Here begins a series of blog articles that summarize, chapter by chapter, Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement by Robert Marzano, et al.

My intention in embarking on this project is to more fully digest the book, examine how I might be able to apply the findings of the research that Marzano brings to us.

There are many strategies mentioned; their placement in this book are based on many, many research studies. Sometimes we read articles and studies that come across as merely one person’s opinion (or the opinion of a small group). I find much more credibility in this book, since it is was is called a “meta-study,” a study of studies. In the book, we are given “Generalities” for each strategy (or category of strategies, as sometimes is more appropriately labeled, since there are so many different ways to apply the given strategy. We are also given “Classroom Applications.” These I won’t spend a lot of time on, but I will definitely outline the Generalities here.

Sometimes, there is a useful list, a lesson plan, a template, or some other such document that is part of the book. In these cases, I will endeavor to re-create those documents in a way that I plan to use them. Then, I will allow you to simply click on some text within these blog articles to download the document.

Thus, here begins my notes on the first chapter…..

Research in Education is New! Lots of recent research

A tremendous amount of research has been done in the last 10 years on effective classroom instruction. Practically no research was done before 1970. We are in a new era in education; we can actually point to certain strategies or classroom practices and say with certainty – this works! That is, we can be confident that it will enhance student achievement. Hence the title of the book.

Some have looked at differences in student achievement and blown off the data, citing unchangeable (by schools, anyway) factors such as students’ natural ability/aptitude, socioeconomic status, and home environment.

Rigorous, legitimate studies have given us helpful, useful guidance into what works in the classroom.

Effect size

Marzano, et al, frequently refer to something called “effect size” when quantifying the effectiveness of a particular strategy. To understand this, a brief discussion about the old “bell-shaped curve” (normal distribution) is necessary. There are three standard deviations above the mean, and three below. When the given strategy is shown to be so effective that it brings students one standard deviation up, the effect size is said to be 1.00.

Marzano, et al, frequently refer to something called “effect size” when quantifying the effectiveness of a particular strategy. To understand this, a brief discussion about the old “bell-shaped curve” (normal distribution) is necessary. There are three standard deviations above the mean, and three below. When the given strategy is shown to be so effective that it brings students one standard deviation up, the effect size is said to be 1.00.

These scores can be translated into “percentile gain,” as well. Here’s how this works:

Since we know that 34% of student scores fall between the mean and the first standard deviation, and 14% of the scores fall between the first and second deviation, and so on.

These are interesting and give statistical, scientific credibility to the findings presented in this book. However, for those not numbers oriented, or those not terribly interested in statistical minutiae, I will refrain from slogging through all of these numbers in this series of blog articles. I might make note of the fact that a certain strategy was much more or less effective than another.

What we don’t know yet:

I was pleased to read that the authors admitted that there are several major questions they don’t have the answer to yet. If they claimed to know everything, I would be suspicious…

-Are some instructional strategies more effective in certain subject areas?

-Are some instructional strategies more effective at certain grade levels?

-Are some instructional strategies more effective with students from different backgrounds?

-Are some instructional strategies more effective with students of different aptitude?

“[There is a] need to study the effects of instructional strategies on specific types of students in specific situations, with specific subject matters. Until we find the answers to the preceding questions, teachers should rely on their knowledge of their students, their subject matter, and their situation to identify the most appropriate instruction strategies.”