Capturing the Multidimensional Aspect of Teaching, Part II

Good teaching is more than just good teaching: It’s good planning

In our previous post, we considered how Dr. Marzano’s teacher evaluation model has changed the way administrators give — and teachers receive — feedback. In this post, we look at how important it is to incorporate planning, reflection, and collegiality into our professional growth trajectory.

Teachers do so many things that occur outside of an observation of actual classroom teaching. While it’s true that the instructional strategies/behaviors of Domain 1 are the most directly related to student achievement, the behaviors and efforts in the other three domains are just as crucial. For example, the thinking that occurs during the planning and preparation of a lesson has a strong connection to the effectiveness of the lesson and, ultimately, to student learning.

Consider the teacher who presents a lesson that’s not clearly connected to other lessons he or she has taught; or, perhaps the teacher hasn’t fully considered what materials will be needed during that lesson. In either case, the lesson is much less likely to have the desired effect than if the teacher were to articulate for the students how the lesson connects to the unit goals, a connection first identified in the planning stages.

Also consider what happens when this teacher doesn’t take the time to think about and prepare the materials he or she needs, so that they are close at hand and available during the lesson. We all know what it’s like: Transitions don’t go as smoothly or efficiently, materials are missing, and the lesson goes out with a whimper instead of a bang.

Now let’s turn to the teacher who takes the time in her or his lesson planning to fully articulate all the necessary connections between each lesson target and the unit learning goals. This teacher regularly takes time to be thoughtful in the materials he or she selects to enhance learning, whether those materials are technology-based or traditional.

The comparison calls to mind the beloved comic-strip characters of Goofus andGallant, from Highlights for Children  magazine. One teacher does things right, one teacher does things by the seat of her (or his) pants. Doesn’t the hard-working, reflective teacher deserve the kind of feedback that measures and rewards this aspect of the teaching and learning process, as opposed to the limited feedback offered by our traditional, limited evaluation models?

Reflection is not an option

For many years, we have used the phrase “lifelong learner,” tossing it around as a crucial characteristic for educators. However, we’ve never truly provided feedback about the what and how of this “essential” characteristic, or considered this in most teacher evaluations. The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model does just that in Domain 3: It leads a teacher through the process of considering his/her strengths and weaknesses, evaluating the overall effectiveness of lessons, and determining how specific classroom behaviors and strategies impact particular groups or individual students. The final category of elements in this domain requires us to articulate a very specific plan for being a learner, including an action plan for deliberate practice and continuous improvement. In this model, the evaluation process gives us the acknowledgement we’ve long been missing for being a reflective and deliberate practitioner.

Playing nice with others

Finally, no teacher evaluation would be complete without including the impact of the teacher on other individuals who comprise our schools and districts. In Domain 4, teachers receive feedback on the work we do to develop and maintain a positive school climate — a climate research shows us to be necessary for students to succeed. This domain captures the occasions that we served as mentors — or even mentees — and the work we do outside the classroom to make a difference in our school. For years, teachers have given what might be considered “the extras,” (e.g., the long phone calls home to problem-solve situations, the volunteering for parent programs during the evening hours, attendance at extra-curricular events, assisting others with areas of concern in their own teaching, and developing new teachers.) Obviously, one classroom observation can’t capture a teacher’s ability to help colleagues identify avenues for responsive instruction to help all students be successful. This final domain creates the space for a fuller articulation of teacher growth and evaluation.

Crunch time

There has been increased focus on teacher performance and evaluation at a national level. This heightened level of scrutiny has made it more important than ever to have a tool that delivers a more complete picture of that performance and is able to calibrate a common language as it captures the multi-dimensional aspect of the teaching and learning process.

Food for thought
Have you had any “Goofus” moments in your teaching, when things just didn’t go the way you’d hoped they would? Are there ways you can think of now that might have made those moments better?

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