Writing Your Commentaries
Points to Consider
Relationship to the NBPTS Standards
Check to see that you have addressed the NBPTS Standards on which the section will be scored. Some considerations might be:
· Does your instructional sequence represent meaningful learning for students?
Is it connected to a “big idea?”
Is it relevant to the social and/or emotional lives of your students?
Does it involve real life problems?
· Is the instruction accessible to students with different strengths and abilities?
· Are the activities based on what you know about the needs of your students?
· Do the activities elicit thinking and reasoning from your students?
· Are their options provided for student choice?
Description: A retelling of what happened in your classroom.
Remember you must “set the scene” for the assessors. Write in a logically ordered and detailed manner, so assessors will have a basic sense of your teaching situation and can understand what you are conveying in your Written Commentary. Remember, description is called for when the prompt uses verbs like state, list, describe, or asks what or which as the opening interrogatory word.
When you describe, be sure your response
· is an accurate and precise enumeration and/or explanation of critical features.
· has clear and logical ordering of the elements or features of the event, person, concept, or strategy described.
· includes all features or elements that would allow an outsider to “see as you see” whatever is described.
Analysis and Reflection:
Analysis and reflection overlap, but are not identical. Analysis deals with reasons, motives, and interpretations and is grounded in the concrete evidence provided by the materials you submit. Analytic writing shows the assessors the thought processes you use to arrive at the conclusions you make about a teaching experience. Analysis illustrates the significance of the evidence you submit. Reflection is the thought process that occurs after the teaching experience. This is the thinking that allows you to learn from your practice about your content, teaching strategies, your students learning needs, etc. – How will this new information inform your teaching.
Analysis involves interpretation and examination of why the elements or events described are the way they are. Reflection is a particular kind of analysis; it always suggests self-analysis, or retrospective consideration of one’s practice, in the terms of assessment. Analysis is called for when a prompt asks how, why, or in what way(s).
When you analyze or reflect, be sure your response
· includes the subject of the analysis. This must be available to the reader (i.e. the student work, the videotape). If such an artifact is not available, a clear description of what you are analyzing must be given before the analysis.
· does not focus on what (which is descriptive) but rather on why (which is analytical and reflective).
When you are asked to identify a particularly successful moment in a sample of teaching and tell us why you regard it as successful, you must analyze. When you are asked for a rationale, you must analyze. When you are asked what student performance suggests about your teaching, you are asked to analyze and interpret. This means you are to use the evidence of student work to explain and illustrate your practice and to use your practice to explain and provide a context for the student work. Ask yourself:
· What did my students know before this teaching experience?
· What did my students learn because of this teaching experience?
· What did I know about my students and their knowledge before this teaching experience?
· What did I learn about my students and my practice because of this teaching experience?
When you are asked what you would do differently, you are reflecting on and analyzing your practice.
· Climate in the classroom
· Student engagement
· Discourse environment
· Videotape as a vehicle for professional development requires two essential ingredients:
A common set of criteria
A set of ground rules that create a safe environment for learning
Analyzing Your Videos:
Watch your videos carefully several times. The first time you watch, watch with the sound off and concentrate on body language and facial expressions.
Your analysis does not have to cover the entire videotape. Twenty-minute clips will be sufficient for this process. Select clips from several of your tapes for analysis, keeping in mind the suggestions about representing multiple class sessions and course offerings. Choose the clip by gauging the amount of evidence a particular part of the videotape offers considering the NBPTS Standards on which you will be assessed.
All video clips must be continuous and uninterrupted unless specifically stated otherwise.
After you have selected your video clips, answer the questions from the “Analysis Questions” portion of this handout. Your responses should be straightforward and written in non-technical language.
When you have finished answering the questions, review your writing. Reread what you have written with as fresh a view as possible. Imagine as you read that you do not know anything about the unit or the students you have selected. Is your writing clear? Can you follow your thinking?
Video Analysis Questions:
· What is the extent of classroom involvement (e. g. are the same students doing all the talking?)?
· Are the students engaged in the lesson? How can you tell? What do students’ facial expressions and body language tell you about your instruction?
· What kinds of questions do you ask? Can too many questions be answered with a single word? How long do you wait for responses? Do you ask students to explain and/or defend a particular answer or approach? Do you ask students to compare or evaluate alternative interpretations or strategies?
· Were there any opportunities for students to ask questions? How would you categorize the students’ questions (e.g. did they indicate confusion and a need for clarification or understanding and extension?)?
· What roles (e.g. expert, facilitator, co-learner) did you play in the video clip? Was each role appropriate for the situation?
· What instructional opportunities did you omit? Why?
· What evidence did you see of the students taking intellectual risks? Does the class look safe as an environment for getting something wrong? Do students talk to each other as well as to you?
· Do you push students to take risks, to speculate, to offer conjectures about possible approaches, strategies, and interpretations?
· Were the learning goals for the lesson achieved? Did you adjust the lesson so every student could achieve your goals? What is the evidence for your answers, both in the video clip and from other sources?
· Explain how your design and execution of this lesson affected the achievement of your instructional goals. (Your response might include, but is not limited to, such things as the anticipation and handling of student misconceptions, the unexpected questions from students, the unanticipated opportunity for learning that you captured, or your planned strategy and its outcomes in the lesson.)
Some Questions for You to Consider as You Prepare Your
Student Work-Based Entries
Selection of Learning Segment:
· Is your unit of study based on a broad theme or complex concept?
· Have you selected or created rich and varied resources to meet the instructional needs of all students?
Selection of Students:
· How many students were you instructed to choose?
· Did you begin with a larger pool of students to ensure yourself a range of choices and as insurance in case a student moves?
· Have you featured these students in any other entries?
Selection of Assignment(s):
· Have you chosen complex assignments or prompts that will challenge your students to think deeply and or across disciplines?
· Do your artifacts, if required, meet the unique specifications for each portfolio entry?
· Have you chosen wisely so that the specific NBPTS Standards to be assessed through this entry will be exhibited clearly and consistently?
· Are you keeping personal notes as the teaching and learning progresses so that the reflection portion of the written commentary will be rich, authentic, and complete?
Directions: As you review your entry response, look for answers to questions/statements listed below. Look for specific details (evidence) of the questions/statements. This will assist you as you hone your observation and description skills in terms of student work.
Be sure that you have
· stated the goal of the assignment.
· stated why this is an important goal for student learning of the subject, skill, or concept.
· explained how this assignment connects to other activities in or out of class.
· described subject-specific concepts the student needs to know in order to complete this assignment successfully.
· predicted what misconceptions might appear in the student response to this assignment.
· described the ways you intended for the assignment to extend students’ thinking about the topic.
· provided a description explaining
what the student did correctly.
what the student did incorrectly.
the most striking feature of the student response.
patterns in the students’ responses.
misconceptions each response reveals.
insights each response reveals (if any).
feedback you gave the student.
Activity 2: Interpretation
(What does each student response tell you?)
Directions: Preview your response to the entry looking for answers to the questions/statements listed. Look for specific details (evidence) of what emphasis you put on what you saw in the student work. The statements/questions are provided as a guide to assist you in honing your interpretation skills in terms of student work.
1. Did you provide evidence to show
· how you interpreted the responses from the student?
· the frame of reference that was available to you that aided in that interpretation?
· the cues the student and the student’s work gave you?
· explain what you knew about the connections that needed to be made in order to understand ideas in particular domains appropriate to the content area, and what each student’s response told you?
2. Did you provide answers to the following questions?
· What is each student’s most essential misunderstanding or difficulty?
· How does each student’s response fit into what you already knew about this student’s understandings and performance? Were you specific?
· What did each student learn from this assignment, based on the student responses to the assignment?
· What does each student need to do next to move his/her understanding forward?
(How does each student’s response illuminate your practice?)
Directions: Review your response to the entry looking for answers to the questions listed below. Look for specific details (evidence) about what you observed in each student’s work and how you interpreted those observations to illuminate your goals and your teaching strategies for reaching those goals. The questions are provided as a guide to assist you in honing your analytical skills in terms of (1) what the student work shows you about your goals for the assignment, (2) your classroom instruction prior to the assignment, (3) and whether or not you met your goals.
· Did you provide a brief but very specific diagnosis of the degree to which this student work shows that your goals for the assignment were met?
· Did you briefly explain how your instruction before the assignment was designed to prepare these students to complete this assignment successfully?
· Did you give an explanation for the parts of your instruction and/or preparation for this assignment that need re-teaching or reinforcement for each student?
· In light of the students’ performance on this assignment, did you indicate what goals should be set for each of these students in the immediate future? The more distant future?
· Did you explain your feedback strategy for each of these students? Did you provide an explanation as to why you chose that strategy for these particular students?
(What have you learned?)
Directions: Review your responses to the entry looking for answers to these questions. Look for specific details (evidence) of reflection on your practice. These questions will serve as a guide to assist you in honing your reflection skills in terms of student work.
· Did you provide an explanation as to what each student learned from this assignment and the instruction that preceded the assignment? Were you specific?
· Did you state what you learned from each student’s response?
· Did you provide an explanation as to what you thought worked well?
· Did you provide an explanation as to what you would do differently in light of the student responses to this assignment?
· Did you provide any evidence (details) of re-evaluating your feedback strategies in light of the previous questions? Did you state whether you would alter the feedback strategy? If so, did you explain how and why you would do it differently? If not, did you explain why not?
· Did you provide an explanation as to whether or not you would give the same assignment again? If so, did you offer an explanation as to whether or not you would prepare your students differently? Did you state how? If not, did you provide an explanation/description of what assignment would be used in its place? Did you state why?