This presentation was created during the curriculum portion of my master’s work. The purpose of this was to assume the role of an instructional coach for teachers and develop a one-hour presentation of a research-based, effective strategy described in the course texts.
Strategies for Identifying Similarities and Differences
Identifying similarities and differences requires the use of higher-order thinking. Because of this, explicit guidance is needed to improve student understanding of the problem at hand. Marzano (2001) noted that only 10% of students who engaged with a problem through a static approach were able to solve it compared to 90% of students who solved a similar problem when it was presented in story form (Marzano, 2001). It was hypothesized that explanation could be benefitted by comparative processing and that “explaining two analogous stories increased spontaneous analogical transfer” (Edwards, Williams, & Lombrozo, 2014, p. 450). The same study concluded that there was a strong relationship between comparisons and explanations to support learning. Moreover, the research suggested that a product of this process was the development of identifying patterns between each case.
Going beyond explicit teacher-directed learning, students can identify similarities and differences independently. Marzano (2001) demonstrated that both strategies can be used correctly according to the anticipated purpose. Whereas explicit guidance will generate similar results for a more specific goal that the teacher wants to achieve, independently comparing will produce divergent thinking. These different results between students can be leveraged in a variety of activities where the end goal does not rely on a single or fixed answer.
The creation of graphic representations, such as Venn diagrams, can provide structure for students. These allow students to visually organize and chunk material into categories and examine the overlap. More complex versions of these can be adopted to fit the purpose of the activity. There is some overlap between using graphic representations and classifying information.
When using metaphors and analogies, students benefit from being presented with specific examples. These tasks require a high level of support to take general ideas and convert them into more abstract comparisons. Marzano (2001) referred to these as “relationships between relationships” and that these were complex tasks. While students can benefit from practicing with analogies and metaphors directed by the teacher, once a familiarity with the process has been established, more student-directed tasks will require them to fill in more information based on what they know, thus building critical skills for synthesizing information in more abstract ways.
Summarizing and Note-taking
Summarization is a natural process that occurs when one engages with material (Marzano, 2001). It is most effective when analytic strategies are trained for students to investigate topics and dig deeper. This means that students should be taught critical thinking skills to analyze what they are summarizing. As Marzano (2001) noted, “…strategies that emphasize the analytic aspect of summarizing, produce the most powerful effects in terms of students’ ability to summarize” (p. 32). For students to effectively analyze, and therefore summarize, they must be able to understand the structure of the information being presented to them. The organizational structure is typically related to the intent or purpose for its selected delivery format.
Once those pieces have been established and trained, students will engage in three core processes for summarization. These are keeping, deleting, and substituting information. They will keep the most relevant content to the central ideas while also removing unnecessary information beyond its scope. A part of making it their own is substituting terms. Through substitution, students make the ideas more their own and can choose more general or more specific language. One can see this play out in the “rule-based” strategy outlined on the next slide.
Overall, it is important to emphasize that these processes, while naturally occurring to some degree, require teacher scaffolding to be most effective. Modeling for students and providing examples can greatly shape the effectiveness of the following strategies.
As previously mentioned, the “rule-based” strategy closely follows the summarization process. It focuses on removing repetitive or redundant information while also providing ways for students to substitute terminology (Marzano, 2001).
Summary frames are another way for students to frame central ideas and information. Questions are posed that help students frame the intent. Narrative focuses on elements that are central to a story, such as plot, setting, and characters. These help students dive deeper into understanding works of literature or film. Topic-restriction-illustration tackles “what” and “how” questions to guide the narrowing of information before providing examples. Definition frames expand one central idea into subordinate components (Marzano, 2001). This strategy, like previous ones encourages the answer to “what” questions. These help break an idea apart for a fuller understanding of its interworkings. Argumentation sets students into the role of being a lawyer or detective. Through argumentation, students learn valuable critical thinking skills to support claims with evidence while also uncovering counter arguments. This is of the utmost importance when considering digital citizenship skills built around civic engagement. It teaches students to dig deeper into information to expose fallacies, something relevant to engaging with news and social media posts. The problem/solution frame necessitates that students identify a problem. Solutions can only be entertained once a problem has been brought to light. Several solutions are proposed, and then students must determine which solution has the best outcome given the facts presented. Finally, the conversation frame breaks apart dialogue into nuances such as assertions, requests, demands, promises, threats, or congratulations (Marzano (2001). Clearly, Marzano’s presented examples are only a short snippet of more complex facets to interpersonal communications but provide a starting point for students to analyze context.
Reciprocal teaching relies on student leaders driving the conversation surrounding a topic. The leader will summarize the main ideas and then pose questions to the class meant to stimulate thought surrounding important information. The clarification stage allows the leader to bring up areas of confusion and dialogue with others. Once these three steps are complete, the class predicts what will happen next based upon their understanding of information as it was presented.
While the “rule-based” strategy and summary frames tend to be more teacher-directed, reciprocal teaching places emphasis on student participation in their own learning as they seek to teach each other and tease out ideas.
Marzano (2001) proposed several strategies for note-taking and highlighted studies that show a deficit in students’ use of notes and their understanding of the process of taking notes itself. Teachers need to intentionally teach note-taking strategies to students without assuming students already have these skills. Particularly detrimental to students’ abilities to synthesize information is the practice of taking notes verbatim. On the flip side, notes that are too brief are also a problem. Students should be detailed and take detailed notes that will be further developed after the fact. These notes act as a study guide for tests and are an important step for students to not only retain the information but to engage with it in meaningful ways that help further the understanding of the subject matter.
The most basic of these are teacher notes that outline exactly what the teacher deems important. Other strategies that place more responsibility on the student are informal outlines, webbing, or a combination of the two. Some of these can be scaffolded by including some key information and requiring students to fill in the gaps.
Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
Importance of Effort
It is important for teachers to explicitly teach the importance of effort and its effects correlating with achievement to students. However, simply talking about effort and its effects is not a sure strategy to reach all students. For some students, it is important to show them through various strategic activities that effort can have a positive effect on student achievement. Marzano (2001) suggested that teachers provide students with rubrics to gauge both the effort on a task and mastery over the task. Student review and reflection of their self-graded criteria over time helps them to visibly see the correlation between their effort and their achievement.
Strategies for Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
Marzano (2001) noted several important points backed by research. The first of these is that a myth persists that providing recognition has a negative impact on intrinsic motivation. Perhaps meaningless praise is detrimental. One should not praise trivial tasks but rather focus on emphasizing student feats as they tackle more challenging tasks, highlighting the visible effort towards each student’s potential. Also, rather than haphazardly heaping on praise, it should be specific to completed tasks that are tied to meeting a standard of performance. The praise must feel earned and deserved for a student to experience larger positive effects on learning. In terms of preserving intrinsic motivation, verbal praise is more powerful than tangible rewards. Marzano (2001) also exemplified how little many teachers actually engage in these practices. In general, students would benefit from more opportunities to receive deserved recognition, which is distinguished from praise and rewards.
To be effective, teachers should personalize student recognition to reflect the gains individual students have made. One effective strategy to offer meaningful recognition is “pause, promt, praise” (Marzano, 2001, pp. 58-59). This strategy allows teachers to stop a student when mistakes are being made, offer recourse, and then praise a student for meeting the goals. In this way, the process itself is important. Students are recognized for changing their approach and having success, ultimately reinforcing student flexibility in problem solving. Effective recognition could also give more concrete tokens to reward students for their achievements as a result of their effort. These tangibles must be tied directly to the successful completion of goals and standards.
Homework and Practice
How much homework should be assigned?
The amount of homework that should be assigned varies greatly by age-level and subject matter. Studies have shown that high school students benefit the most from homework assignments, but that does not mean that elementary students see no benefits. Cooper (as cited in Marzano, 2001) demonstrated that the effect sizes are marginal at best for elementary school achievement. However, homework at lower age ranges does offer the chance to practice repetitive skills. At its core, students benefit from forming good study habits, establishing a ground floor and stamina for students to continue learning outside of school. Ultimately, when used effectively, students would ideally see the benefits of continuing learning on their own.
It is also important for teachers to ensure that the amount of homework assigned is appropriate for one’s developmental level and socioemotional needs. Assigning hours of work for younger students could be detrimental and counterproductive while assigning virtually no homework at the high school level could disservice students who require the additional practice to master skills and concepts. Striking a right balance becomes a critical component of effectively implementing homework as an instructional strategy.
Purpose and Implementation of Homework
A triad exists for roles and responsibilities regarding a student’s learning. The school forms one leg of the tripod while the parent and student form the other two legs.
The school’s role is to help facilitate the student’s learning, making accommodations when necessary to make the content accessible. One way a teacher can remove barriers is to have strong communication procedures with parents. Teachers should always communicate policies at the start of the course to establish or reinforce expectations. Students should complete work to the best of their abilities and seek help from their teachers to deepen understanding.
Parents need to stay on top of their child’s study habits but not to the extent that they are taking over the assignments or completing them for the student. Homework acts as additional practice for students, and it is their responsibility to complete it with only minimal help from parents. Parents can help facilitate the completion of homework and should avoid significant intervening, as this can actually have negative effects on student learning (Marzano, 2001).
For students to be successful, they must understand the purpose of the assignment. It must be explained to a level that students are able to independently complete the work based on the guidance provided. It is also important that homework is designed to either offer additional skill practice for retention, speed, or accuracy, or that the homework functions as a preparatory tool for the following class period. For this purpose, it is not advisable to base skill practice around concepts that students have not already sufficiently practiced or been introduced to in class. To achieve mastery, students should engage in focused practice; this centers on repetition of the action to master with the gains in growth shrinking with each successive practice. Students gain familiarity with the skills or concepts with repeated exposure and interaction with the ideas. They should also be able to adapt their skill set depending on the specific situation.
Homework can also have a greater effect on student achievement when personalized and meaningful feedback is provided on every assignment. Marzano (2001) discussed the challenges of providing feedback for every assignment but nonetheless highlighted the importance of commenting on homework assignments as often as it is feasible. In short summary, if it is assigned as homework, it should receive a grade to have a large positive effect; this can be furthered by providing comments on the work.
When using strategies, it is important that they are not mandated as a checklist or required to be used arbitrarily in all circumstances. Each strategy has a specific purpose relative to the goals and objectives being worked towards. These outcomes should be the focus while the strategy is a support to build mastery of the content. Sound educational psychology should be at the forefront of lesson design and curricular goals; thus, backwards design is a relevant concept to consider at the beginning of the process. Teachers should ask themselves what supports are needed for each lesson, not the reverse. Similar to technology integration, instructional strategies are tools that help increase gains towards a purpose but are beneficial when used correctly. Just like an app should not be used because it is a “cool toy” that lessons can be planned around, strategies should likewise not be implemented because they are trendy or required.
Educational staff should inquire amongst themselves in collaboration whether the instructional strategies being used in each specific instance are appropriate to their purposes. It is necessary to examine how they are meeting the needs of the learners and whether a different approach might be more effective. As such, there will arise times when differentiation is needed and multiple strategies will be in use simultaneously or selectively spread out over the student population within the duration of a given lesson.
Quality Instruction With A Purpose
This presentation covered four of Marzano’s (2001) instructional strategies: identifying similarities and differences, note-taking and practice, reinforcing effort and providing recognition, and homework and practice. In order for teachers to deliver quality instruction to their students, each strategy should be used according to its purpose. Purposely limiting use of strategies to a select few or requiring an abundance of strategies to be used as a checklist can work against the benefits that arise from each strategy when used appropriately. It is important to work these strategies into curriculum rather than building the curriculum around the strategies. Each should be seen as a tool for a teacher’s “toolbox” that can be used to differentiate instruction and provide means to scaffold learning according to the principles of Universal Design for Learning. It is also relevant to consider whether students may have previously learned background knowledge surrounding these strategies and to never assume all students have been taught the same skills. For example, it might be commonly assumed that students know how to take notes when that might not be the case. Depending on the diversity of experience of each class, teachers might need to be reliant on more than one strategy to effectively reach the entire student population.
Catalina, J. (n.d.). Spark Business [Google Slides template]. SlidesCarnival. https://www.slidescarnival.com/messala-free-presentation-template/14696
Edwards, B., Williams, J., Gentner, D., & Lombrozo, T. (2014). Effects of comparison and explanation on analogical transfer. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 36. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4p29654g
Marzano, R., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (1st ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Nicoguaro. (2011, June 7). Mind map of the mind map guidelines. [Digital image]. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MindMapGuidlines.svg