How you can use the Archive

BCDA collections are developed for users of all backgrounds working to improve teaching and learning. While many of these collections may have originally been created for a specific project or study, they are also intended to be re-imagined for new applications in the field of education. Whether a user is looking for lesson ideas, data to address research questions, or examples to share with teachers and other colleagues, the BCDA offers resources filled with possibilities. Read over the user scenarios included here to get an idea for how you can use BCDA resources in your efforts to improve teaching and learning.

Nancy teaches a literacy course to pre-service teachers. She values using video in her teaching, but struggles to find examples of authentic teaching practice. For her upcoming course, she wants to find a set of videos that show teachers using a variety of approaches to lead discussions about narrative texts.

In browsing the MET Extension (METX) collection, she is presented with a list of Common Core Standards and TeachingWorks’ High Leverage Practices with which the videos have been “tagged” (i.e. labeled). Nancy selects “English Language Arts,” “narrative text,” and “leading a discussion” from the list. This returns a number of relevant video records from the METX collection. After quickly perusing the list of videos and viewing ones that seem particularly promising, she selects three that offer distinctly different approaches to leading discussions about narrative texts. She adds the videos to a playlist she has created that she will later share with her students. Nancy plans an in-class activity in which the pre-service teachers will be asked to work together to analyze one of the videos, drawing upon the assigned readings for the class. They will then be asked to share their analyses with each other.

Nancy also constructs an assignment for later in the term when the class will focus on the teaching practice of explicitly interpreting individual students’ thinking. In this assignment, the pre-service teachers will be asked to find a video in which this instructional practice can be seen “in action” and write a critique that discusses key features of the practice using the Teacher Education program’s framework (i.e. the same framework that is used to critique their evolving teaching practice during the program). Nancy designs both assignments to help her pre-service teachers give meaning to key texts used in the course, learn to use the language and ideas discussed in these texts to analyze teaching, as well as develop a more nuanced appreciation for the different forms these ideas might take “in practice.”

Linda’s research focuses on how teacher-student relationships impact academic achievement in elementary and middle school. So far her investigations have centered on teachers who have been trained in Responsive Classroom, a widely used professional development program that uses social and emotional teaching strategies to improve student learning. Now Linda would like to gain a broader view of her research topic by looking at teachers with diverse backgrounds and training whose teaching practices involve this type of relational work with students.

Linda searches in the BCDA online system for “engaging in strategic relationship-building conversations with students”—one of the many instructional practices tagged in the MET Extension (METX) collection. Linda easily finds every instance where this tag was used in the collection. She then narrows her query using specific tags such as “grade level,” “school subject,” and “SES composite.” Linda and her research team collaboratively begin to investigate the collection, doing informal qualitative analyses of a few individual records that they access through the Brandon Center Digital Archive. If this initial exploration leads them to a fruitful line of inquiry, they will design a formal study, apply for IRB approval, and obtain “research access” to the collection.

Robert teaches fourth grade in an urban district and is constantly working to improve his teaching. He has become increasingly concerned that his homework assignments are just busy work. They do not seem to be helping his students move forward in their understanding or to do the types of independent work required of college-bound students. The assignments are also not allowing him to get good feedback on his students’ learning. Robert wants to rethink his approach to making and using homework. Having learned that the improvement of homework design was a focus of the Elementary Mathematics Laboratories taught by Deborah Ball, he explores records from the Grand Rapids Elementary Mathematics Laboratory (GREML) 2012 collection in the BCDA. This small collection documents an intensive weeklong mathematics summer program for entering fifth grade students. It comprises homework assignments, student work samples, lesson plans, lesson videos, and videos of discussions among teachers and other education professionals focused on teaching—including discussions on the design and use of homework.

Robert finds relevant lessons and lesson plans in the GREML2012 collection by searching for the term “homework” in the video transcripts and lesson plan documents. As he learns more about the considerations and intentions that went into the homework designs, he begins to look at homework assignments that were given to students as well as students’ work on these assignments. By analyzing these records, Robert starts thinking about homework design in broader ways. He develops some concrete ideas about how he might talk differently about homework with his students. As a result of his research, he develops ideas for structuring future assignments to reinforce and stretch his students’ understanding, to help them develop important study skills, and to elicit better feedback about their learning.