The Norman Transcript

August 16, 2013

Expert helps Norman teachers evaluate their methods

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dr. Robert Marzano, the researcher responsible for the framework of Oklahoma’s public school leadership evaluation reform, visited Norman Public Schools on Thursday morning to speak to administration and thousands of teachers on the cusp of a new school year.

Marzano’s model focuses on research-based teaching strategies for improving student achievement through teacher development.

“All of you chose a fantastic career,” Marzano said to the thousands of NPS teachers gathered in the Nancy O’ Brian Performing Arts Center at Norman North High School. “According to psychology research, the greatest human satisfaction comes from pursuing careers that are quite difficult and require years to master, that positively affect or help others and that involve a high level of autonomy and creativity.”

Outlining major aspects of teacher development that he finds effective, Marzano described a practice that Norman’s instructors will begin this school year, a type of peer observation called instructional rounds.

“My experience with teachers is they want to learn from each other — not critique each other, just observe and learn,” Marzano said.

During instructional rounds, groups of teachers will watch fellow teachers — preferably instructors in different grade levels — workwith students in the classroom and afterward discuss what methods they have in common, what they question in themselves based on what they saw and what new ideas their observations gave them.

In addition to specific instructional strategy, Marzano heavily emphasized the importance of

relationship building between teacher and student — an element he said is absent from the Teacher Evaluation Model, but crucially important.

“From a student’s perspective, everything an authority figure does or doesn’t do is an indication of whether or not that teacher/authority figure likes them. Even the toughest, most rebellious student wants to be liked,” Marzano said.

With this in mind, he urged teachers to exercise restraint and be positive with students they disliked.

“Even the absence of negative interaction can translate as support to a student ... few professionals have the capacity to make such an impact on young people as teachers,” Marzano said.

In conclusion, Marzano warmly praised the efforts of Norman Public Schools, saying NPS teachers could rest on their laurels.

“For many years, we’ve seen examples of spectacular teachers and spectacular schools, but there aren’t many spectacular districts. (NPS) has either achieved this or is on the verge of it,” Marzano said.