Teaching & Learning
At Brisas, our classroom instructional strategies are based on sound research. Robert Marzano’s The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction (2007) helped our teachers become clear on the effective components of the teaching process.
Changes to state law a few years back resulted in big changes in education, especially in the area of accountability for student learning. As a result, Brisas embraced a new teacher and administrator growth and accountability program, based on the work of Dr. Robert Marzano – a leading educational researcher and author. It is called "The Art & Science of Teaching". To learn more, please click on the following video of Dr. Marzano explaining this model.
Though classroom instructional strategies should clearly be based on sound science and research, knowing when to use them and with whom is more of an art. In The Art & Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction, author Dr. Robert J. Marzano presents a model for ensuring quality teaching that balances the necessity of research-based data with the equally vital need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. He articulates his framework in the form of 10 questions that represent a logical planning sequence for successful instructional design:
- What will I do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student progress, and celebrate success?
- What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?
- What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?
- What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new knowledge?
- What will I do to engage students?
- What will I do to establish or maintain classroom rules and procedures?
- What will I do to recognize and acknowledge adherence and lack of adherence to classroom rules/procedures?
- What will I do to establish and maintain effective relationships with students?
- What will I do to communicate high expectations for all students?
- What will I do to develop effective lessons organized into a cohesive unit?
For classroom lessons to be truly effective, educators must examine every component of the teaching process with equal resolve. At Brisas, we use this framework to help teachers examine and develop their knowledge and skills, so they can achieve that dynamic fusion of art and science that results in exceptional teaching and outstanding student achievement.
We strive to equip our teachers with strategies and practices that translate into measurable changes in the classroom and result in increased student achievement. We believe this framework for effective instruction helps teachers:
- Improve student learning and comprehension
- Engage students in active participation
- Help students develop critical thinking skills
- Match teaching strategies to specific student needs
- Apply theory and practice directly to the classroom
To further improve our teachers' evaluation system, our principal and assistant principal spend considerable time in classrooms observing instruction and providing teachers with research-based feedback. The only way to become an expert in anything you do is by receiving specific feedback. By Mrs. Winkelmann, Principal, and Mr. Katsiris, Assistant Principal, conducting frequent classroom observations and providing immediate feedback to Brisas teachers, we improve our overall capacity to meet the diverse learning needs of our students and their ability to grow in their learning.
As a result of our school's administrators being in classrooms or otherwise directly meeting the needs of students during the vast majority of every school day, we ask that parents help us support this important work by working with our school secretary, Mrs. Rios, to get questions answered, minor issued resolved, or to schedule necessary face-to-face meetings and phone conferences with administrators. We also ask that parents support our teachers in this same way be only visiting classrooms when they are scheduled to volunteer and by scheduling face-to-face meetings and phone conferences so that teachers' collaborative team planning time before and after school can be honored.
Brisas is well-known for our open communication between parents and teachers/administrators and our inviting atmosphere; please know that this will not changed. Scheduling time to meet with administrators and/or teachers is not about limiting parent contact, but about managing it. We have many ways to communicate with each other, we just need to manage them differently so our school's administrators can be in classrooms observing teachers and providing them feedback on a daily basis. As a result, our teachers can get the feedback they need to become experts, as well as can dedicate their time before and after school for effective instructional planning.
Additionally, Brisas has adopted the cluster model of grouping students with specific needs (i.e., gifted, resource, ELL) in classrooms to maximize their opportunity for personal growth through differentiation. To ensure teachers’ strengths match students’ needs, cluster classroom teachers receive additional training to meet the needs of their class population and to network with other teachers across the district. At Brisas, we have clustered students at every grade level and teach with high expectations for all students.Brisas students are also involved in decision-making and self-assessment. We believe in the quote by Randy Pausch, “The most important thing we can teach our students is the ability to reflect on their own performance” (The Last Lecture, 2007). Students are involved in reflecting on their progress compared to standards, critiquing their own work, analyzing assessment scores, setting goals, and sharing portfolios. Evidence of student reflection and goal setting is demonstrated throughout the year as students track their progress using Learning Goals and Scales, as well as during the spring when we hold student-led conferences so K-5th grade students can share their portfolios and progress with their parents. We believe that students’ ownership of their learning will ultimately have the greatest impact on their educational journey.
The implementation of common core standards requires students to be proficient in core literacy skills and critical thinking skills demonstrated in various written responses across the curriculum. All Brisas teachers engage in on-going professional development training on the Math Common Core Standards and the ELA Common Core Standards as reflected in our School Improvement Plan. Teachers also use Thinking Maps® to engage students in higher-order thinking across the curriculum especially in persuasive argument, literary response, and scientific inquiry. Thinking Maps® require students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of content and context so they can be college and career ready.
Utilizing common planning, teachers on grade level teams meet as PLCs (i.e. Professional Learning Communities) weekly and also quarterly with administrators and coaches to review student achievement data, discuss trends, celebrate successes, decide on interventions, and assure consistency with state standards. Formative assessment data drives the emphasis for our Instructional Focus Groups (IFG) in reading and math to ensure continued growth of all ability groups. Teachers and support staff work together to support learning while outside the classroom, too.