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Unadilla Valley English teachers collaborate to improve student growth
Unadilla Valley secondary school English teacher Katie Wolford noticed at the beginning of the year her seventh grade students struggled during group work activities.

Knowing that she had to act, she utilized the district’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) to collaborate with other English teachers to come up with a solution.

She met with other teachers, asked her students questions about group learning, and ultimately came to a solution: a “model” group of sophomores from Amy Williams’ class, Megan Carpenter, Nathaniel Garry, Brandon Fink, and Keana Schrag would tutor or teach the seventh grade students how to work effectively in a group.

Wolford has already seen an improvement.

“My students really learned from the student-centered model of peer teaching. Seeing and hearing a ‘model’ group really built on their understanding of the skills needed to achieve the demands of the Common Core –specifically the speaking and listening strand,” she said.

“It was a powerful experience for all involved, and working with my colleagues to help improve student learning was critical to its success.”

In August, teachers from UV attended a PLC workshop in the district. A PLC is defined as “an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.”

The purpose of it is to “help create a school that ensures all kids learn and where teachers work together to improve their practice,” educational consultant Susan Sparks-Many said during the summer.

Wolford said the ultimate goal is to not only improve instruction, but to improve student performance. She said the English department meets about three times a week to talk about data.

During the data collection regarding group activities, Wolford asked her students to answer some of the following questions: “what is working in a group important?” “What makes it hard?” and “what makes it effective?”

She said that data is imperative in determining the group’s next step.

“If students aren't learning, we work together to figure out why,” Wolford said. “We then try to adapt our instruction to meet their needs while also trying to utilize the strengths of the other teachers in our group.”

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