Instructional Rigor in the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model

A question I hear often is, how can we use the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model to increase instructional rigor?

Schools need robust, rigorous instruction if we want to make sure our students are challenged and moving forward. With the advent of Common Core State Standards, rigor is even more crucial. Educator Barbara R. Blackburn has defined instructional rigor as:

“…creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.”

Three Design Questions to Build Rigor
The Marzano model ensures rigor in many of its aspects, but Lesson Segment, Addressing Contentwith Design Questions 2, 3, and 4 focuses closely on classroom strategies that call for rigor of instruction. Within Design Question 2, Helping Students Interact with New Knowledge, there are several elements we can use to ensure rigor:

•  Element 6, Identifying Critical Information, sets the tone for the lesson. It is here that the teacher carefully selects the critical information to be taught and ensures it is at a high enough level to ensure rigor.
•  Element 8, Previewing New Contentis used to find out where the students are so a challenging lesson can be designed.
•  Element 10 and 11, Processing and Elaborating on New Information through proper questioning can ensure students are processing what they know and drawing inferences from text and experiences that broaden the connections with what is being taught.

Naturally, after completing Design Question 2, we should move right into Design Question 3, Helping Students Practice and Deepen New Knowledge, which is all about increasing the rigor of our understanding of our previous learning. We do so by:

•  Examining Similarities and Differences (element 17)—comparing, contrasting, classifying, and using metaphors and analogies to expand our understanding of the concept or skill.
•  Examining Errors in Reasoning (element 18)—looking at the processes we used to arrive at answers and solve problems. By re-examining our work, we can learn from our mistakes and increase our understanding. In addition, under this element we examine and offer our reasoning and evidences for the conclusions and claims that we make.

Design Question 4, Helping Students Generate and Test Hypotheses is all about students taking what they have learned in Design Questions 2 and 3 and creating an understanding of even more rigorous knowledge.

Planning and Preparing for Rigor
With all these opportunities to increase the rigor of lessons built into the Teacher Evaluation Model, where do we ensure that it happens? The answer is in Domain 2, Planning and Preparing. Within Element 42, Effective Scaffolding of Information within Lessons, Element 43, Lessons within Units, and Element 44, Attention to Established Content Standards and during the review of the lesson to be taught with the administrator, the level of rigor should be addressed. The administrator should ask how a teacher has specifically planned to ensure rigor at every conference. Not only will this focus ensure that the lesson is taught at a rigorous level but it can set the stage for further conversation during the reflection conference.

As Common Core and other standards begin to focus increasingly on rigor, teachers and administrators should be aware of the many built- in opportunities within the Marzano model for ensuring that lessons are rigorous and robust enough for students.

This summer’s Marzano Conference 2013 offers breakout sessions and other resources designed to help you prepare for and achieve rigorous classroom instruction to meet new Common Core Standards. Register now with a group and receive a discount.

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