Skip to main content

Reading List: Gathering Evidence on EL Instruction

On evidence-based practice


When policy makers and other observers talk about “evidence-based practice” and “data-driven decision-making,” they are generally referring only to the use of data on student outcomes (often test-based measures of student learning). Sometimes, they will incorporate evidence from research into the equation, with the idea that “scientifically-based research” findings can provide some indication of what inputs and processes contribute to the specific desired outcomes. Meanwhile, practitioners, who have a deeper understanding of the complexities of the instructional and learning process, often also have a more complex understanding of the multiple and varied sources of information necessary for effective decision making. They know that to make valid decisions for instructional improvement, they need not only valid (and frequent!) information on student performance as well as valid and comprehensible findings from research. They also need valid, frequent, and focused information about the instructional processes, materials, and contexts associated with the outcomes they observe in their students.


The protocols


The means for gathering, recording and analyzing this evidence will differ, depending on the specific purpose of the inquiry, the level at which the analysis will take place (classroom, school, district), and the audience/participants involved. In this section we include several tools (protocols) that have been used in California districts for gathering evidence on instruction of English Learner students. These include:


This section also includes several sample tools:

  • **Los Angeles Unified School District observation protocol – This protocol is one of those used by district administrators, principals, and teachers in Local District 4. It has grown out of their work with the Institute for Learning and may be the basis of the instrument we use on Oct.5. Not available online.
  • English language learner shadowing protocol (developed by Ivannia Soto-Hinmann). This is the EL shadowing protocol that Dale referred to in our meeting in Hayward.
  • Language production protocol (provided by Patricia Gándara). This protocol was used in a research project on EL instruction in California. Not available online.
  • Institute for Learning Levels of Math-Talk Learning Community protocol. Not available online.


Why use a protocol?


One reason for using a protocol to gather and discuss evidence of instruction is that


Protocols force transparency…They make clear the crucial differences between talking and listening, between describing and judging, or between proposing and giving feedback. In the process, they call attention to the role and value of each of these in learning, and making the steps of our learning visible and replicable.


For the Collaborative, using a well-specified protocol for our classroom observations will help us focus our attention on the key aspects of instruction under consideration. Training on the specific components of the protocols will help enhance reliability of information gathered across multiple observers, classrooms, and schools. This common information then becomes the basis for collective conversations, interpretation and learning. It also becomes the basis for our feedback to our host districts.


As we prepare this briefing book, Richard Alonza and his colleagues are still making final decisions about the protocol they would like us to use for our school visit on Oct. 5.We will have copies of the chosen protocol for you on Wednesday and we will receive training on its use Wednesday afternoon. After our debriefing on Thursday, we will then have an opportunity to reflect on how the protocol worked, on characteristics of effective tools for gathering instructional evidence, and on alternative approaches. We expect that the design and use of the effective tools to collect and analyze evidence of instruction and student learning will be an on-going theme in the future Collaborative meetings.


**This document is considered a priority reading.