Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

Standard 1: Teacher leaders model ethical and moral behavior.


After 11 years of teaching, I realized I never really considered the why behind many of the practices I hold to be paramount in my classroom. Practices not related to my content area, or to the school where I teach; instead, practices directly related to the adolescents who sit in front of me every day. Practices like sharing stories of my years of growing up, or reading thought-provoking articles and discussing what this might mean to people individually, or writing thank you notes to each student throughout the year to thank them for unique qualities that make each student an individual, or exploring novels together – when I teach math.   There must be a reason why “Respect” is the only rule in my classroom, and why it is the only rule I have ever needed to have. There must be a reason why I strive to make sure each student in my classroom knows that I value each student as an individual, and that getting to know them, and helping them become better thinkers, inventors, creators, and learners is my number one priority each year. Throughout this course, I have been asked to consider what morals are: where they come from, why they matter, and what place they hold in today’s education system. From this self-examination, I have concluded that my values — my subconscious understandings of how the world works, and how people work best within it — drive every decision I make when I consider my vision of a classroom and my role in achieving that vision.

The process to come to this conclusion has been a journey, to say the least. The majority of the learning in this course came from reading multiple texts, creating discussion board posts in response to the texts, and then reading and responding to other’s posts on the same topics. This virtual discussion allowed us to consider our responses to the content and express it in ways that you don’t always have in a class that meets in person on a regular basis, and I value the chances I have to interact with people from multiple advanced degree education programs, not just the Teacher Leadership focus that my degree has. Additionally, we had to consider our own background and ethics, to determine where our individual moral framework came from and how it impacts us as educators.

The class began with an exploration of Christian ethics, which was a challenging start to the class. Although we ultimately focused on ethics and morality as it relates to educators, the first text challenged me to consider where my own beliefs and morals have come from. I found repeatedly that many of my basic beliefs that I have simply never considered the origin of have come from biblical principals. Although I am a Christian, I was not raised in the church, so this section of the course led me to really consider how I developed those ideals without a biblical background as a young child and how that can translate to students who are sitting in my classroom on a daily basis.

Next we read a text that focused on the history of how moral education has been handled in America. This was an interesting focus for me, and somewhat of a struggle because I don’t love history. However, I found that when it was related to something that I care very much about – educating children – that I was more interested in the topics of study. My take away from this section of the course was that the definition of moral education is going to be ever changing. As our world changes and our societies adapt, the definition of what is important, who is in charge of teaching it, and how to best teach it will continue to change. It is important, as educators, that we are aware of this, and continue to learn and grow as the world around us does.

The third text of study focused on how to help students find character and compassion and connection in the public school setting. This was written from the eyes of an educator without a connection to religion, but instead with a consideration of what our students need on a daily basis to feel like they have an emotional connection and support system within the public school. This book truly touched on what it means to be an educator to me – not just a math teacher. It is imperative that I continue to reach out and support my students, that I educate their entire person and not just their mathematical ability. There are certainly colleagues I have who would disagree, but this text really validated my belief in educating the whole child rather than just the subject matter of my classroom. One chapter of this book discussed joy, and how to teach and share joy with students. This was a really interesting chapter for me. First, the definition of joy provided by the author, “..a delight and gratitude in being alive” (Kessler, 2000, p.73). I realized I have never really thought about what joy means to me, or how I would define it, but I love that definition. Then the section about how teenagers often hide their joy was also quite thought provoking for me. I see this often; my students can share about things that went wrong, or injustice that has been done to them by their parents/peers/pets/etc., but they struggle to really celebrate and be thankful for what they have experienced and all that has gone right. Even though I am a math teacher, I can easily incorporate joy into my classroom. I always share events about my life with my students, and I often share events that went well or caused joy. I can easily do more of that. I can also take a little time to ask students what went well, or what they are thankful for. It is easy for me to take a bit of time to touch base with students and see how they are doing, and to encourage them to celebrate and be joyful. Even just greeting the class with music playing can be enough to create joy for some students.

Last, we studied a text that discusses how to take religion seriously regardless of the curriculum area. This book did not have a section on religion in the math classroom, which was disappointing to me, but did offer insight on how religion fits into education, and the role of the teacher.

This course gave me reason to pause and consider why I believe what I do and how that impacts my job as a public school teacher. I feel very strongly that my place as an educator remains in the public school classroom, and that my job is more than just teaching math to high school students. Being challenged to consider why that is, and how it fits in the broader idea of moral education as a whole was a unique experience for me. In the future, I plan to continue to research and learn about ways to teach the whole child, and how to support emotional and spiritual growth without it coming from a Christian perspective (as it is public school, and I have many students who have a different religious background).


Bennett, C. A. (2014). Creating Cultures of Participation to Promote Mathematical

Discourse. Middle School Journal, 46 (2), 20-25.

Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality.

Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Haynes, C.C. & Nord, W.A. (1998). Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Kessler, R. (2000). The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and

Character at School. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

McClellan, B.E. (1999). Moral Education in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Miller, R. & Pedro, J. (2006). Creating Respectful Classroom Environments. Early

Childhood Education Journal, 33 (5), 293-299.

Sammons, P., Kington, A., Lindorff-Vijayendran, A., & Ortega, L. (2014). Inspiring Teachers:

Perspectives and Practices Summary Report. CfBT Education Trust.

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EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment – Meta Reflection – Standard 11

EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment – Meta Reflection – Standard 11

Standard 11: Teacher leaders utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards based environment.

“…how deeply ingrained into our practice is the idea that assessment should allow us to sort, rank, and grade students, rather than inform the teacher what needs to be done next” (Wiliam, 2011, p.77)

Over the last 11 years as a teacher, my understanding of assessment and its value has evolved. To be completely truthful, when I started teaching, I gave quizzes and tests because it was expected. Quizzes and tests were supposed to be used to generate a large portion of a student’s grade, and it was important that I give them regularly. In all fairness, I have always written my own tests, first, before planning the lessons that will be taught to prepare for the test, but at the beginning I did not put much effort into using the assessment for any instructional decision-making. After the first few years of teaching, my district started working on collaborative teams and PLCs, and gave the math department all a common prep period to work on common assessments and data analysis, and that was when I started changing my opinion on what a test is for. It is also when I started to really be made aware of what an assessment should not be used for.

I have found that many teachers view an assessment as a “gotcha”, or a chance to present students with a very challenging problem set, loosely based on what was taught during the unit that “only the smart kids” will be able to be successful on. Because, after all, if students don’t do their homework then they shouldn’t be able to be successful on an assessment, right? The longer I have taught, and the more I have learned about assessment, the more this attitude frustrates me. The question in my mind as I entered this course then became, “How do I use assessment to truly drive my instruction, and as a tool for students rather than a punishment?” Thankfully, I was able to bring a lot of learning away from this course to help me answer my question.

The course began with a study into the question, “Why formative assessment?” This question becomes so much more valid when you have had the experiences I have had where I have worked with colleagues who would never consider assessment to be a learning tool for the students and the teacher. One of the best quotes I read in our study of this came from Wiliams (2011), and says, “The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, nor facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for the students” (p. 50). This quote really gets down to the heart of this question. If you do not formatively assess, if you do not know where all your students are on the range of understanding, then you cannot engineer a learning environment for ALL students. You might be able to get most of the students, but you certainly cannot address all learners, and that is not good teaching.

Then the course moved into consideration of shared learning intentions, or learning targets. This is an area I have had a lot of experience with as a teacher and felt I had a good grasp on before the course. A learning target, or learning objective, to me has never just been something to put on the board, but is instead something to teach students about intentionally, just as any other aspect of a lesson. A previous principal of mine that I respect a great day said that if he were to walk into any classroom and ask a student what they were learning and why, the student should be able to answer. He did not care if the target was posted or written (although I do require that the learning targets be written in my students’ notes each day), he simply cared if students understood what was being taught that day, and why it was important to learn it. Reflecting on my own learning experiences, there were plenty of times I sat through a class period, or entire day, or week of school and had no idea what I was supposed to gather from that learning experience. For this reason, I have always focused on intentional shared learning targets. A new area for me to reflect and grow is sharing success criteria with my students as well. I need to make sure I am intentional and explicit in making sure my students understand not just what we are learning and why, but what success looks like once they have mastered that particular concept.

Next the course moved into an examination of how to determine what students know and have learned. We focused on many different types of questioning, and a variety of instructional strategies and tools that can be beneficial when trying to determine what students know at a given point during instruction. One easy change for me to implement this year is to change my questioning to “why” questions. For instance, instead of asking students, “Is this equation a quadratic?” I can change my question to, “Why is this equation a quadratic?” This will allow the learners to describe their understanding of a topic better and allow me to understand the reasoning behind the response more completely. During this portion of the course, we created the formative assessment portion of our Learning Progression, which really allowed me to consider how to intentionally ask questions that will give me the most amount of insight into students’ understanding instead of just their ability to memorize what the right answer should be.

Feedback was the next topic of student, and what I chose to use as a topic for my Assessment Into Action research paper. Feedback is something that I struggle with in a secondary setting. I struggle with what all teachers say they struggle with in this area: 150+ students each day, 54 minutes with each group of students, huge amount of papers to look at and grade, etc. It becomes an issue of time. With the importance of feedback really made clear to me through this course, and a few others in the program previously, I have made it a goal of mine to continue to focus on this as an area of improvement. Some ideas I am going to try next year include: remembering that verbal feedback is as valuable as written feedback, creating and using more rubrics to allow for students to gather feedback, focusing on a certain group of students each day to provide feedback to, focusing on a particular topic or concept each time to provide feedback regarding, providing recorded audio feedback, and using more 1:1 conferencing where the student records the feedback during the conference.

Lastly, we looked at peer and self-assessment. This is an area where I also acknowledge that I have room to grow as an educator. The course gave me many suggestions for ways to implement this type of assessment and reflection that do not feel like they will take away from important instructional time without engaging students. I am looking forward to trying the “traffic lights” approach for my students to allow students to consider who needs additional instructional time, and for my students to work together to create the best possible answer to a question by discussing individual responses with the table group to assess which peer has the best answer for each portion of the question. I am also looking for opportunities to incorporate ways to allow my students to help me create rubrics for assignments or projects and then use them to evaluate their understanding.

Finally, I am going to try to use my summative assessments as formative learning tools for my students. I plan on giving my students a copy of the summative assessment at the beginning of each unit and a rubric that explains the scoring guide. I am going to teach my students how to use this to assess their own learning throughout the unit, and then when I give the summative assessment at the end of the unit, it will be very similar, just with different numbers, and perhaps a slightly different order. There is no reason for an assessment to be a punishment. I look forward to seeing how my students learn and grow next year with these changes in effect, and hopefully will be able to use their success to help my colleagues understand the validity of formative assessment as something to learn from rather than a punishment for not studying hard enough.


Dwek, C. S. (2007). The Perils and Promises of Praise. Educational Leadership (65), 2, 34-


Hicks, T. (2014, October 14). Make It Count: Providing Feedback as Formative Assessment.

Retrieved from

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics & Association of Mathematics Teacher

Educators. (2013). Improving Student Achievement in Mathematics Through

Formative Assessment in Instruction. Retrieved from

Sabramowicz, A. (2012, March 3) How-to Give Feedback to Students the Right Way

[Video File]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership, 70 (1).

Retrieved from

Wiliam, D. (2011) Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Wolpert-Gawson, H. (2011, March 3). 20 Ways To Provide Effective Feedback For Learning.

Retrieved from

Wolpert-Gawsom, H. (2011, March 3). Tips For Grading and Giving Students Feedback.

Retrieved from

Wray, E. (2013). Rise Model For Meaningful Feedback. Retrieved from

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EDU 6524 Curriculum Design – Meta Reflection – Standard 9

EDU 6524 Curriculum Design – Meta Reflection – Standard 9

Standard 9: Teacher leaders evaluate and use effective curriculum design.

“A teacher who looks at students as individuals – no matter what their cultural experiences are – will attend to their varied points of readiness, their interests, their exceptionalities, their status among peers, and so on when planning curriculum and instruction” (Dack & Tomlinson, 2015, p.13)

At the beginning of this course, I was aware of the importance of considering the learner in every aspect of instructional and curriculum planning, but the processes to do this can often be challenging, time consuming, and overwhelming. The above quote reminds me of the importance of remembering who my students are: as learners, as problem solvers, as thinkers, and as people. When I worked through this course, and designed an entire unit of study from beginning to end, I was continually reminded of the importance of considering my learner and deliberately assessing their understanding throughout the instructional process. Designing curriculum with this in mind from the very beginning creates instructional units that are cohesive, student-centered, and full of a variety of instructional strategies that will address all learners in the classroom.

This course hit the ground running by creating a unit map that developed the Unit Learning Target, as well as identified the important concepts of the unit, and the types of skills a student will have after the unit is complete. Then it asked for ways to engage students, how to pre-assess, formatively assess, and summatively assess students’ understanding. The first main change to my thinking regarding curriculum design was the concept of a Unit Learning Target. I have always written Learning Targets for each individual lesson, and always considered those to combine to create the Learning Targets for the unit. Having to really think and delve into the essential understanding required for the unit as a whole changed my way of thinking about creating an instructional sequence. By creating the Unit Learning Target first, I was challenged to keep that at the forefront of my mind when doing all additional planning, which developed a very cohesive and challenging unit all centered on mastering that target.

After defining the unit focus and creating a curriculum map, the course transitioned to a focus on the standards, vocabulary, how to teach the learning target to students, and how to pre-assess students’ prior understanding. A major change for my thinking that came about from this section of the course is the idea of teaching the learning target for the unit to students and assessing that they understand it. I have always taught the lesson learning targets to my students, and evaluated their understanding in an informal way – generally a quick “thumbs up/to the side/down” approach, but considering how to teach the overall learning target and assess that students understand what they are going to be asked to do is new for me. I foresee myself using this regularly; the idea that students truly understand the overall goal of a unit brings about so much more student buy-in during the daily instructional activities (as long as they relate to the understood goal).

Considering how to differentiate the lesson for each student is always a challenge, but by considering the common misconceptions, as well as ways to differentiate, before beginning to teach the unit allows for more intentional assessment and instruction. Although this will likely remain a challenging task, I feel more prepared to differentiate for all learners after considering this before each individual lesson as I used to do. Again, considering the unit as a whole rather than as each individual lesson, it is easier to think about the ways to successfully differentiate. I will be continuing to do this with all courses that I teach, before I start a new unit.

One of the best aspects of this course was the ability to tie so many of our previous and current course work with the work being done here. For instance, considering at what points technology could be used during our lessons, and how to best use it was a great connection to our EDTC 6433 – Teaching with Technology course that we started the program with during our first fall quarter. I was able to consider how I can use technology for instruction, as well as assessment and enrichment. Additionally, the EDU 6525 – Culturally Responsive Teaching course that we took during the first winter quarter provided a lot of insight when considering how to connect the unit with the learner, and how to potentially tie into students’ families and the local and/or global community. Lastly, EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment which I took at the same time as this course really provided me with a lot of excellent resources when considering formative assessment and how to best understand what my students know and how they know it, beyond just a quiz or a test.

Working through the course to create a unit plan that is driven by an overarching learning target and a focus on assessing where students are at every point along the way provides a truly rigorous curriculum.

As Ainsworth (2010) states:

A rigorous curriculum is an inclusive set of intentionally aligned components – clear learning outcomes with matching    assessments, engaging learning experiences, and instructional strategies – organized into sequences units of study that serve as both the detailed road map and the high-quality delivery system for ensuring that all students achieve the desired end: the attainment of their designated grade – or course-specific standards within a particular content area. (p. 8)

When students are provided with a rigorous curriculum that uses appropriate instructional strategies, formative assessment and keeps the students at the center of the planning, students will not be able to help but learn the material. In the future, as I continue my path as a teacher leader, I will make a point to not only continue to plan my curriculum in this way, but to help others in my department and building shift their planning as well.


Ainsworth, L. (201). Rigorous Curriculum Design. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press.

Cherkas, B. M. (1992). A Personal Essay in Math? Getting to Know Your Students.

            College Teaching, 40(3), 83-86.

Dack, H. & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015). Inviting All Students to Learn. Educational

            Leadership, 11 – 15.

Frederick, K. (2013). Fostering Digital Citizenship. School Library Monthly, 29(4), 20-21.

Handler, B. (201). Teacher as Curriculum Leader: A Consideration of the Appropriateness of that Role Assignment to

Classroom-Based Practitioners. International Journal of Teacher Leadership, 3 (3), 32 – 42.

Manners Matter Infographic.” Manners Matter Infographic. (2014). Retrieved July 31, 2015, from

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