Capturing the Multidimensional Aspect of Teaching, Part I

The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model takes more than a passing glance at good teaching

Things are going to look a little different now in Deerfield, Massachusetts–area schools. With a slate of new faces in the administrative ranks and new statewide regulations for educator evaluation methods, there’s a lot to keep track of now that the school year is upon us. But for Martha Barrett, a former principal-turned-superintendent, all the changes are for the best — particularly the changes in staff evaluation.“’I think if we do it well, it will probably have the most profound change on education.

The new evaluation system is no longer the top-down model where the principal comes into the classroom and does an evaluation, writes up a few things and leaves. It really is working in conjunction with the teachers. More responsibilities are going to be put on their shoulders for providing the documentation and making sure their curriculum is aligned with the standards.” (From “Administration changes, new staff evaluation process on tap at Frontier Regional,” Amherst Bulletin.)

The way it was, and the way it is now

The “top-down model” identified by Martha Barrett in the story above is, sadly, one with which most of us are all too familiar. Do you remember years ago, when we were only evaluated on what our administrator saw during that one time a year when she or he came to our classrooms and watched us teach? And didn’t it seem that the visit always happened during a lesson that had less pizazz than that great science experiment your kids did yesterday; or that fantastic social studies lesson last week, where the kids developed their own country using all the concepts about government you’d taught them during that unit?

It seemed inevitable that our administrators would miss the really incredible lessons we taught — you know, the ones that had our students practically exploding with excitement over the learning they were experiencing. I remember thinking, “I wish someone had recorded the high levels of learning my students experienced at that moment.” Instead, my only observation was of my very necessary but ordinary skill work that filled the moments between all of my other more exciting lessons. Necessary, yes — but “boring” moments, like introducing spelling words or reviewing vocabulary or asking students to practice a math skill in what I considered was my “less than extraordinary way.”

What a difference a good evaluation model makes

Most teachers, I’ve found, are enthusiastic — if not downright thrilled — about the opportunity to have an instructional model that both offers feedback to help you grow and more fully captures all the great things you already do. Such a model not only helps create the conditions for learning in your classroom, but also enhances the learning culture in your school and district. The Marzano Teacher  Evaluation Model does that very thing. It captures the multidimensional aspects of teaching that allow an evaluator to provide feedback beyond the confines of the regular classroom.

Because the model encourages multiple observations over different types of lessons, we’re able to share more of the work we do. Evaluators are able to incorporate feedback on classroom observations, but also on what happens outside the classroom. These domains work together to improve teacher practice and to elevate student learning.

The model was developed around Dr. Marzano’s seminal work, The Art and Science of Teaching; it groups teaching responsibilities into four domains to provide a comprehensive view of what good teaching looks like and does. Domain 1, Classroom Strategies and Behaviors, describes highly effective classroom practices, the nine “design questions” an observer looks for; Domain 2 addresses Planning and Preparation. Domain 3, Reflecting on Teaching, positions the teacher as a reflective practitioner, which is crucial to developing expertise. Domain 4, Collegiality and Professionalism, considers the teacher’s willingness to improve the practice of others and the school/district.

So what’s the point here?

We’ve always known that the one-shot-deal, hit-or-miss classroom observations haven’t even come close to measuring the true extent of what teachers do, both inside and outside the classroom. Having a comprehensive, nuanced evaluation model in place is an essential component of deepening teacher practice, stimulating student learning, and revitalizing our schools and districts. Part II of this post will look at how the model takes into account a teacher’s actions outside the classroom — planning and preparation, reflection, and contributions to the larger school/district community — impact what he or she does within the classroom.

Food for thought: How do you like to be evaluated? What kinds of measures do you want to be evaluated on?

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