30-Minute PD With Your ELT Team: Norming

Are you looking for professional development (PD) to do with your English language teaching (ELT) team? I’m going to share with you a flexible PD activity that can be done in 30 minutes or over the course of a half day; can be done in-person or online; and provides a way to develop community, build cohesion in how your team evaluates student work, and gives your team an opportunity to think about your teaching and learning objectives. The solution is norming!

This PD activity involves the collective review and evaluation of anonymous student writing or speaking. Collectively, you work with your respective ELT team to review the student to accomplish a goal. This goal is tailored to the specific needs of your team and program. This is great way to closely examine student assignments and assessments within your English learner (EL) program.

Here are a few steps to get you on your way with norming:

STEP 1: Decide What to Norm

As a team, decide if you want to norm student writing or speaking. You will want to make sure that you and others have access to this work.

STEP 2: Decide How Long You Want to Norm

Norming student work can be very flexible. This is something that could be done as a short PD exercise or as a whole day event. If this is new to your or your team, consider norming for 30–60 minutes.

Pro Tip: Every team norming takes a different amount of time. It depends on how long the piece of student work is, the goals for the norming, and general experience norming.

However, it is a rule of thumb to dedicate at least 10 minutes to each piece of student work that you are norming. Therefore, if you are norming for 30 minutes, you would want approximately three pieces of student work to review. If you are norming for 60 minutes, you would want to have six pieces to review.  

STEP 3: Collect and Share Student Work

You might have to scan student handwriting, create a file of student typed writing, or share recorded audio files. To make this easy, you could create a Google Drive folder or use Dropbox. Then, share that folder with your team.

Pro Tip: To keep the work as anonymous as possible, be sure to remove student names and identifying characteristics from the student writing or recording. Remember, this task is not about the specific student. Instead, the norming is about the assignment, objective, or assessment.

STEP 4: Determine Your Norming Goal

As a team, decide why you are norming. Think about your goal for completing this activity; norming can have many objectives. Here are five examples of norming objectives that you might choose when you are completing this PD activity with your team.

  1. Assess if students met the objectives of the assignment.
  2. Assess if students have completed the requirement to move to the next level.
  3. Assess how you would place this student into your respective levels.
  4. Assess the feedback that you would give students on an assignment to facilitate improvement.
  5. Assess your assessment tool and make adjustments to how students are evaluated overall.

Pro Tip: Again, norming is different for everyone and every team. If this is your first-time norming, start small. You might take 30 minutes to review three pieces of student work from the same assignment. Collectively, your goal would be to see if these students successfully met the objectives of their assignment and your rubric. 

STEP 5: Schedule Your Norming Session

Norming with a team can be done in-person or online. If you are unable to schedule a time in a conference room or with your team, consider meeting online through GoToMeeting, ZOOM, GoogleHangout, or any other virtual meeting program that you prefer.

Pro Tip: If you are going to norm while meeting online, consider screensharing the student work. This way, you and your team are able to review student work at the same time and then discuss face-to-face. This is a good way to keep everyone on track and keep the conversations flowing.

STEP 6: Facilitate the Norming

Regardless of whether you are norming with your team in-person or online, you will want to make sure that someone is facilitating. This person will help to keep things moving especially if the team is new to norming.

This person will be responsible for

  1. inviting everyone to the norming meeting. This could include reserving a room or sharing a virtual meeting log in.
  2. sharing the student work that will be normed during the session. The best way to share this is through Google Drive or Dropbox.
  3. facilitating the conversation at the beginning of the meeting to review the procedure and the goal for the norming session.

Pro Tip: The person facilitating does not need to be experienced at norming. However, it is best if this person feels comfortable with the team. Ultimately, the group will develop their norming together as a community. Everyone is learning alongside each other.

STEP 7: Follow a Procedure

During the norming, you will want to have a procedure setup with your team. Everyone chooses to organize their norming in different ways. Sometimes, people are required to review the student work ahead of time. Other times, the group passes around copies of student work to review and discuss at the end. There are many ways that this can be done; it really depends on how your group works best.

Pro Tip: If your group is new to norming, you might consider this basic procedure: (1) review one piece of student work; (2) discuss that piece of work and take, notes depending on your goals; and (3) move on to the next piece of work.  

STEP 8: Reflect on the Norming Session and Outcomes

The bread and butter of norming is the discussion and the reflection that you will do with your team regarding your specific goal. After each piece of work that you review and after the norming is complete, it is important to have a meaningful discussion about next steps.

You might consider discussing the following questions:

  1. How did everyone feel about the norming session? What are the personal and team takeaways?
  2. What do we want to do with the information that we have gathered from the norming? How will this impact our practice?
  3. Where do we want to store our norming notes and reflections so that they are accessible to the team and can be built upon in the future?
  4. Should norming be done more frequently with our team? If so, when?
  5. What goals would you like to focus on as a team during future norming sessions?

Pro Tip: Norming is not a one-time activity. This is something that is great to do at the beginning and end of a semester or academic year. It is a time to reflect on courses, student assignments, rubrics, scaffolding, and more. Every time you participate in norming, you will learn something new about yourself, your students, and your courses overall.

Norming is a great, flexible PD activity to meet the needs of your team, your time, and your collective goals. Whether this is your first time norming or your 25th time, there is always something to learn and always great takeaways that will improve your teaching and EL program.

If you have experience with norming, please share your experiences, suggestions, and tips in the comments, below!

About Stephanie Marcotte

Stephanie Marcotte
Stephanie N. Marcotte, EdD, is the nursing resource coordinator and an adjunct professor of academic ESL at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts. She is passionate about supporting and advocating for credit-bearing academic ESL community college programs. In May 2020, she completed her doctoral studies at the University of New England in Maine, where she focused on transformative leadership in higher education. Stephanie is a MATSOL board member, and she has previously served as an NNETESOL board member and as president. Lastly, she has served in various union leadership capacities at the community college, including the position of union chapter president.
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