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Expert Interview Series: Chad Vignola of LDC About Helping Teachers Teach Students Better

July 13th, 2017
This post by Christa Sterling was originally published on the CCSU Continuing Education blog.

As Executive Director of LDC, Chad Vignola works tirelessly to support educators. We had a chance to talk with Chad to hear about the exciting and innovative instructional techniques and materials that can help teachers educate their students more effectively.

How does Literacy Design Collaborative help improve the level of literacy in schools?

LDC is a framework for building the skills of teachers to deliver college- and career-ready standard instruction in the classroom. As Dick Elmore’s research found, “Task predicts performance.” In other words, asking students to complete rigorous and engaging work will result in improved student outcomes. However, delivering rigorous tasks in the classroom requires skills that secondary content teachers, in particular, have not historically possessed. By delivering backwards-designed lessons that culminate in a performance task that requires a student to use literacy skills to master disciplinary content, LDC helps create improved student outcomes. A simple example: teaching a student to comprehend a complex text (like a primary social studies source, scientific journal article, or an ELA critique) pull meaning from that text, and then demonstrate mastery through a performance task like a cogent argumentative essay.

When school districts try to implement new educational standards, what are some of the things that they frequently do wrong?

  • Workshop professional development: Pulling teachers out and talking at them or even engaging in rich discourse does not change teacher practice. Professional development needs to be ongoing and job-embedded.
  • Insufficient collaborative time: Teachers need to engage in a productive struggle as they learn together to improve their practice. This involves collegial dialogue and collaboration among peers.
  • Inadequate instructional support and coaching: Teachers need regular feedback and support in their classroom practice and the ability to learn from failure without punitive recourse. They need access to research-backed professional development resources (it’s not as simple as hiring a recently-retired principal or superintendent) that have been tested in a large number of settings with data confirmation.

Finish this sentence: “One innovative tool, method, or assignment that teachers can use to help strengthen their students’ writing skills is…”

LDC’s “Find and Teach” online course module enables a teacher to select a nationally-vetted unit performance task and try it in their classroom with a cycle for reflection on student work. This can quickly shine a light on the difference between handing a scientific journal article to a student and saying, “Answer the questions at the end” and teaching a student how to approach a scientific journal article, pull meaning from text, organize thought through discourse, understand rubric expectations, and engage in writing and revision. Teachers find many students who they previously thought could not handle complex text can actually do so when taught how. The dramatic change in those students is extraordinary!

Other than standardized test scores, what metrics or indicators can help measure the effectiveness of a school’s curriculum or instructional approach?

LDC’s instructionally-embedded module performance tasks (and often mini-tasks as well) generate rich formative data to identify whether a student is building the skills necessary to master content. The LDC writing rubric has been shown to be predictive of the rigorous demands of college-ready standards. Thus, a school can have immediate and ongoing data throughout the year on where a student stands with regard to the grade-level expectations embodied in various types of assessments.

What are some of the main differences between teaching adults vs. teaching children? 

Our experience is that the comparability vastly outweighs the differences. Often, the mistake is failing to apply practices that we know are effective with students to professional development and teacher learning. such as experiential learning, regular coaching feedback, reflection on professional development practice, data review, and scaffolding.

Can LDC concepts be integrated into continuing education courses for adults?

LDC offers year-long teacher and coach learning content with multiple learning cycles. We are in discussions with several teacher education programs about incorporating LDC as part of their teacher preparation programs.

In the future, how common will it be for teachers and schools to embrace nontraditional curricula and teaching tools to help students learn better?

Personalized student learning aided by just-in-time data that enables teachers to connect students to engaging appropriate (and available) content will provide myriad opportunities for students to demonstrate competency and mastery of 21st-century skills and content. Linear textbooks, which are often inaccurate, non-rigorous, and unengaging, will be rarely-used relics.

 

 

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