Dr. Pickering – Enhancing the Art of Teaching with ActivClassroom

Dr. Debra Pickering of Marzano Research Labs shared an informative and engaging presentation yesterday.  Here are a few of my big take-aways:

  • Teachers should begin by using research-based, highly-probably instructional strategies in the classroom.  However, Dr. Pickering challenged each teacher to collect evidence that those strategies work in their environment with their students.  Not all strategies are guaranteed!  And, it is not enough for teachers to simply use research-based instructional strategies, they need evidence that it works.
  • Promethean’s ActivClassroom (interactive whiteboard and learner response systems) holds great potential to positively impact student achievement.  In the national quasi-experimental study conducted by Marzano Research Labs, researchers found that the experimental group of students – those that learned the lesson in an ActivClassroom environment – had an overall average increase in academic achievement of 17 Percentile Points over the control group of students who were taught using traditional methods.  For example, a student who normally achieved at the 50th Percentile in a traditional classroom environment achieved at the 67th Percentile in an ActivClassroom empowered learning environment. 

Dr. Pickering was quick to point out that just having the technologies in the classroom would not make a difference, rather teachers needed to use the technologies to support research-based instructional strategies. 

Based on the data, Dr. Pickering also highlighted the “sweet spot” where even larger percentile gains in student achievement were achieved.  The conditions for the sweet spot were:  an experienced teacher, a teacher that has used ActivClassroom for an extended period of time, a teacher that uses ActivClassroom extensively in the classroom but not beyond 80% of the time, and a teacher that has high confidence in his/her ability to use ActivClassrom.  Makes sense!  Comprehensive professional development and on-going support is essential in helping teachers gain confidence and experience using the tools.

  • Teachers need to be sure to effectively communicate the learning goals.  All too often (and she shared numerous entertaining examples) teachers and students get so caught up in the activity that the learning goals are forgotten (or perhaps never understood).  We’ve all been guilty of this… the activity is so engaging (which is a good thing!) that we forget to emphasize and re-emphasize what learning is taking place.
  • Formative assessment is essential (not a new idea) but the ActivExpressions make it easy and engaging to assess students’ mastery throughout instruction.  The ActivExpressions provide immediate student performance data that can be used to differentiate instruction.

The final Marzano report can be found here.  Dr. Pickering’s slides can be found here and a video of the presentation will be available via the blog early next week.  I left the presentation inspired – I hope after reading this reflection you are motivated to learn more and refine your practices!

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