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Dr. Marzano Describes 3 Phases in the Development of a District System
It’s useful to think in terms of phases of supporting effective teaching in every classroom. That would be a goal, I would say, that every school or district should have … that you want to create a system where, as a function of being in that system, people get better at teaching. And that is actually not the case the way it is now. It’s very common that teachers operate in a system and get, you know, feedback very, very seldom and kind of get better on their own. So what it would look like if a school or district said, “No, we want to set it up so that, you know, it’s a given … if you teach here, you get better over time.” And that doesn’t happen very quickly or easily, so it is best to think of it in terms of phases. And there are three phases, so let me go through this with you.
Phase one, the school or district develops a common language of instruction or uses or adapts someone else’s. I used to use the term “model,” as in “model of instruction,” and I actually prefer the term “language of instruction,” because “model” kind of implies we’re all going to do it the same way, where a language really implies the intent. And that is, we have to have a way of thinking about and talking about teaching that’s common, so we can interact. And that’s the whole purpose. As I said, you can either develop one of your own or adapt one. I would put in a plug in for the Art and Science of Teaching—you might want to take a look at that—and then, you know, make tweaks … make changes. It takes some time; you could do this quickly … you could do this in a semester. I have commonly seen schools and districts take a year to do this. And that’s where teachers try it out, they get familiar with it. And then at the end of a year, they say, “Okay, this is what we want in our model, verbatim from our source,” or, “This is what we want to drop or this is what we want to adapt.” Like that; you get the idea. So, it’s really kind of fun to do that. It gets teachers talking about good teaching. At the end of it, you come up with a written document that says, “In this district, in this school, this is how we talk about good teaching.” That leads you into phase two.
Phase two, that’s where data is collected from teachers, students, peers, supervisors … regarding classroom activities. And there’s a whole bunch of ways of doing that. This is where you are using your walk-throughs, you’re using teacher rounds, you’re using teachers’ self-observation, you’re just … whatever … gathering data that teachers now can now use to say, “Okay, relative to our language of instruction, this is my profile and I am strong in this areas and I’m not so strong in these areas.” And by the way, that’s okay. I think a mistake that we’ve made in the past with, you know, models of instruction or protocols where we observe teachers is to assume that if a teacher is not doing everything well, something is off. And that is actually not the case at all. What you’ll find in any profession where there are lists of strategies and techniques that are kind of common … that people are great in certain areas and not so great in others. You have to keep your eye on the ball, always, in term of giving people feedback. In this case, the ball in education is: are students learning? So, teachers can actually not be using some of the strategies in your model and producing great results. And that’s fine, that’s exactly what you want. So phase two, data is gathered, teachers are using multiple types of data, including that from the teacher. Teachers are using that to get a profile, a kind of a sense of themselves … their areas of strengths and weaknesses. And that can get you into phase three.
In phase three, that is where data is used by teachers to set personal goals for enhancing their instructional expertise in the engagement and achievement of students. And this is where you start to get to what some people call “deliberate practice,” and that is, you know, teachers are actually, you know, getting better at specific areas that they’ve helped identify. And the way this looks is … given all the data that I’ve got, you know, about, you know, how I’m doing, I say, “You know, this year I want to work on this strategy and this strategy right here, and my goal is to get student engagement up a little higher, you know.” Obviously, that means we have to have student engagement data. Now, that’s a very powerful enterprise; it really is. Just think about that: if there were a district … or if you were in a district or school where that happened every year—every year, teachers identified things that they wanted to get better at. I just played with some numbers recently, and I think they go something like this: if every teacher in a district got better by two percentile points every year, that over a 10 year period of time, you can expect student achievement to rise, you know, rather dramatically. Just think about it. Just a little incremental change every year on the part of the teacher, over time, you know, would have this cumulative effect on student achievement where you’d say that, “Hey, in this district, in this school, we know that our teachers are getting better every year. Therefore, we also know our student achievement, in general, should be going up every year.”
So, these are three phases, you know. Take some time. You can kind of think in terms of a year for each phase. That’s not too bad, though. You know, three years out, a district could have a full blown, you know, system-wide focus on good teaching. And what we know from the research is that that’s characteristic of high performing districts. I think it was in the McKinsey Report, not too many years ago, where they were looking for the highest performing systems-slash-districts in the world, and they looked at the top ten. And unfortunately, I believe, there were none of the top ten from the United States. But of the top ten, every single one had a focus on good teaching. They were designed to help teachers get better. Go through these phases and you will probably, you know, be at that level in terms of a strong focus on teaching.