Ainsley B. Rose

Ainsley B. Rose is an author, a presenter, and a consultant. An experienced elementary and secondary teacher and principal, he is former director of education for the Western Quebec School Board.

Teaching vs. Learning: How Assessment Informs Instruction

One of the most overlooked and understated aspects of the common formative assessment process and the role these assessments play in a professional learning community has to be the degree to which the results of high-quality assessments inform teachers about the need to change instructional practice, particularly if students are not learning. While in the work of PLCs we emphasize the need to focus on learning not teaching, this is often misunderstood as "teaching is not important." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Assessment, learning, and teaching have an intimate relationship which suggests that teachers have a significant role in determining the extent to which learning in the classroom is of high quality and relevant to what the students require if they are to be successful. Black and Wiliam (1998) in their highly acclaimed article "Inside the Black Box" say, “Learning is driven by what teachers and pupils do in classrooms.”

Teachers have to manage complicated and demanding situations, balancing the personal, emotional, and social pressures of a group of 30 or more students while activating the conditions for academic success. Student achievement can be raised only if teachers can manage the task of teaching more effectively. The analysis of the TIMSS video study points out, "A focus on standards and accountability that ignores the processes of teaching and learning in classrooms will not provide the direction that teachers need in their quest to improve" (as cited in Black and Wiliam, 1998, p. 140).

Increasingly, the evidence shows a need for a fundamental shift in teaching practices in classrooms (Bennett and Rolheiser, 2001). As a former director of education responsible for teaching, assessment, reporting, and evaluation, I witnessed, firsthand, the impact and observable benefits of a program for improving instructional strategies in the classrooms. Teachers were invited in school teams to participate in organized, coordinated staff development in a program that later came to be known as "Instructional Intelligence," the vision of Dr. Barrie Bennett at the University of Toronto OISE.

To this day teachers continue to hone their instructional skills and repertoires. Teachers involved in this work have now come to understand the power and impact of improving their instructional skills, strategies, and tactics and the resulting benefits to student achievement. Of importance is the link teachers now see between the need to balance their instruction on the basis of the evidence they obtain from their formative assessment during instruction.

The examination of teacher practice therefore, must be guided by the results of assessment that teachers carry out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. So, common formative assessment will assist teachers in making similar sound judgments about student progress toward the standards, or the needed adjustments to the curriculum content and plan, about what instructional strategies are most likely to get them there. We must be aware that the shift required by teachers is, first and foremost, to consider what instructional strategies to invoke in order to change the results the students are achieving. This distinction is supported by Douglas Reeves when he talks about the distinction between cause and effect results. Too often, we only focus on student results and forget that we need to also consider the effect of adult (teacher) actions on student achievement.

A PLC affords teams of teachers (the adults) the opportunity to collaboratively develop and deploy all manner of skills, provided they thoughtfully use the results of common formative assessment appropriately to inform classroom teaching.


Bennett, B., & Rolheiser, C. (2001). Beyond Monet: The artful science of instructional integration. Toronto, Ontario: Bookation.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139–148. <>

Stiggins, R. J., Arter, J., Chappuis, J., & Chappuis, S. (2005). Classroom assessment for student learning: Doing it right, using it well. Portland, OR: Assessment Training Institute. <>


Teaching vs. Learning: How Assessment Informs Instruction | educational technology news |

[...] Teaching vs. Learning: How Assessment Informs Instruction [...]

Posted on

Teaching vs. Learning: How Assessment Informs Instruction | AllThingsPLC | 21st Century Learners |

[...] Teaching vs. Learning: How Assessment Informs Instruction | AllThingsPLC Find the latest research, articles, tools and other education resources for building a PLC ? professional learning community. Collaborate with teachers and administrators on our frequently updated blog, written by PLC and education professionals. Source: [...]

Posted on


I am currently in a school system that just implemented PLC's a couple years ago. There is certainly some teachers that feel that PLC's imply that 'teaching is not important'. I believe that once we move past some of these individuals with these views our PLC's will go a lot farther than they have been. The statement from Black and Wiliam you quoted says so much. “A focus on standards and accountability that ignores the processes of teaching and learning in classrooms will not provide the direction that teachers need in their quest to improve” I could not agree more.

There is so much that we, as teachers, can learn from each other in this process. Teachers need to take advantage of PLC's if they take place in their school systems.

Posted on


Our department has implemented common quarterly assessments with our new book adoption. We are using these assessments to help us reteach at the end of each quarter. At the lower levels (Algebra I and Geometry) the teachers have chosen to use the book assessments, whereas, at the higher level(Pre-Calculus and Calculus) we are writing our own to include more conceptual questions. My concern is beginning to teach to the test instead of allowing interest and curiosity guide instruction.

Posted on


If a teacher is lucky enough to be a member of a district that has embraced a true PLC’s culture, they are in a district that embraces improving instructional skills, strategies, and tactics. Even teachers who are not immersed in this culture can use the philosophies that define a PLC. Understanding the power of the formative assessment is the most important strategic tool in a PLC. If a teacher can find any other teacher in their district or outside to collaborate on the assessment they can begin the culture change.

Posted on


My PLC team is having difficulty with common assessments at this point because they are developed and mandated by the district and are summative rather than formative. We have not yet begun to develop our own common formative assessments, so when it comes time to analyze our students data we nitpick the questions and explain away the questions as misleading or poorly written rather than looking to them to help us guide future instruction.
Because of this the team feels like they are being asked to teach to the test rather than focusing on student learning. My hope is that as we grow in our PLC journey and begin to develop our own assessments this mindset will change.

Posted on


I could not agree more that assessment should be based on the amount a student learns, not based upon how the teacher teaches. The most important factor should be the passing on of knowledge to the students in an effective manner. However, I understand that assessing teachers style is often the primary focus because an ineffective will not pass on knowledge to as many students as possible. I think assessments should follow through from the top to the bottom. Flowing from the teacher down to the students then back up again. Without traveling this path, a weak link in the chain may be overlooked that could disrupt or interfere with effective teaching and learning.

Posted on

Staff at

@hutchgm - There's a whole section of articles on "Getting Started" here on ATPLC that might be a good place to start. We also have a database of over 100 evidence schools which have demonstrated improvement over three years of being a PLC. You can search for schools your size, at your level, and contact the administrator there to ask how they started the process and created the buy-in necessary to make these changes happen.

Making Time for Collaboration and Critical Issues for Team Consideration are also helpful resources.

Good luck, and thanks for commenting!

Posted on


We are learning about PLCs more in depth in a master's class that I am currently taking. After reading on the subject I don't understand how it would even be possible to have a PLC without having all team members on the same page or in this case not even all on board. In your opinion, do you think that it is benefiting the students still even though not all of the teachers are giving it their all?

Posted on


Our school is currently in the beginning stages of a PLC and we are having trouble getting everyone focused on the need and the benefits of a PLC. For those of us who are focused and excited about what a PLC can bring to a school it is frustrating to be constantly butting heads with those who haven't made the commitment yet and do not see it as a valuable expenditure of time. Another factor that stands in our way is time-there is never enough! We dismiss 45 minutes early in our district every Wednesday, but the first two weeks of the month are designated for specific meetings and that leaves the last two or three weeks out of every month for PLC. It is so hard to get into a good rhythm and get something going when you meet consistently for a couple weeks and then take a couple weeks off. It takes hard work and time to make PLCs work and right now it seems like it is hard to get either!

Posted on


I commonly linked the idea of assessment results driving instruction to administration only needing to see improved test scores. This link resulted in the unbeneficial practice of teachers only “teaching to the test.” Teachers would stop trying to teach students what they needed to know to succeed in life, in exchange for teaching only what the students needed to succeed on their end-of-the-year assessments. It is great to see that PLCs are set up in effort to move away from strictly teaching to the test. In the spirit of “two heads are better than one”, PLCs help to support positive and significant collaboration with colleagues in effort to promote achievement in the classroom. Teachers must be lifelong learners, and just as students learn best from other students, teachers can learn best from other teachers. PLCs can help bridge the gap of assessment results and teaching, while eliminating the focus of purely teaching to the test.

Posted on


I would like to implement the PLC process within my school, yet we do not have that "time" factor in place to do so. The research that I am reading clearly states the difference between productive PLC when time is given compared to having to make time outside of the school day. Does anyone have any advice on how to spark big change in weekly schedules to support this learning?

Posted on


I do believe that PLCs can be a beneficial tool for teachers. They allow teachers time to discover new ideas from other professionals in their same field. I think it is great to be able to hear what other teachers are doing in their classrooms and see if it will be successful in your own. I believe often times as educators we get so caught up in getting students to pass a test that we do not have time to make sure that students fully understand the material. PLCs have been a great way for me to find information to balance both.

Posted on


We have PLC at our school and I have been involved in it for 5 years. In those 5 years, I can say not much productive has been done in ways of helping student achievement. I was intrigued by "learning's" statement about how they meet twice a month and discuss data and strategies. That sounds like a great use of teacher time and probably results in strategies that are very helpful for improving student learning and achievement. I think if we met like that we wouldn't be so surprised when our students don't do well on benchmark testing.

Posted on


We started PLC last year at my school. At first I wasn't really interested in it because I felt like it was something else to take away from my planning time. As we started, I began to like it because we started focusing more on our students learning and we planned according. It is really a way to make sure all students are learning.

Posted on


This year I have had the fortune of participating in two PLCs. one was voluntary and the other was mandated. What I have discovered is when teachers are force to participate in a PLC they are less likely to gain any knowledge from it. In the PLC that was voluntary, we were able to share ideas about our math lesson, create ways to monitor progress over grade levels, and create a plan for reteaching skills that students missed. The key to the success of a PLC is the willingness of the teacher to participate.

Posted on


My district has stopped using organized PLC groups, which I think is a shame. In addition to a new director of schools, my high school has a new principal, a new assistant principal, and two new guidance counselors. So desperately we teachers need to reconnect. Even though most of our PLC meetings last year were about analyzing data or some other administrative concern, we would usually end up talking about best practices in one way or another. Just the opportunity to get together is sorely missed. I would love to see PLCs come back to my school especially if they were more teacher directed. Teachers desperately need time to share ideas and strategies with each other.

Posted on

Staff at

@mariab - We're so glad you liked Rick and Becky's book! There's actually a newer, expanded edition of "Whatever It Takes" called "Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap: Whatever It Takes." And if you'd like, you can watch a voicethread and video about the new version here.

Posted on


This is the first time that I have been exposed to the "term" PLC, but when reading about them I know that I already participate in a couple. I teach at a small school, so there are only two first grade teachers, but this is what we do constantly. During our planning times at school, we meet together to discuss student progress and certaing issues with students. Also, I participate in a county-wide math team of first grade math teachers where we discuss curriculum pacing, planning and share teaching strategies and lesson ideas. We make common assessments to use throughout the county, but we do not analyze data as a group. I would love to see this become a common practice in our group! I can definitely see the benefits that this would provide!

Posted on


All teachers should be required to continue taking courses toward a higher degree. Many teachers are much uninformed. This creates a hostile working environment. Out of ignorance, they “buck” against administrators. I am presently working towards my Master’s degree. Many of the complaints I hear from my colleagues and teachers is due to lack of knowledge. Teachers, who are in tune to what is being taught today, know that administrators are enforcing discovered ideas that work.

Posted on


PLCs have recently been implemented in my school district. As the year has progressed we have learned how PLCs benefit the school, teacher and most importantly, the students. As mentioned in Teaching vs. Learning we meet twice a month, discuss our data and share teaching strategies.

Posted on


Great book: Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Community Responds When Kids Don't Learn by Richard DuFour.

Posted on


In order for PLCs to be effective it requires the school staff to focus on learning rather than teaching, work together on items related to learning and hold itself accountable for the kind of results that will motivate continual improvement. At my school site we have groups of teachers that make up PLC's. As of yet we don't have the school wide commitment. Although our administrator is working diligently to get everyone committed, there are still several teachers that are not buying into the concept. Unfortunately,a PLC's success is dependent on the commitment and persistence of the educators within it. I feel with time and hard work, these reluctant teachers will come around and see that we are all in this together for the success of all students.

Posted on


I think you touched upon a key factor that needs to be present when PLC groups meet. Since a lot of time seems to be spent of topic, goals need to be set. Maybe a list of questions that need to be answered or a run-down of the day to keep everyone on track.

When our "articulation groups" would meet, we would often get very sidetracked. I wish we would've had guidelines set for us to keep us focused.

Imagine how powerful focused PLCs could be!

Posted on


Our school has been on the PLC journey for a number of years. We have a cross-graded group because our school has less than one teacher per grade. Rather than having embedded time, our staff meets after school weekly.

For the last few years, our division has asked us to use data from our Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) and the Canadian Achievement Test (CAT) to arrive at our greatest area of need. From here we are expected to design a school plan for helping our students to improve. It takes a long time for us to receive the data and then go through it. Am I right in assuming that you would be in favour of using classroom assessments that were of a high quality to guide the PLC process? Where should we be using the PAT and CAT data?

Your posting also brought to my attention that our team has been missing something. What about the teacher’s actions? This seldom comes into our conversation at the front end of the process unless we are defending why we have poor results in an area. When we are working on strategies to reach our target, we tend to talk about student activities rather than instructional strategies, especially ones that would be transferable into other areas of study. Looking at our actions is an invaluable strategy for our group to employ.

Posted on


I work at a primary school in a school district that uses PLCs. We meet once a month for what we call "data" meetings and once a month for "grade level" meetings.

I am an Interventionist and the "data" meetings with our K-3 teachers and school administrators are very beneficial. This has given us the opportunity to target and stay current with our at-risk students. Every at-risk student is placed in some type of intervention. Our school is very data driven. We also use our data meetings for re-grouping students based on their Dibels (reading assessment) and Aimsweb (math assessment)scores. These meetings are very structured and positive because we are all have one main goal in mind, the success of our students.

Grade level meetings are a chance for teachers to have one hour of uninterrupted collaborative planning. This is a chance for teachers to discuss what works and what doesn't in the classroom. It enables teachers to give each other ideas on how to help different students or teach a certain lesson.

The PLCs in our school are very beneficial. It definitely sets our school apart from others in our community. Our students' learning is our top priority.

Posted on


I read DuFour’s article, “Schools Learning Communities”, and was amazed by the similarities of strategies that are currently being used at my school. My school has been using PLCs for about two years. The first year was spent learning about professional learning communities. The second year designated to implementing them.

Every Wednesday, each grade level meets for 80 minutes to discuss strategies that ensure students are learning. When DuFour referred to the third grade teachers and how they collaborated for school improvements, it seemed as though he was talking about the teachers on my team.

My team consists of seven third grade teachers. We all have specific responsibilities as it relates to PLC meetings. This assures that our time together will be productive. This year, the majority of our meetings have been designated to addressing the latest state mandated standards. We studied the new standards while comparing them to the old. We looked at the weekly assessments that was currently being used and changed them to coincide with the new mandates. An open forum was created to discuss teaching practices and ideas used to reach difficult skills and challenging students.

One reason why I believe our meetings are so effective is due to the cohesive personalities present on my team. Niez (2007) stated that “social connections we make with others whom we learn to trust and respect invest us in the process of change”. Because we get along with each other outside of the school environment, we are more relaxed and open to sharing ideas.


Niesz, T. (2007). Why teacher networks (can) work. Phi Delta Kappan, 88, 605–610.

Posted on


I have had limited experience with PLCs during my life as a teacher. The were existent at my former school, but are not at my current school. When I was part of a PLC I found it to be quite rewarding. I am not fond of meetings that I feel are a waste of time. However, I really enjoyed working within a PLC because the time was spent discussing and working on relevant issues in today's classroom. I enjoyed the collaboration with other teachers and I was able to return to my classroom with real and practical solutions to improve students learning. I am now working at an international school and will be working under my third principal in for years. One principal attempted to start a PLC, but it was met with teacher resistance and it went by the way side. I really miss the PLC piece in a school climate as I feel it builds a strong community for administration, teachers, and students.

Posted on


I am a teacher at a school who also uses PLCs. We meet every Monday morning for an hour without children present. During this time, we meet about different things going on during the week, collaborating together lesson plans, as well as any students who are struggling academically or behaviorally. I find this time to be very beneficial as it is extremely helpful to gain input from my teaching partners, especially since this is my first year teaching. I am a Master's student and we are exploring PLCs, and I am excited to take what I am learning back to my PLC and possibly integrate ideas into our own PLC.

Posted on


To tw25, do you have set norms for your PLCs? I have experience with a her vs. us within a PLC and fully believe if we had established PLC norms, it might have been avoided.

Posted on


I also have PLCs in my school, but the time is rather limited. We meet as a grade level on A days during our special. This is a concern because it is our prep time that is being taken away. There are 4 fourth grade teachers that meet, as well as, the vice principal, reading or math coach (depending on what week it is, we rotate between math and reading) and a special education teacher. The sped teacher never comes because she always has a meeting or something. We discuss test scores, strategies to use and what to move onto next. We also complete a 5 step process where we have to gather results of a PRE CFA then determine strategies and make a smart goal of how many students we will get to proficient by the next meeting. The problem is what to do when the smartgoal isn't met? There is so much to teach how do we fit it all in if were stuck on one concept forever!!

My school also meets once a month for an hour after school. We meet as a whole school and discuss things like PBS (positive behavior system) which is not working because administration is not listening to what we have to say. I believe PLCs can be very effective if done in the proper way, with enough time allotted.

Posted on


Although I have certainly heard about PLCs and am teaching in a school where I am a member, I have just begun researching the concept as I am working on my masters degree and am just astonished after scratching the surface of what they are truly to be.

I certainly see benefits with what my school is doing, but we are missing huge components that could truly improve student learning. Our PLC is not often something the teachers are excited to do, however you can see the amazing things they are achieving, however they are not transferred into classroom practice across the school. It will be interesting to see how my own understanding of the concept impacts my practices.

Posted on


I am new to the concept of PLCs but am quickly realizing their potential. If instituted properly I think they could be highly effective. The only experience I have had that closely resembles a PLC was what my district called "collaboration time" which we had maybe once a month. Most times, however, this time was used for small talk and griping. I cannot remember anything useful that came from these meetings. From reading other's posts about PLCs I gather that this often happens when instituting PLCs. I have read several articles that discuss characteristics of effective PLCs and it seems that if everyone is on board and willing to try, PLCs can have very positive impacts on teaching learning and student achievement. In the future I hope that my school will see the potential benefits and institute PLCs with everyone's best interests in mind.

Posted on


PLCs are also relatively new for my school as well. We tend to struggle because we are also an RTI district that groups students according to test results. When I meet with my grade level during our monthly meeting to look at our assessment data there is a disconnect because I teacher the intervention groups while the other two teach the basic and advanced groups. Although we are able to discuss specific student issues and troubleshoot certain concepts or standards form time to time, there are mandated topics we are asked to discus and often are not relevant to issues we face. Most teachers can't stand them. I was wondering if other schools have this same set up and have found ways to make PLC teams work better within the RTI model. If your school uses PLC’s effectively in a response to intervention well do you have a few pointers?

Posted on


As a teacher in a district that also just adopted PLCs this year, I already see the benefits of structured collaboration within my school. We meet three times per month during our weekly staff meeting, and our PLC groups members are still positive and enthusiastic to work together. We began the year in groups based on content areas (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Related Arts). These groupings were not as productive as hoped due to the fact that most of the time was spent discussing classroom or curriculum woes. I feel colleagues must be cautious and have a specific goal to stop this from happening.

The PLC groups currently meeting in my school are broken down into topics such as differentiation, standardized test prep, and my data analysis group. Although productivity has surely increased, your blog post is interesting to me because it highlights a trouble spot of my PLC. We are currently analyzing NJASK standardized test scores to identify weaknesses in student achievement. We have been graphing and calculating for weeks, but have a minimal goal in mind. Because we are focused on student learning of the past, it seems our research will stop when common weaknesses are found. However important it is to know that our students as a whole have trouble with mathematical problem solving and speculative writing, I feel what is more imperative is to make a plan to meet those needs. Doesn’t that plan need to be based on “teaching” before it will affect “learning”?

Posted on


My school district just began using PLCs this year. We are given subs for a half day once a month for our PLC meetings. Each grade level has their own PLC meeting day and time. Included in our PLC meetings are all teachers in that grade level, building Principal, building Assistant Principal, special education teacers, Math coaches, Language Arts consultants, and all district consultants.

In our PLCs we discuss a variety of things such as assessment results, struggling learners, and interventions. A large portion of our time is spent analyzing assessment data and determining what we need to do to make our assessment scores improve.

There is a large disconnect in our PLCs. Most of us dread going to them. It is as if the teachers and coaches are on one team and administration and the district consultants are on another. Typically our discussions get rather heated. We are all in agreement that we want what is best for our students, however we have different ideas about what that is. At times, it seems as if administration and the district consultants have forgotten what being a classroom teacher is like. Any suggestions to bridge this gap?

Posted on

Staff at

It's true that the full text of "Inside the Black Box" online requires a subscription, but I imagine you might be able to find a copy to read at the local library? University libraries, I think, would be a good place to look. We also have some great blog posts in the AllThingsPLC archives that might help you with addressing differences with this teacher. This article by Rick DuFour is a great place to start!

Posted on


I am a teacher at a school which uses PLCs. We meet every Wednesday morning for an hour without students present. During this time, we discuss and collaborate with two or three other teachers who teach the same class. For example, I am on a team with three other teachers and we all teach Algebra I College Prep. Most of our time is spent reviewing the curriculum in regards to where we presently are in the timeline and modify assessments to match what we are teaching and to structure them to promote student success. After we have given an assessment, we typically analyze our results to find common areas students have trouble with. The one thing our group rarely does is converse and/or change instructional practices based on results. Lack of common philosophies in the group create this challenge of accomplishing what PLCs are designed for us to do therefore all of our students are not benefitting as much as they could from our work.

Your post reminded me of the disconnect in my group and how this disconnect is related to student learning. Thankfully it is only one person in our group whose philosophy is not up-to-date with current research but the PLC suffers from that and his students suffer as well. We are unable to make the similar sound judgments regarding student progress and needed adjustments that you talk about. I strongly believe that this resistant teacher has forgotten how his actions have a huge impact on the learning of his students. Although the other two teachers and I work to do what is best for our students by altering instruction as needed, I wonder what we can do to assist the teacher who challenges our work as a group. I do not have access to the full text of “Inside the Black Box” but would like to find a way to read it as I feel it may be helpful for all teachers to read.

I agree that work in these groups is not only beneficial for our students in succeeding but also for teachers to become more effective. This is work that needs to be continually used and improved upon to achieve the best results possible.

Posted on