Common Formative Assessments Developed Through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): A Case Study to Analyze the Alignment of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction in a Math PLC at a Title I Middle School in the Southern United States
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The introduction of No Child Left Behind increased performance expectations for students across the United States and compelled teachers to focus on standardized assessments instead of frequent formative assessments to monitor instruction and promote student learning. Common formative assessments (CFAs) help teachers align curriculum, assessment, and instruction while building the collective knowledge of the professional learning communities (PLCs). This qualitative case study analyzed the collaborative processes used by five sixth grade math teachers and one instructional coach (IC) at a Title I middle in the Southern United States to align the rigor between learning objectives, PLC-developed CFAs and classroom instruction. Of the teachers selected for the case study, the most experienced teacher had 35 years of teaching experience while the least experienced had two years of experience. This case study sought to answer the following overarching question: What collaborative processes are used to build CFAs in a PLC comprised of five sixth grade math teachers and one instructional coach at a Title I middle school in the Southern United States. The following sub-questions were also addressed: 1. What professional dialogue occurs when the sixth grade math PLC collaborates to develop CFAs that align with the rigor of TEKS and STAAR? 2. What resources does the sixth grade math PLC use to develop CFAs that align with the rigor of the TEKS and STAAR? Data was collected during collaborative CFA development sessions, eJournal reflection notes, one focus group, and supplemental documents from participants. Qualitative data analysis techniques included combing through the data for codes and using constant comparative analysis to determine main and sub-themes. The findings discovered that the sixth grade math PLC was methodical in their protocols to build CFAs. The progression from beginning to end involved deconstructing the TEKS, sharing instructional strategies, identifying anticipated student misconceptions and posing reflective questions to the group. The results of the case study revealed that the processes involved in creating CFAs were strategically implemented in a way that promoted precise alignment between curriculum, assessment, and instruction.
Hill, Tory C (2013). Common Formative Assessments Developed Through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): A Case Study to Analyze the Alignment of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction in a Math PLC at a Title I Middle School in the Southern United States. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from