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Notes from discussion leaders


What Works in Classroom Instruction
by Robert J. Marzano, et. al.

We’ve posted several resources to support our discussion of Classroom Instruction That Works. Go to the main page for this discussion to see all of the resources.

Some Notes from Our Discussion Leaders

Ann Barysh and Marsha Ratzel have volunteered to serve as co-moderators during our discussion about Classroom Instruction That Works.

Ann and Marsha have discussed each chapter in the book with each other and will offer some of their thoughts as discussion-starters as we go along. To kick things off, here is some of their “big picture” thinking about the book. These notes can help guide our discussion. They’re informal and not directive. The stream of our conversation will be up to you!

Ann writes:

My interest in this book is to engage in an exploration of lesson design that asks the basic question: “What is the overall purpose of a given lesson and how is this lesson going to move students to an end goal?” In the case of the Marzano book, the question might be: “How will the specific instructional practices that you will sculpt from this book help your students?'”

The second underlying question I find to be: What makes Marzano’s nine discrete strategies so effective? What are some of the common beliefs about learning, human nature, and the student-teacher relationship that are embedded in these nine practices?

To begin our discussion, I’d suggest that we glance through the book and share with the List our answers to these two questions:

1. What do you hope to learn from the Marzano book listserv discussion?

2. The book tells us that “an individual teacher can have a powerful effect on her students even if the school doesn’t.” In your opinion, what is the nature of this impact?

Marsha responds:

I think the overall question of “how will you….sculpt from this chapter…” is an excellent one. I hope we can use it to guide our thinking and disucssion.

Your second underlying question dissects the task at hand into finite pieces that we can handle, I think. A companion question here might also be ….”Well, you’ve seen all these strategies time and again. Why are these nine strategies preferred over another other set of nine? What makes these nine the “magic” ones that you should more seriously consider over others?”

I think one of main points of the book is to convince teachers to become more “scientific” about our instructional practices. Marzano’s book did all the dirty work for me (from a statistical analysis viewpoint) by compiling this metaanalysis which sifted through all the strategies about which we had hard cold data. Then he used this data to pull out the best ones. By best, I mean the strategies where the empirical data shows we have the most opportunity to impact student learning across the board.

Without considering Marzano’s evidence, a person reading this book might conclude that it was a wonderful persuasive essay on these nine strategies and then go back to using their personal favorites.

By adopting a willingness to look at data-driven decision making — by looking at student work, statistical studies, testing norms etc etc etc — we can become more effective in delivering learning inside our classrooms. I think that’s the message in this book that’s most important to explore.

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