As teachers learn throughout their lifetime, they develop a breadth and depth of expertise. Many researchers label teachers as "adaptive experts" when they deepen their core ideas, beliefs, and competencies. The process of becoming adaptive creates a reflective instructional stance causing teachers to question and refine their teaching to suit students’ learning needs.
One practice that requires adaptive expertise is the development of units of study. A unit of study is a collection of lesson plans that fit together to create teaching and learning opportunities that are intentional, sequential, focused, and meaningful.
Cornerstone Literacy teachers recently planned standards based units of study in Muscogee County, Georgia, and Springfield, Massachusetts. These units are very effective because the teachers began planning with the end student product in mind and worked backwards. Some of the units are interdisciplinary where literacy is intertwined with content subjects, such as science or social studies. Other units focus exclusively on literacy. The use of these units is best approached through the lens of adaptive expertise. Student responses to the units should guide the timing of the lesson, release of responsibility, and selection of materials.