I belong to a few Facebook groups for teachers. It is a great place for the sharing of resources, ideas and for suggestions on how to handle conundrums about classroom management. As teachers across the province write report cards, a few of the questions posted on these groups had answers to them that relied on teacher’s Professional Judgement.
Professional Judgement is enshrined in our central collective agreement and defined as:
“Professional Judgement” shall be defined as judgement that is informed by professional knowledge of curriculum expectations, context, evidence of learning, methods of instruction and assessment, and the criteria and standards that indicate success in student learning. In professional practice, judgement involves a purposeful and systematic thinking process that evolves in terms of accuracy and insight with ongoing reflection and self-correction.
Some of the Facebook questions that I have seen recently are below, along with some suggestions of publications that you can use in your discussions around professional judgement with your administrators.
“My principal has requested personalized comments for my students. I teach over 400 students. Help!”
This is a place where teachers can use their professional judgement. Having personalized comments does not mean that every student needs to have a different comment. This term, through my data I have collected, I can see that 6 students in my class are really strong at generating ideas in the creative process, but are still working at revising their musical compositions. Therefore, those six students will all have the same comments. Another group of 5 students can create a piece of music effectively and play it with good technique. They will have the same comment. In most of my classes that translates to about 4 or 5 comments per class. Some students get their own comments if their strengths and next steps are different than everyone else’s. Students on IEPs will have their own comment, but may be the same as another student working on similar goals. Refer to the Professional Judgement Matters Series for further details.
“My principal has told me that I am not allowed to use an “I” for the student even though I have only seen the student twice in music class, due to an IBI schedule.”
Growing Success clearly lays out that it is within the teacher’s professional judgement when to use an “I”.
“For the report card, teachers will use their professional judgement to determine when the use of “I” is appropriate and in the best interests of the student. For example, teachers may find it appropriate to use “I” when evidence of a student’s achievement is insufficient because the student has enrolled in the school very recently or because there were issues or extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as protracted illness, that affected his or her attendance and/or ability to provide sufficient evidence of achievement of the overall expectations.” ( Growing Success pg.42)
This term, there were many instances where I used an “I” for insufficient data on the report card. It is very common for some of my students to take 2 or 3 months off of school somewhere between November and March to travel. I have students who have been ill for many days throughout the term and others who have just arrived. All of these situations would make the use of an “I” quite clear according to the Growing Success document. In other instances, if students have not completed a lot of work for the term and you have insufficient data, both you and your administrator may question the use of an “I” versus an “R”. I direct you to the Report Cards-Questions and Answers on the EduGAINs site in order to help you answer this question. Question 40 explains in what circumstances an “I” or an “R” could be used.
“My principal wants me to fill the entire Learning Skills Box”
It is really important to focus on quality over quantity. In speaking with some of my homeroom teacher colleagues, they have spoken about the various lengths of learning skill comments that may exist within the class. Some students may need longer Learning Skills explanations to clearly outline their next steps. Other students may require less explanation. Use your professional judgement. The Growing Success Document outlines the following:
“In the space provided for anecdotal comments, the teacher will elaborate on the student’s demonstration of the skills and comment on “strengths” and “next steps for improvement”. (Growing Success Pg. 55)
At no point does it say that you must fill the entire box.
ETFO has a great series called Professional Judgement Matters that you can refer to when questions arise. Topics include: diagnostic assessments, reporting, evaluations, IEPs and Kindergarten reporting.