The prolific and well-known education researcher Robert J. Marzano starts his work from the premise that “effective teachers are made, not born.” In a recent webinar hosted by Learning Sciences International, Marzano discussed how administrators can put this maxim into practice in their schools.
Marzano’s model for developing teacher expertise, which he fleshes out in Effective Supervision: Supporting the Art and Science of Teaching, a book he co-authored with veteran educators Tony Frontier and David Livingston, has four domains for teacher improvement. In the webinar, Marzano focused on the one he considers most critical to student achievement: classroom strategies and behaviors.
In supervising a teacher’s performance in these areas, districts and schools must provide “opportunities for focused feedback and practice,” Marzano emphasized. The feedback can be based on teacher self-perception data, in which teachers rate themselves on rubrics; teacher self-observation data, in which teachers watch videotapes of themselves teaching; and observation data from peers, coaches, and supervisors. Outside observations can done in several ways, including three- to five-minute classroom walk-throughs, comprehensive observations, and student surveys.
Marzano said his teacher-development model differs from many others in that it allows teachers to select the specific strategies they want to improve on throughout the year. Teachers are more open to critique if it is on a skill they have isolated, he explained.
Schools and districts also need to give teachers “opportunities for observing and discussing effective teaching.” This is something “we typically haven’t done in K-12” education, Marzano stated. He recommended using “instructional rounds,” or learning walks, in which groups of teachers observe other teachers’ classrooms. The goal, he said, is for teachers to compare and contrast what they see to what they are doing with their own students. Teachers can also observe and discuss good teaching through coaching, watching expert videos, participating in teacher-led professional development, and engaging in virtual communities.
Marzano also said that teachers need to create growth and development plans each year based on the skills they want to work on, and that scoring must be coupled with a system for improvement. “We’re big proponents of teacher growth,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the October 13, 2011 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook