Intermediate scales are effective, but can be improved
In this blog we’ve been talking about learning goals and scales and the phases teachers go through in their development and use. We’ve also been sharing examples (and non-examples) along the way, with the goal of helping teachers and administrators develop a deeper understanding of what they should look like and how they should be used.
This post looks at intermediate scales, which are effective scales but can be improved.
Here’s what we know about learning goals and scales at the intermediate stage:
1. Learning goals are usually expressed in one of the two following forms: Students will understand or Students will be able to …
Teachers now recognize they can use more specific words in their learning goals than understand or be able to. As they use more precise verbs, the goals and scales become better.
Webb’s DOK suggests the following verbs for each level:
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4|
• Identify • Recite • List • Recognize • Report • Match • Define • Recall • Who, What, When, Where, Why
• Categorize • Relate • Investigate • Show • Compare • Estimate • Summarize • Classify • Predict • Construct
• Revise • Investigate • Assess • Develop • Construct • Relate • Develop logical argument • Differentiate • Draw conclusions
• Design • Connect • Synthesize • Critique • Analyze • Create • Prove
2. Scales are a learning progression.
3. Scales are good for one or two days rather than one to three weeks.
4. Teachers feel they must create a hundred or more scales for the whole year in each subject area, rather than 24 two-week scales.
5. Scales consist of a learning progression, guided by a taxonomy of knowledge — Marzano’s or Bloom’s, or Webb’s (see Table 2 below). The lower levels of the scale match up with the lower ends of the taxonomy.
|Taxonomy||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4|
skills and concepts
Scales are constructed progressing from the lower levels of the taxonomy to the higher levels.
6. Teachers are starting to see that monitoring, and tracking student progress along a learning progression, are two different processes. Monitoring is important for checking on students, and the effectiveness of an instructional strategy, but different from measuring student progress on a learning progression along a scale.
7. Teachers realize a progression of learning is hierarchical in nature and increases in cognitive complexity — from Level 1 to Level 4 — and are learning how to construct and use them.
8. Teachers at this stage write goals and scales more for adults than for students; the students are not personalizing their own learning objectives.
Learning Goal: Students will be able to explain the events leading to the American Revolutionary War.
4.0 Students will be able to compare and contrast the events leading to the American Revolutionary War with the events leading to the French Revolution.
3.0. Students will be able to explain the events leading to the American Revolutionary War.
2.0 Students will be able to recall a few of the conflicts between the colonies and Great Britain.
1.0 Students will be able to recall the relationship between the colonies and Britain.
At the intermediate stage, learning goals and scales are no longer about monitoring and the scale depicts a progression of learning. They are not robust enough, they’re still too short term, and they’re designed more for adults than for students.
Next week, when we look at excellent learning goals and scales, we will see some good examples!
Setting the ground rules for learning goals and scales
In this blog we’ve been talking about learning goals and scales. Our next series will extend the concepts with a focus on the phases teachers go through, including examples and commentary.
So let’s start with a review of the developmental stages teachers go through as they move from beginner to expert. We’ll preface each stage with the foundational knowledge teachers need to implement the learning goal and scale under discussion.
It’s my hope that, after reading this blog, teachers can skip quickly through the developmental stages of implementing learning goals and scales, and become experts in their use. I’m also hoping that administrators will know what to look for in the classroom and will be able to coach teachers and provide feedback as they implement learning goals and scales.
Here’s what we know about learning goals and scales at the beginning stage:
1. Learning goals should be expressed in one of the two following forms (but it doesn’t always happen): Students will understand or Students will be able to…..
2. Scales are good for one or two days rather than two or three weeks.
3. Teachers feel they must create a hundred or more scales for the whole year in a given subject area, rather than 24 two-week scales.
4. Scales consist of student indicators of how they think they are doing, as opposed to a learning progression that starts with the less complex and continues to the more complex. Or the scale may consist of a “fist of five” with students indicating how they are doing by holding up a certain number of fingers or giving a thumb up if they know it, thumb sideways if they kind of know it, or thumb down if they don’t know it.
5. Teachers sometimes confuse monitoring the class (determining how students think they are doing at the moment) for how they are progressing along a scale or learning progression.
6. The learning progression of the scale does not reach the higher levels of thinking, and the lessons lack rigor.
7. Goals and scales are not personalized by students, but written for adults.
Example of beginning learning goals and scales:
Learning Goal: Students will understand the parts of a story, beginning, middle, and end.
Scale: Hold up:
Five fingers if you understand the parts of a story well enough to teach others.
Three fingers if you understand the parts of a story.
One finger if you understand the parts of a story with help.
Your fist if you do not understand the parts of a story.
The beginning goal and scale do not provide specific feedback as to where the students are in their understanding, so it will not increase student achievement. The scale is not measuring students’ progression of learning, but instead the students are indicating whether or not they understood what was taught. This is monitoring, not tracking student progress. Monitoring is important for determining how effective an instructional strategy is or how students think they are doing at the moment, but it is not a good learning goal and scale!
Next Week: Getting better: Learning goals and scales at beginning plus!
In The Power of Feedback (1992), John Hattie concluded that the most powerful single modification that enhances learning and achievement is feedback – but Hattie also cautioned that feedback must be of the right type, timed correctly and properly framed, to be effective. Let’s look at the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model and see how the model is designed for administrators to provide teachers with specific, valuable feedback at many different points.
With each formal observation, during Domain 2 Planning and Preparing, teacher and administrator talk about the instruction to be provided in the observed lesson. That discussion might include:
• How the lesson scaffolds within the unit and the lesson
• How the teacher will use technology and traditional resources
• What the teacher will do for English Language Learners, Special Education Students, and Student Who Lack Support for Schooling
Summative feedback is provided to teachers in Domain 3, Reflecting on Teaching. After the lesson is completed, in Domain 3, teacher and administrator discuss how the planned lesson went and how instruction might be improved. Together, teacher and administrator develop a professional growth plan to give the teacher a specific area of focus and the structure to increase his or her expertise.
Feedback through Learning Goals
Secondly, learning goals provide teachers with feedback at the unit level. Teachers base their unit planning on the state standard or a cluster of related standards, and plan learning goals for each of the big ideas of each unit. As they track student progress for each learning goal, teachers can discuss how students are doing with teacher mentors and observers. As teachers track through the learning goals, they can ask themselves:
• Are students understanding the information, and are they able to progress through Lesson Segment 2, Addressing Content, and each of the three design questions?
• Are students able to use the critical thinking skills that accompany each of the design questions?
• Are the chunks of content the right size? (If too large, students will get lost. If too small, students will be bored).
By tracking student progress with each learning goal, teacher and student both receive unit-level feedback to help them improve.
The third mechanism in the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model for feedback is the monitoring addressed in the scale for each strategy. At the developing level for each strategy, the teacher monitors less than a majority of the students for the desired effect. At the applying level, a majority of students, and at the innovative level, all students are monitored and reach the desired effect. Through their monitoring, teachers receive feedback on how the strategy is working. They can make the necessary adjustments to get all students to the desired effect.
Feedback through Deliberate Practice
Finally, by using Deliberate Practice, teachers collaborate with administrators to select specific strategies to practice intensively. The administrator observes teachers using selected strategies and provides specific, actionable feedback for improvement.
The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model has embedded mechanisms for feedback – in fact, feedback and improvement are one of the model’s primary purposes. We’re Building Expertise! The model provides a common language of instruction so that teacher and administrator can be on the same page, working collaboratively toward the mutual goal of steady instructional improvement. The scale for each strategy allows for transparency and mutual understanding the teacher’s current level of expertise, and what he or she needs to do to improve and move up the scale!
Will you be joining us for the Marzano Conference 2013 in Orlando this summer? Register now for priority sessions.
I have been teaching since the ‘90s and went through Dimensions of Learning training and rubric writing way back when, and now using rubrics has made its way back into our grading. I love using rubrics and feel it provides an accurate explanation of where a student’s level of understanding is.
My questions are:
1) When writing a rubric for a level 2 question, is the question supposed to be a simpler version of the level 3 question, or a simpler skill? For example if a level 3 question is: students can add and subtract fractions using unlike denominators, should a level 2 question have problems with unlike denominators, or denominators that are the same (a simpler skill)?
2) The level 3 questions ask students to explain how they solved things. Do the explanations need to be lengthy? A level 4 question is above what we’ve worked on in the classroom, being able to apply the skill to a situation they haven’t worked on in class. In many cases these are word problems. Is that accurate? My previous training is that a level 3 is what you expect, a level 2 score means a student has some errors so they haven’t reached the level of understanding I am expecting, a level one means they need teacher assistance to complete the assessment, and a 4 is their understanding is above what I am expecting. Similar to the new rubrics except now we level the questions for the students.
I work with teachers often on learning goals and scales (rubrics) and I know that you aren’t the only one with these questions!
I love that you are using something that you learned in training to help you with teaching and assessing. Lessons are more purposeful when teachers use the level of the scale (rubric) to inform their planning. It’s best to align the activities/assignments in a learning cycle to the levels of a scale (rubric). Starting at level 1 and progressing purposefully up to level 4.
In that manner you can assess your students’ progress toward the goal within the learning cycle/unit. A teacher can also create assessments that include questions at different levels of the scale (rubric) to judge if students are able to demonstrate the foundational knowledge and skills of the learning goal. This sounds like what you are asking for clarification on. Your explanation of the levels is correct, so I’ll just address your questions. If you want more information on creating assessments based on scales (rubrics), I recommend Formative Assessments and Standards Based Grading by Dr. Marzano.
Scale Levels Assess Student Skills
In answer to your first question, whether the level 2 question should be a simpler version (of the question) or a simpler skill, the short answer is: a simpler skill. Level 2 on the scale are foundational skills that will build toward the skills the student is being asked to demonstrate at a level 3. In your example, a level 2 might be that the student can add and/or subtract fractions with the same denominators, or they may be able to find common denominators but not add fractions. Either of those are foundational skills necessary to achieve the learning goal of adding and subtracting unlike denominators (CCSS 5.NF1). If you’re looking for more information on how to create a scale, I would suggest Penny Sell’s blog post The Power of Design Question 1 – Part 2: Creating Scales to Accompany Learning Goals.
Pulling Learning Goals Apart
If you merely write a simpler question, what you will have made simpler is decoding of the question. That is a different learning goal in which students will be able to solve word problems involving adding and subtracting fractions (CCSS 5.NF2). We tend to write questions for our students with both of those skills intertwined, and at some point in their learning, students should have practice questions in which those skills are put together. But as we assess students, we need to pull those learning goals apart at the lower level questions so that we can know which learning goal the student may have mastered and which he or she may be struggling with.
In answer to your question about level 4 questions being a word problem, I would say that because level 4 involves extension or application, many times these questions are word problems. In the Common Core standards though, solving word problems is a different standard (CCSS 5.NF2) than adding and subtracting unlike fractions (CCSS 5.NF1), so we can’t save the word problems for level 4 questions. In order to assess this standard, a level 3 question would need to be a word problem, since standards are the level of the learning goal which is level 3 on the scale (rubric).
I hope that this explanation is helpful. I applaud your work with scales (rubrics) and your desire to get it right.
Read more on creating learning goals and scales here.
Join the conversation! If you have successes or questions you’d like to share, please drop us a note in the comments section below.
Scaffold your lessons to build toward your targeted goal.
In my last post, I discussed the importance of setting clear learning goals to communicate to students what they are learning and why. The second key to harnessing the power of Design Question 1 in the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model is to create a scale for each learning goal that is used to provide feedback to students. Creating scales is likely the strategy in the framework that is most new to many teachers; therefore it takes time to embed this work easily into the routine of your teaching. Like any skill that we learn throughout our lives, the more we practice, the easier it will get!
The learning goal sets our target for learning and the scale is used to let students and parents know where in the progression of learning toward that target the student falls. Unlike a grade, a scale rating is specific to the learning goal and will show growth over time. Scales utilize the concept of formative assessment; the activities and assessments we use to measure a student’s growth during the learning. Teachers consistently use these types of assessments to check for student understanding and to make adjustments to instruction. By adding scales to our classroom practice, we can easily use the formative assessments to provide specific feedback to students about their progression toward the learning goal. Follow the steps below to get starrning go parts
Step 1 – Write a scale for each learning goal
Write a scale for the overall learning goal you are teaching, not the activities and assignments you are using each day to help students reach the goal. You might have 2-3 learning goals you are addressing within a unit of instruction and the scale is attached to those goals.
Example: Students will be able to convert between standard and nonstandard unit measurements.
Step 2 – Break down the learning goal into parts
Unpack your learning goal in a way that shows how students will progress toward the goal. It will help to think about how you scaffold your teaching along the way. What are the simpler parts of the goal that you teach first? Are there building blocks along the way to the accomplishment of the goal? These building blocks can become the steps of your scale and should progress from the simpler parts to the more complex overall goal.
1. Students will be able to make simple measurements in standard units.
2. Students will be able to make simple conversions within standard or nonstandard unit measurements.
Step 3 – Place the unpacked learning goal into your scale
Using a simple scale, place the simpler parts of your goal at level 2 and the target learning goal at level 3 on the scale. Level 4 on the scale should be an application of the target goal that requires students to go beyond what was explicitly taught or a more complex version of the target learning goal.
|4.0||Students will be able to:
Students will be able to:
Students will be able to:
|1.0||With help, partial success at level 2.0 and 3.0 content|
|0.0||Even with help, no success|
Here’s an example of one I’ve used for staff development:
|4.0||In addition to 3.0 content, participants will be able to:
Participants will be able to:
Participants will demonstrate understanding of:
|1.0||With help, partial success at level 2.0 and 3.0 content|
Step 4 – Share your scale with your students
Use the scale with your students to track their progress toward the goal and celebrate their success! I’ll talk more about this last power strategy in my next post!
Check out some scales that other teachers have written in this scale bank.
Do you have any success stories to share about using scales in your classroom? Share them in your comments below!
One of the other big questions I get about learning goals is: Who needs to create them?
If you have other same grade-level teachers in your school, it makes sense to create learning goals and scales together as a grade level and share them. There is also bank of scales at www.marzanoresearch.com under the free resources tab. You sign up for the site, but it doesn’t cost anything. Some districts use curriculum writing teams in the summer to create learning goals and scales that teachers have the option of using.
One of our readers, a middle school language teacher, has also written us to say that she enlists help from her students in writing goals – their collaboration helps them buy in and feel a sense of ownership for their learning targets.
Remember that the key is to establish an initial target and provide feedback to students with information regarding their progress toward it. How learning goals are created, or how they are accessible, are important logistics—but they aren’t in themselves what increase student learning. Student learning comes from the feedback you give students as they progress toward the learning goal (which is another blog post in the making! ).
Share your expertise! Tell us how you create and post your learning goals and scales. Or use the comments space below to ask us a question. We’d love to hear from you.
This is Part 1 of a response to a question we received this week. Look for Part 2 – Who Creates the Scales? – tomorrow.
Dear Sharing Expertise:
I am a second grade teacher. We are supposed to be posting objectives, essential questions, and benchmarks for all subjects we teach every day. What are your thought on this? We really haven’t received much training, and everyone seems a bit confused (including me). Do you have any management tips or ideas to make this any easier? Just finding the space to post all of this stuff seems hard. Thanks!—Nicole
Good questions! It sounds like in your district you are using benchmarks as learning goals, and also using essential questions to help spark student interest at that same level. Here’s one way to sort it out:
Objectives are daily learning targets. These daily targets will scaffold toward the learning goal (benchmark/essential question).
Why you are being asked to post them
Here’s a little background about learning goals (benchmarks and essential questions) and objectives to set the stage:
In looking at research conducted by several education experts, Dr. Robert Marzano addresses the importance of setting clear learning goals. “Clear goals,” he says, “establish an initial target. Feedback provides students with information regarding their progress toward that target. Goal setting and feedback used in tandem are probably more powerful than either one in isolation. In fact, without clear goals, it might be difficult to provide effective feedback.” (See The Art and Science of Teaching, p. 12)
So the key is to establish an initial target and provide feedback to students with information regarding their progress toward that target.
Now let’s look at the logistics. Remember:
Not all goals need to be visible all the time.
The important thing to remember about learning goals, objectives, and scales is that students need access to them as they are learning. How that happens is flexible. Students don’t need access to all the goals all day. For instance, math goals and scales don’t need to be visible during language arts. Students only need access to the goals that pertain to their learning today. They don’t need the scales from two months ago, or from three weeks in the future.
Making Learning Goals Accessible:
Here are 6 ideas about how to make learning goals accessible:
1. Flip Charts. You can use one page for each of the different subjects so that you can flip to the subject specific goal every time you change subjects.
2. Work Packets. Some teachers use the learning goal and scale as part of a work packet. For example, at the start of a unit, the learning goals and scales are listed, as well as the daily objectives. You create a system so students know which goal to focus on each day.
3. Laminated Templates. You can laminate a template and write on it with an erasable marker (See picture).
4. Attached to assignments. Some teachers put the learning goal and objective on every activity and assignment so that the student can reference them as they are completing the assignment.
5. Taped to desks. I have seen teachers tape long-term goals to students’ desks—such as cooperative learning or other non-cognitive goals that last all year.
6. Index cards. You can make index cards with the goals for a unit and attach them to a large O ring so that students keep them on their desk or in their binders.
If you would like to read more about creating learning goals and scales, see Penny Sell’s blog post here. Or see Dr. Marzano’s book: Designing and Teaching Learning Goals and Objectives (2009)
There are many more creative ways teachers make learning goals and scales accessible to students. If this list sparked your imagination, please feel free to add more ideas in the comment section.
Make the connection between the Marzano Taxonomy and Common Core State Standards for the most effective assessments of student learning
I was having a conversation with some educator friends recently. We were talking about effective classroom strategies and the conversation led to the creation of learning goals and scales. These educators were confident with creating learning goals from the Common Core State Standards, but they struggled a little with creating scales that related to those standards, and making sure they differentiate for the students they have in their classrooms.
I suggested a five-step process for creating scales that align with their learning goals.
Step 1: Create your learning goal.
The first step is to create your target learning goal from your content standards. For most, that means the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS lend themselves well to creating learning goals.
Target Learning Goal Example: RI.5.3. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text. (This is a Reading for Informational Text, Grade 5 CCSS Standard.)
Step 2: Place the learning goal at the 3.0 position on the scale.
Place that exact learning goal in the 3.0 or proficient (meets the standard) spot in your scale. This is the target learning goal for the majority of students in the class. In this case the target learning goal is at the Comprehension level of Marzano’s Taxonomy
Step 3: Create a more complex learning goal and place it in the 4.0 position.
Create a more complex learning goal that uses the same content idea as your target learning goal but raises the level of thinking required. To do this, use the PDF of Marzano’s Taxonomy, Useful Verbs. At 4.0, the highest level of the scale, the learning goal should be in the top two levels of the taxonomy – Analysis and Knowledge Utilization. Both of the examples below are at the Analysis level.
Example #1 Analysis at 4.0 Level: Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text and determine what inferences can be made based on this information
Example #2 Analysis at 4.0 Level Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text, and compare and contrast these individuals, events, ideas or concepts.
Step 4: Create a simpler learning goal and place it in the 2.0 position.
Create a more simplified learning goal that uses the same content ideas as your target learning goal. Again, you can use Marzano’s Taxonomy to help you. In this case, the 2.0 learning goal should be at the first level of the taxonomy – Retrieval.
Example of Retrieval at 2.0 Level:
Describe an individual, event, idea, or concept in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
Step 5: 1.0 and 0 do not have learning goals associated but are representative of a student’s performance or lack of performance.
You now have a scale for the Common Core ELA standard RI.5.3. This process really helped these educators create scales aligned with their learning goals.
Does this process help you as you create scales aligned to your learning goals? Do you have a different process for creating scales? Share your ideas in the comments section or ask us a question. We’re standing by to answer!
The Power of Dr. Marzano’s Design Question 1
As teachers across the country embark on a new school year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the power of clearly defining learning goals so students know what they are learning and why. Design Question 1 in Dr. Marzano’s Teacher Evaluation Model incorporates specific strategies to achieve just that:
• Providing Clear Learning Goals and Scales
• Tracking Student Progress
• Celebrating Success
When a classroom teacher embraces these strategies and involves students in an authentic way, the combination can boost student success, invigorate the teaching/learning process, and create a classroom culture where students take more responsibility for their own learning.
An important step in utilizing this trio of Marzano strategies is to use the standards or benchmarks of your curriculum to write learning goals that communicate the essence of the standards in a way that is meaningful to students. Use the following guidelines as you practice writing learning goals that will drive your instruction and will be most beneficial to your students.
1. Learning Goals for Two Kinds of Knowledge
Write learning goals that communicate what students need declarative and procedural knowledge rather than statements that communicate the activities students will do to reach the goal. Keeping this distinction in mind will give direction to the day-to-day activities and assignments that you design for students and provide a clear intention for student learning.
2. Keep Goals Specific
To gain the maximum impact on student achievement, write goals that specifically target the intended learning rather than goals that are too broad or general. It is best to aim for the middle ground here as the intent is not to overwhelm yourself with too many goals, but to make them specific enough that students have a clear understanding of the target.
3. Aim for Moderate Difficulty
Consider the level of difficulty the learning goals will present for your students. Research fully supports that students are most motivated by goals that are moderately difficult; attainable, but not too easy nor too difficult. If you are teaching a diverse group of learners, it may be valuable to write learning goals at more than one level of difficulty.
4. Monitor Student Understanding
Use language that is student-friendly and think about how you will monitor student understanding of the goals. The intent of the strategy is not just that you have a goal posted, rather that students fully understand what the goal means for their learning.
5. Know What “Mastery” Looks Like
Talk with your colleagues about what mastery of the goal looks like for students. Having a clear picture in your mind about how students will demonstrate that mastery will enable you to design learning and assessment tasks that match the intent of the learning goal.
6. Get Student Input
Involve your students in writing and/or revising goals so that they fully understand the target and are invested in the learning process that will be guided by the goal.
The start of school is just around the corner. As you re-engage yourself in the delight a new group of students will bring, focus your thoughts on how you can make the standards you will teach meaningful to each child. This first step of Design Question 1 holds great power to make this year a great success for your students.
In my next post, I’ll focus on creating the scales that will accompany your goals as a means to provide feedback on student performance. Enjoy your last days of summer!
How do you make standards meaningful for your individual students? Please share your ideas in the comments section. Or ask us a question and we’ll do our best to work it through with you.
For further information about teacher growth and student achievement, visit Marzano Center