the changing environment of education, making the shift
from teaching to learning is essential. As an eighth-grade
social studies teacher concerned with ensuring student
learning in my classroom, I knew that I needed help.
Basically I wanted answers to three questions: If I
were to make a true shift from teaching to learning,
what would student learning look like? If I truly wanted
a classroom focused on student learning, how would I
effectively analyze student work to inform my practice?
And lastly, how do I design lessons that would enable
students to make meaningful connections to other subjects,
to the “real” world, and to their lives?
I was in the pursuit of answers to these questions when
I came across A Different Kind of Classroom by Robert
Marzano which was on the shelf of our middle school
professional development library. The title intrigued
me because I knew that what I wanted and needed was
different from the training I had when I was in college
twenty years ago.
book provides a framework for organizing curriculum,
instruction, and assessment. The first chapter of
the book, “Learning-Centered Instruction: An
Idea Whose Time Has Come,” establishes the need
to rethink the relationship between the teaching and
learning processes. From that point, each chapter
in the book describes a “dimension,” the
thinking involved in that particular dimension, specific
tools, classroom scenarios, and activities to facilitate
the particular thinking necessary for effective application
of the dimension featured.
Although there are five Dimensions of Learning, they
all interact and classroom instruction must promote
these five types of thinking.
One, Positive Attitudes and Perceptions about Learning,
defines two categories of attitudes and perceptions
that affect learning, the first being attitudes and
perceptions about the learning climate and the second
being the attitudes and perceptions about classroom
Dimension Two, Acquiring and Integrating Knowledge,
divides knowledge into two categories: declarative
knowledge and procedural knowledge. The distinction
between these two types of knowledge is found in the
definition of standards, what students should know
and be able to do. Declarative knowledge is the “knowing,”
and procedural knowledge is the “being able
Three, Extending and Refining Knowledge,
defines a set of eight cognitive operations that are
particularly suited for extending and refining knowledge.
They are comparing, classifying, inducing, deducing,
analyzing errors, constructing support, abstracting,
and analyzing perspectives.
Four, Using Knowledge Meaningfully, presents
five common ways we use knowledge meaningfully. These
are decision-making, investigation, experimental inquiry,
problem-solving, and invention.
Five, Productive Habits of Mind, explains
three “dispositions of mind”: self-regulated
thinking and learning, critical thinking and learning,
and creative thinking and learning. It was through
the study of this research-based framework that I
was able to answer my three initial questions. Because
the framework defines specific steps for the teaching
of thinking processes, I was able to identify student
learning. Through the suggested activities in the
book, student thinking became visible. Now I could
look at student work and see patterns and misconceptions.
It was through classroom use of the thinking processes
that the connections I had previously wanted to make
began to emerge.
191 pages ;
Dimensions (in inches): 0.61 x 9.00
x 6.07 Publisher: Association for
Supervision & Curriculum Development;
(June 1992) ISBN: 0871201925
year, I accepted a curriculum position, and I encourage
the teachers with whom I work to involve Dimensions
of Learning in their classrooms. The Dimensions of
Learning program has a variety of components including
a trainer’s manual and a teacher’s manual.
Currently, I am working with groups of teachers in
study teams to learn the dimensions, apply them in
the classroom, and share classroom experiences with
the use of the dimensions. We are working together
to make student learning the focus of our classrooms
Karen Boylan is the Curriuculum Director
for the Highland Local School District