Entry Development and Writing Guidelines

Guidelines for Writing Responses

The entries require written commentary. Reading each guiding prompt carefully will help you understand the type of writing required. The suggestions below will help you compose appropriate written commentary for each entry.

Writing About Teaching

The entries in your ProTeach Portfolio require 3 kinds of writing: descriptive, analytic and reflective. The evidence you select to demonstrate your practice should provide a view of what is happening in your classroom, your rationale for the activities and processes and the impact of your teaching on student* learning. For example, primary teachers might describe, analyze and reflect on their students' developmental levels and academic achievement as part of the rationale for teaching reading comprehension strategies. Secondary teachers might describe, analyze and reflect on providing instruction for a range of students while differentiating instruction for specific students in a heterogeneously grouped class.

Writing Description, Analysis and Reflection

There are essential differences between descriptive, analytic and reflective writing. As you compose your written commentary, keep the differences in mind. Basic definitions of these terms appear below, followed by more detailed explanations of each type.

Descriptive writing: A retelling of what happened in a classroom situation or event. Descriptive writing needs to set the scene. Your description should be organized and detailed to provide a good sense of your classroom situation. This provides important context for scorers as they consider your analysis and reflection. Description is called for when you are asked to state, list or describe.

Analytic writing: A review of data or other evidence, with an interpretation of results, supported by concrete evidence. Analytic writing shows the thought processes used to arrive at your conclusions about a teaching situation or event. State the significance of your submitted evidence through analytic writing. In some cases, it will include the student-achievement* results that come from the lesson you taught. Or, it could also be your discussion of results from a survey where you solicited feedback from various sources.

Reflective writing: The thought process that occurs after analyzing the evidence of a teaching situation. This is the time when you think deeply about what did and did not occur during the experience described, then make decisions about how you would approach these similar situations in the future. You can decide to do something in the same way, differently or not at all. Your reflective writing must show how the learning you gained from your teaching experiences was used to inform and improve your future practice.

How Analytic Writing and Reflective Writing Overlap

The processes of analysis and reflection do overlap, though they are not identical. Analysis involves the interpretation and examination of elements or events supported by data or evidence. Reflection is introspection or retrospection of one's practice.

When you are asked to analyze or reflect, write thoroughly about your process. For example, if you are asked to analyze the success of a particular lesson or some specific instructional strategy, explaining what happened is not enough. That is descriptive writing. Analytic writing is not simply stating a conclusion ("The lesson was a success!"). Also saying you observed the accomplishment of your learning goals without giving evidence or examples to support the statement is not analytic writing. Scorers need to know what data or evidence you analyzed to obtain interpretation of lesson results. You need to state your interpretation of the evidence (analysis) as well as your understanding of what should come next (reflection). You must explain the significance of your evidence and not expect the scorer to draw conclusions.

Cite evidence of student* work that provides a context to show your impact on student* learning. Then ask yourself these analytic and reflective questions:

  • What does the evidence show about the knowledge and skills of my students before this teaching/learning experience? (analysis)
  • What does the evidence show about the learning my students gained from this teaching/learning experience? (analysis)
  • From my analysis of the evidence, what do I know regarding my students' learning and my practice from this teaching/learning experience? (reflection)
  • What is my plan for teaching it in the future? (reflection)

Revise and Edit Your Work

An important step in writing, regardless of the skill or experience of the writer, is to take time to review the writing with an objective eye. Even professional writers can become so involved in their writing that they sometimes leave out important details, evidence or facts. For some, reviewing with objectivity requires "distance," or time to let the document "cool off." Pace your writing so you can set it aside for a day or two and then come back to it with fresh eyes. The next time you read it, you should have an easier time seeing where important information, description, analysis, clarity or a transition is needed. A third read may be helpful to edit the language, spelling and other mechanics of writing.

Ask another trusted colleague to read your work with a critical eye. This person should review your written commentary along with your evidence and the rubric for each individual entry. By having someone else read your work, you will discover where a lack of clarity exists as perceived by a second party. (If you ask a colleague at your school, however, be certain he or she does not "read in" information because of familiarity with the learning context.)

Summary of Key Points for Composing Your Entries

Address the guiding prompts: For each entry, there are guiding prompts to which you will respond in your written commentary. Make sure you read each guiding prompt and its related rubric criteria carefully. Work to understand what you must address and how it will be measured.

Organize your information: Be certain your evidence is as clear and concise as possible. Scorers will read your portfolio submission supportively. This means that they are reading your submission expecting that you have earned a passing score. They will look for information within your submission that you have met the passing criteria in the rubric. Presenting your evidence in a clear and straightforward way helps scorers to do their job more effectively.

Check your evidence against the rubric: This is a very important step in making sure that your portfolio fully addresses the entry requirements. Score your own entries against the rubrics. Ask a trusted colleague to serve as your scorer and to give additional feedback.

Delete identifying information: Do not use any identifying names or titles. In order to score responses fairly and to protect the identity of students, it is extremely important that you not identify yourself, your students, your colleagues, your administrators, your school, your district or the city/town in which your school is located. Instead, refer to students as Student* A, Student* B, Student* C, etc. Refer to places as "my school" or "my district." Remove all identifiers from student* work samples — you can do this simply by crossing them out with permanent black felt pen.

 

* “Student” is defined as P-12 students and does not include adults/teachers.