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Changing the Way You Teach

by Giselle Martin-Kniep and Joanne Picone-Zocchia

Table of Contents

An ASCD Study Guide for Changing the Way You Teach: Improving the Way Students Learn

This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in Changing the Way You Teach, Improving the Way Students Learn, an ASCD book written by Giselle Martin-Kniep with Joanne Picone-Zocchia and published in May 2009.

You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book, or as you finish each chapter. The study 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 contained in this study guide 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) Changing the Way You Teach, Improving the Way Students Learn.


  1. What is the curriculum that led to Kristen's letter mostly about? What are the words or phrases you could use to identify what is at the heart of that curriculum?
  2. Assuming that the curriculum that led to Kristen's letter was about helping students understand and assume civic responsibilities and about effecting positive change in their community, what questions do you think that Kristin's teacher asked the students to ponder as they engaged in the curriculum?
  3. What could be the teacher's justification for teaching this unit? What did Kristen get out of it?
  4. What content areas were incorporated into that curriculum?
  5. What reflective questions could Kristen's teacher asked Kristen to help her draft her Dear Reader letter? What would be the point of asking those questions?
  6. What evidence do we have that Kristen was actively engaged as a learner in this curriculum?

Chapter 1

  1. What is the difference between meaningfulness and relevance?
  2. What is the relationship between meaningfulness, engagement, and relevance in the context of student learning?
  3. What are the concepts or big ideas that are, or could be, driving your units or learning experiences?
  4. How actively involved are your students in their classroom learning experiences?
  5. How do you know when students are engaged in their learning?
  6. How might you increase student engagement in your classroom?

Chapter 2

  1. How might attending to coherence help you? How would it affect your students?
  2. What are the traits of a coherent curriculum?
  3. How do organizing centers influence the coherence of a unit?
  4. How does having a clear sense of a unit's organizing center assist the students in learning from the unit?
  5. Answer the "Why Bother" question for a curriculum unit that you value.
  6. Review five consecutive days of your teaching related to a unit. Can you think of a way of increasing the coherence of those learning experiences?

Chapter 3

  1. What makes a curriculum deep?
  2. Generate a prompt or question designed to help students become familiar with or use one of the critical thinking strategies.
  3. How can standards help teachers to develop deep classroom curriculum?
  4. Review one of your units of study and think of a way of increasing its depth by increasing the levels of thinking that students will engage in.
  5. What readings or perspectives could you include in a unit to help students grapple with or reconcile diverse viewpoints?
  6. Revise one of your culminating assessments to provide students with an opportunity to create or perform for an audience that could benefit from their learning.

Chapter 4

  1. How is diagnostic assessment different from formative and summative assessment?
  2. Create a diagnostic assessment and a parallel summative assessment to measure the growth in students' learning from a unit of study.
  3. Where would you fit formative assessment moments into the unit that you are currently teaching?
  4. How does formative assessment help teachers? Students?
  5. Describe or create a diagnostic assessment that you could use to begin a unit.
  6. What percentage of your assessment focuses on recall-based assessment? Performance assessment? Product assessment? Process assessment? What are the possible ramifications of an imbalanced assessment system?

Chapter 5

  1. How do you communicate your expectations to students?
  2. Generate a series of questions or prompts that will help students use a rubric while they are learning.
  3. What are the essential differences between a rubric and a checklist? How do you know which to choose?
  4. Select samples of student work that you could use to anchor student understanding of different levels of a rubric.
  5. Write to parents explaining the use of rubrics in your classroom and the role they can play in supporting students with them.
  6. Revise a rubric so that students can actually use it to produce quality work.

Chapter 6

  1. What can you learn about students from a portfolio?
  2. How could portfolios enhance your assessment repertoire?
  3. What makes a portfolio student-centered?
  4. What contributes to the readability or usability of a student portfolio?
  5. Generate one or two reflection prompts that would enable students to review or learn from their portfolio.
  6. How might you use a student portfolio to help parents understand their children's learning?

Chapter 7

  1. How do you currently scaffold student learning?
  2. What areas of your teaching could most benefit from explicit scaffolding?
  3. Identify a reception scaffold that would help your students understand the meaning of a concept.
  4. Revise a lesson or an assignment to include either a transformation or a production scaffold.
  5. How can teachers use checklists or rubrics to scaffold student learning?
  6. How do you use feedback to help students learn?

Chapter 8

  1. What purposes do questions serve in your classroom?
  2. When and how do students get to ask questions in your classroom?
  3. What is the main difference between convergent and divergent questions?
  4. What are some ways you can use essential questions in your classroom?
  5. Revise a unit to incorporate questions that will increase student engagement.
  6. How can you help students be better question askers?

Chapter 9

  1. Identify one or more questions you can ask students before, during, or after a test so they can learn from that test-taking experience.
  2. In what ways, if any, do you explicitly teach students how to be strategic learners?
  3. Design a lesson that will help students learn how to ask for assistance.
  4. How does the use of reflection questions benefit the teacher? The students?
  5. Write three reflective prompts for a unit of study in your curriculum. Write one for the beginning of the unit, one for the middle and one for the end. Your prompts may focus on what students are learning (content) or how students are learning (process).
  6. Create a weekly reflection activity that will be ongoing in the classroom and write prompts for the first month. Use a mix of process and product prompts.

Changing the Way You Teach, Improving the Way Students Learn was written by was written by Giselle Martin-Kniep with Joanne Picone-Zocchia. This 175-page, 7 7/8" x 9 7/8″ book (Stock #108001; ISBN 978-1-4166-0807-3) is available from ASCD for $20.95 (ASCD member) and $26.95 (nonmember). Copyright 2009 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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