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It's not a new question. I'm not the only one who has been wondering if it's possible. Professional organizations are on the verge of delivering it virtually (they have been for a while actually). NCTE is launching differentiated professional development--it's self-paced and online. I don't know that I've ever experienced it in person though. Can be done face to face with adult learners?
Can a stranger assess a learner in a thirty minute warm-up sequence? Can a teacher? I'd like to say I can get an intial assessment--enough to group and go and level up as we went. Certainly I know I can plan for a variety of levels of understanding. I am thinking: I need entry level guidance, I have some some experience and need practice, I understand but would like peer support and perhaps let me investigate on my own. I'm just thinking here how it could look.
Can learners--adult learners-- accurately assess themselves or will they or we, like many of our students, choose to sit with learners we know? That's a different issue, isn't it?
Today a group from school participated in an "elements" training -- elements being items in the Marzano Art and Science of Teaching Framework that is being used to evaluate teachers in the state of Florida. My group thought the day would be different than it was. We've had experience with the elements and I think we expected to go deeper than we did. The day was not wasted though. We all wanted to get smarter and learn more. With that mind set anything can be instructive.
The facilitator did a great job of going back and forth. She spoke from the power point and then we paired up or form triads or talked in table groups or picked person across the room, got up and talked. Of course, she called it "chunk and chew," a strategy moniker I could have done without, but names aside, she worked the room and the content in ways that modeled strategies. I appreciate that. The facilitator clearly has mastered the quick back and forth that Judith Langer describes in her Beating the Odds research.
She read the room, first thing, by asking for a show hands. It was the usual, who here is from ___ (insert grade level or job description). Perhaps she could have gone a step further in that assessment and read how experienced the educators in the room are with the Marzano model. A few folks I talked with were new to the elements and new to using scales to assess learning; others had one to four years of experience. A few questioned the change in language being used: desired effect of an instructional strategy to desire result or learning scale to learning progression for example. I wondered.
I wondered if there were a way to capture the group's experience and then divvy us up accordingly. Could we have met in years-used groups (how many years has your building or site used the Marzano model) ? Could a written response or a quick post-it on a graph have given the facilitator enough information to sort and seat us? Could the facilitator have differentiate the content we received? I wonder.
I appreciated the time. The time to reexamine my own thoughts about Marzano's elements and what they mean in terms of how I plan. The time to consider how to engage teachers in my department in that planning process. I appreciated time with teachers and leaders from my school too.
This was the first time I've sat a table learning side by side with some who attended and I must admit, I liked that they all took notes, that they all wanted to learn and that they shared their thinking. It was fun to focus on learning together. We had interesting conversations even if the session didn't exactly fit our current needs. I appreciated the company and community. Still, I wonder.