New Independent Research Could Impact Common Core Implementation

Marzano Model Most Specific, Most Focused on Deepening Student Knowledge

With Common Core State Standards, emphasis is on student cognition. Common Core standards “ratchet up” the learning needs of students to be successful on standardized tests aligned to the standards. Common Core questions can appear—on the surface—to be quite similar to traditional content, giving educators a false sense of preparedness.

Independent research conducted by Paul Mielke, Ph.D compared the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model to the Danielson Framework for Teaching and found that the Marzano Model, unlike the Danielson framework, “puts an emphasis on classroom instruction and behaviors while making distinctions between new knowledge, deepening knowledge, and hypothesis generating” (Mielke, p.75). These are the precise cognitive demands found in the new Common Core State Standards.

Yes, with Common Core, similar content is covered. However, students are now expected to do entirely different things with the content. For example, Common Core standards mandate that eight principles of mathematical practice be taught:

          1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
          2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
          3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
          4. Model with mathematics.
          5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
          6. Attend to precision.
          7. Look for and make use of structure.
          8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

This is beyond the tradition of memorizing multiplication tables; Common Core is about wielding math. In other words, teachers will need to provide many more opportunities for students to engage in cognitively complex tasks to master the new standards. The key to student success with Common Core relies on critical thinking. Marzano Design Questions 2-4 were created specifically to walk students up the staircase of cognitive complexity from new knowledge to manipulating knowledge in complex ways:

DQ2: New Knowledge

• Identifying essential information for students to learn
• Making connections to new information through previewing
• Leading students through cognitive processes by creating opportunities for them to process, elaborate, record, and reflect on new knowledge

DQ3: Deepening Knowledge

• Enhanced understanding with strategies for review
• Applied practice, exploration of errors in reasoning, and knowledge revision

DQ4: Independent Thinking

• Cognitively-complex tasks that culminate, with guidance, into independent thinking and generating hypotheses
• Testing independent thought & hypotheses

Mielke had this to say about the impact of specificity in a teaching framework:

While both cohorts gave similar answers and in some instances (“Pacing was good.”) the exact same answer, the Marzano Cohort was more specific in identifying what was learned from the video analysis. While it may be beneficial to know that the class was unorganized or that there was appropriate eye contact (sample answers from the Danielson Cohort) it would probably be more helpful for a teacher to notice that they failed to establish clear learning goals or that the teacher was more effective in helping students interact with new knowledge (sample answers from the Marzano Cohort). (p.296)

In this study, the use of the Marzano Observational Protocol was more likely to lead to change as perceived by teachers than the Danielson Framework for Teaching. This difference was attributed to the specificity of the Marzano Observational Protocol. Accordingly, schools should adopt comprehensive teaching frameworks that are specific in their identification of research based teaching strategies and behaviors. The adoption of specific comprehensive teaching frameworks such as the Marzano Observational Protocol can help teachers and supervisors become more effective and efficient in promoting teacher growth within their supervision and evaluation systems. Schools that fail to adopt frameworks that are specific, run the risk of limiting teaching growth due to confusion and ambiguity created by general requirements.  As presented in chapter four, a teaching framework that is specific provides teachers and supervisors with a clear and succinct target. More specific goals are easier to assess and monitor. Also, more specific goals are designed to garner more specific feedback which could translate into better gains by teachers in terms of performance. Thus, schools should not only adopt more comprehensive teaching frameworks but use them to develop feedback for teachers on specific goals. Specific expectations lead to specific goals which lead to specific feedback which could lead to specific gains in expertise within those specific strategies. (p.328)

Common Core requires change in the classroom. Effective change requires specificity in the targets, specificity in strategies, specificity in feedback, and specificity in self-assessment. Mielke found that the Marzano Model outperformed the Danielson Framework primarily due to its higher levels of specificity. Specificity matters.

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