Teacher Challenges

        “It is time to use tools that allow data and evidence to undergird teacher observation, feedback, and coaching.” 


Action research and a study of one's teaching are integral parts of a teacher's professional life. It should begin during the teacher preparation phase and become a consistent and expected component of a teacher’s career. Teacher Challenges are mini action-research investigations that help to facilitate this process of self-study as each challenge focuses on implementing or analyzing a strategy, teaching model, or teacher-student interactions that are important to and can enhance any educator’s teaching. 


Teacher Challenges takes the limited feedback and coaching provided by most annual evaluations and puts the power and action back into the hands of the teacher.














How to Use Teacher Challenges

  • Observe, gather and analyze data on yourself to uplift your teaching potential.

  • Document your progress as evidence for a PDP or annual evaluation. 

  • Develop self-analysis, feedback, and coaching skills that rival or surpass any typical teacher observation scenario.

  • Use data and indicators as the new filter and lens for planning, teaching, and analyzing lessons for consistency regarding goals for instruction. 

  • Use the process to guide changes to instruction and elevate student engagement in lessons.

  • Document the discrete actions and events in sometimes fast-paced lessons, and then examine the collected data for trends, tendencies, and patterns to identify the critical growth indicators. 

  • If you’re a mentor teacher, observe, gather and analyze data on new teachers in your building to help them navigate the turbulent first years. 

  • If you are an administrator, a teacher chooses and implements a challenge. Then you and the teacher have a specific goal with data and evidence of growth and change as a basis for post-observation discussions and feedback. 


Engaging in a Teacher Challenge can be a form of action research and self-reflection, assessment, or professional development. Teacher Challenges use data from the SMT teacher observation tool to help focus the lens on discrete teacher decisions made during planning, teaching, or assessing learners. Data guides feedback or serves as markers and indicators to help teachers adjust or fine-tune their teaching engine to checkered flag levels of excellence. 


The Typical Flow of Activities 

  1. Take a look at your classroom. 

    • What is one aspect that you feel could be improved? The goal is to change instruction to increase student engagement or positively affect student learning.

  2. Teach! 

    • Teach a lesson as usual and capture a video. 

  3. Complete the SMT Training Modules. 

    • Completing the required SMT training teaches how to identify key indicators and analyze the lesson.

  4. Capture and analyze data. 

    • Use SMT to capture and analyze data that serve as best indicators.  

  5. Chart the data. 

    • Record data on the Data Summary Chart and identify what indicators to use and examine as change measures.

  6. Investigate options and alternatives. 

    • Use the information provided in the Teacher Challenge to change instruction to better target and foster goals for instruction and have a greater positive impact on student engagement and learning. 

  7. Round two! 

    • Modify instruction and repeat steps 2 through 6. Compare the data from round one to round two that indicates change, growth, or impact when comparing the initial and second lessons. 

  8. Revise and compare. 

    • After viewing the impact from Step 7, determine if further modifications to the strategy or teacher actions are necessary and whether or not to complete a third (or fourth round).  


Note: The Teacher Challenges listed below are ordered in increasing skill level. The number in parentheses following the title indicates the number of SMT training modules the user must complete to do the Teacher Challenge successfully. For example, Teacher Challenge 1 – Flipping the Teacher Student Talk Ratio (3) requires the completion of 3 training modules to be adequately prepared to complete the Teacher Challenge. The ones at the top require the least amount of SMT training, whereas the Teacher Challenges at the bottom of the list require the greatest amount of SMT training. 


While many Teacher Challenges are provided, there is no prescribed pathway to follow or any specific endpoint in mind except for improving one’s teaching. Growth, change, and fine-tuning one’s teaching to improve student engagement and learning is the target. Teacher Challenges are solely meant to be personal explorations of teaching that gather and analyze data on some aspect of teaching. This allows the teacher to determine ways to improve teaching and increase the positive effect on the learner. 


Documentation Resource

The My Action Plan Google Form is a template you can use to document your observations and progress through this teacher challenge.  This can be used for your personal development or as evidence for a yearly observation or pre-service teacher certification program.


Teacher Challenge Options

Teacher Challenge: Flipping the Teacher-Student Talk Ratio (3) 

Description: This Teacher Challenge includes implementing strategies to decrease the percentage of time that a lesson is teacher dominated and increase the percentage of time that students are actively engaged. 


Teacher Challenge: Misbehaviors in the Classroom and the Teacher’s Reaction (4)

Description: This Teacher Challenge focuses on minimizing the impact of student misbehavior on student learning, thereby increasing student engagement and positive contributions from all students. 


Teacher Challenge: Using Sufficient Wait-Time (Novice/Simple Method) (4)

Description: The goal of this specific Teacher Challenge is to implement strategies to increase overall wait time utilized in the classroom and analyze the effect of increased wait time on student engagement. 


Teacher Challenge: Increasing Student Engagement Using Powerful Methods (Whole Class) (4)

Description: This Teacher Challenge includes changing a lesson strategy or teaching model to foster increased opportunities for diverse student engagement in a whole class setting. 


Teacher Challenge: Small Group Productivity - Lesson Structure, Student Interactions, and Equitable Contributions (6) 

Description: This Teacher Challenge is about optimizing the impact on student learning and student contributions of small groups by promoting powerful strategies to increase student-student interactions and optimize engagement and contributions from all students. 


Teacher Challenge: Using Sufficient Wait-Time (Advanced User/Regular Method) (7)

Description: The goal of this specific Teacher Challenge is to implement strategies to increase overall wait time utilized in the classroom and analyze the effect of increased wait time on student engagement.


Teacher Challenge: Small Group Productivity: Teacher Interactions and Facilitation (9)

Description: This Teacher Challenge is about optimizing the impact on student learning in small groups by using powerful teacher-student interactions that maximize engagement and contributions from all students. 

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