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Becoming a Reflective Teacher

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Just as successful athletes must identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and engage in focused practice to meet their goals, so must teachers. Learn how to combine a model of effective instruction with goal setting, focused practice, focused feedback, and observations to improve your instructional practices. Included are 280 strategies related to the 41 elements of effective teaching shown to enhance student achievement.

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9 Chapters

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Chapter 1 Research and Theory

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It is a well-accepted fact among educators that what a teacher does in the classroom has a direct effect on student achievement (Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004). In other words, a teacher’s pedagogical skill in the classroom is causally linked with how well and how much students learn. A corollary is that teacher reflection improves teacher pedagogical skill. This relationship is depicted in figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1: Relationship between student achievement, teacher pedagogical skill, and teacher reflective practice.

The relationship between classroom strategies and behaviors and student achievement is very straightforward. The causal relationship between reflective practice and pedagogical skill is not as commonly recognized, although the interaction between these elements has been discussed in the research literature for decades.

Reflective practice has been recognized as an important component of professional development for some time. Here we consider five generalizations that characterize the research and theory base for reflective practice:

 

Chapter 2 Having a Model of Effective Teaching

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Regardless of the domain in which they operate, all experts have complex models that delineate precisely what to do in specific situations. In other words, they have models of effective performance. The more specific the model, the more nuanced the experts’ behavior will be and the higher their level of expertise (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1992, 1993). To illustrate, chess masters can access approximately 10,000 to 100,000 possible moves, effectively forming a model or menu from which they can select the best moves depending on the placement of other pieces on the board (Gobet & Charness, 2006). Expert pilots have complex models that allow them to consider many variables (such as weather conditions and remaining fuel) when taking off, flying, landing, or reacting to unexpected situations (Durso & Dattel, 2006). The complex models that expert writers use to compose poetry or prose allow them to appropriately adapt their compositions to different genres, audiences, and expectations. Expert golfers use a complex model that takes into account ground conditions, obstacles, wind speed, and wind direction when selecting a club or planning a shot. Hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s expertise has been attributed not to superior shot-making or skating abilities (Gretzky’s shot-making was considered average or below), but to his superior understanding of the game:

 

Chapter 3 Setting Growth Goals

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Reflective teachers systematically set annual growth goals for themselves. For example, during a given year, a particular teacher might decide to work on one element from each of the three broad categories (lesson segments involving routine events, lesson segments addressing content, and lesson segments enacted on the spot) described in chapter 2. From the category of routine segments, the teacher might work on tracking student progress. From the category of content segments, the teacher might work on engaging students in cognitively complex tasks. From the category of on-the-spot segments, the teacher might work on noticing and reacting when students are not engaged. Strategic selection of what to work on begins with an audit of a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.

Conducting a self-audit involves determining one’s level of competence for each of the forty-one elements described in chapter 2. To do this, a teacher needs a rubric or scale for each element. Scales for the forty-one elements are provided in appendix B (page 185). To understand the nature of the scale, consider its generic form shown in table 3.1.

 

Chapter 4 Engaging in Focused Practice

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At an intuitive level, most people commonly think of practice as performing an action multiple times. As we saw in chapter 1, simply doing something over and over again does not necessarily increase one’s skill with it. What we refer to as focused practice goes well beyond the common conception of practice. As the name implies, focused practice involves repeating a specific strategy with attention to improving detailed aspects of the strategy. A golfer involved in focused practice would choose to practice a specific type of shot (for example, putting, driving, or chipping) using a specific type of club (putter, driver, wedge) in a specific situation (uphill, downhill, or across a slope). A gymnast might focus practice on a specific part of a move (for example, landing a cartwheel) on a specific apparatus (like the balance beam). Pilots often use a simulator to replicate specific weather conditions (such as dry, windy, rainy, or snowy) in which they can practice specific elements of specific flight sequences like taxiing, taking off, approaching an airport, or landing.

 

Chapter 5 Receiving Focused Feedback

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Feedback is essential to determining the success of focused practice. Specifically, feedback tells teachers if their efforts are actually developing expertise. At a very basic level, focused feedback simply means continually examining one’s progress toward the desired goal. Recall from the discussion in chapter 3 that reflection begins with a self-audit and the identification of improvement goals for specific elements of effective teaching. Next the teacher engages in focused practice, as we saw in chapter 4. Focused feedback involves keeping track of progress on growth goals that are the subject of focused practice. To this end, we strongly recommend that teachers maintain a reflection log like that in figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1: Sample reflection log for the strategy of using a free-flowing web.

In figure 5.1, the teacher has recorded anecdotal comments about her performance with a specific strategy for helping students record and represent knowledge, called a free-flowing web (see compendium, page 83). Figure 5.1 (page 61) represents a six-week period of time during which the teacher simply recorded impressions about her use of the strategy. The following vignette depicts how the use of reflection logs might manifest for a specific teacher.

 

Chapter 6 Observing and Discussing Teaching

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The final element important to the development of teaching expertise is observing and discussing teaching. By definition, such activities require interaction with other teachers. In this chapter, we briefly discuss three ways that teachers might interact: (1) videos of other teachers, (2) coaching colleagues, and (3) instructional rounds. Two or more teachers can fairly easily set up the first two techniques. The third technique requires administrative support.

In chapter 5, we discussed how teachers might examine videos of their own teaching as a form of personal feedback. In this section, we consider how teachers might examine videos of other teachers and discuss the effectiveness of the strategies they observe. This simply requires two or more teachers who agree to meet and discuss instructional strategies and behaviors.

There are a number of sources that can be used for this type of professional interaction. Table 6.1 lists videos from YouTube that might be used to observe and discuss other teachers. These are free to all users of the Internet. When using videos from YouTube, it is important to remember that they are raw footage of classroom activities, and there is no guarantee that they exhibit effective teaching. Visit marzanoresearch.com/classroomstrategies for live versions of all links mentioned in the text.

 

Compendium: Strategies for Reflective Practice

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The first six chapters of this book discussed a model of reflective practice that can be a powerful tool for professional growth and developing teaching expertise. The model of effective teaching outlined in chapter 2 can be used to set growth goals, engage in focused practice, receive focused feedback, and observe and discuss teaching to promote self-awareness and self-reflection for K–12 teachers.

Throughout the book, we have referred to instructional strategies and teacher behaviors related to each of the forty-one elements of effective teaching in The Art and Science of Teaching model (Marzano, 2007; Marzano et al., 2011) presented in chapter 2. These instructional strategies and teacher behaviors provide a unique level of specificity for the reflective practice model described in Becoming a Reflective Teacher. To facilitate teachers’ awareness and knowledge of these instructional strategies and teacher behaviors, we provide this compendium of strategies for reflective practice.

 

Appendix A: Answers to Comprehension Questions

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1. Why is a model of effective performance in a domain important to the development of expertise in that domain?

A model of effective performance is important to the development of expertise in a domain because it provides options from which an individual can quickly select the best or most effective actions. As an expert’s model of performance develops, this individual has more options to choose from and can quickly and accurately decide on the right course of action in a specific situation. More complex models also allow experts to take more variables into consideration.

2. What is the overall structure of the model of effective teaching presented in this chapter?

The model of effective teaching presented in this chapter is taken from the framework in The Art and Science of Teaching (Marzano, 2007). It has forty-one elements organized using a set of design questions that teachers can ask themselves periodically to remind them of the elements of effective instruction. These design questions are organized into three broad categories: (1) lesson segments involving routine events, (2) lesson segments addressing content, and (3) lesson segments enacted on the spot.

 

Appendix B: Teacher Scales for Reflective Practice

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This appendix provides scales, teacher evidence, and student evidence for the forty-one elements of The Art and Science of Teaching model described in chapter 2. For definitions of the terms used in this appendix, refer to the online appendix, Glossary for Reflective Practice, found at marzanoresearch.com/classroomstrategies.

Design Question: What will I do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student progress, and celebrate success?

Design Question: What will I do to establish and maintain classroom rules and procedures?

Design Question: What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?

Design Question: What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?

Design Question: What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new knowledge?

Design Question: What will I do to engage students?

Design Question: What will I do to recognize and acknowledge adherence or lack of adherence to rules and procedures?

 



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