Standard 12: Evaluate and use technology for teaching and learning

Simply taking this course has inspired me to incorporate more relevant tech into my teaching practice, to benefit student learning. I really appreciated how Richard Snyder introduced meaningful, accessible and practical technology that I could apply right away with students. This has not always been the case with my past technology trainings. Hands-on practice using OneNote and Mix also helped me to see their possibilities. Too often during district tech trainings we are “introduced” to a new software or technology through a presentation, but we never actually interact in a meaningful way with the product, and thus never feel comfortable with it and never implement it.

I feel proud because, although during this course I remember feeling overwhelmed and oversaturated with new technology know-how, I realize that two years in to this program, I’ve implemented in a real and meaningful way most of this tech in my classroom! One Note Notebooks are now integrated into my teaching as well as student-created Digital Portfolios using Office Mix to record their speaking growth in videos.

I started sharing with colleagues around what I’ve learned:

and this alone is opening up new conversations and helping spread a technology integrated culture. One colleague who was sharing a classroom with me at the time, and is one of our SMAS coordinators, told me about a cool new app from Google called Google Cardboard. It is a Virtual Reality app that would allow students to take digital field trips around the world. How relevant for a World Language class! I want to see if I can incorporate this into my travel unit for Spanish 2. Also, I would love to someday figure out how to set them up with digital pen pals in a Spanish-speaking country.

We learned about explicitly teaching Digital Citizenship in the classroom. We discussed HOW to explicitly teach skills such as

  • norms for collaborating using technology
  • hot to safely and responsibly use digital resources, including when citing and respecting copyright
  • knowledge of digital footprint

My self-identified areas for growth and my subsequent growth plan are as follows:

Referring to the student ISTE Standards, my  areas for growth are:

  1. Creativity and Innovation: My students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  2. Research and Information Fluency: My students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Referring to the teacher ISTE Standards, my  areas for growth are:

  1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity: I use my knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.
  1. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility: I understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in my professional practices.

Goal for Growth:

How do you want to improve your technology integration and leadership in your classroom and building (refer to specific ISTE Standards)?

I have already improved my knowledge of different technologies available that would be useful in my classroom, such as OneNote Class Notebooks and  Office Mix.

I would like to further improve my technology integration by creating more options for students to demonstrate creativity and innovation in my classroom. Going hand-in-hand with this is the teacher standard of Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity.

I have found myself continuously challenged by the 21st century rubrics (21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics 2012) and have thought about the need to push students to collaborate and think critically using new technology. This idea really stretches me, especially in a communication class like World Language where face-to-face interaction is emphasized and importance of technology is not.

–>How can I go about meeting this goal?

  1. Incorporate and explicitly teach students how to use
    1. Office Mix
    2. One Note Notebooks
    3. One Drive

to collaborate with one another, investigate and apply critical thinking skills to new situations.

  1. I will also have an English day (since my classroom is Spanish immersion) where I teach some of these tech skills and also discuss digital citizenship topics specifically related to research online and collaborating using technology.

New (to me) things I’m using in my classroom at this point, related to technology are:

  • Avatars: Spanish 1 students used the links I learned about in this course to create superhero avatars for their presentations of a classmate and his/her superhero powers (all in Spanish!)
  • OneNote Classroom Notebook: This has been a big shift! Students collaborate and post on OneNote class notebook now. I’ve continued this for the last 2 years, ever since taking this course.
  • Office Mix: Students now use the video feature to record baseline, semester, and end-of-year speaking proficiency videos that they upload to PowerSchool and use to form part of their Digital Portfolio (Wiki project) on our District’s PowerSchool site.
  • Skype: I have connected twice now using Skype to classrooms in México and around the USA
  • Teaching (some) digital citizenship: Students worked in OneNote to collaborate in groups and create a list of norms to follow when working with others online. NOTE: I’d like to go a step further with this and now have students read over each others’ lists and choose the most important norm to them, then create ONE class list of norms for collaborating online. 
  • Recording my lessons and sharing video clip online (For Accomplished Teaching class)
  • Twitter: I have now participated in #langchat multiple times and collaborate with colleagues who teach with a similar methodology as I do. I also find many authentic resources in the Target Language (Spanish) to use in my classroom. Students are able to tweet in Spanish for cultural homework and thanks to TweetDeck that I learned about here, I can follow their tweets for class and respond in Spanish.
  • I’ve made a marked effort to communicate more often with families, especially through email, but also using Haiku. I’ve started sending out monthly update emails to all families about what’s going on in the class, upcoming assessments, and important reminders.
  • I’ve worked to incorporate ISTE Standards and ideas about 21st Century Learning (ie. improve student knowledge construction). For me personally, this naturally manifests itself in my classroom simply because we are now actually using technology! Before students rarely pulled out their laptops in my class.
  • Google Cardboard: Would love to use in the future, especially when we enter our travel ‘unit’:  Annotated Bibliography for Incorporating Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard


Standard 6: Communicates and collaborates with a variety of stakeholders

I began this program curious as to how to motivate adults to take part as active and engaged stakeholders in continuous improvement, and intimidated by the idea of working as a leader of adults, as I have limited experience with this and am younger than most of my colleagues. At the beginning of the EDU 6600: Communication and Collaboration course I reflected

I am curious to see how professional learning can be pursued through a social justice lens in this class this Quarter, as is mentioned in the article “Building Hope, Giving Affirmation” by Stephanie Hirsh and Shirley M. Hord. I do feel like social justice issues have been raised by our administration, and this year, we were encouraged to work in our PLCs to design units of work that would be accessible to low income students and our African American and Latino students. Unfortunately, we were given little time and no guidance/resources for how to do this, and so teachers more focused on designing collaborative units of work more than units designed to support specific populations of students within the school. 

Now, at the end of the course my interests and learning have come full circle. I worked on a plan to leverage Teacher Experts at my school in order to close the achievement gap between African American and Hispanic students and their peers (see project link here: collaboration-and-communication-project-proposal).

In EDAD 6589: Engaging Communities, I learned that involvement means doing to as opposed to engagement which means doing with. In this way, most schools involve parents and families through email, parent-teacher nights and/or curriculum nights, sports events, automatic caller systems, and mailing home school-related information. However, this is a one-way system where families and communities are the recipients of school information, but are not active contributors who have the power to shape the school culture or processes. As school leaders, we have a responsibility to not only involve families and communities, but to engage them in meaningful ways, to invite them and encourage them to be a part of the process where their voices are heard and considered and school-related decisions are made with them, not for them. (Ferlazzo, 2011)

I have come to learn that family engagement is critical for improving student achievement and is more than simply involving families. Involvement is making decisions for a group based on perceived needs, whereas engagement is making decisions with a group, based on real needs. As referenced in Washington State Leadership Standard Four, in order to consider needs of all stakeholders in our schools, we must establish a fluid feedback loop between families, students, staff and school leaders. This takes added creativity and effort when considering the needs of diverse groups, but is essential as we must recognize that as a school we are an integral part of a larger community, and by addressing the needs of our diverse student and family populations we are also enriching the school environment for our students and staff and modeling for our students how to function in a democracy made of diverse needs. I was able to put this into practice and design a theoretical Community Engagement Product (CEP).

I believe the first and foremost element in collaborating with parents regarding their student’s achievement is to make sure families feel welcomed and confident in communicating with school staff from the very beginning. This means educating families and designing family outreach and education programs that provide families with the resources to understand the culture of engagement at the school, understand school and district policies, and understand and believe that they are a true part of the process of their student’s achievement. For example, The American Dream Academy (ADA) is a university outreach program sponsored by Arizona State University that focused on building a bridge to higher education for a traditionally marginalized population of elementary and secondary school students in metropolitan Phoenix. (Pstross, et. al, 2014) It has trained parents to take a leadership role in the program as workshop facilitators and mentors and focused on teaching participant families how to be advocates and supporters of their children’s educational journey. A smaller version modeled after this program could be effective in schools to more actively engage families in their students’ education and have a positive impact on student learning. Investment in translation services and translation of important school documents for all languages spoken in our district would be key in order open lines of communication and make families feel welcomed and respected. Focus groups and listening sessions are other powerful strategies for eliciting and working to incorporate community voice. Inviting parents into the classroom to share skills, knowledge or expertise, engaging families from diverse backgrounds in community outreach, and by practicing and educating families on restorative justice disciplinary practices schools can make clear that family partnerships are key to student success.

According to Zepeda’s Adult Learning Theory, “adult learning should be built on ownership, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, internalizaton, reflection, and motivation.” (p.47) Throughout the course I learned various strategies that can be implemented within the school setting to engage staff in professional development that responds to how adults learn including: embedding professional development within the job, giving teachers choice over what professional development (PD) they need and how they would like to learn and thus giving teachers ownership and making sure PD is appropriate for the teacher’s level of knowledge and expertise, making sure  PD applies directly to the job, and engaging teachers in leadership opportunities throughout the school, including the opportunity to share their learning with others. (Zepeda, p.59) I agree that all these factors play integral roles in adult learning, however I believe that ownership and motivation, two qualities that are closely intertwined, are some of the most powerful but also the most frequently overlooked and under appreciated by politicians passing educational policy, and even by many district and school administrators. Possible strategies for engaging teachers in this process include:

  • Learning Communities (PLCs)
  • Job-embedded professional learning
  • Professional Coaching
  • Book studies, teacher study groups
  • Whole faculty study groups
  • Action Research

One piece of learning that I found particularly helpful in this EDU 6600 was the Principal Interview (Link here: principal-interview). After reflecting on the importance of leveraging teachers as key participants in their own professional development, I was dismayed and disappointed to realize that my principal and admin team did not employ many strategies to elicit teacher voice or engagement in the professional development process. Through this interview I learned that the process to decide whole staff development focus was often district driven, but that the admin team got together in the summer of each year to decide what the focus would be. Teachers are not consulted, nor a part of this process. The only teacher voice in professional development at our school seems to come from two sources:

  1. Teacher-initiated professional development: a teacher or whole staff request a particular training that the school funds.
  2. JAT (Juanita Administration Team) made up of Teacher Leaders (department chairs) in addition to the principal and three assistant principals: This team does give feedback to the Admin Team regarding professional development, but are not party to designing the development experiences.

For some reason unknown to me, the admin team does not seem to prioritize teacher voice in the planning of professional development. More so, according to my Principal, the team relies on their one-on-one conversations with teachers, classroom observations, and district focus to determine the direction of professional development for the year, and yes, the focus is different year to year.

Very importantly, leaders should promote teachers sharing expertise the wide range of experiences that teachers bring with them. This can be done in many ways, such as asking teachers who are exceptional in one area or another to lead break-out sessions on their areas of expertise during LEAP days (professional development days). (See link: cstp-fillingleadershipvac) In addition to this, school administrators and leaders need to frame the evaluation process as an opportunity for the principal or evaluator to ask questions, for the teacher to be reflective on his/her practice, and for administrator and teacher to engage in talk about growth opportunities and how the evaluator can help facilitate this growth (provide necessary resources, for example). If the administrator makes professional development and continued growth a priority in this evaluation disucussion, then possibly the evaluation system can be a vehicle for growth, instead of a high-stakes farce.

“If schoolwide changes about attitudes and expectations are a desired outcome, then settings that convene the entire staff for hard conversations and facilitated dialogue may be necessary first steps.” (Hirsh & Hord) The article “Building Hope, Giving Affirmation” discusses the need to support a schoolwide learning process where teachers work in teams (PLCs) to set professional learning goals, are then supported by receiving training in required/desired areas to help them build knowledge and skills that can change pedagogy or deepen content knowledge, and then bring these new ideas and skills back to their PLCs to being cycles of inquiry and data analysis to further work towards the goal. I agree this is an ideal situation, one that I would very much like to participate in. (See link here: building-hope-giving-affirmation-hirsch-and-hord)

However, in my experience, although there are regular, notable successes in collaboration and team learning, implementation of this process has often been imperfect and frustrating for a variety of reasons. My main concern coming from my professional experiences, is that there rarely, if ever, is time given to having the hard and meaningful conversations that have to happen to cause real change in individual attitudes and philosophies regarding best practice, students’ needs, assessment, and collaboration. As Hirsh & Hord mention, “while we can start with changing behaviors, if we don’t modify beliefs about our children’s needs and what is truly required to provide them social justice, we will make changes at the superficial level and will not initiate nor sustain true and lasting change (Guerra & Nelson, 2009).” 

At my school over the last two years, school administrators have been pushing us to think about our practice through a social justice lens. Last year we began talking about race, culture, and our diversifying school. We began to discuss bias and how we can or should address the needs of a multicultural student body. However, this conversation never progressed past the first two whole staff trainings. We never got to a point where strategies or training was offered to help staff develop their abilities to address needs of diverse students, or to teach multicultural education. Thus, although it was an important conversation to have, I question what change it had on actual teacher practice.

I have learned this year that collaborating with staff in a continuous learning loop is the essential foundation for a school culture open to and focused on continuous improvement. This means that principals and administrators need to re-imagine their roles and give up some leadership power to staff. In doing so, principals can empower their staff and motivate them to continue improving and learning for the betterment of students.  Zapeda mentions seven Pathways to Instructional Improvement: Increased knowledge of subject matter, increased knowledge of instruction, increased ability to observe students, stronger collegial networks, stronger connections of daily practice to long term goals, stronger motivation and sense of efficacy, and improved quality of available lesson plans. I believe that as a teacher leader, the most significant challenge when working to increase collaboration at my school would be “staff’s lack of goals and lack of understanding the connectivity required between goals and practice.” (p. 229) This is significant because the teachers I work with are mostly highly experienced, effective practitioners who keep students’ well-being at the center of all they do. I strongly believe that if teachers can connect the impact of their efforts to student impact, they will be willing to invest the time and effort, and building of trust and collaboration, that is necessary to accomplish the goal. Unfortunately, most of the collaboration we do now is mandated, top-down. Most teachers I work with do not see the goal and cannot connect the work we are mandated to do with student impact or improvement. There is thus no buy-in.  As a teacher leader or administrator, I would work to get creative to give teachers more time to collaborate. I would then set a clear expectation that increased collaboration, in order to benefit student well-being and performance is the goal. I would provide opportunities for teachers to discuss their values and build a common vision and purpose, and to build trust amongst themselves. Then I would give teachers choices in how they collaborated and with whom. I would give them options such as book studies, lesson studies, PD leadership opportunities, coaching opportunities, PCCs, etc. and teachers would have to choose at least 1 way that they would participate in one of the collaborative communities. Hopefully by giving teachers choice, staff would be able to find personal and professional meaning in the work that directly linked back to their daily work with students.

Ferlazzo, L. (2011).  Involvment or Engagement?  Educational Leadership, 68(8), 10-14.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

Hirsh, S., & Hord, S. M. (2010). Building Hope, Giving Affirmation. JSD,31(4), 10-17. Retrieved from

Pstross, M., Rodriguez, A., Knopf, R. C., & Paris, C. M. (2014). Empowering Latino Parents to Transform the Education of Their Children. Education and Urban Society,48(7), 650-671. doi:10.1177/0013124514541464

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education.

Standard 10: Understands effective use of research-based instructional practices

This course, EDU 6526 – Survey of Instructional Strategies, was essentially an overview of a variety of strategies that teachers apply in the classroom, with in-depth looks being given to a few choice strategies such as collaborative grouping, direct instruction, nonlinguistic representation, note taking strategies and advance schemas. We focused on two main texts for this course, Classroom Instruction that Works by Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone and Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie, but also learned from independent research articles.

At the beginning of this course I already had an awareness of a variety of strategies, and had used or attempted to use most of the strategies focused on in this course. The main learning I thus took away from this course was a deeper appreciation for more meaningful application of strategies. Reading John Hattie’s book Visible Learning gave me a deeper insight into the need for intentionality, specific learning targets, and creating a reflective classroom with students at the center. As Hattie says “ ‘Everything works’: if the criterion of success is ‘enhancing achievement’ , then 95 per cent of all effect sizes in education are positive…because virtually everything works.” (p. 2) We must then ask ourselves as educators if the strategies we are employing are effective enough to be worth our time and worth our students’ time. Are we making as significant an impact as we can? Could we be teaching a specific topic in a more effective way, with a more impactful strategy? From this class I learned to ask this question, and then how to look for an answer.

We analyzed and learned how to apply a variety of strategies including:

This course has helped reinforce the importance of utilizing specific learning targets and collaborative practices amongst my colleagues. I have made some direct changes in my practice due to this. I have been refocusing on using Learning Goals in class. Although I was using them to some degree last year, I did not carry this practice through to this year, due to my changing methodology. However, over the course of this class, I have practiced writing down the learning target for myself each day, and it has helped re-focus my lesson planning. This has been especially beneficial at a time of the year that often feels hectic and rushed. Also, I’ve been referring to the Learning Goals in class with students.

I was challenged to collaborate with a colleague in a Collaborative Inquiry Project  (Collaborative Inquirey Presentation1) where we analyzed the impact of a strategy in our classrooms.

Another learning for me has been around the idea of “multiple intelligences.” On page 91 Hattie critiques the ideas as classifying students in one category or another, which I found interesting, as I have also read another article making a similar criticism. Angelina E. Castagno makes a similar criticism in her article “Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness.” She also argues that categorizing students by learning styles of intelligences should not be used and merely acts as an excuse to limit students. Despite the criticism, I would still use this as a guide to design choice activities and diversify choice, but not to prescribe what students should or must complete.

Finally, my one of my more important reflection was one I have already begun to put into action. After my readings, I could not shake the idea that in my World Language Department we could be serving students much better than we currently are. Hattie describes how “being clear about outcomes (success criteria) of the lesson or series o lessons” and deciding on how to best measure outcomes in a integral part of evaluating the impact of teaching on students (Know thy impact!). (p. 97) I kept reflecting on how our District Standards for World Language are general, non-specific and immeasurable. I thus have contacted my two colleagues and we have scheduled to begin a conversation about setting common expectations and course outcomes and agreeing on a common way to measure these outcomes. Although this is a basic first step, it is fundamental and most necessary for moving forward, and I am excited to see what comes from this collaboration. Finally, once we have a common foundation we all agree to, it will be easier to collaborate on effective strategies to employ in the classroom.

Reinforcing Student Effort and Providing Recognition Feedback

Another takeaway I had was that learning objectives need to be 1) appropriately specific and require one to understand the specific standards, benchmarks and supporting knowledge students are required to learn 2) clearly communicated both orally and visually to both students and parents/guardians 3) connected to previous and future learning.

Effective feedback is one of the most powerful mediums of growth for students and must 1) address both what is correct and elaborate on what students need to do next 2) be provided in time to meet students’ needs 3) be criterion referenced (I assume this means referencing specific standards/benchmarks 4) engage students in the feedback process.

Finally, Hattie discusses the impact of learning objectives an students’ dispositions in the classroom and these impacts on motivation. When thinking about student motivation and effort, Hattie suggests that creating challenging learning tasks that are at students’ developmental level can help create intrinsic motivation in the learning process. I found it very interesting Hattie’s suggestion that “we need to already know about 90 per cent of what we are aiming to master in order to enjoy and make the most of the challenge. In reading this target is somewhat higher.” (Hattie, p. 57) I find that connecting key learning objectives to students’ real lives, helping them see the practical relevance and application in their day to day lives and connectedness to their interests also helps build intrinsic motivation. For example, in one study conducted on motivating student effort, “findings indicated that students were more motivated to learn science when they had more opportunities in relating science with real world issues. Therefore, science educators should emphasize more on the connectedness of science at school to real life for motivating students to learn science.” (Cetin-Dindar)

As I read about setting learning objectives, providing timely formative feedback, planning for visible learning and helping to motivate student effort, I reflected on my own practice and the Organic World Language model that I’ve implemented this year. It has been a significant pedagogical shift for me, but one that has allowed me to more effectively address all four areas mentioned above. In this model “through unique questioning and scaffolding techniques, the language-acquisition process is wrapped around the students’ lives. When the class content comes from the students, they own the language, because it is developed in real-life, real-interest situations and it is applicable to their lives in their native languages.” (Zilmer, p.1) This model is based on student-to-student and student-to-teacher dialogue that has allowed me to give in the moment feedback to students about what they are doing right and what they can correct to continue to work towards standard. Using this model, students are also much more aware of national benchmarks and what to do to reach those benchmarks than ever before. I now see students more intrinsically motivated than every before because they not only finally see what they have to do and are given the time to practice, but also experience “bite-sized” successes in the classroom everyday that make them feel that they can and will be successful with continued effort, risk-taking and mistake making.

Overall, this course has helped to reinforce the impacts effective teaching can have on students. It has reminded me that we must look to our students to decide what the impact of our teaching really is, and to judge if a strategy is effective or not. It is no longer good enough to judge success merely by looking for any and all growth in students. More so, we must make sure that the strategies being employed are having the greatest impact possible on all students.

Castagno, A. E. (2013). Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness. American Journal of Education,120(1), 101-128. doi:10.1086/673121

Cetin-Dindar, Ayla (2016). Student motivation in constructivist learning environment. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 12 (2), 233-247.

Dean, C. B., Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., & Stone, B. (2014). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies forIncreasing Student Achievement. Second Edition.

Hattie, J. (2010). Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement ;. London: Routledge.

Learning the organic way. Language Magazine, Febrary 2015. Retrieved from

Zilmer, Caleb (2014). Authentic texts, no isolated grammar? How? The Language Educator, April 2014.  Retrieved from

Standard 2: Analyze learning to promote student growth

Before my studies in the Masters in Teacher Leadership Program, I had heard mention of Action Research but did not know what it entailed. EDU 6979 – Action Research in School Settings and EDU 6528 – Accomplished Teaching helped guide me through valuable learning experiences regarding the Research Action process itself, and also more specifically regarding my area of focus for my project. I now feel capable and confident enacting an Action Research Project on my own using 3-legs of data and presenting  my research professionally to colleagues.

For my first RAP Data Collection, I had two main goals:

GOAL 1: Increase student appreciation for the complexity of Spanish-speaking cultures

GOAL 2: Give students the tools to compare their own culture with that of Spanish-speaking peoples, and to do so in a respectful, sensitive way.

These goals came from:

  • Feeling like I’m teaching content and skills, but what I really want to do is teach deeper, more meaningful themes of inclusion, tolerance, kindness, acceptance and understanding, social justice.
  • A very interesting line of conversation about culture and misconceptions about what it meant to be “hispanic” vs. “Spanish” that arose in a Spanish 1 class. My mind was spinning after the class about where I should go with this theme from here. The students were clearly engaged. One student asked me on her way out the door if we could continue a similar conversation the next day.
  • As Spanish 2 students finished up their cultural presentations this week, I noticed they have a fairly superficial knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and I’m thinking I will use them as my classes for my RAP.
  • I observed this week that I still have a lot of work to do with my students, as I had a student complain of comments made by another student in class that were generalizing all latinos in derogatory ways and making said student feel uncomfortable. I started direct and explicit lessons that will helped them first understand the many components that shape each of our own personal culture and make us so complex. I took some ideas from our Multicultural Education class.
  • I had a couple different conversations with one of our school counsellors and the ELL teacher about my RAP and got their input on strategies for raising awareness of cultural diversity in our community and deepening their cultural sensitivity. We started small group conversations with ELL students who are native Spanish speakers. As Clark and Minami (2015, p. 189) discuss, it is important that students “also engage in weekly interactions with native speakers” in order to deepen cultural understanding while negotiating language.

Specific interventions employed during the length of this project were:

  1. Explicit teaching of cultural factors that affect our lives. As was recognized by Charles and Stevens, “programs need to recognize the current, existing reality of the students, particularly with respect to diversity.” (Charles & Stevens, 2005, p.20)
  2. Integrating cultural and linguistic lessons: In order to analyze stereotypes and cultural generalizations, cultural media and text should be used to address the topics from a logical analysis perspective and not a personal analysis perspective. In this way,“students are less likely to perceive and therefore resent the unit as yet another accusation that they and their generation are bigots.” (Wilson, 2015, p. 56)
  3. Exposing students to native speakers by utilizing: Skype in the Classroom, El Café discussion hour, student generated questions for Señor Vasquez and native Spanish-speakers. To improve cultural sensitivity in conjunction with language acquisition, it is important for students to “engage in weekly interactions with native speakers” (Clark & Minami, 2015, p.189).
  4. Question Box cultural questions and topics: Gutiérrez suggests various strategies I applied to try to increase cultural knowledge and sensitivity and meet students where they are, including: creating a cultural questions box, using student research and presentations to “hear what students have to say,” (Gutiérrez, 2015, p. 274) exposing them to the spoken word, raps, and culturally responsive music, and creating journals or learning logs.

Data collection included:

  1. 2 open-ended questions regarding general cultural factors
  2. A personal letter in which students explained their understanding of their personal culture
  3. Teacher observation and tally of culturally insensitive comments or generalizing questions

I gave an assessment regarding students knowledge of personal culture and it opened up some interesting conversations around what is culture. I asked students to write questions they had about diverse cultures, Spanish-speaking cultures, questions for my husband who’s from Bolivia, or for our TA who’s from Honduras. They could also write a topic they want to learn more about. I was blown away by all the questions and topics they came up with! I have basically an entire Semester’s worth of topics and curriculum now!

As I went over Period 5’s baseline assessments (a letter they wrote to me explaining their personal culture)  I learned a lot about my students on multiple levels, including:

  • Writing ability in English
  • Got a really good feel for the depth or superficial nature of their understanding of culture
  • Realized A LOT of students have a very superficial understanding of what factors make up/influence our culture.
  • Students wrote questions they have about culture/topics for investigation. REALLY good ideas-I got a whole semester’s worth of curriculum from here.

See full Action Research Paper here: Raising Cultural Competence and Sensitivity.

I’ve decided to teach more explicitly now and then I will work to weave themes of multicultural education into my lessons for the rest of the year. However, I struggled to figure out how to balance staying in Spanish and engaging ALL students in meaningful conversation about deep-rooted cultural concepts that go below the superficial surface of food, festivals and clothing. I really like being able to discuss cultural concepts, stereotypes, etc., but I hate switching into English to do so. In a Spanish 3 or 4 class we could discuss deep concepts and discuss/debate them, but with Spanish 2 it is challenging at times.

However, to truly make a real impact and get meaningful results, I need to extend the interventions over a longer period of time. My greatest takeaways from this course are that I can intertwine meaningful and interesting cultural lessons with Spanish instruction, and that I must be intentional and explicit about teaching cultural themes, but culture and language teaching need to be taught in a delicately intertwined way, not taught in isolation as so often is the case. They are not mutually exclusive. Also, cultural sensitivity comes through explicitly teaching students first to recognize and understand their own culture in a deeper way, and then through learning about explicit and implicit practices of other diverse cultures. Strategies I have been using that I will continue to extend even after this course has ended are:

-give students space to generate cultural questions/topics they are interested in and organize projects/presentations where they have to investigate and find their own answers

-teach students explicitly about their own culture first

-role-play with scenarios: explicitly practice what cultural sensitivity sounds and looks like

-implement student dialogue journals (in Spanish)

-expose students to authentic resources that teach cultural themes and use the Spanish language to engage students in conversations about these topics

-expose students to as many native speakers as possible, through Skype-chats, guest speakers, and conversation hours with ELL students

I have also reflected upon the idea that my PLC could significantly benefit from implementing some of the structure and research that is built into the RAP. As of now, PLC meetings are loosely defined and fairly unproductive. There is usually a general goal that defines our topic of discussion, but data is never discussed nor shared. We have yet to implement common assessments across courses to compare results and best practices. Frustrations are shared but rarely are concrete techniques or strategies discussed. I would love to bring my learning from this course to my PLC and suggest we follow some of the steps to conduct an informal Research Action Project and compare results among students to explore best practices across many classrooms and teaching styles. It would also benefit us to establish clear student outcome goals and specific data collection strategies.

Sources/ Literature Referenced

Charles, J., Stevens, R. (2005). Preparing teachers to teach tolerance. Multicultural      Perspectives , 7(1), 17-25.

Clark, A., Minami, N. (2015). Communication skills, cultural sensitivity, and collaboration  in an experiential language village simulation. Foreign Language Annals, 48(2), 184-202.

Gutiérrez, R. (2015). HOLA: Hunt for Opportunities-Learn-Act. The Mathematics Teacher,  109(4), 270-277.

Howard, G. (2006). As diversity grows, so must we. Educational Leadership, March 2007, 16- 22.

Wilson, N. E. (2015). Cross-Examining Bigotry: Using Toulmin’s Argument Model and Huckin’s CDA to Interrogate Overt and Covert Racist Arguments. The CEA Forum, Winter/Spring. Retrieved from


Standard 9: Evaluate and Use Effective Curriculum Design

Before this course, I was familiar with key components needed in a well designed curriculum such as Standards, Learning Targets, formative and summative assessments, engaging lessons, differentiation plans, and community engagement plans. Although in some ways I was already following Ainsworth’s guidelines to design a rigorous unit, I had never looked so in depth. When beginning to design or evaluate a rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of all learners, there are a variety of steps that must be systematically addressed. This was meaningful and helpful to see these steps so clearly delineated, and it also raised many questions and concerns for me about our current District Spanish Curriculum. This process of designing units and a whole curriculum is best when completed collaboratively. According to Larry Ainsworth, author of Rigorous Curriculum Design, these steps include:

  1. Prioritizing the state academic content standards
  2. Unwrapping” the standards to pinpoint the concepts students need to know and the skills they need to be able to do
  3. Determining the foundational understandings or “Big Ideas” that students need to discover on their own (these should be posed as statements or answers to the Essential Questions)
  4. Creating Essential Questions to focus instruction and assessment and to spark students’ interest in what they were about to learn

From here we can look at assessment, both formative and summative, creating engaging lessons for our learners and differentiating lessons and assessment for diverse learners.

I was challenged to think about how to incorporate a variety of formative assessment tools including student self-assessment and peer-to-peer assessment. The article “Living Language: Self-Assessment, Oral Production, and Domestic Immersion” discusses a (limited) study conducted to investigate the effects of self-assessment on student awareness of strengths and weaknesses when learning a world language, and the correlated student improvement. The results did show that students who were engaged in regular self-assessment improved their self-esteem in addition to their awareness of where they needed to go next to continue improving their language proficiency. This article solidified for me the importance of using regular formative assessment (both peer and self-assessment) to reach all learners and build a sense of self-efficacy that comes when students feel empowered and in control of their own learning, and a willingness to take risks with their language skills, both of which are attributes necessary for proficiency growth, as the article discusses.

In this course I produced much curriculum planning work that I am proud of:

One of the big take-aways for me from this course was that all we do should stem from Standards. This raised many challenges for me as I worked through the course, as our current District’s Spanish Power Standards are general and unmeasurable. They are the same for Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 4! I ask myself and my colleagues, how do we know if students are improving from one year to the next, and how do we know what to teach from one year to the next, if the standards remain the same all 4 years (side note, there are not any official standards for Spanish 4)?!

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According to Ainsworth, Priority Standards must meet the three criteria of endurance (lasting beyond one course, life concepts and skills), leverage (interdisciplinary connections), and readiness for the next level of learning (prerequisite concepts and skills students need to enter a new grade level or course of study). These defining criteria further allowed me to evaluate LWSD’s Standards for Spanish and make specific criticisms and suggestions for improvement.

My main concern with the current Spanish Power Standards is that they do not provide specific verbage that defines to what degree students must be able to do or what they must know to move on to the next level of learning. They do not meet the readiness for next level of learning criteria set forth by Ainsworth because they do not show, in measurable language what “students must know and be able to do by the end of each school year in order to be prepared to enter the next grade level or course.” (p. 40) For example, Standard 1: Student engages in conversations, provides and obtains information, expresses feelings and emotions and exchanges opinions does not define to what level students must be able to do all these things. Students in Spanish 1 can do all these things, but on a more basic level, using single words, lists, memorized phrases and chunks of language, where Spanish 2 and 3 students can express these things in full sentences and begin to create original ideas and thoughts. Thus, more specificity of skill needs to be defined in the Standards to make them useful to teachers.

Due to weak standards, teachers in our district do not seem to follow much of what is considered by researchers to be sound practice for designing units and implementing curriculum. As Douglas Reeves states due to “the limitations of time and the extraordinary variety in learning backgrounds of students, teachers and leaders need focus and clarity in order to prepare their students for success. Power Standards help to provide that focus and clarity.” (p.45) However, I argue that often, it is not the standards that drive teaching in this country. Here our curricula is so strongly driven by publishers, and mostly school districts adopt curricula based on one textbook series and associated resources, as has happened in LWSD for the new Spanish Curriculum, Asi se Dice, adopted 4 years ago.  In our case, the textbook drives what we teach, not the Standards. This is problematic for many reasons.

The first major problem with a curriculum driven by a textbook is that you are relying on one perspective to teach students. This limits the ability to address the needs of students with diverse learning styles, preferences, interests and cultures. We know from our studies in Multicultural Education and Moral Issues for a Democratic Society that textbooks often leave out essential perspectives of diverse groups, fail to engage learners, and impersonal and often lack real-world connections. Due to obvious financial constraints, school districts are only able to adopt new textbook series/curricula ever 7+ years or so, and often this gap is much wider and will always be lagging behind society’s trends and developments. Ainsworth is right to point out that a rigorous curriculum cannot depend solely on textbook resources. Even worse, many underfunded districts have no funding to purchase textbooks and have no set curricula. I can not count the number of times I have heard language teachers tell me that they have no set curricula off of which to work. They are simply responsible for making something up, based on their professional discretion.

I felt frustrated as I worked through this course because, without a strong foundation, how are we supposed to know where to go in our planning? Due to our District’s reliance on the textbook as a curriculum, instead of standards, we do not meet most of the components of a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum Ainsworth mentions on page 5. He says we must “raise the level of teaching so that students are prepared for the 21st century with skills that ‘drive knowledge economies: innovation, creativity, teamwork, problem solving, flexibility, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous learning.” Items on his list that I feel we have yet to achieve in our Spanish curriculum include:

  • Specific learning outcomes students are to achieve from Spanish 1 through Spanish 4
  • Vertical representation of those learning outcomes
  • Emphasis on standards-based skills and content knowledge
  • Explicit linkages to college and career readiness (especially conversation around proficiency level measured on a nationally recognized scale)
  • Higher-level thinking skills (pure textbook focus mainly asks students to recall, identify and sometimes apply)
  • Authentic, student-centered performance tasks that engage learners in applying concepts and skills to the real world (This one is key. Relying primarily, if not solely, on textbook resources is not authentic, nor student centered. Teaching a world language presents daily opportunities to put students at the center of the curriculum and draw on their personal expereinces to teach vocabulary and grammatical structures necessary to communicate about those expereinces.)
  • Research-based effective teaching strategies
  • Differentiation (There is a real push to delay students beginning world languages because they are “developmentally not ready,” however, research shows that time is the key factor in acquiring a new language-the earlier you begin and the longer your study, the better your chances are to reach a high proficiency and really use the language outside the classroom. However, teachers push for this because their current methodologies aren’t working for these students. Instead of adapting to meet the needs of these students, many teachers and trying to push struggling students out of the course. This is a significant concern for accessibility.

It became very clear to me that we need to do work in our District around the Spanish Power Standards, and as a Teacher Leader I decided it was time to step up, as this is one of those issues that won’t be addressed until we, the Spanish teachers, push for it. As of the time I am writing this reflection, I have emailed the District Curriculum Coordinator raising my concerns, but have yet to hear back. I am open and willing to forming a committee to look at the Standards and the Curriculum based on Ainsworth’s model. It is exciting to thing of the possibility of bringing teachers together in our district that for this specific course, seems fairly divided still.

This course has given me the specific knowledge and corresponding confidence to hopefully move forward as a Teacher Leader in my district to help refine our current Power Standards and thus curriculum and collaborative practices. I hope that I will find the opportunity to work will colleagues to address these issues and bring our Spanish classes closer to modern expectations for teaching and learning a rigorous curriculum.

Ainsworth, L. (2010). Rigorous Curriculum Design: How to Create Curricular Units of Study that Align Standards, Instruction, and Assessment. Lanham: Lead Learn Press.

Dack, H., & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015). Inviting All Students To Learn. Educational Leadership,March, 11-15.

DeWitt, P. (2015, March 26). Unwrapping the Standards: A Simple Way to Deconstruct Learning Outcomes. Retrieved May 01, 2017, from

Dolosic, H. N., Brantmeier, C., Strube, M. and Hogrebe, M. C. (2016), Living Language: Self-Assessment, Oral Production, and Domestic Immersion. Foreign Language Annals, 49: 302–316. doi:10.1111/flan.12191

Lake Washington School District Power Standards.,-II,-and-III-Power%20Standards.pdf