Monday, October 20, 2014


“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”  Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
My colleague Melanie Hoeksema quoted Simon Sinek this morning while we were meeting to plan our next learning session with principals. Wow. It really struck me. I’m not sure we spend enough time processing the “why” – we tend to just jump into the “what.” And then we wonder why there is pushback.

This followed on the heels of an impromptu conversation about an hour earlier among four of us as to some lingering pockets of resistance to the implementation of the Instructional Framework. Without the “why,” it’s probably easy to just malign the name “Marzano,” or be unable to detach the Instructional Framework from the evaluation process.

So, why the Instructional Framework? Why a three-year plan of implementation? Why spend time unpacking content standards to write learning goals, learning targets, and learning progression scales? Why spend time to intentionally plan and collaborate, focusing on student achievement? The short answer we’ve spouted: researched best practices. And it’s true, but the short answer doesn’t allow us to really process the “why.”

So, let’s move to the long answer. We know that students who have an effective teacher (i.e., high pedagogical competence) will significantly out-achieve students who have a less effective teacher (Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004). This proves what we intuitively know – effective teachers make a meaningful difference in student learning. Bob Marzano and others have conducted decades of research  to identify what specific characteristics the most effective teachers possess. But even he reminds us that

            research will never be able to identify instructional strategies that
            work with every student in every class. The best research can do is
            tell us which strategies have a good chance (i.e., high probability)
            of working well with students. Individual classroom teachers must
            determine which strategies to employ with the right students at the
            right time. In effect, a good part of effective teaching is an art – hence
            the title, The Art and Science of Teaching.

(Marzano, 2007, p. 5). What the Instructional Framework offers is a sequence of effective classroom pedagogy, and we adopted it as an instructional model with the belief that all teachers can increase their expertise from year to year, which produces gains in student learning from year to year with a powerful cumulative effect (Marzano, 2013).

The first 41 elements of the Instructional Framework are encapsulated with Domain 1 – Classroom Strategies and Behaviors. Within Domain 1 are nine of the ten design questions that comprise the Instructional Framework. Those 41 elements are not an exhaustive list, but do represent the strategies that research shows have the highest effect size (Marzano, 2007). Domain 1 was our focus in year one, 2013-14.

The remaining 19 elements are distributed among Domains 2 (Planning and Preparing), 3 (Reflecting on Teaching), and 4 (Collegiality and Professionalism). Our focus now in year two is integrating Domain 1 with Domains 2 and 4; Domain 2 is where the tenth design question, “what will I do to develop effective lessons organized into a cohesive unit?” lives. Indeed, we have a professional learning goal for 2014-15: To increase our instructional expertise through collaborative, intentional planning to enhance student learning. It is guiding us in all of our learning and work this year.

At the risk of being repetitive, it bears remembering:

            [E]ffective teaching is part art and part science. The science part
            of effective teaching is founded on decades of research that has
            provided guidance for the general categories of behaviors that
            constitute effective teaching and for the specific techniques that
            can be employed within those general categories. The art part of
            teaching is founded on the dual realizations that research cannot
            provide answers for every student in every situation and that the
            same behaviors can be employed in a different order and fashion
            by two different teachers with equally beneficial results.

(Marzano, 2007, p. 191). The Instructional Framework does not require teachers to teach exactly the same way, just like no two students learn in quite the same way. But it does provide a set of proven strategies that teachers can draw upon to help all students learn at high levels.

In this district, we believe in our students, and we believe in our teachers. We believe that full implementation of the Instructional Framework will have a powerful cumulative effect for student learning. And, we believe in our vision: “All learners achieving individual potential.”

J.  Walton

P.S. If you want to hear more from Simon Sinek, check out his TEDTalk at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Judy. I can always count on your well-written blog posts as a source of inspiration!