Preparing for Teacher Effectiveness

Making TELL work for you.

Most educators start their connection to the TELL Project with a familiarization of the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning Framework. They then move among the other components based on their interests and needs. For example, some may want to gain a deeper understanding of the general and world language education literature that supports why the criteria were chosen for inclusion in the TELL Framework and how they correlate to other nationally recognized frameworks. Some may choose to use the self-assessment tools to take stock of their current practice and to determine future areas of growth. Others may elect to use the suite of classroom feedback tools to gather information about their own teaching from colleagues.

Below are five different scenarios illustrating how the TELL Framework and its tools might be used to enhance understanding of what it means to be an effective language teacher.

The School District Level

The district curriculum supervisor wanted to provide more meaningful, focused and individualized professional development for her world language teachers—professional development that was rooted in unquestionable best practice. Using TELL as her principal resource she organized a plan to (1) help her teachers better understand what it means to be an effective world language teacher, (2) assess their current practice against the criteria for the model world language teacher, (3) determine for themselves their top priority growth areas for the coming school year, and (4) participate in specialized professional development aimed at their particular needs.

First, the world language teachers participated in a full-day in-service workshop to become familiar with them the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning Framework. The workshop proceeded in the following manner:

  • The supervisor provided background information on the importance of student achievement, in general, and how achievement affects the quality of individual lives and collective society.
  • Teachers broke into small groups. Each group took a sheet of flip chart paper and listed those characteristics that they felt effective foreign language teachers evidence. These were then shared with the whole group.
  • Before teachers started to look at the TELL Framework in detail, the supervisor reminded the group of the three beliefs about the framework that are stated in the introduction.
  • In small groups, teachers were asked to take one domain from the TELL framework and to follow these instructions:
    1. Determine a chair who would moderate the discussion and keep the conversation flowing making certain that no teacher monopolized the input.
    2. Read silently the criteria for this domain.
    3. Clarify, in the group, any language that was unclear.
    4. Discuss your feelings about the criteria and ask yourselves this question: “Do I think this is important for a world language teacher to do? Why?
  • Back in the whole group the supervisor engaged the teachers in any discussion pertinent to the domain and to specific criteria.
  • Teachers then continued this process until they completed all 7 TELL Framework domains.
  • Following the negotiated understanding of the framework, the teachers used the self-assessment tool to catalog current adherence to the criteria.
  • Teachers then chose their top three choices for growth in the coming semester and gave this information to the supervisor.

The supervisor then reviewed this information in order to determine where she might be able to provide individual teachers assistance and support and to also ascertain common areas of interest that could lead to offering corporate learning opportunities for teachers based on identified needs.

The Department Level

The world language department head of an independent school became aware of the TELL materials by reading a professional journal and decided to present them to her departmental colleagues for consideration. An upcoming scheduled professional development day on the school’s calendar provided just the opportunity for the department to get acquainted with the materials. While the morning was devoted to a speaker who presented information to the entire school, the afternoon was set aside for specific departmental concerns. The casual, post-lunch time provided a relaxed opportunity for the department head to talk about the amount of compelling research that was surfacing in the general education scholarship on the importance of teacher effectiveness to student achievement. The fact that all teachers contribute to the level of student achievement in a school provided the perfect context this department head was looking for to loop her teachers into this significant discussion. Once this context was established, the remaining hour of the afternoon session was devoted to a quick overview of the domains of the TELL Framework and a slightly more detailed look at the Environment domain. Over the course of the next several months, half of each department meeting was dedicated to the study of the other framework domains and subsequent discussion by department members. The department members made the decision to start the next school year with each teacher taking the self-assessment to determine their own personal growth areas for the new academic year.

The Individual Teacher Level

A teacher who attended a national conference learned about the TELL Project for the first time. Although she is the lone world language teacher at her school, she felt that the TELL Project could help her assess her current strengths as well as point out areas where she could grow. After viewing the “Why TELL?” presentation, the teacher studied the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning Framework and then took the self-assessment to get a handle on what she was doing well and where she could improve. This same self-assessment instrument enabled her to prioritize her growth areas and led her to think about how she could organize a plan to improve as well as connect a timeline to it. Once she isolated the areas where she wanted to grow, she videotaped one of her lessons and used the feedback tools that are part of the TELL Project to self-evaluate her practice. The intersection of the feedback tools and the videos graphically allowed the teacher to see what was going right and where she could make improvements.

The Teacher Preparation Level

Following learning about the TELL Project at a professional conference, two methods professors at a state university determined that the TELL Project held great promise for focusing their students—both at the graduate and undergraduate levels—on what really matters about teaching and learning languages. Since the two professors both taught world language methods courses and supervised student teachers in the field (for practica and for student teaching), they found theTeacher Effectiveness for Language Learning Framework a support for the content of their methods courses as well as a structure for the behaviors that they wanted their teacher trainees to evidence in the field. The TELL Feedback Tools provided just the focus that they needed to support work done in the methods courses, and they helped the professors provide helpful, descriptive feedback geared to the needs of the individual teacher.

The State Language Association Level

Leaders of a state language organization identified a need to bring focus to the professional development offered at their annual conference. For this they chose to use the domains of the TELL Framework to organize their conference. When the call for proposals went out, presenters were asked to identify which TELL domains their sessions would address and the expected outcomes of the sessions. Proposals which were accepted were identified in the program according to the relevant domains. The state organization made the Self-Assessment document available to each registrant before the conference or during onsite registration. They were encouraged to use it to set a learning goal for professional growth within a specific TELL domain.

In the first session of the conference, participants were asked to go to one of the rooms identified by the domain from which they had chosen their goal. The session leader helped participants organize into small groups, and these groups worked to identify which sessions related to their domain they wanted to attend. Not surprisingly, some of these sessions were scheduled at the same time. The group assigned each of these concurrent sessions to different members of the group. At the end of the conference, each small group reconvened and shared information gained from their sessions. In light of what they had learned at the conference, participants refined their goal statements and shared them with the other members of their group. They set a schedule and a means to maintain contact throughout the year in order to help one another in the implementation of these goals.

The state organization leaders plan to provide an opportunity at the beginning of next year’s conference for participants to meet with those of their group who are able to attend and debrief the experience of the past year.