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Ensuring Effective Lesson Planning Through Standards Alignment With the EPiC™ Support Dashboard

In the realm of education, effective lesson planning stands as the cornerstone of impactful teaching. Yet, all too often, educators fall into the trap of prioritizing excitement over substance, crafting lessons that dazzle without truly aligning with state standards or learning objectives. (Why, exactly, are students making those exploding volcanoes?) This misalignment not only undermines educational goals but also impedes student growth and mastery.

At the heart of this issue lies the need for educator preparation providers (EPPs) to instill a deep understanding of the critical role that standards and objectives play in guiding lesson development. Teacher candidates must grasp the fundamental concept that these benchmarks act as guides, showing the way to student success. Moreover, these objectives must be more than mere aspirations; they must be tangible, measurable goals that delineate precisely what students are expected to accomplish by the lesson's end.

Enter the EPiC™ Support Dashboard, a suite of revolutionary tools designed to empower EPPs in nurturing educators to excel in aligning instruction with standards and objectives. What sets EPiC™ apart from other preparation performance assessments is the companion evidence-based EPiC™ scoring tools on the dashboard, each augmented by a user-friendly set of targeted "look-fors" or evidence indicators. These "look-fors" break each EPiC rubric into small sets of measurable sub-categories.

Rubric A-1 Planning Standards-Based & Content-Specific Instruction, serves as a compass, directing teacher candidates on how to seamlessly integrate content standards with rigorous tasks that scaffold learning, ultimately leading to content mastery. The EPiC™ Part A Scoring Tool includes nine subsections of evidence for Rubric A-1. Each subsection lists specific "look-fors" or evidence markers that can be easily checked off based on evidence from the candidate’s portfolio submission. Below is the sub-category, A-1.8 Instructional Strategies Analysis.

The EPiC™ Part A Scoring Tool equips EPPs with the means to accurately evaluate teacher candidates' proficiency in planning standards-based instruction. Armed with the evidence insight collected on the scoring form, EPPs can provide targeted candidate feedback, fostering a culture of continuous improvement among aspiring educators. For example, teacher candidates grappling with the complexities of aligning objectives to state standards might benefit from exploring instructional strategies for connecting students with a lesson objective such as:

  1. Asking random students how each activity relates to the lesson objective 

  2. Using student Turn and Talks to discuss the lesson objective

  3. Highlighting the lesson objective success criteria using images/graphics

  4. Creating an Exit Ticket based on the lesson objective

  5. Having students guess the lesson objective based on a riddle or discrepant event

  6. Referencing the lesson objective throughout the learning episode

  7. Using SQPL (Student Questions for Purposeful Learning) Statements to generate questions about the lesson objective

The EPiC™ Support Dashboard goes beyond the assessment, providing EPPs with coaching tools such as the included PD Bytes™ online courses. These succinct, self-paced online courses serve as a repository of best practices, each spotlighting a single classroom strategy such as How to Trigger Student Questions related to the lesson objective. From conceptualization to implementation, teachers are guided through the process, armed with downloadable resources (such as the SQPL Bubble Map) to facilitate seamless integration into their own classrooms. By fostering out-of-the-box thinking and encouraging deeper engagement with the lesson objective, SQPL questions catalyze meaningful learning experiences.

In essence, the suite of tools on the EPiC™ Support Dashboard offers an innovative formative approach to educator preparation, equipping aspiring teachers with the tools and knowledge necessary to craft lessons that not only inspire but also drive student success. Through meticulous alignment with standards and objectives, educators pave the way for a future where every lesson serves as a stepping stone toward academic excellence.

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