Teachers gather to learn from one another

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Nearly 450 educators gathered Oct. 28 for professional development in South Jersey Catholic schools.

Pre-K and kindergarten teachers discuss teaching strategies at Saint Mary Parish, Williamstown, on Oct. 28, a day set aside for professional development for teachers and advancement directors at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Camden. Photo by Patricia Paulsen

“The primary focus was formative assessment,” said Dr. Bill Watson, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Camden. “That means making sure we as educators understand what our students have learned every day, and even within each lesson, so we can make changes in instruction in response. When done correctly, formative assessment is one of the highest impact practices to improve student learning.”

Watson said formative assessment tools are part of a best practice approach to teaching. “The shift is to move away from only using one cumulative test at the end of a unit, when it’s too late to change course. With a variety of ongoing assessment tools, teachers can adjust lessons or try new strategies if students are not mastering a subject or concept yet,” he said.

Watson likened the process to making a pot of soup. “It’s kind of like tasting the soup and tweaking it as you go, rather than letting a big pot simmer for hours and discovering you missed a really important ingredient or that it needs more spice,” added Watson.

Saint Margaret Regional School in Woodbury Heights, Saint Mary’s School, Williamstown, and Saint Vincent de Paul Regional School in Mays Landing hosted the sessions, which were led in partnership with Catapult Learning, the Penn Literacy Network at the University of Pennsylvania, the Greeley Center at Loyola University of Chicago and the Learning Resource Center at Rowan University. It was also a professional development day for school advancement directors, who met at Saint Margaret’s to explore development, mission statements and social media.

“In Catholic schools we intentionally invite the grace of God as a community,” said Watson. “I feel that grace when I see our faculty, staff and administrators come together. Sometimes the best learning comes from the ideas they share with each other.”