Digging Deeper
Creating an Environment to Support Learning
Teachers know that a productive learning environment is critical to student success. Students who feel supported in their learning are much more likely to be successful. The Delaware Framework for Teaching describes what this positive culture for learning looks and sounds like in Criterion 2c: Creating an Environment to Support Learning. The descriptor language in the 'Effective' level of performance for this criterion is: “The classroom environment represents a genuine culture for learning with commitment to the subject on the part of the teacher and students, high expectations for student achievement, and student pride in work.” This criterion emphasizes the importance of relationships between teacher and students, and between students themselves. Relationships and interactions foster respect, intellectual risk, and student pride.

Charlotte Danielson , the author of the Delaware Framework for Teaching, defines five core elements of an environment that supports learning:
  • Teacher interaction with students - these interactions are friendly; there is a mutual respect between teacher and students.
  • Student interactions with other students - similarly, students respect one another. There is a community feel in the classroom.
  • Importance of the content - teacher and students have enthusiasm and respect for the content. Everyone in the classroom knows that the content matters.
  • Expectations for learning and achievement - expectations are uniformly high for all students. Students are supported to meet high expectations.
  • Student pride in work - students persist in their work, and take pride in what they are learning and achieving in the classroom.

John Saphier writes extensively about creating a classroom climate of high achievement for all students in his book The Skillful Teacher . He identifies three dimensions of classroom climate: community and mutual support, confidence and risk taking, and influence and control. In each dimension (noted in the graphic above), Saphier describes stages as steps in the development of a classroom climate of high achievement. For example, under community and mutual support, development begins with each student (and the teacher) knowing each other, which then leads to greeting, acknowledging, listening, responding and affirming. That then results in group identity and shared responsibility, which leads to cooperative learning and in turn results in positive problem solving and conflict resolution. As you read the chart, and Saphier’s work, consider how the practice of teachers you supervise builds through this progression in each of the dimensions the author describes.

Have you observed a classroom with a strong culture of learning? Please tell us about it!
Share this with your teachers!
Click the links below to access materials for a 90-minute professional development session designed to support your teachers to deeply understand Criterion 2c in the Delaware Framework for Teachers.
The Delaware Department of Education is pleased to release the Delaware Framework for Teaching Critical Attributes Guide. This document provides a complete overview of the Delaware Framework for Teaching, including each component and criterion. It includes the elements and indicators for each criterion, as well as critical attributes and possible examples at each performance level. Click the button above to download the new guide and be sure to share it with teachers.
Profiles in Leadership: Terri Sharpe, associate principal, Dover High School, Capital School District
Associate Principal Terri Sharpe of Dover High School in the Capital School District knows the value of feedback.

“Being an administrator is not an easy job, but when I see teachers benefit from a slight change or a big adjustment that I've suggested, and it makes a big difference for kids, that keeps me going,” said Sharpe, who has been an associate principal for four years. In that time she’s honed her practice observing teachers, rating performance, and providing feedback using DPAS-II.

“When I first started, it was daunting. But the more I practiced, the more comfortable I became,” she said. Calibration sessions with her supervisor and leadership team as well as coaching sessions with her development coach helped Sharpe grow both her skill and confidence.

When Sharpe enters a classroom for an observation, she leaves her DPAS-II rubric and forms behind.

“I’m looking at what the teacher is saying and doing, what the kids are saying and doing, and what the kids are being asked to do,” Sharpe said, adding she gets some of her best evidence from talking directly to students. “If I go into a classroom and don’t know what the students are doing or why, I ask a student. If kids can tell me what they’re doing and the purpose, that’s evidence I can use.”

When Sharpe is unable to speak with students, she listens to group conversations to understand what students are doing and learning.

As Sharpe observes, she notes evidence and questions she has about the lesson that she wants to ask the teacher in the post-observation conference. For example, if the class runs smoothly, Sharpe asks the teacher about the procedures and practices the kids learned to help the class run smoothly. After an observation, Sharpe reviews her evidence and the questions she’s noted, and aligns it to the DPAS-II rubric.

“Those questions are what I want to follow-up with the teacher on in the post-conference,” she said. “I don’t always see everything, especially in an unannounced observation when I don’t have the lesson plan beforehand, so the questions help me get more evidence.”

Sharpe tries to schedule post-observation conferences two to three days following a lesson. She asks teachers to share their lesson plans and any other materials or information about the lessons before the conference, and she reviews all of it.

“In the observation I’m looking for evidence of Components 2 and 3 because that’s what I can see,” she said, noting collecting the lesson plan after the observation helps her to understand and assess the other components of the rubric.

Sharpe’s post-observation conferences always begin with questions to the teacher: “I ask the teacher what they thought went well, and how the lesson went compared to their plan.”

Sharpe shares with the teacher specific evidence she collected in the observation and from her review of the plan. In her written notes, she cites where she finds the evidence, whether it’s the lesson or the post-observation conference.

“This can be redundant, but it’s important to me that it’s very clear what I’m basing the rating on,” Sharpe said, adding she makes sure to share clear feedback directly tied to evidence with the teacher.

“I tell my teachers that this process is not a gotcha. It’s about how I can help you be at the level you want to be at in your practice."

This year she began an effort called #observeme, where she asked teachers for feedback on her feedback. “I want to know, 'Is what I’m telling you helpful. Is it something useful?' If it’s not helpful, then there’s no point in sharing it,” Sharpe said.

Regular reflection on feedback and practice with her leadership team have supported Sharpe to be a strong observer and developer of teachers.
Do you know a leader who should be featured in our newsletter?
Do you have a great practice to share with your colleagues? Email us!
Next month we'll feature strategies and tips for observation collection and rating. Do you have an idea to share, or a question we can answer? Email us!
What should be on your DPAS-II to-do list this month:
Roster Verification System for 2017-18
The Roster Verification System (RVS) is a required process that allows Group 1 teachers and administrators the opportunity to complete automated roster verification to assist with their Measure A DPAS-II rating. The key dates for 2017-18 are available online. An additional quality control process is recommended ahead of the official RVS open date. On February 9 th the rosters will be loaded into RVS to allow evaluators to ensure that (1) all group 1 teachers are correctly identified and (2) that those teachers have rosters for all of their subjects. Visit the RVS webpage or contact Maria Stecker for additional informatio n.  

Other to dos:
  • Complete the second round of formative observations for Novice Educators
  • Complete formative observations for Experienced Educators
  • Find relevant resources and information you need at the Educator Evaluation homepage on the DDOE website
  • Review and sign up for the PDMS courses, including the sessions below. Share these PD opportunities with the leaders and teachers that you serve.
Educator Effectiveness Prerecorded Webinars Series: Questioning and Discussion Techniques
PDMS Course # 25978
January 25-February 22
DPAS-II Boot Camp Training for the Teacher/Specialist System
PDMS Course #25968
February 5-8
Government Support Services Building, Dover
DPAS-II Boot Camp Training for the Administrator System
PDMS Course #26155
February 21
Government Support Services Building, Dover
DPAS-II Danielson's Prerecorded Calibration Webinar Series
Webinar #4
PDMS Course#25969
February 21-March 21
Educator Effectiveness In-Person Workshop Series: Questioning and Discussion Techniques
PDMS Course # 25970
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Government Support Services Building, Dover
DPAS II Teacher/Specialist System Review Camp
PDMS Course # 26503
March 8, 2018
Government Support Services Building, Dover