Best Practices for Teaching and Learning
FCPS Focus for 2009-2010: Common language, common definitions
by Hope Katz Gibbs and Peter Noonan
Creating a set of clear and consistent best practices for student learning has long been a priority for Fairfax County Public Schools. Last fall, the Instructional Services team accomplished that goal by identifying a set of research-based Best Practices for Teaching and Learning that have been proven to increase student achievement and help every FCPS child reach their academic potential.
“We knew that each best practice would need to be applicable from PreK to 12th grade,” explains Diane Kerr, the Fairfax County Public School ESOL coordinator who helped spearhead the initiative.
“We also wanted to concretely define the concepts and terms, so that every teacher, principal, staff member and administrator throughout the entire county has a common
More than a dozen FCPS leaders worked on the project, including principals, specialists from the four core curricular areas, the Special Education and ESOL offices, directors of
Cluster V and Cluster I, and representatives from the Department of Professional Learning and Accountability.
The group looked at an array of external research and initiatives that FCPS had focused on for the last two years, as well as
training initiatives provided by teachers.
The initial outline was reviewed by 992
teachers and 145 FCPS principals, who were
asked to evaluate the impact of each best
practice on student achievement. The synthesis
of the information became the FCPS
Best Practices framework.
Kerr says the team knew that concepts
such as “building relationships” and
“cooperative learning,” had to be defined
in the same way by everyone. They were
also determined to provide easily accessible
training materials that would deepen the
understanding of core best practices.
“Every educator I know and work with
agrees that the goal is to close the achievement
gap for students, and that means
meeting the needs of all of our kids. This is
just another way to help us do that.”
Kerr says she is happy to report that
everyone who has used the FCPS Best
Practices for Teaching and Learning online
framework has been enthusiastic about it.
“The reality of working in education
today is that to be effective, we need to
have a common vocabulary. Now, when we
talk about teacher collaboration, as well as
other practices, there is no confusion about
what it means or looks like.”
Kerr is determined to have the document
be the core of the FCPS teaching culture.
“Our thousands of teachers can now
go online to learn, build, and sustain common
language and beliefs around the definitions
of best practices.”
Next: Creating a Student-Centered Learning Environment
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