Instructional Leadership in Action

Joanna Michelson

Dr. Joanna Michelson is the director of teacher leadership and learning at the Center for Educational Leadership. She leads CEL's teacher professional learning line of services. She also provides direct support to lead teachers, coaches and school and district leaders in designing and setting conditions for teacher learning that lead to enriched learning experiences for all students. Prior to work at CEL, Dr. Michelson worked as a middle school language arts teacher, secondary literacy coach and as a consultant for CEL. She holds a doctoral degree from the College of Education at the University of Washington with a focus on coach learning from practice. Dr. Michelson is the co-author of "Leading for Professional Learning: What Successful Principals Do To Support Teaching Practice."
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Recent Posts

How to Find the Right Data to Support Professional Goal Setting

by Joanna Michelson Aug 20, 2015

When teachers return to their classrooms in fall, one question at the top of their minds is this: How do I know where my students’ skills are, and how can I adjust my instructional practice to meet their needs?

Setting professional goals anchored to the needs of students ­— what we call "finding an area of focus" — is a difficult task. As we work with districts on establishing professional goal-setting processes, we often hear from teachers and principals that they are unsure about what kinds of formative assessments of students’ learning they should use to set and assess their professional goals related to instructional practice.

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Your Teachers Know the Instructional Framework and Rubric. What’s Next?

by Joanna Michelson Aug 13, 2015

Teaching is a complex and sophisticated endeavor. It involves thousands of decisions every day and requires teachers to constantly adjust their instructional practices to meet the needs of their students. To help them with this challenging task, school districts have put in place instructional frameworks and rubrics.

These frameworks and rubrics are intended to capture the complexity and sophistication of teaching across grade levels and content areas and give everyone a common language when talking about classroom teaching. But as instructional leaders and teachers increasingly have a shared general understanding of what good teaching looks like and how it is evaluated, many are asking how to grow teaching practice — in particular, content areas like math, language arts, social science and others. They are asking about using frameworks in content-specific ways to develop content-specific thinking habits.

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How to Analyze Complex Texts For Your Teaching - Step by Step

by Joanna Michelson May 21, 2015

At a recent high school English department professional development session in our partner district in Avoyelles, La. I observed teachers reading Elie Wiesel's Nobel lecture, "Hope, Despair, and Memory", a text that is included in the ninth grade curriculum. It is a powerful text on the importance of memory to counter hatred and build peace. It explores abstract concepts like the task of remembering horrific, traumatic events while stepping into the future with optimism. The teachers were clearly touched by the message and wanted their students to read it. But they wondered: could the students handle such a challenging text?

As curriculum packages and units of study aligned with the Common Core State Standards become more wide-spread, educators across the country face this challenge everyday. The standards push us to raise the rigor of texts while decreasing the amount of scaffolding, and educators are wondering how to best support students who read below grade level.

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How to Help Teachers Find an Area of Focus

by Joanna Michelson Apr 30, 2015

Teachers have always set goals for their students and for their teaching. But what used to be a fairly open-ended conversation in the principal's office or staff room has now become a critical component of a teacher's professional development. Driven by student and teacher growth-oriented evaluation systems, many districts have formalized the process and now require goal setting at least once a year.

But how can teachers authentically set these goals and find the right area of focus for the goals? And how can school and district leaders support teachers in creating goals that positively influence student learning and their own practices?

Before outlining a process that helps identify an area of focus aligned to student and teacher growth and promotes meaningful goal setting, let's first understand what "area of focus" means. An area of focus is what teachers choose to work on in their instructional practice based on the learning strengths and challenges of students in relationship to their teaching.

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