Thursday, June 2, 2011

Classroom Instruction That Works

In the book Classroom Instruction that Works, Robert Marzano details nine instructional strategies that correlate to increased student learning. By examining instructional practices and integrating elements of these strategies, teachers will increase the rate of student learning.

To introduce these strategies to a staff as a plan to increase student learning, it would be best to begin by examining current results and practices to determine areas of strength and weakness. Many times, the disaggregated data from state tests provide scores broken down by the various strategies being assessed, and through that analysis the staff can determine areas where improvements can be made. Next, using the research from Marzano's book and the correlated percentile increases associated with the strategies, the staff can determine which focus strategies would provide the best return on investment. Once the strategies are selected, it is important for the school leader to provide resources that the teachers can use to develop their increased use of the strategies. Resources could be protected time for PLC, learning resources, mentoring opportunities with high flyers, or physical resources to aid in the implantation such as technology tools.

Here is an analysis of the strategies and curricular areas where these strategies can address.

Similarities and Differences
This strategy includes classifying information, organizing informational into representations that make meaning, and summarizing the qualities of each as they relate to one another. This is a great strategy to use in language arts for character comparisons from literature studies or for use in science to classify traits and behaviors of mammals.

Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
This strategy includes developing ways to provide opportunities for student work to be displayed or published, thus increasing their intrinsic motivation towards quality work and effort. This trait transcends many curricular areas, but examples could include posting artwork from fine arts classes in art shows around the region or displaying as exemplar thesis paper through use of document camera for analysis of positive elements within the paper.

The use of questioning allows for the cueing and recognition of prior knowledge, and also includes graphic organizers to chunk the information for recall. Curricular areas where this can have an impact would be in social studies when discussing causes of the Civil War or through the use of Socratic questioning to lead the class towards enlightenment about a topic related to the causes of the war.

Homework is used to reinforce material learned to increase retention and transfer, and also as a means to introduce a topic that will be developed upon later. A curricular element would be in literature class when requiring reading prior to class so that the class can extend past the required reading. Math classes are also a great example, as teachers often require homework to reinforce the topics discussed during class and aid in the retention and recall of those processes.

Hypotheses involve the application of inductive and deductive reasoning. Science classes focus on hypotheses as they work with experiments in physics courses to determine outcomes and make associations. Hypotheses are also used in algebra courses to test the formulas.

Nonlinguistic Representation
Nonlinguistic Representations provide a framework for organizing or interpreting information in diverse ways, either from physical representations such as models or multimedia resources such as video clips or clip art. This strategy can also be integrated into multiple curricular areas, such as journalism class where students create graphics to associate with their presentations, or in science class when multimedia clips are presented to provide contextual understanding prior to developing a topic such as adaptations of animals in the Taiga biome.

Setting Objectives
Objectives are possibly the most fundamental strategy, as it provides the foundational understanding for the entire lesson. This sets the goals for the lesson and focuses the feedback towards specific direction. Objectives should be used in every lesson so that students know the target for learning, and the feedback can direct the students and keep them on target. Objectives should be specific enough to focus the learning, but also allow for differentiation of product or process based upon student readiness.

Summarizing is a skill where students take the information presented and chunk it into meaningful portions that can be detailed back to the teacher or class. Summarizing is an important skill in language arts classes when taking a selection of reading and condensing it for main ideas. Summarizing is also evident in Social studies classes when students present in class on topics related to the culture of ancient Egypt.

Cooperative Learning
This strategy employs the use of grouping to provide multiple influences and interpretations on a topic through the type of grouping, whether formal, informal, or base grouping. Groups are important in language arts/reading classes, as students of similar abilities can read in a group and synthesize the material on a similar reading level. those same students can also be grouped in multiple-ability groups so that students can experience and extend their understandings of the selections from a different point of view and interpretation.

Several of these strategies can be implemented within instructional practice to increase student learning. Professional development opportunities that seek to increase the utilization of these strategies should focus on professional learning communities, where teachers can use Marzano's book with a book study and share best practices with these strategies to provide resource to one another as they work to implement these strategies into their professional practice.

I have personally also developed professional learning opportunities associated to the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Howard Pitler. This book follows Marzano's nine strategies and describe how to use 21st century tools within those strategies. I provide the training as a summer course, where teachers can self-select the course, which already tells me that the teacher is both motivated to incorporate technology into instruction and willing to evaluate and improve their instructional practice through focusing on high impact strategies for student learning. The strategies are described individually with resources that compliment those strategies being detailed. Teachers also offer their own practices to share with the group. At the conclusion of the course, teachers will know about the strategies, understand how to integrate technology tools for addressing those strategies, and contribute a successful integration during the following school year.

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