Classroom Instruction that Works

Classroom Instruction that WorksI read Classroom Instruction that Works by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock for an online professional learning course, and I’m very glad I did. The book discusses research-based strategies teachers can use to increase student understanding and achievement. It fits well with Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design.

The authors’ position is that teaching is a science, although it is frequently thought of as an art. I like this position because when we think of teaching as an art, we are more likely to believe a teacher either has it or s/he doesn’t. The Faculty Room examined this question some time back, and I wish I had read this book before I posted my response to the question. I was already of the opinion that good teachers can be made, but if I had read this book, I might have had more armor for my argument.

Classroom Instruction that Works discusses nine teaching strategies:

  • Identifying similarities and differences
  • Summarizing and note-taking
  • Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
  • Homework and practice
  • Nonlinguistic representations
  • Cooperative learning
  • Setting objectives and providing feedback
  • Generating and testing hypotheses
  • Questions, cues, and advance organizers

One teaching practice I questioned as a result of reading this book is the way I check homework. Research has shown that timely feedback on homework is important; however, the way I generally check homework is through reading quizzes and notebook checks. I also need to do more direct instruction in note-taking and summarizing. UbD has been great for helping me set objectives and generate and tests hypotheses.

Many teachers reading this book will feel vindicated by the research presented, but it think it will make all of us, whether we are new teachers or seasoned veterans, look seriously at our practice.

6 thoughts on “Classroom Instruction that Works”

  1. Hey there Dana,

    Got to your blog via Clay. I'm blogging the ASCD Conference for them in a week or two–keynote is Robert Marzano. I wondered if you had a burning question you wanted me to throw at him, should I get a chance to corner him– I'm attempting to frame my posts around the questions and concerns of the edublogging community. Any thoughts?

    Many thanks,


  2. I actually really love Marzano. I've never seen him speak, like Dina will get to but all of his other books hold the same philosophy on teaching: it's an intricate process that takes time to learn how to do it well, you can do it well, and all students can learn. I especially like the standards-based grading book. Reading that one shook up my world, but for the better!

  3. I have to say that I believe good teaching is an art — but I also believe good science is an art as well. Einstein was an artist and every great teacher that I have had has been too. And I hope you won't be offended but everything that I've read on here leads me to believe that you are as well.

    I think it is possible to both design and to create — to use our imaginations and to use our knowledge of teaching. On the other hand, I believe that ideas such as "best practices" have increased the level of mediocrity in teaching. Don't get me wrong — I use many (but not all — and some I flatly reject) ideas of best practices — it is the dogma that I dislike.

    Everyone can teach — but not everyone can teach incredibly well — nor should they — because I believe that there are things that each of can do incredibly well — and those are the things we should do.

    I remember that I once flew out to California to meet with the head of a company that was putting together a website of teacher lessons. I told him that teachers were artists — and he laughed for over a minute. He couldn't believe that I was serious. But I was; I am. I cannot remember being more offended.

    We have all had those teachers that moved us like a moment in a Mozart symphony or in seeing a Van Gough painting for the first time. We shouldn't be afraid to aspire to artistry nor should we discount the ability of those teachers who try to see things or more importantly get their students to see things in a new, and lasting way.

  4. Joe, I can't be offended by being called an artist — I know you meant it as a compliment, and I take it as such. You have valid points, and thanks for taking the time to share. I'm not sure where art ends and science begins or vice versa, but I know that I began teaching because I wanted to teach. No one goes into education for the big bucks. I questioned that decision after I had been doing it for a few years because it wasn't automatic. It wasn't effortless. I had to learn. I can say now, after 10 years, that I believe myself to be a good teacher. And I am still learning how to be even better. Is that art or science? I don't know, but I do really like the idea that teaching is something you can learn how to do, that you don't have to be born to do it.

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