Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Classroom Instruction that Works

Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement- 2nd Edition by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Howard Pitler, and Bj Stone uses McREL research on effective instruction. Marzano's Art and Science of Teaching as well as his first edition of  the above mentioned text used the previous study by his organization. Each chapter of the book begins with a description of the research that supports the strategy use and how it was evaluated differently between the 1998 and 2010 data. This part of the chapter may be tedious for some to read, and could, probably be skipped. If, however, you are asked to provide documentation for evidence based practice, this section will provide it.

Because the book densely describes the 9 categories of instruction that are proven to be highly effective, it is more like an encyclopedia than a book to read. It is a reference for finding out how to improve an aspect of teaching or which strategy to employ. One might then want to research other sources that are dedicated to a particular strategy.  If one were using it in a PLC, picking a particular strategy and focusing on it might be the appropriate approach. The introduction and chapter 10 are useful for reading and shaping ideas. The chart at the very end, p. 168-70, describes types of knowledge and which strategies are appropriate for teaching them. This chart could be the tool a teacher uses to determine strategies to expand or enhance teaching.

Throughout the text a variety of examples illustrate the strategies in use. These provide some of the framework, but are not frequent enough in a variety of subject areas to be easily applicable by everyone.

An area that struck home for me was in the chapter on Cues, Questions and Advanced Organizers. Questions are one of the most often used instructional strategies. The authors cite research supporting the use of questions with students with language difficulties. In my experience, most of my LD and speech students have difficulty with language, so too would English language learners. The authors describe four levels of questions that should be used progressively.
  1. Require students to name objects, events, topics, or concepts- assists with leaning the words
  2. Focus on the organization and classification of the vocabulary- assists with memory
  3. Focus on higher-order reasoning- assists with reorganizing, linking and elaborating on ideas
  4. Abstract questions that ask for reflection, restructuring, and advancing perceptions- assists with verbal reasoning.                                                                                          p. 52
From a numbers stand point I think of asking 5 level one, 3 level 2, 2 level 4 and 1 level 5. That way you can verify that students have the information with which to think about. Using this approach acknowledges that we need to start with basic questions and then increasingly have students do stuff with that knowledge. It facilitates memory, another area where students I work with frequently struggle. It also assists with verbal reasoning, an important step if we want our students to be able to reason in writing. Using such a framework, therefore, is consistent with the goals of the Common Core State Standards.

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