Teacher Clarity: Response to a Workshop with Dr. John

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Full disclosure....  I haven't decided yet if I will do a one and done with this topic, or if it will end up covering a few different posts...

I had the opportunity to join Dr. John Almarode in a session around Teacher Clarity.  Dr. John is the lead author for the Visible Learning for Science book that is coming out March 2018.  Now, I've known John a long time.  He grew up a few blocks from me, and my brother used to go over to play with him and his brother Joe.  Then, after I became a teacher (at Stuarts Draft High School, where I was a student, as well as the Almarodes) I saw John was teaching there as well.  We were colleagues for a few years before he embarked on his PhD at UVa's Curry School.  The kids loved him.  I was an English/Drama teacher at the time, so I had my own fan club too.

I've been to several of John's workshops throughout his post-public school teaching career.  So, I've seen a natural progression, or perhaps evolution, in his work.  He's always been interested in Cognitive Theory, and as such, has worked with approaches that connect with that area of learning.  It's natural that he would be connected to the Visible Learning group, and it's use of effect sizes and research to develop learning theory.

In Hattie's work , he uses effect size as his standard for judging the efficacy of a specific approach to teaching. The baseline is .40.  Teacher Clarity, which clocks in at a .75 effect size was the focus of Dr. John's session.  Hattie defines teacher clarity quoting the (unpublished) work of Fendick (1990) as “organization, explanation, examples and guided practice, and assessment of student learning — such that clarity of speech was a prerequisite of teacher clarity.” (Hattie 2009, 126) .

One of the things that I felt was an immediate place to hang our hats was when Dr. John referenced John Antonetti's work with classroom walkthroughs and how often kids were not able to immediately articulate the what, why, and how of the day's learning intentions.  Here's how it was broken down:

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why am I learning it?
  3. How will I know when I've mastered it?

The goal is to have the students turn these questions into statements.  The learning intention does not need to be lofty, it merely needs to be clear enough that the kids could answer these questions easily.  There are many ways it could come together. 

For example:

  1. I am learning how to read a table.
  2. I am learning this because it will help me understand data in textbooks and news stories. 
  3. I will know I have mastered this when I am able to create a table of my own.

While on its face, it seems that this is something that might be more helpful when admin comes in for walkthroughs, it really helps the kids articulate their learning in a way that is metacognitive.  Imagine what their parents might say should the student state their learning goals in this way.