Shift to Digital: Classroom ‘Look Fors’

This blog is the third in a four part series–sponsored by Pearson Education–focused around the key indicators of success in a digital learning program. The first post focused on shared vision for student outcomes and learning experiences and the second focused on system strategies.
The most important things to look for as evidence of the shift to blended and personalized learning are in the classroom. Statements of vision and system strategies, but the bottom line is how teachers and learners experience the change. Following are summaries of how advanced systems describe what they are looking for in next generation classrooms.
The New Tech Network Classroom Walkthrough Tool is connected to their School Success Rubric, a key tool for defining school progress and outcomes. COO Tim Presiado said the rubric “reflects both our organization’s values and research supported educational priorities to insure that all students graduate prepared for college, careers, and civic life.” The rubric is used as a coaching and reflecting tool for New Tech Network schools.


-Students have positive relations with adults and peers
-Students feel emotionally safe and ensure that others
-Students feel empowered and empower others


-Students are excited about their work and how it relates to others
-Students are innovative and creative in their work
-Students form working relationships with adults


-Students are working on complex tasks
-Students are required to actively explore and apply new learning


-Students demonstrate mastery of knowledge of standards
-Students easily make connections among discipline areas
-Students use knowledge to solve problems


-Students can organize ideas in written and oral communication
-Students can effectively collaborate on complex tasks
-Students show mastery of other college and career ready skills


-Students have confidence and help build the capacity in others
-Students exchange ideas and push personal development
-Students accept responsibility for their actions

Raise Your Hand Texas is supporting a blended learning initiative in Texas; five school district grantees will be announced in April. Heather Staker, co-author of  Blended, developed the grant program and ‘look for‘ rubric, a portion of which is shown below. According to Christensen Institute theory, the two main things students want from school (i.e., jobs to be done) are to feel successful and have fun with friends. All students are motivated, but only to do the jobs that matter to them.

Application of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory

Description of week-in-the-life includes an awareness of both jobs students “hire” school to do and a set of well-designed experiences that help students fulfill those jobs in an inspiring way.

Personalized learning

Tailors the instructional environment—what, when, how, and where students learn—to individuals. Explicitly seeks to give students agency to drive their learning and depicts a compelling vision for flexible learning environments.

Competency- based learning

Demonstrates an understanding of the importance of transitioning toward competency-based learning across the system as evidenced by a thoroughly described plan to achieve this transition.

The full Raise Your Hand rubric considers vision, leadership team, teacher experience, physical environment, culture, planning and budgeting.
No state has a better blended learning partner than Rhode Island’s Highlander Institute. When we visited last year we received classroom walkthrough rubrics to help provide feedback on progress. The classroom rubric aligns with the Personalized Learning Progression below.
Shift To Digital: Classroom 'Look Fors' Pic 1
The Highlander classroom rubric (scored from 1, doesn’t appear present, to 4, a great deal of evidence) student-centered learning, culture, formative assessment, differentiation, demonstration of learning, leveraging technology, and physical space.
Education Elements has a five part walkthrough rubric that includes pedagogical shifts and skills that blended learning requires, ways in which leaders can support teachers, and how to align professional development.
Shift To Digital: Classroom 'Look Fors' Pic 2
EdElements developed a classroom walkthrough tool (which ties to this rubric) that is available for download.
The TNTP Core Teaching Rubric is used to describe and assess teacher performance across four performance areas: student achievement, essential content, academic ownership, and demonstration of learning. Each performance area has an essential question and description of teacher skills and behaviors that contribute to the student outcomes in each performance area.
A growing number of school districts have well developed walkthrough rubrics. Lake County Schools in Florida has developed a comprehensive definition of personalization as creating the environment where “learners drive their own learning and connect learning with their own interests and aspirations.” It includes:

  • become active participants in the design of learning and identify goals and objectives for their own learning plans;
  • develop the skills to use appropriate technology and resources;
  • build networks of peers, experts, and teachers for support;
  • demonstrate mastery of content in a competency-based system;
  • monitor the progress of their learning; and
  • redefine learning activities and goals based on individual learner needs.

Many New England schools coached by Great Schools Partnership use iWalkthrough, a secure electronic customizable classroom observation tool intended to make the collection and subsequent analysis of data about how students experience learning a regular component of the school’s ongoing, collaborative, school wide reflection and action planning. Their database includes over 120,000 classroom observations which inform analysis sessions (at least twice-yearly).
Maine’s Casco Bay High School has been recognized by Getting Smart and CompetencyWorks as one of the nation’s best high schools at promoting deeper learning. Their clear pedagogical vision is incorporated into a Learning Walk Tool (below) which faculty, leaders, and guests use regularly. If used by a team of three, one guest will observe students, one observes teachers, while the third documents the trip with photographs. Feedback is summarized and provided to teachers within 48 hours.
Shift To Digital: Classroom 'Look Fors' Pic 3

Next Gen Professional Learning

Digital learning creates a big opportunity for students, but it also enables personalized learning for educators. In Improving Conditions and Careers, we discuss the opportunities digital learning creates for teachers including collaboration time and growth, new teacher-leadership roles, flexible schedules and greater opportunities for career advancement.
Thanks to blended and online learning, schools can now extend the reach of great teachers to impact more students than just those within the classroom walls and teachers are beginning to feel empowered. Teachers also have better learning opportunities and are taking advantage of personalized, blended and competency-based (think micro credentials) professional development. As we look to teachers to teach in new and innovative ways, it is really important that we offer them the opportunity to learn in those same ways. (See Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning and Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning.)
Engaging teachers in collaborative lesson authoring has proven to be valuable professional learning in many school districts including Grand Prairie and Laredo Texas. A framework like Literacy Design Collaborative and their design space Core Tools build teacher capacity around new standards while encouraging student writing across the curriculum.
School districts and networks should all adopt or adapt updated classroom observation tools and support teachers learning online, in teams and in creating new resources.
This blog series is written as part of Pearson’s Shift to Digital Learning Campaign. Learn how Pearson supports the digital transformation of education with online and blended learning, elearning, and digital solutions to improve results, by checking out their Shift to Digital Campaign page, and:

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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