August 24, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

A scholar’s love for education provides access to the Marzano model overseas.

Last week, we learned about Dr. Ilene Winokur’s lifelong love of education, which has led her from teaching third grade at an American school in Kuwait to her current post as managing director of Specialized Solutions, Kuwait’s first and only educational consulting company.

Recently, Winokur wrote an article for an international education journal, focusing on Kuwait and the knowledge economy. In it, she described the current state of education in Kuwait, along with the steps all stakeholders are taking to prepare students for a world that will need critical thinkers and problem-solvers.

“Although there are many barriers to change in Kuwait’s schools, private and public,” she says, “I am very hopeful about the future of education in Kuwait, and I believe the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model can play an important role in a successful outcome.”

Evaluation Should Promote Growth
  A problem Winokur has encountered in Kuwaiti schools is that evaluation models are often used to make decisions about hiring and merit pay, rather than as a tool for professional growth. With evaluations widely serving as measurement tools for human resources professionals, teachers have become increasingly suspicious of – and uncomfortable with – the evaluation process.

However, she adds, “The Marzano model makes sense to them and they quickly make the connection to how it can positively affect their daily practice. I am very excited to have partnered with the Marzano Center to bring the model to Kuwait and the region. I believe it will be a catalyst for positive change in schools.”

Reflective Teacher Presentation
  In recent months, Winokur has presented a variety of workshops about becoming a reflective teacher. Using the model to teach the model, she has encouraged participants to discuss Marzano strategies while viewing videos of teachers at work in their classrooms.

“Discussions were lively,” she recalls, especially when she asked them to rate the teachers in the videos on the performance scale. However, this exercise turned out to be an extremely enlightening experience.

“Each time, the ratings varied, so I told the participants that we needed to have IRR (inter-rater reliability), which meant all of us agreeing on one rating. There were so many ‘aha’ moments as the teachers discussed why they rated the teacher a certain way. We focused on the evidence and then determined what rating the teacher should receive and why. The simplicity of the scale, along with attention to the evidence, was so convincing that you could visibly see the acceptance of the correct rating on the teachers’ faces.”

Although continuing professional development is essential to improving classroom practice, it isn’t sufficient as a stand-alone solution, according to Winokur. It must be tied to a framework that offers clear measurement, in the form of scales, connected to goals – and it all must make sense to teachers.

“The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model provides the targeted goals and focused feedback that motivate teachers to reflect and then make the necessary adjustments to their use of strategies,” she explains. “School districts can use the model to guide teachers’ professional growth, while supporting them with the resources necessary for their development.”

Unwavering Support is Essential
  One of the most important things teachers should do, Winokur firmly believes, is to provide unwavering support while encouraging students to accept ownership of their own learning. This can be challenging at times, but she knows it’s worth the effort.

“When I was teaching, I made a point to tell students if they tried, I would work hard for them to succeed. I think it is also important to be sure students know you care about how they do, even when it seems that they don’t care.“

August 24, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

A scholar’s love for education provides access to the Marzano model overseas.

When Dr. Ilene Winokur AlZaid was young, people often told her she’d make a great teacher. She wasn’t quite sure why they said that – perhaps it was her ability to relate to all types of people or her infinite patience – but she respected the teaching profession so deeply that she didn’t feel capable of taking on all the responsibilities that educators have to their students, so she set her teaching aspirations aside and studied business instead.

Years later, living in Kuwait with her husband and three children, Winokur found herself again drawn to education. Attracted to the family-friendly work schedule that a school setting offers, she opted to teach third-grade students at an American school and quickly fell in love with everything about education.

Today, as founder and managing director of Specialized Solutions – the first and only educational consulting company in Kuwait – she’s able to use her passion for teaching, her business background, and Marzano strategies to make a difference in education.

“The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model was the missing link to effective professional development that I was searching for when I started Specialized Solutions,” she says. “I found the model quite by accident after looking at other evaluation models. My doctoral dissertation, completed in May 2013, studied the transfer of training in schools, so I was aware that effective professional development must be tied to a framework that teachers can easily understand, use regularly, and relate to their daily practice.”

Using the Model to Teach the Model
  Winokur mentors educators and delivers presentations about becoming a reflective teacher using Marzano strategies. And what better way to do so than to use the model to teach the model?

“I often hear myself using Dr. Marzano’s common language while I discuss concerns teachers and school leaders have about students who aren’t achieving in class,” she explains. “Teachers are surprised to hear that using a strategy at the wrong time in a lesson can sometimes be detrimental to a student’s progress. Many teachers are unaware of the importance of deliberate practice, but once they are shown how the model can support them with its focus on specific areas for growth, they are motivated to try it.”

What Advice Does She Offer?
  Teachers tend to be very hard on themselves, Winokur says, so they don’t take time to reflect on all of the wonderful things they do each day in their classrooms. “When I was an elementary principal, I frequently reminded my staff to celebrate their successes while they developed their strategies and gained experience.”

Winokur has also focused on the importance of celebrating successes in her work as a mentor. “I continue to give this advice when I deliver a presentation or coach teachers, but now I have a more productive way to help them. The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model allows me to give teachers focused feedback that can be acted on almost immediately. Teachers also understand the teacher and student evidence that is listed for each design question and quickly relate it to what they do every day because it is so practical.”

Winokur loves to stay up-to-date on research and new developments in education. Another thing that keeps her drawn to the Marzano model is the fact that it has been, and continues to be, studied extensively. “I am impressed by the efforts of Learning Sciences Marzano Center’s staff to improve the model by making it as practical as possible without sacrificing quality and fidelity,” she says, adding that, as a result, “students will achieve more as their teachers grow.”

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at Winokur’s experiences while working in Kuwait, so be sure to check your inbox for part two of this series! You can also learn more about her by reading her illuminating edublog, Ed.D.ilene. In addition, visit the Marzano Center blog regularly for useful tips on using Marzano strategies in your classroom.

August 10, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Jenny O’Sullivan: Full STEAM Ahead

Last week, we spoke with Chrisencia Barzey and Brian Schum, two educators at A.D. Henderson University School, a public K-8 school on the campus of Florida Atlantic University. Both teachers told us that since the school implemented the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model in 2011, they have grown professionally, increasing their focus on planning, creating learning goals, and engaging students in cognitively complex tasks. Jenny O’Sullivan, a fellow teacher at the school, shares a similar experience.

Jenny O’Sullivan: Full STEAM Ahead
  Having taught third grade for more than a decade, O’Sullivan is now embarking on a new adventure: serving as the point person for A.D. Henderson’s new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) lab.

“It’s a bit unusual,” she says. “At one of the workshops I went to, they said they expect kids to be computer literate by second grade. We don’t really have anything in place to make sure that our kids are ready to start typing responses by third grade, so I’ve been kind of given the challenge to incorporate some of those skills, while making sure that the kids are computer ready.”

Clarity and Direction in the Marzano Model
  O’Sullivan was on maternity leave when the school initially rolled out the Marzano model, but she was able to catch up quickly with support from the administration and fellow teachers – and she has found the model to make a lot of sense, particularly because it provides clarity and direction.

“When we talked about ‘Identifying Critical Information’ – we’ve done it many times, but now, we actually have a Critical Information sheet that we send home with each unit. It’s clear to the kids; it’s clear to the parents; it just makes things work better. It was something we were doing before, but we’ve put a twist on it that makes it more effective.”

O’Sullivan has seen a difference in her students’ academic progress, too. When a class examines goals and scales, she explains, their folders now also contain Goal sheets and Revising Knowledge sheets – and the students are becoming more comfortable with them – and more adept at using them.

“When we start a unit, we talk about how it’s fine not to know anything yet. If you’re a zero now, it’s fine, because I haven’t taught you anything yet. They’ve kind of owned that, and you can really see a difference in where they are. They’re very honest about it now.”

Deliberate Practice and Evidence of Growth
  “Our principals really made a big deal about ‘it’s not a gotcha,’” says O’Sullivan of the school’s Marzano model implementation. “I think that has been the biggest thing for us because no matter what, when the principal walks in, you get a little nervous… but once you get going, you kind of realize that everybody’s focusing on growing. I think that really makes a big difference for us.”
  Fortunately, O’Sullivan has learned how to turn that anxiety into something really productive. Looking back at one specific observation experience, she recalls, “Early in the year, my principal came in, did a walk-through, and commented that she hadn’t seen any reading or language arts goals.”

That had been O’Sullivan’s primary focus in her deliberate practice. In fact, she had established goals in every subject except reading. Rather than panic, however, she used the predicament to generate evidence of growth.

She asked her principal to return later, and with language arts and reading goals in place, she was then scored to show growth. “I wasn’t really there yet, but I am now,” she says, “and I wanted to be able to show that growth officially. I love the way it’s perceived and the way it’s done, because it makes a big difference in growing professionally.”

August 03, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Chrisencia Barzey

A.D. Henderson University School, a public elementary and middle school situated on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, is known for its rigorous academics and great teachers, but even at this 2004 National Blue Ribbon School, teachers are always striving to get better.

Along with the rest of Palm Beach County, A.D. Henderson adopted the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model in 2011 – and we were lucky enough to have a chance to speak with three of its established educators about their experiences with the model.

Chrisencia Barzey: Reaching for “Innovating.”
  With 28 years of teaching at A.D. Henderson under her belt – 27 years in second grade and one in third grade – Chrisencia Barzey still strives for improvement – and she says the Marzano model has enhanced her growth as an educator, particularly when it comes to planning and creating learning goals.

“Not that I didn’t put a lot into my planning, but I now look at a broader picture as I plan. What do I want to see my children get out of this? What is the desired effect of this? I can see my continuous professional growth.”

Three Greatest Successes
  Barzey lists three things as her greatest successes since becoming acclimated to the Marzano model:

  • She now provides students with a learning goal at the beginning of each unit and lesson, so they always have a clear understanding of what they’ll need to know.
  • In her classroom, she implements and uses a common language of instruction that teachers and students all know.
  • She allows students to revise their knowledge.

Revising Knowledge
Previously, she says, “As soon as I realized they had a misconception about something, I would go right away and correct it.” However, using the Marzano model has conditioned her to let the students revise – and take ownership of – their own knowledge.

“They know right at the very beginning that they need to reach at least a Level 3,” she explains. “At Level 2, they can do some of it with the teacher’s help, but at Level 3 it’s like, ‘Yes, I’m here. I can do it on my own. I don’t need any help.’ And when they get to Level 4, they’re like, ‘if somebody’s absent, don’t worry, Ms. Barzey. I have this!’”

The students are comfortable with the scales, but what about the teachers?

I’m That Ambitious
  “I feel like every teacher strives to be at the innovating level,” says Barzey, adding that in reality, even the best teachers live in ‘applying’ and visit ‘innovating’ every now and then. “But I’m that ambitious that I don’t want to live in ‘applying’ – I want to live in ‘innovating’ – and it makes you look at your practice. It gives you a deeper understanding of what you want to do.”

Brian Schum: A Deliberate Teaching Practice
  “I’m a better teacher this year than I was last year,” says Brian Schum, who teaches seventh grade civics and eighth grade United States history at A.D. Henderson. Now in his eighth year of teaching, the Marzano model is helping him sharpen his pedagogical skills.

“This year, I really felt like trying some of these things and actually getting real deep into it. I know I’m a better teacher now, and I know it’s impacting the students. And I can really pinpoint some of those things.”

He credits deliberate practice with having the greatest impact on his growth as an educator. “This year, I chose Element 22, Generating and Testing Hypothesis, as my focus for our Differentiated Professional Development,” he says. “It’s something that, over the past couple of years, I’ve intuitively thought I was doing with students… but I never formally came up with a lesson or a framework.”

With a deepened focus on that strategy, Schum saw his students genuinely begin to generate and test hypotheses, use supporting evidence, and revise their knowledge – just the kinds of skills they need to succeed with college and career readiness standards. “That was huge for me as a teacher.” It gave him a way to actually see the strategy clearly enough to document it.

It’s Not a Checklist
  “I’ve taught in a couple states,” says Schum, “and lots of different evaluation models before this were mostly checklists. Like, ’Okay, he’s asking this many higher-order questions, this many lower-order questions. He walked to the front of the room. He walked to the back of the room…’ I was scored in the highest category, but I didn’t really feel like I accomplished anything.”

However, Marzano strategies provided the useful feedback that allowed Schum to identify the specific strategies he needed to work on, and it made a significant difference. “When you get to the end of the year,” he says, “you feel fulfilled.”

July 20, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Empower students to learn at their own pace

You know the drill: identify critical content, deliver it to students, and then give them homework to deepen their knowledge of the new material.

This works, but do you ever get the urge to shake things up a little? Would your students benefit from a change to the usual routine that gives them more control over their learning? Try incorporating the “flipped classroom” approach into your instruction.

What You Do
  Simply put, with flipped learning, the teacher deliberately plans to introduce new information as homework, rather than teach it in class. This instructional approach, which empowers students to initially introduce the material to themselves in a non-classroom location – often in the comfort of their homes – can potentially save more of the meaty instructional time for the classroom.

It doesn’t have to be a reading assignment. You can have students watch a video (even a video of you – or an avatar talking for you), view an engaging PowerPoint presentation, or listen to audio.

The Benefits
  According to Dave Saltman, author of Flipping For Beginners, a Michigan high school has seen a 10-percent increase in student proficiency after using the flipped classroom approach for two years. This strategy may help improve student engagement, classroom monitoring, and collaboration, making everyone more excited about (and invested in) the learning process.

Why Flipped Classrooms May Improve Learning:

  • Students can learn at their own pace. Those who struggle to keep up with note-taking during lectures can stop the video, re-read a paragraph or focus more intently on areas they find more difficult. Flipped learning removes some of the pressure students may experience when new content is introduced in the classroom.
  • A variety of learning styles can be accommodated. Students who learn best from visual material may absorb more information with multi-media homework. More creative students may even become motivated to replicate or enhance some of the things they see.  
  • It can help English language learners. Recorded presentations give ESOL and ELL students access to critical information in multi-media form, which may help them overcome language barriers.
  • Teachers can spend more time monitoring learning. Flipped learning gives you more instructional time, allowing you to monitor students’ understanding of the critical information. You also have more time to make adaptations for students who need extra support, and to give the more proficient students enrichment activities to deepen their knowledge.
  • It increases the power of group collaboration. You can group students in a way that helps everyone understand the material. Jigsaw, think-pair-share, and debating all provide valuable opportunities for students to share what they learned.

It’s not a substitute for teaching
Remember that the assignment you give your students doesn’t take the place of teaching. They won’t completely understand the material after watching a video or reading a blog post. Your monitoring will likely require you to re-teach some of the content to ensure that everyone learns it effectively.

Online Resources
  One extremely valuable (and free) resource is the Khan Academy, backed by the Bill Gates Foundation. Of course, you can use it in your classroom, as well as for homework, but among its range of courses are:

  • Math: Arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, probability and statistics, differential equations, linear algebra, applied math
  • Science and Economics: Biology, chemistry, physics, cosmology, astronomy, organic chemistry, finance, microeconomics, macroeconomics, healthcare and medicine
  • Computer Science: Drawing, programming basics, animation, user interaction
  • Humanities: World history, American civics, art history
  • Test Prep: SAT math, GMAT, CAHSEE, California Standards Test, competition math, IIT JEE,

Want to learn more about the Khan Academy? View this engaging TED presentation, which includes a Bill Gates cameo.

Here are a few more interesting online resources that could be used for flipped learning:

  • Space Math – NASA introduces students to the use of mathematics in today’s scientific discoveries, exploring how mathematics skills play a role in exploring the universe.
  • Hour of Code – Computer Science Education Week inspires students to learn coding.
  • ChronoZoom– Microsoft’s interactive timeline that helps students zoom into history.
  • Earth Echo International - Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, Philippe Cousteau Jr., works to continue the effort to bring science education alive for today’s learners.
  • EduClipper– You know about Pinterest. This is similar, but it’s just for educators.

July 13, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Let’s sort out some instructional strategies.

Historically, education has been about developing students’ cognitive skills to improve their ability to store and process information. This is still critical, of course, but today’s rigorous college and career readiness standards also emphasize the development of students’ conative skills to prepare them for higher education and the global workplace.

Put simply, students use conative skills to combine what they know with how they feel to better function in society. Educators need to instill both types of skills in students to increase learning and improve their academic performance.Cognitive Strategies

Whenever you ask students to generalize, draw conclusions, investigate, make decisions, experiment, or identify logical errors, you’re helping them develop their cognitive skills. This occurs when they assess the relevance and credibility of the information and sources they encounter.

As you deliver content, have students critique, evaluate, predict, infer, and identify relationships between ideas. Questions you might ask include:

  • What’s the best way to …?
  • Which alternative is best?
  • How do these things compare?
  • What would happen if …?
  • What would have happened if …?
  • What would have to happen for …?


Conative Strategies

To deepen their understanding of the content, students must develop a keen awareness of their own thinking and the thinking of others. This requires skills that are a little more challenging to instill in them, such as self-control, resiliency, and the ability to avoid negative thinking.

As a teacher, you can increase the complexity to cultivate this growth mindset. Ask them questions that force them to understand and interact with each other, take various perspectives, and responsibly handle conflict and controversy.

  • What makes you believe …?
  • What reasons do you have for thinking that way?
  • Is that what you feel or what you think?
  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How likely is that to happen?
  • How can you overcome this setback?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Why might someone disagree with you?
  • What can you do to keep this situation positive?
  • What questions might you ask to clarify?
  • Is it possible to achieve everyone’s goals?
  • What’s getting in the way?
  • What do you want to learn next?

Recommended Activities

To help students meet Common Core State Standards and other college and career readiness standards, incorporate strategies that hone students’ cognitive and conative skills into every lesson. A few examples are below.

Elementary school – English language arts reading/literature standards for third grade (RL.3.2): Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

Middle school – Number systems standards for sixth grade (6.NS.B.3): Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi‐digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.

High school – History and social studies standards for ninth grade (RH.9–10.9): Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

July 06, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Student autonomy is a crucial component of rigorous instruction

Originally published in CenterEd in June, 2014.

Today’s students need to know how to accept ownership of their own learning. An educator’s job becomes much easier when students are able to take control of their progress; but how, exactly, can you teach that?

The Learning Sciences International Essentials for Achieving Rigor series of instructional guides helps toanswer this question. The first book, Identifying Critical Content:Classroom Techniques to Help Students Know What is Important, drills down seven easy-to-implement techniques for teaching students how to identify critical content.

Do Your Students Know Which Content is Most Important to Learn?

To succeed academically, students need to be able to determine which content is critical, why it’s important, how it connects to their existing knowledge, and when it will inform their future learning. In turn, today’s educators need sound strategies to help them teach this increasingly important skill.

One of the seven key strategies is to verbally cue the critical content. In other words, tell the students what is critical. If you’ve taught a lesson, and your students still don’t seem to have a firm grasp of what was most important to learn, you can execute verbal cuing. To do this effectively, you:

  1. Directly, succinctly, and assertively articulate the important information. Put yourself in your students’ place, and word it in a way that makes the message very clear, identifying the central idea and a few supporting details.
  2. Use your voice to signal when you’re delivering critical content. To help students focus most keenly on the crucial information, raise or lower your voice for a few sentences. If it helps, you may opt to practice this first, recording yourself as you perfect your implementation of this strategy.
  3. Give students time to think. Allowing yourself to pause at key points can help them get into the habit of identifying the critical content on their own.

Examples to Take to Your ClassroomIdentifying Critical Content provides a wealth of examples that you can put to use immediately in your classroom (or, rather, when school starts up again!). It also shows you nonexamples and common mistakes by which teachers often miss the mark.

The authors draw the following example from the Common Core State Standards for elementary school students. Begin with listening to others and identify two pieces of critical information about that skill. Change the pitch of your voice wherever you see bold text below to indicate that critical content is about to be delivered.

Good morning, class. Today, we are going to learn how to listen. One important thing about listening is: you do not talk when you are listening. The second important thing about listening is: you should look at the person who is talking to you. You are listening to me right now. I can tell because you are not talking and you are looking at me.
  Then, teach the remainder of the lesson, but ask some students to demonstrate the two critical components of listening: not talking, and looking at the speaker.

Avoid These Common Mistakes

  1. Making broad, general statements that don’t effectively zero-in on the critical content. For example, instructing the class to listen without telling them precisely what that entails.
  2. Using verbal cues so frequently that students become confused and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of important information.
  3. Pausing frequently or for such long periods that students lose their focus and become unable to determine the critical content.
  4. Changing intonation inconsistently, making it difficult for students to detect when the content being delivered is critical.


June 29, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Administrators from Bonny Eagle Middle School in Buxton, Maine

Originally published in CenterEd in June, 2014.

Bonny Eagle Middle School in Buxton, Maine, has been piloting iObservation, Learning Sciences International’s observation and professional development software for educators, and it’s already seeing the results. This week, the school’s principal, Mick Roy, shares an experience with a Bonny Eagle teacher who was able to put the tool to immediate use in his classroom.

Roy’s story illustrates the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model’s power in the real world. As the school’s faculty members familiarized themselves with iObservation, administrators went into each classroom to observe and provide feedback—without scoring or rating the teachers—just to demonstrate how iObservation works.

One day, Roy walked into a sixth-grade English language arts classroom. “I had my laptop open, I had iObservation open, and I was just trying to determine which elements I could give [the teacher] feedback on. One of the things I noticed after about five minutes was that as he had students preview new content, he was also trying to get them to infer from the passages they were reading and rely on prior knowledge. He was really trying to teach inference.”
  While sitting in that classroom, Roy looked in iObservation and found a video that was specific to teaching inference. “So while I was in the classroom, I was giving him feedback. I sent him that video and I walked out 10 minutes later. I was only in there 10 minutes.”

Five minutes later, back in his office, Roy received an email from the teacher, thanking him for coming into the classroom. The teacher had watched the video, pulled out a strategy from it, and used that strategy in his very next class. “So that just shows you the power and the simplicity of it,” says Roy.
  “Profound simplicity,” concludes assistant principal Benjamin Harris.

What’s in Store for Next Year?

“We expect continued growth,” says Roy. “We’re trying to synthesize a lot of pieces to change. And by adopting and implementing The Art and Science of Teaching as our framework, we are taking that, along with iObservation, to build a culture of growth.”

Bonny Eagle is also going to use iAcademy to promote self-study, along with the continued use of iObservation and The Art and Science of Teaching. “So when we roll this out next year, there really are two additional components,” explains Roy. “There’s the teacher growth and development around The Art and Science of Teaching,and having a pathway of learning. With the rigor model, we want to look for a way to make this a lot more seamless and easy to follow. At the same time, administrators will go to additional training with inter-rater reliability courses or workshops.”

On day one of the next school year, Bonny Eagle intends to have all of its teachers hitting the ground running. The school closed this year’s iObservation on June 6 and opened it up for next year three days later. Teachers are already able to do their self-assessment and establish goals for next year, so when school starts back up in late August, they’ll be “ready to roll.”

Roy adds, “That’s a big change.”

June 22, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Bonny Eagle Middle School administrators

Originally published in CenterEd in June, 2014.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been sharing valuable insight from administrators at the largest middle school in the state of Maine—Bonny Eagle Middle School. Having taken part in a pilot of iObservation, Learning Sciences International’s observation and professional development software, and instructed the faculty to study elements of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model, the school was ready to take a deeper dive in year two.

In April, principal Mick Roy, along with assistant principals Stacey Schatzabel and Benjamin Harris, viewed a demo of Marzano Center Essentials for Achieving Rigor, a model of instruction designed to move students toward cognitively complex thinking skills. Roy says that he likes how it “takes away from the teacher, or us as administrators, sort of reorganizing a pathway to learning.”

“Because if you think about it,” he explains, “with this new Essentials model, we can have [students] walk down a pathway of learning that we know is designed for rigor—and I think it’s more comprehensive in some ways, but it’s also more focused. It ties teaching practices in with the standards . . . so next year, not only will our teachers be working on the what (the essential learning around the standards), but they’ll also be working on the how (how they’re going to incorporate these proven practices into the teaching of those standards).”

The Student-Centered Classroom

The Essentials model is designed to help educators gradually release responsibility for the learning to students, giving them more autonomy and ownership of the work. With a brief exposure to the new student-centered pedagogy, some Bonny Eagle students may not be entirely ready just yet, but many are—and they’re all moving toward it.

The district conducts summer “symposium workshops” for teachers who have received professional development around the student-centered classroom, says Roy. “They started to build the capacity for giving students more ownership and having a better understanding of why that’s important. At the same time, we’ve incorporated The Art and Science of Teaching. We’re having students track their own progress and take more ownership. In practice, that work has begun.”

A Common Learning Experience

Implementation is “one of the most important pieces,” states Roy. “By focusing on specific times that we required the teachers to work on this, it helps to make sure they understood the importance of using the framework and getting to use this tool, because we still have a long way to go.”

The school has made it through the first year, and now Roy, Schatzabel, and Harris are helping other schools implement the Marzano model with fidelity. “We’ve been processing our use of it,” Roy explains, and they’re about ready to embark on sharing their experiences with other districts that will soon be rolling out the model.
  Roy further states, “What we hope to do is to collaborate and share the workshops and the training that we get from Learning Sciences. So we host, for example, the essential learning piece and invite other districts. These are the people we’ve already been in communication with, who also want to collaborate and cross-share with other schools, teachers, and administrators.”

“This will be one of the—in my time in education—one of the biggest things that can bring people together for a common learning experience,” says Roy.

Bonny Eagle Middle School students are already becoming more autonomous. In turn, faculty members are beginning to see the power and “profound simplicity,” as Harris eloquently calls it, of using instructional strategies highlighted in iObservation. In next week’s issue, we’ll share a story Roy told us about one of his school’s teachers, who was able to put a particular strategy to immediate use in his classroom.

June 15, 2016

Marzano Center Staff
Learning Sciences Marzano Center

Bonny Eagle Middle School administrators

Originally published in CenterEd in June, 2014.

Last week, we spoke with Mick Roy, principal of Bonny Eagle Middle School in Buxton, Maine, along with assistant principals, Stacey Schatzabel and Benjamin Harris. Bonny Eagle, the largest middle school in the state, has taken part in a pilot of iObservation, Learning Sciences International’s observation and professional development software.

Roy, Schatzabel, and Harris recounted the school’s initial experiences, which involved teachers:

Evidence and Reflective Pieces

Bonny Eagle strived to ensure that teachers focused on elements in Design Question 1, which incorporates specific instructional strategies to help teachers provide clear learning goals and scales, track student process, and celebrate success. “Tracking student progress, for some, was challenging,” says Roy. “They didn’t have all the strategies; they didn’t know exactly what it looked like or what to do with it, so I would say that was a bit of a challenge.”
  The next step was self-assessment. The district had everybody set goals—not just teachers who were being evaluated this year. “We then had each teacher meet with us, to go over goal setting, so that each would have a clear discussion around the expectations,” Roy explains.

Once everyone became accustomed to the protocol, Roy began to see the results. Although some teachers didn’t put much effort into documenting evidence and reflective pieces, Roy said that some of the teachers were “incredible.”

“Their reflections and the evidence they posted, from videos to research to peer observations, was just very, very thorough,” he says. “You could really tell they put a lot of effort into it.”

Moving Out of the Old Paradigm

Roy, Schatzabel, and Harris worked to help Bonny Eagle educators understand and get behind the shift to a professional growth paradigm. “It’s hard for them when they’ve been so used to the traditional, outdated evaluation system that was based on a preconference and observation—or several observations and eventually a written evaluation,” says Roy.

Teachers had to learn to “synthesize many different pieces of their own assessment”, he says, to fully understand how they can align evaluation with classroom instruction to build on the expertise they already had. They needed to become familiar with the vocabulary used in Domain 1. “They had to do a lot of self-study around each element, or the elements they were focusing on, to know what it looks like in a classroom. And then they had to start building their toolbox, if you will, around the actions steps that were created.”

Change is never easy, but the school has found success. According to Roy, “The faculty has done, overall, a great job in working with this and moving out of that paradigm, the old paradigm, and we’ve been able to make pretty good progress with most teachers.”

How Are Students Handling the Changes?

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback and we always interview students,” Roy tells us. “We’ve done survey work among students, too, just for regular qualitative anecdotal kinds of things with kids. What we find kids saying is that when they have a focused target and they’re trying to improve on that target and track their own progress, they’re more motivated and more apt to see how they can improve themselves. That shift in focus takes them away from the lecture instruction,” he adds, “because now, some of them are working at their own pace.”

Roy is also seeing new benefits for students using laptops. “The laptop has been a huge motivational tool in some of the applications, and [students are] trying to improve, right down to how well they multiply or divide or how well they understand algebra concepts. And kids do record that; they’re not bored. In fact, some of them have worked much harder than they ever did.”

The students at Bonny Eagle Middle School are already beginning to accept ownership for their own learning. Check your inbox next Friday to find out how they’re handling the more student-centered instruction.

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