The power of the New Art and Science of Teaching

by | Nov 3, 2021

In 2007, US educational researcher Dr Robert Marzano published the acclaimed book, The Art and Science of Teaching, a comprehensive framework for instruction that will be familiar to many Australasian educators. A decade later he released a revised edition, The New Art and Science of Teaching, which became an instant bestseller.

Gavin Grift chats with Dr Janelle Wills about why she thinks this common language of instruction is so powerful.

GAVIN: What rings true for you in the title, The Art and Science of Teaching?

JANELLE: There has been a trend of dehumanising teaching with an overemphasis on and misinterpretation of standardised testing results, an obsession with effect sizes, and an input–output mentality.

The Art and Science of Teaching recognises the science of teaching. We have a wealth of knowledge and evidence in terms of the efficacy of strategies and approaches. This is important because we don’t want to be drawn down rabbit holes or chase the next glittery thing at the expense of student learning and achievement. Rather, we need to be able to make informed choices.

However, we also need to be mindful of the art of teaching – those important aspects that can’t be measured or quantified. We can never underestimate relationship building, enthusiasm, showing students that we care – the human aspects of our craft.

An important difference between the New Art and Science of Teaching and other instructional models is its focus on how the instructional strategies and elements affect students. It addresses teacher actions, but it takes instruction a step further by highlighting how students should respond if the instructional strategies and elements have the desired effect.

GAVIN: What tips do you have on maximising impact by using the Art and Science of Teaching?

JANELLE: Recognise it as a common language to discuss and share best practice. It isn’t prescriptive, forcing everyone to teach in the same way – rather it is descriptive of best practice. Teachers should consider how the strategies can be best employed in a particular context; this is the art of teaching.

It’s also important to engage in action research and build in time for teachers to share and discuss their successes. As teachers learn from one another they build collective efficacy, or their combined ability to lead the improvement of student outcomes and higher levels of achievement.

The New Art of Science and Teaching offers up a framework that’s comprehensive and specific, making it extremely useful for coaching. It can also make the development of professional growth plans far more meaningful and effective.

I would suggest anyone interested in this framework undertake the following actions:

  • conduct a self-audit and set goals using the nine design questions and inherent strategies that underpin this body of work
  • focus on your goal areas. Form an action plan, work on that plan and continually reflect on progress
  • internalise the model of instruction. Develop a mental representation of what good teaching is to monitor and adjust your performance in real time
  • on reflection adjust growth goals if needed or set new goals
  • work with a coach. A coach can help through focused observations and targeted feedback on suitable areas of deliberate practice, as identified in your own growth goals.

GAVIN: What resources would you suggest can help and why?

JANELLE:

  • The Handbook for the New Art and Science of Teaching. This book is great because it includes Australian-specific references and examples. It builds on The New Art and Science of Teaching and has a wide range of strategies and applications for teachers to consider.
  • Improving Teacher Development and Evaluation. This draws on extensive research for enhancing teacher expertise. It details six steps that can be operationalised so that all teachers can improve their pedagogical skills, regardless of their current skill level or years of experience. The book also draws on the 43 elements from the New Art and Science of Teaching instructional framework, mapped to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, making it the perfect tool for developing more effective professional development plans.

Dr Janelle Wills is the lead training associate for High Reliability Schools, the New Art and Science of Teaching and other Marzano Research topics. She works extensively with schools, regions and systems throughout Australia.
With over 30 years of teaching and leadership experience, Dr Wills maintains a strong commitment to continued learning that enables her to remain both informed and innovative in her approach.