The Power of Design Question 1

Scaffold your lessons to build toward your targeted goal.

In my last post, I discussed the importance of setting clear learning goals to communicate to students what they are learning and why.  The second key to harnessing the power of Design Question 1 in the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model is to create a scale for each learning goal that is used to provide feedback to students.  Creating scales is likely the strategy in the framework that is most new to many teachers; therefore it takes time to embed this work easily into the routine of your teaching.  Like any skill that we learn throughout our lives, the more we practice, the easier it will get!

The learning goal sets our target for learning and the scale is used to let students and parents know where in the progression of learning toward that target the student falls.  Unlike a grade, a scale rating is specific to the learning goal and will show growth over time. Scales utilize the concept of formative assessment; the activities and assessments we use to measure a student’s growth during the learning.  Teachers consistently use these types of assessments to check for student understanding and to make adjustments to instruction.  By adding scales to our classroom practice, we can easily use the formative assessments to provide specific feedback to students about their progression toward the learning goal.  Follow the steps below to get started.

Step 1 – Write a scale for each learning goal

Write a scale for the overall learning goal you are teaching, not the activities and assignments you are using each day to help students reach the goal.  You might have 2-3 learning goals you are addressing within a unit of instruction and the scale is attached to those goals.

Example:  Students will be able to convert between standard and nonstandard unit measurements.

Step 2 – Break down the learning goal into parts

Unpack your learning goal in a way that shows how students will progress toward the goal.  It will help to think about how you scaffold your teaching along the way.  What are the simpler parts of the goal that you teach first?  Are there building blocks along the way to the accomplishment of the goal?  These building blocks can become the steps of your scale and should progress from the simpler parts to the more complex overall goal.


  1. Students will be able to make simple measurements in standard units.
  2. Students will be able to make simple conversions within standard or nonstandard unit measurements.

Step 3 – Place the unpacked learning goal into your scale

Using a simple scale, place the simpler parts of your goal at level 2 and the target learning goal at level 3 on the scale.  Level 4 on the scale should be an application of the target goal that requires students to go beyond what was explicitly taught or a more complex version of the target learning goal.


4.0 Students will be able to:

  • Analyze the unit of measurement needed for specific applications and make necessary conversions

Students will be able to:

  • Convert between standard and nonstandard unit measurements

Students will be able to:

  • Make simple measurements in standard units
  • Make simple conversions within standard or nonstandard unit measurements
1.0 With help, partial success at level 2.0 and 3.0 content
0.0 Even with help, no success

Here’s an example of one I’ve used for staff development:

4.0 In addition to 3.0 content, participants will be able to:

  • Mentor classroom teachers in designing and monitoring effective lessons utilizing the eight strategies of Design Question 2

Participants will be able to:

  • Design an interactive lesson using the strategies of Design Question 2
  • Identify specific monitoring strategies for each element in Design Question 2

Participants will demonstrate understanding of:

  • Educational research that supports the strategies of Design Question 2
  • Classroom strategies that actively engage students with new content
1.0 With help, partial success at level 2.0 and 3.0 content

Step 4 – Share your scale with your students

Use the scale with your students to track their progress toward the goal and celebrate their success!  I’ll talk more about this last power strategy in my next post!

Check out some scales that other teachers have written in this scale bank.

Do you have any success stories to share about using scales in your classroom?  Share them in your comments below!

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