10 Basic Steps to Creating a Generic Scale: Lions and Tigers and Scales, Oh My!

Learning Scales can help your students “see” the way to achievement in ways they never have before.

The most “scary” or misunderstood aspect of Design Question 1 has to be the scale portion of Element 1, Providing Clear Learning Goals and Scales.

I often share the story of my four-year-old, who came home from school on the first day of kindergarten. While running off the school bus, my son yelled, “Mommy, Mommy, look, I made a “geen” today.” 

“A green?”

“Yes, Mommy, I was good today, I listened to Ms. Hooker, I did what she said.”

Wow, I was impressed.  A four-year-old had explained his understanding of a behavior scale to me, one he had just learned that day. I couldn’t help but think that if a four year old could describe a scale, then a fourteen-year-old ought to be able to, as well.

Scales can appear challenging. Maybe because designing and using scales is a new concept. But as Element 1 clearly implies, using a learning goal without an accompanying scale leaves the equation half complete. The scale answers the following question for the student, “What is expected of me as a learner?”

There’s power in the scale!

Why is a scale so powerful?  The scale allows students to “see” the progression of their learning, like having laser vision. Students can clearly “see” the learning target they are striving towards, and, while doing so, they can access and articulate their current level of understanding. This is the desired effect of the scale! Taming a Lion?

Well, not really… but students can begin to believe in their own power to succeed. The scale hands control and responsibility to the student.

A well-devised scale assists students in engaging in their learning and “seeing” that the task is indeed possible. Even more importantly, the scale provides a framework for self-efficacy. According to Robert Marzano “self-efficacy is quite possibly the most important factor affecting engagement.” Even if students feel good, are interested in what is occurring, and believe it to be important, they will probably not fully engage if they believe the task is impossible” (see The Highly Engaged Classroom).

Scales allow students to engage in a dialogue with themselves regarding their learning, and that dialogue is a precursor to metacogition. A student may say, “If I do the following, I can meet the target goal.” 

Start small.

Students who are not familiar with scales need direct instruction on how to use them. A generic scale can be used to translate any learning goal for which simpler and more complex content has been identified. As noted in Dr. Marzano’s Handbook for the Art and Science of Teaching, this basic protocol will help you design a scale for any learning goal in any subject area, tailored to fit the needs of all learners:

  1. Consider the standard you’d like to address

  2. Create a well-crafted learning goal based on the standard

  3. Identify complex causal relationships and the goal’s simpler and more complex content.

  4. Place the content for the learning goal regarding comprehension of complex causal in the Score 3.0 position.

  5. Place the simpler content in the Score 2.0 position

  6. Place the more complex content in the Score 4.0 position.

  7. Create Score 1.0, which allows students to obtain credit for seeking help or acknowledging that they need help to understand the simpler content that is addressed in Score 2.0.

  8. Create Score 0.0, which allows students to articulate their lack of understanding, even with help.

  9. Articulate the scale to your students.

  10. Monitor for understanding.

Involve the student in the creation of scales that are used to assess daily learning goals. Be creative, have fun with it.

Send us a link to a picture of a scale you use with your students, or post your link in the comment section below. Share please.

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