Determining Acceptable Evidence
Evidence of understanding the meaning of understanding will ultimately appear in the unit plans, teaching environment, and teaching performance. In the case of unit plans, the process of developing and identifying key concepts and relevant context to present these concepts will be an ongoing process. This will coincide with development of teacher content knowledge that will contribute to the crafting of enduring understandings – the key concepts that will enable students to transfer what they have learned to new situations and contexts.
Teachers must be experts in the essential knowledge base of the discipline they are teaching to be able to extract the core concepts that tie together the facts and skills outlined in the common core and next generation standards. This will become evident in the decisions about what to teach and what to emphasize in a unit of instruction. Another important aspect is the context in which a teacher chooses to present a concept. The context provides the reason why we are learning the content. Choosing context that is relevant to the students and exemplifies the content in real life requires teachers to be aware of how the discipline they teach manifests itself in everyday events. It means following what goes on in the world and identifying the role of math and science concepts in those events. Creativity is an important aspect of this process but by no means does it mean that only a creative few will have success. Teachers can work together to create a working list of concept-context relationships that can be shared and developed as a team.
As teachers are developing their understanding of understanding there are important conversations that will take place and will indicate how each individual teacher is making connections to the concept. It will be apparent, as units are being developed, how each teacher is progressing in identifying key concepts and understandings. To help teachers become aware of their understanding, a curriculum map will serve as documentation of decisions made by teachers. The curriculum map includes the cluster of standards selected and the enduring understandings extracted from these standards along with the context used to present the concepts. These three elements - standards, concepts and context – work together in a unit to lead students toward conceptual understanding. The choices made by teachers reflect how well they are able to see the relevance of each component in the development of enduring understandings.
Observations, unit review, and ongoing development of enduring understandings represent one aspect of the performance assessment. The other important performance is the actual teaching of the unit. Teachers make countless critical decisions about teaching before, during, and after a lesson is delivered. What guides these decisions? What role does understanding have in guiding these decisions? Observing a lesson is one traditional way of evaluating a teacher and is still a necessary part of the process, but another important aspect is how the lesson contributes to the understanding of key concepts of a unit. Each lesson must also include a rationale as to how it fits into the big picture and how each experience will contribute to understanding.