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Using the Marzano Instructional Framework for Teacher Observation



If you are in charge of selecting an observation framework for your district, you may be overwhelmed with the options. You’ve heard people talk about different types of teacher observation models, but aren’t sure which one is right for your team of educators.

One common model that you’ll encounter is the Marzano Framework, based on the research and theory of Robert Marzano.

How can you determine whether or not this framework suits your school’s needs?

This article will give you a comprehensive background on the Marzano framework, how it differs from the Danielson framework, and how its four domains and nine instructional strategies work together to enhance classroom achievement.


Table of Contents



What Is the Marzano Framework?


The Marzano framework is an evaluation model for teachers. It has four domains broken down into 60 elements designed to define educational goals and target professional development offerings.

This framework identifies strategies that teachers should implement during their lessons and gives coaches and administrators specific criteria for effective evaluation.

Marzano’s research findings posit that effective teachers:

  • Set goals
  • Give feedback
  • Engage with students
  • Help students navigate new information
  • Maintain relationships
  • Establish and enforce classroom rules
  • Set expectations
  • And more

If your district or school is looking to “put some meat on the bones” of your evaluation systems and dig deeper into observations, the Marzano framework may be a good choice. That’s because it provides a detailed structure and useful tools that include checklists, observation sheets, and helpful documents. 

And you’ll be able to store all of these resources in your TORSH Talent Coaching Corner so teachers and coaches can easily access and use them


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Is the Marzano Framework Effective?


Yes. The Marzano framework is widely regarded as an effective, research-based, and robust teacher observation system.

The Marzano Framework is streamlined and concentrated, which allows it to:

  • Align directly with state standards
  • Give administrators the ability to deliver more actionable, concrete feedback to teachers; and
  • Improve scoring accuracy

Let’s look at what some of the research has to say about Marzano’s model of teaching effectiveness.


Research That Backs the Marzano Framework


The Marzano rubric for teacher evaluation was a long time in the making—it is based on more than 5,000 studies conducted over 50 years. These can be found in books such as:

  • Classroom Instruction That Works (Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2001)
  • Classroom Management That Works (Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2003)
  • What Works in Schools (Marzano, 2003)
  • Classroom Assessment and Grading That Work (Marzano, 2006)
  • The Art and Science of Teaching (Marzano, 2007); and
  • Effective Supervision: Supporting the Art and Science of Teaching (Marzano, Frontier & Livingston, 2011)

These titles were all created through a synthesis of research on the fundamentals shown to correlate with academic achievement.

To test whether teachers’ use of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model can increase student achievement, Dr. Marzano partnered with state departments of education, districts, and schools across the country.

More than 500 teachers in 87 schools participated in the studies and, overall, they showed a correlation between Marzano’s framework for effective instruction and student success.

One such study of more than 12,000 teachers validated the use of this framework. The authors stated:


“The study found that the magnitude of the relationship between observation scores and value-added measures were small, positive, and statistically significant.”


The research indicates that students are learning as a result of teachers following the Marzano framework, which can give school leaders confidence in their decision to implement it for evaluations. 


What Are the Differences Between the Danielson Framework and Marzano Framework?


As mentioned, the Marzano framework has four domains broken down into 60 elements. The Danielson framework also has four domains, which are divided into 22 components.

Each contains the same information—just organized a little differently. As long as they can cite deep and broad research upon which the standards are built, it doesn’t matter which is used. Schools can feel free to pick whichever they like best.

If a district already has a fairly sophisticated system of observations for evaluation and coaching, we recommend they choose the Danielson framework. It has many of the tools provided with Marzano but encourages you to modify them to meet your needs.

No matter which framework you choose for professional development and coaching, TORSH Talent can work with it. Compatible with any framework of standards you choose, you’ll have everything you need conveniently stored in one place.


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What Are the 4 Domains of the Marzano Framework?


The four domains of the Marzano instructional framework are Classroom Strategies and Behaviors, Preparing and Planning, Reflecting on Teaching, and Collegiality and Professionalism. These domains build on one another to encourage teacher performance, growth, and development.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.


#1: Classroom Strategies and Behaviors


Domain one contains 41 elements, which are the bulk of the Marzano framework. These are divided into routine, content, and on-the-spot segments.

  1. Routine: This segment provides a framework for setting learning goals, tracking progress, communicating feedback, and celebrating success.
  2. Content: This segment addresses the actual content students are interacting with and helps inform the practice of improving student engagement with the content.
  3. On-the-spot: This segment addresses real-time activity in the classroom such as maintaining pace, keeping students engaged and involved, building relationships, adhering to rules and procedures, and communicating expectations.  

Domain one focuses on activities that directly affect student outcomes. This domain provides a common framework for lesson planning and is largely used as a tool for classroom observation and feedback.


#2: Preparing and Planning


Domain two contains eight elements, divided among lessons and units, use of materials and technology, and students’ special needs.

The activities in these elements are directly related to classroom behaviors and strategies. 

Domain two centers around the idea that effective preparation leads to improved decision-making in the classroom, which in turn results in higher gains in student learning.


#3: Reflecting on Teaching


Domain three consists of five elements in the categories of evaluating personal performance and a professional growth plan.

This domain is about the ability of teachers to be aware of their instructional practices. They must then be able to translate this awareness into a concrete plan for growth that shifts in response to students’ needs.


#4: Collegiality and Professionalism


Domain four isn’t directly related to classroom strategies and behaviors, but it facilitates the ideal environment for the effective implementation of the other domains.

Its six elements stem from promoting a positive environment, the exchange of ideas, and district and school development. 

The domain of collegiality and professionalism should apply to the school as a whole as well as to individual teachers and administrators.


What Are the 9 Marzano Instructional Strategies?


Dr. Marzano believes that effective instruction is critical to student learning; he developed these nine strategies that allow students to achieve at higher levels.

  1. Identifying similarities and differences: Students can more readily understand complex problems when they can break down concepts into similar and different characteristics.
  2. Summarizing and note taking: When students are asked to put ideas in their own words and determine the most essential parts, they are better able to understand.
  3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition: Teachers can help their students see the relationship between effort, what they achieve, and how they are recognized for it.
  4. Homework and practice: Since practice supports learning, homework should be intentional and result in a specific outcome, rather than being “work for work’s sake.
  5. Nonlinguistic representations: Concepts and vocabulary should be reinforced through visuals, images, dramatic enactments, and pictographs. 
  6. Cooperative learning: Students’ learning can be enhanced when they work together collaboratively in groups.
  7. Setting objectives and providing feedback: Help students to set goals for their learning, and be ready to adapt them along the way. Positive feedback will guide learners in the right direction.
  8. Generating and testing hypotheses: Using a general rule to make a prediction, have students test their theories and explain the outcomes.
  9. Questions, cues, and advance organizers: These help students dig into their background knowledge to organize what they already know, making sense of the information at hand and encouraging further learning.


How to Use the Marzano Teaching Framework to Conduct Teacher Observations


#1: Know the Components of Classroom Observation


Observing a teacher isn’t just popping in, watching a lesson, and then departing. It’s a layered experience that we should be thinking about before the observation even begins.

A classroom observation serves the fundamental purpose of improving student outcomes by furthering the instructional capabilities of the teacher. A classroom observation typically includes the following components: 

  1. Determine what information you need to know before the observation.
  2. Consider what you’re looking for when you observe a teacher.
  3. Evaluate the techniques the teacher uses to achieve desired outcomes.
  4. Determine what percentage of students demonstrate achievement of the goal.
  5. Watch for the teacher to adapt based on student growth.


#2: Make Sure Coaches Deeply Understand the Marzano Framework


It matters less which framework you use and more that your coaches understand it deeply. It’s difficult to collect evidence around a set of standards you just don’t comprehend.

Ideally, coaches are the experts in your district about the standards of good teaching as described by Marzano (or whichever framework you choose). For this reason, coaches also need professional learning to build their knowledge of the framework and learn how to implement it in their coaching. 

TORSH Talent supports this effort by allowing districts to create professional learning pathways for their coaches, where coaches can access rubrics and resources as well as the support of other professional learning communities within this framework.  


TORSH Talent Can Accommodate Any Instructional Frameworks—Including the Marzano Framework


The TORSH Talent system is designed to support coaching and professional learning using whichever instructional framework they use whether it is the Marzano or Danielson framework, Class System, or your own customized model.

TORSH is here to help you implement coaching that will strengthen and improve instruction, transforming your school culture and academic outcomes in the process..

TORSH Talent is a single, simple-to-use platform that supports observation, coaching, and professional learning in a robust and convenient package. If this sounds like the perfect solution for your school system, contact us today and request a demo.


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