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Dr. Marzano Explains the Power of a Common Language of Instruction
For years I believed the one thing we’re lacking is a common language of teaching, a common language of pedagogy, a common language of instruction. Certainly not my idea; Madeline Hunter, years ago, talked about this need. One thing we need in our profession, it doesn’t have to be the same across the country, is a common language: how we describe effective teaching. Some of you might remember Madeline Hunter’s Lesson Design, even though she warned not to think every lesson looks like her particular design. It had seven steps to it, things like “anticipatory set.” What was so nice in those days is you could talk about anticipatory set and everybody knew what you meant. Now we’ve moved on since her lesson design, and now we know there’s more to teaching than just a lesson.
In our model, the Art and Science of Teaching, we’ve collapsed 40-plus categories and instructional strategies into three broad areas: routines, things that occur, must be dealt with on the spot; three different types of lesson or lessons, if you will. We say that a school or district, we recommend they start with our model; so, they don’t reinvent the wheel. But then, make adaptations—they add things, they delete things, they change things, so that the school—or better yet the district—everybody in it talks about good teaching the same way.
Obviously the teachers and administrators are involved in adapting if they’re starting with Art and Science of Teaching, making those adaptations so it’s theirs. In a sense it’s home-grown, even though you might have started with our more generic framework. I think the potential impact on a school or district ... you can’t even quantify that because it’s so powerful. First of all, it communicates a message in the school or district that we’re serious about good teaching here. So when you come into the school or district, here’s our language of instruction. We talk about good teaching this way, in these categories, and we expect you to think about this as you’re planning instruction. If you’re not getting the results you want in terms of student learning, we expect you to use that model to identify your strengths and weaknesses and then start to work on your weaknesses. So it creates this platform that allows for real reflective practice.
Even for a teacher, the teacher is looking at themselves and between teachers, intra-teachers, where they’re focusing on good teaching, and then the school or district actually becomes a place where you get better at teaching as a result of being in the school or district. That all starts with the common language of instruction, and it can’t be a narrow language of instruction. It has to be robust enough to encompass the complexity of the teaching and learning process.
So for us the language of instruction is the first place to start. We say, perhaps in a self-serving way, that you start with Art and Science of Teaching, get yourself grounded in that, then make adaptations. But now you’ve got that, and now you can start having effective feedback—of course, that’s where technology comes in, that’s where we recommend our platform: iObservation. But, now you can gather data on that, it can be the focal point, the hub of all activity in the district. Good teaching, which translates into more advanced learning on the part of students, and that’s the core of what occurs in the school or district. Now to me, that’s a professional place, it really is. And without that you can’t really say it’s a professional place, if teachers close their door, they do their thing, they do good things, but they’re never interacting with any other professional about this very complex thing called teaching.