Alabama ASCD

Facilitating Discussions about Curriculum and Instruction

As the curriculum continues to evolve and the accountability process continues to change, district leaders struggle with how to best support school administrators.  The role of the school administrator now requires a person to be a good manager and a good instructional leader while continuing to follow all laws and policies.  The following goals and expectations were developed to assist school leaders in facilitating discussions about curriculum and instruction.

Essential Questions – Essential questions are effectively used in all classrooms.

Goal: Essential questions are used to organize and set the focus of the lesson.  Essential questions are used as one type of formative assessment to help teachers gather evidence of learning.

Administrator Expectations: Develop a deep understanding of essential questions and how they are effectively used in the classrooms.  Discuss essential questions in grade level / department meetings and how to use essential questions as formative assessment.  Discuss what evidence is collected to know that students truly understand, and discuss what teachers will do for those who do not understand and those who master the content early.  During walkthroughs and observations: look for the effective use of essential questions.  Be able to model this practice and provide meaningful, supportive feedback to teachers.


Critical Thinking/EngagementCritical thinking is taught in all classrooms.

Goal: Classrooms are learning environments that require students to attain a deep understanding of the content knowledge and be able to use the knowledge to solve problems.

Administrator Expectations: Lead grade levels/departments to identify multifaceted problems which require students to think critically and apply knowledge.  Guide teacher discussions to help teachers understand how to teach students to achieve at the increased level of rigor.  Have teachers begin to analyze assignments and assessments to determine level of rigor according to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. During walkthroughs and observations: Look for critical thinking and problem solving activities, higher order questions and real life applications.  Look for level of engagement of students and relevance of examples to students’ lives.  Refer back to lessons learned in the Thinking Through Quality Questioning book study.  Provide meaningful, supportive feedback to teachers.


Formative Assessment – Formative assessment is used to inform instruction.

Goal: Teachers effectively utilize formative assessments to adjust and modify instruction on a daily basis.

Administrator Expectations: Guide discussions in grade level/department meetings to include types of formative assessments that can be used in the classroom.  Discuss ways to use this informal data collection as a basis for altering instruction.  Allow teachers who are effectively using formative assessment to share their experiences.  During walkthroughs and observations: Look for specific uses of formative assessment and how it affected instruction.  Be prepared to assist teachers with strategies for using formative assessment.  Observe what low performing students are doing as well as students of various subgroup populations.


Targeted Instruction – Students in “gap” subgroups are provided additional instruction.

Goal: Students in subgroups identified as having a significant gap in achievement will accelerate their learning through additional instruction in reading and/or math.

Administrator Expectations: Ensure that targeted instruction is data driven.  Discuss in data meetings and/or grade level/department meetings the differences in achievement between subgroups.  During walkthroughs and observations: Ensure that all targeted groups are engaged in meaningful learning activities.  Look for connections between the group time and the regular classroom instruction.


As we all work to support quality instruction, the dialogue that takes place in a professional learning community is of utmost importance.  Let’s remember to facilitate the rich discussions that increase teachers’ growth and development.

Brenda Rickett

Opelika City Schools








Author: Alabama ASCD

Alabama affiliate of ASCD and CLAS

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