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Basic Member Book (Apr 2007)
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Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time

by Jane E. Pollock

Table of Contents

An ASCD Study Guide for Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time

This ASCD Study Guide is meant to enhance your understanding of Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time, an ASCD book written by Jane E. Pollock and published in April 2007. The questions that follow are designed to help you make connections between the text and your personal and professional situations and experiences.

You can use the study guide after you have read the book or as you finish each chapter. The questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book but rather to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection. Most of the questions are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read or are reading Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time.

Note: To complete this study guide, you will need a printed version of the curriculum documents for your grade level and subject area.


  1. Is Gary's story one that's familiar to you? Have you ever known (or been) a teacher who is working “as hard as possible” but is still frustrated about students' learning?
  2. How do you know if you are an effective teacher? What kind of evidence can you gather to show that you are effective?
  3. Skimming the descriptions of the Big Four, identify which might be appropriate areas for improvement in your class or school. What kind of resources would you need to get this improvement underway?

Chapter 1: Replacing Hope with Certainty

  1. To what extent do you currently use the Big Four to improve your students' learning?
  2. This chapter describes the work of many researchers. Can you think of other studies or research that complement the works cited here? What kinds of insight can we gain by studying curriculum trends over time?
  3. In A Place Called School (1984), John Goodlad describes two activities that dominated the classrooms he observed: students being lectured to and students working on written assignments—often responses to workbook or worksheet directives. If you were to walk around your school today, what activities would you see dominating most classrooms? Are these the kinds of activities that will help students learn to retain information and think deeply about the information?
  4. Use your own words to restate the Big Four and how they relate to your grade level or subject area.

Chapter 2: Learning Targets

  1. Do you think most teachers in your school or district find the curriculum useful? Why or why not?
  2. Examine a curriculum document from your school. Does it include “just-right” targets? If not, how might you edit the targets to make them “just right”?
  3. How is your school addressing lifelong learning strategies? Are these things you and your colleagues deliberately teach and assess, or are lifelong learning strategies assessed as de-facto characteristics that only get reported on the report card?
  4. Is your curriculum online and readily accessible for electronic use? If not, how might you help make that happen?
  5. How does your curriculum development plan function to keep curricula up to date?

Chapter 3: Instructional Planning and Delivery

  1. Describe how you plan lessons. How and where did you learn how to plan lessons and units of study? In school? On the job?
  2. Poll a handful of your fellow teachers about how they plan their lessons, and compare their strategies to your own. In general, are your colleagues satisfied with their approaches to planning? Does anyone ever “wing it?”
  3. How does your pedagogical automaticity affect your students' learning?
  4. Locate one of your daily lessons and apply the Teaching Schema for Master Learning. What would you change and what would you keep?
  5. Apply the Teaching Schema for Master Learning to a three- or four-week unit (or a shorter unit, if you are a primary teacher). What would you change and what would you keep?

Chapter 4: Varied Classroom Assessment

  1. Describe one of your classroom assessments that didn't work out as you'd hoped. How did you—or how might you—redesign the task?
  2. Consider the thinking-skills programs you have used in your school. What research supported those program's approaches to teaching and testing thinking?
  3. Choose one of your usual assessment tasks and think about how you might redesign it using the KCAASE methodology. What changes would you make?
  4. Describe some ways you have used informal assessment, such as observation. Do you record the data? How do you use it?

Chapter 5: Feedback, Record Keeping, and Reporting

  1. Discuss a personal or professional goal that you set and achieved. What strategy did you use? Have you ever set a goal that you didn't accomplish? Why did you fall short?
  2. Describe your processes for giving students feedback. Do you believe this feedback improves students' skills or knowledge? Why or why not? (If you are a principal, what kind of feedback is most common in your school's classrooms?)
  3. Which of the grade-book models presented in this chapter is most appealing to you? How is it particularly suited to your grade level and subject?
  4. What questions or concerns do you have about restructuring your grade book? Discuss these with colleagues in your grade level or department.
  5. If you change your grade book, will that influence how you enter grades for reporting or report cards? In what ways?


  1. Look again at the Big Four areas that you think are most deserving of your attention. What are some concrete things you might do to bring about improvement? What kind of support would you need from your school or district?
  2. What kind of support might you give to other teachers to help them improve student learning in their classrooms?
  3. If you were mentoring a student teacher this semester, how might you incorporate the Big Four approach into your coaching? What are some ways to work the strategies from the Big Four into a student teacher's practicum?
  4. Look at your fish. What else can you learn from your plan book and your grade book?

Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time was written by Jane E. Pollock. This 143-page, 7″ × 9″ book (Stock #107005; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-0520-1; ISBN-10: 1-4166-0520-7) is available from ASCD for $18.95 (ASCD member) or $23.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2007 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.


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