Sweet Spot

While reading Ryan Bretag‘s  blog, Metanoia, I watched Dr. Robert Marzano’s CUE 2009 Keynote entitled, “What do we know about the effect of technology on student achievement?”

Video I

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Dr. Marzano identifies 4 factors that over time will continue to effect teaching in dramatic ways.

  1. Whiteboards and Student Response Systems
  2. Formative Assessment and Record Keeping
  3. Teacher Feedback and Teacher Interaction
  4. Use of the Internet in Classroom (not discussed in this presentation)

Point 1: Whiteboards and Student Response Systems

Having conducted a study, Marzano has found that Interactive Whiteboards do enhance student achievement. Educators can anticipate more than a 30 percentile gain in average student achievement. This is contingent upon reaching the Sweet Spot, “the conditions under which you get the projected highest increase in student achievement.” In this case, the Sweet Spot requires a teacher:

  1. with two years experience with the tech.
  2. who spends 75% of class time using the tech.
  3. who has attended enough professional development to feel confident in using it.

Dr. Marzano also points out that the provision of equipment doesn’t mean you can expect an enhancement in student achievement.  Teachers need professional development in effective teaching AND proper use of the technology. For example, he stated when using the Compare and Contrast Strategy we need to consider how it changes when used with technology, how technology can make the strategy even better, and what should be avoided.

Proper Use of Technology

  1. Keep a clear focus on the content, not the bells and whistles.
  2. Keep track of which students are getting it and which are not. For example, use student response systems to implement question strategies to engage students. Use the student responses/data to guide instruction.

Video II

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Point 2: Formative Assessment and Record Keeping

  • Educators should not rely on one assessment to determine a student’s strengths and weaknesses. It is appropriate to use a state test to identify broad areas that a building or district needs to focus on improving, but not on the student level.
  • Educators should look at a lot of data over time. Marzano recommends a rigorous, rubric-based approach. Teachers design formal and informal assessments to track students over time. Teachers use data to identify what students get and don’t, beyond just an A, B, C grade. A detailed report examining concepts grasped is used.
  • Teachers who have students track their progress on a specific learning goal over time show a gain in student achievement.
  • Technology can help with this: gradebook software, digital assessment, drill and practice activities, data storage and analysis.

Point 3: Teacher Feedback and Teacher Interaction

Research shows that feedback from classroom assessments should provide students with a clear picture of their progress on learning goals and how they might improve.

  • Assessment is an instructional strategy, not a labeling technique. It facilitates interaction between student and teacher.
  • Assessment feedback that enhances student achievement provides correct answers, explains, and reassesses the student until correct.
  • Display feedback graphically and evaluate by rules so that students can interpret a grade as what is mastered and what needs to be learned.
  • Again, technology can provide the tools to accomplish this.

Note self: Subscribe to the CUEcast podcast.

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