What Works–Weekend Reading of Robert J. Marzano

About six months ago I posted about my weekend reading of William Glasser’s Schools Without Failure and The Quality School. To follow it up I’ve spent time reading through the work of Robert J. Marzano.

Marzano has published a number of titles in a series of “…That Works” meta-analyses of the existing research into the effectiveness of methods and interventions within a number of education topics. So far I’ve gone hands on with Classroom Instruction That Works, Classroom Management That Works, Classroom Assessment and Grading That Work, and School Leadership That Works. As part of my experimentation with standards-based grading I have also read Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Learning which is part of a more in-depth “Classroom Strategies That Work” series.

One powerful combination is Classroom Instruction That Works and the accompanying Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works. Classroom Instruction That Works sets out the evidence behind each of the nine categories of instructional strategies that Marzano identifies as being the most effective. The handbook provides a more detailed look at the application of Marzano’s nine categories. It also includes many worksheets, rubrics, and questions for reflection and self-assessments that are meant to guide you toward effective use of specific strategies within the nine categories. It is a great tool for the reflective educator.

There is nothing especially moving about Marzano. Glasser is deeply philosophical and his work reads like an urgent call to action. Marzano simply presents facts; the best evidence to date. It does not start a fire in the heart, but it does make a good basis for reflection. Am I doing what the research says will have the greatest impact for my students? Really that is the essential question we face as educators. It is our job to continually evaluate our effect on student learning, and make necessary adjustments. Marzano identifies for us a set of teachers’ tools that are typically effective. The trap I can imagine some educators falling into, however, is taking Marzano’s nine to be the only instructional strategies worth using.

The struggle I have, and this is something I want to work hard on over the summer, is identifying when to use what strategies. When is it important to identify similarities and differences? When should I use non-linguistic representations, and how do I make them most effective? What’s the best time and method to have students generate and test hypotheses in math? These are questions I want to take time to address as I methodically pick apart the standards I want to address with my students for the coming school year.

Marzano was, overall, a good read. It’s nice to know that some of my current practices are supported by the research, such as my foray into standards-based grading and my sustained use of formative assessments. Now I have just a few titles left on my reading list, including John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers and a neat cognitive science book called Why Don’t Students Like School.

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