MCCESC Teaching & Learning
December: Teacher Clarity
What is Teacher Clarity?
Clarity describes a set of teacher behaviors that are vital to engaging and empowering all students in their learning process by helping them clearly understand what they are learning, why they are learning it, and what they are expected to know or be able to do to demonstrate what they have learned (Hattie, 2009). In his book, Visible Learning, John Hattie researched factors that affect student learning. Hattie found that the average effect size of all the interventions he studied was 0.40. A learning effect size of 0.40 equates to a year's growth. Teacher Clarity has an effect size of 0.75. Implementing teacher clarity with fidelity results in almost twice the effect of one year of schooling.
Fendick (1990) defined teacher clarity as "a measure of the clarity of communication between teachers and students in both directions" (p. 10) and further described it across four dimensions. Each of these components contribute to student learning.
1. Clarity of organization - Learning tasks, assignments, and activities should be linked to the objective and outcomes of learning.
2. Clarity of explanation - Information is relevant, accurate, and comprehensible to students.
3. Clarity of examples and guided practice - Lesson information is illustrative and illuminating so students can link concepts to application. Guided practice should move students towards increasing levels of independence with less support from the teacher. The questions, prompts, and cues offered to students should scaffold their understanding and deepen their knowledge.
4. Clarity of assessment of student learning - The teacher is regulary seeking out and acting upon feedback he or she receives from students. Formative evaluation is key to teacher clarity. It is how teachers are able to be responsive to learning needs.
What am I learning?
A useful method to deconstruct a standard is to analyze the standard's nouns and verbs. The nouns in a standard represent what the student needs to know - the concepts. The verbs in a standard speak to the skills the student must demonstrate to make the concepts and content useful.
A learning intention for a lesson or series of lessons is a statement, created by the teacher, that describes clearly what the teacher wants the students to know, understand, and be able to do as a result of learning and teaching activities.
Larry Ainsworth compiled a list of criteria for effective learning intentions.
Learning intentions are written:
- As the learning destination - "Where are we going?"
- As a summary or general restatement of the standard
- As a global statement without specifics
- In age-appropriate, kid-friendly language but retain the rigor and intent of the standard,
- No specific details from the standard
- Key terms and vocabulary
- No references to specific context
There are various ways to state and communicate a learning intention to students. Here are a few sentence starters you can use to state your learning intentions to students:
- We are learning to...
- Students will be able to...
- I am learning how to...
- We will be able to...
Why am I learning this?
Consider the learning intention below:
Learning Intention: I am learning how to partition shapes into parts with equal areas.
Which of these relevance statements is most effective for students to engage with the content?
1. You will need to know this for the upcoming test.
2. When we make fractional parts, we want to be fair and have each part the same size.
Statement two keeps the focus on growth and new learning. This statement also foreshadows transfer to new learning to build relevance. For example, the student could transfer this new learning with a real world application of eating a pizza with friends. Students could use their knowledge of fractional parts to divide a pizza into parts of equal size to share with friends. Telling students that they need to learn something for an upcoming test is not motivating, but getting an equal share of pizza is!
How will I know that I have learned this?
Success criteria provide a clear answer to the question: How will I know that I have learned it? Or How will we know that we have learned it? Success criteria describe the evidence students must produce to show they have achieved the learning intention. Success Criteria help students and teachers monitor progress toward learning, in turn making learning visible for both teachers and students. Success criteria are not tasks to be completed. They are skills students can do to meet the learning intention. Success criteria should avoid things like "do your best" or "try hard." Instead they shoud be clear and actionable. Success criteria are often written as "I can" statements.
Let's look at an example:
Task: Finding the density of three mystery substances
Learning Intention: I am learning about the relationship between the mass of a substance and the volume that mass occupies.
- I can determine the mass and volume of a given substance.
- I can graph the volume of different mass values of the substances.
- I can explain the relationship between mass and volume form the graph.
- I can calculate density of a substance from the graph.
Effective success criteria should do the following:
- Be actionable
- Focus on the learning, not the task
- Specify what students are to do to demonstate learning
- Identify details needed to achieve the learning intention
- Use specific terms from the standards and maintain the rigor of the standard
- Appear in student-friendly language
- Often include more than one statement per learning intention
- May include other details not included in the standard, but necessary to achieve the learning intention(s)
The Value of Learning Intentions and Success Criteria
- more focused for longer periods of time
- more motivated and active in their learning
- better able to take responsibility for their own learning
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
Reach out - we are here to help. firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of our Teaching & Learning Department have been trained in Teacher Clarity and can provide professional development for you and your building/district.