We do get engaged with things we struggle with, but it can’t be struggle out of compliance. It has to be struggle out of a sense of wonder or accomplishment. This is big-time stuff you’re doing, and the country needs examples of places like this.
West Palm Beach, Florida (PRWEB) June 16, 2015
“The difference between the expert and the novice is that the expert has multiple ways of doing things, and the novice only has one,” education expert Robert J. Marzano told Palm Beach County School District educators at a press conference on May 22, 2015. As Executive Director of Learning Sciences Marzano Center, Marzano was in West Palm Beach to visit the Demonstration Schools for Rigor, a partnership between Palm Beach County Schools and Learning Sciences International.
The District has selected three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school to participate in this intensive, multi-year initiative. All five schools met criteria showing they were ready to move from “good to great.” Classrooms in each school will eventually function as models for rigorous instruction throughout the district, the state, and the nation.
Upon visiting Acreage Pines Elementary, Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts, Palm Springs Community Middle School, and Calusa Elementary, Marzano congratulated educators and leadership for taking an innovative approach to whole-school improvement. “I am truly excited to see the hard work done by the staff at these schools, in addition to being extremely proud of what they have accomplished. The work being done at these schools is amazing. These teachers, without a doubt, were good teachers before they received this training, but to see them in action now, they are truly innovating."
Historically, Marzano said, teachers have presented content, instructed students to read the text, and administered tests. Because they didn’t organize and unpack content to foster deeper learning, students from advantageous backgrounds were the ones who succeeded. Demonstration schools like those in Palm Beach County, he said, have made enormous changes that are improving learning for everyone.
“To hear your stories about students jointly planning, collaborating on learning… well, you can’t do that in the classroom without making the kinds of shifts you’re making here,” said Marzano. “You can’t do that without making the learning explicit. These are revolutionary changes; they really are—in education around the world.”
Demonstration Schools for Rigor are all about making crucial instructional changes and developing expertise—not just in teachers, but also in school leadership and students. These schools exemplify the level of teaching and learning required by rigorous state standards, with a focus on critical thinking skills and real-world application. Teachers work together to plan standards-based lessons, participate in instructional rounds, and receive training in the Essentials for Achieving Rigor instructional model, which incorporates strategies Marzano has identified as those most likely to result in student learning gains.
Teachers at demonstration schools use formative assessment data to make instructional decisions. They collaborate with peers to plan learning goals for lessons. They use technology to interact and track student progress. Working side by side with Learning Sciences staff developers and coaches, administrators and teachers strive for continuous improvement as they learn how to reflect on data.
To become critical thinkers, students need to be challenged to present evidence for their opinions, a skill that can be particularly challenging to develop, according to Marzano. Asking for evidence of thinking, he said, is almost contrary to human nature.
“We don’t naturally identify the evidence or reasons for our opinions,” he explained. “You’re asking [students] to do a kind of thinking that most people don’t naturally do—and we’re asking it of kindergarteners! So it’s hard stuff for teachers and it’s hard stuff for students, but you seem energized as a team. It sounds like your students are energized, too—that the complexity is engaging them. We do get engaged with things we struggle with, but it can’t be struggle out of compliance. It has to be struggle out of a sense of wonder or accomplishment. This is big-time stuff you’re doing, and the country needs examples of places like this.”
Learning Sciences International, a leading provider of web-based and on-site solutions for professional development and performance management in education, supports schools and educational initiatives in 11 countries, 3 provinces in Canada, and 40 states in the United States of America. Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, the company currently serves 427 school districts; 5,575 school buildings; 311,000 teachers; and more than 4 million students in the United States alone.