDC is that it provides common rubrics, and in Kentucky’s Teacher Professional Growth and Effectiveness System teachers are asked to use common rubrics to measure student growth at various points in the year.

In conclusion, Boss has heard positive things from instructional coaches about the ability to share modules on LDC CoreTools to solicit feedback and improve instruction. LDC is also useful to teachers as they demonstrate their effectiveness in the state’s professional growth and effectiveness system. By conducting pre-assessments at the start of a module, teachers can then look for improvement in student work in the final LDC written task. This natural connection makes LDC an integral part of the work instead of requiring extra steps.

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Catherine Wedgwood

Catherine is a communication specialist.

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