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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who is Marzano, and Why is He In Our Schools?

I saw a blog article recently that made this claim: “Robert Marzano shows schools how to implement common core. If schools are using any Marzano programs they are using Common Core instruction materials.” I think it is important that Texans understand who Marzano is and why successful schools implement his research findings.

Robert Marzano wrote a book in 2001, long before Common Core,  entitled Classroom Instruction that Works.  It is important to know that the research behind the book is not traditional original research. It is a much more powerful synthesized research called “meta-analysis.” Marzano describes meta-analysis as a summary, or synthesis, of relevant research findings. It looks at all of the individual studies done on a particular topic and summarizes them. For decades, classroom instruction has been cursed by “fads” and not scientific research. The need for meta-analysis was first addressed in the 1986 publication by the U.S. Department of Education entitled What Works: Research About Teaching and Learning (U.S. Department of Education, 1986). In a preface to that report, then President Reagan wrote, "In assembling some of the best available research for use by the American public, What Works exemplifies the type of information the Federal government can and should provide." This was the beginning of quality research for public schools and the foundation for Marzano’s research.

In Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, Robert Marzano (2001) and his colleagues identified nine instructional strategies through a meta-analysis of over 100 independent studies. They determined that these nine strategies have the greatest positive effect on student achievement for all students, in all subject areas, at all grade levels. I can’t imagine that anyone, educator or not, would be surprised to see some of these strategies. Most of them are common sense. For example, Homework and Practice has a great impact on student achievement. I think the response of most sensible people would be “duh.” But, there are bloggers who claim that using the strategies in Marzano’s research is akin to indoctrinating your children into a Marxist philosophy. When I abandon all reason, I think this claim is related to the strategy Cooperative Learning. Bloggers have associated cooperative learning with Lev Vygotsky, a Marxist who developed a learning theory commonly used in education. For more about this learning theory, please read my previous article on project based learning:

Now, let’s address the claim that anyone who uses Marzano programs are using Common Core instruction materials. It is absolutely accurate that Marzano authored a book entitled Using Common Core Standards to Enhance Classroom Instruction & Assessment. Here is a description of the book:

“Discover how to weave an in-depth understanding of the Common Core into successful classroom practice with this two-part resource. You’ll learn how to power the standards with guided assessment and measure student progress in a way that accurately reflects learning. Included are hundreds of ready-to-use, research-based proficiency scales for both English language arts and mathematics.”

This book would not be very useful in Texas. But, when you consider that 44 states have adopted common core, it would not be surprising to find a nationally renowned education author would write a book to address the common core standards. Marzano’s book is about understanding the Common Core standards and successfully meeting those standards through high quality instruction. It is not about a Common Core philosophy of instruction. There is no Common Core philosophy, because Common Core standards are just that: standards. Please read my previous article about Common Core in Texas:

I would not be surprised to find that states using Common Core are also using Marzano’s strategies any more than I would be surprised to find out that most of the people in those states brush their teeth. You see, research supports that brushing your teeth is good for them. Research also supports that using the strategies outlined by Marzano are good for classroom instruction.

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