Though districts look different from the outside and our kids are different on the inside, the learning problems teachers are uncovering look surprisingly similar. For literacy, one recurring problem is that kids are not able to formulate conclusions based on evidence provided in a passage or make inferences based on contextual clues.

The final phase of our 4-Phase Dialogue process requires the documentation all of the data team’s suggestions about what they think might be causing the specific student-learning problem they’re seeing. The suggested causes are later organized and prioritized, and research is found to shed further light on the nature of the problem and possible contributing factors. In the case of the problem described above, the first hypotheses about potential causes usually reference kids’ vocabulary levels and lack of prior knowledge. Using a technique we call “Why?Why?Why?” teams continue to push beyond initial inferences to follow the logic and discover what the underlying factors actually are.

Along the way, they begin to look inside the classroom instead of outside. And this is when their own practices are put on the table to analyze in a safe, non-judgmental way that invariably leads to changing some of the most fundamental techniques we’ve all taken for granted. Pay off comes in rapid succession when they see the changes in students’ learning as a result of changes they themselves have recommended and implemented.  Eureka!  Success! And now we can’t wait to analyze the next set of formative classroom assessment results.