Archived Information

Tried and True: September 1997--The information in this publication was current as of September 1997, and has not been updated since. Some services described in the publication may no longer be available.
[Teacher Professional Development]

Dimensions of Learning

A Framework for Planning Instruction Based on Contsructivist Learning

Developed and tested by the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)

What is the idea behind Dimensions of Learning?

Dimensions of Learning is a learning-centered framework for instructional planning that translates the latest research on cognition and learning into practical classroom strategies. The framework serves at least three major purposes. First, it provides a framework for organizing, describing, and developing research-based teaching strategies that engage students in the types of thinking involved in meaningful learning. Second, it offers a way of integrating the major instructional models by showing how they are connected and where the overlaps occur. And, perhaps most important, it provides a process for planning and delivering curriculum and instruction that integrates much of the research on effective teaching and learning.

The Dimensions of Learning model assumes that five aspects of learning should be considered when making decisions about curriculum, instruction, and assessment:

Dimension 1:Positive Attitudes and Perceptions About Learning
Dimension 2:Acquiring and Integrating Knowledge
Dimension 3:Extending and Refining Knowledge
Dimension 4:Using Knowledge Meaningfully
Dimension 5:Productive Habits of the Mind

What does research say about how this idea can help teaching and learning?

Dimensions of Learning is a direct descendent of the comprehensive research-based framework on cognition and learning described in the 1988 book entitled Dimensions of Thinking. The research and theory explicated in this book says teachers can improve the quality of teaching and learning in any content area using the six basic assumptions that are implicit in the Dimensions of Learning model.

These six basic assumptions are

How was program tested?

Willow Creek Elementary School in Englewood, Colorado, under the leadership of principal Deena Tarleton, agreed to developmental testing of the Dimensions of Learning framework and strategies. After this first year of testing in a single school, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and McREL cosponsored a Dimensions of Learning Research and Development Consortium composed of nearly 90 members representing various schools, districts, institutions of higher education, and state departments of education across the United States and Mexico. During 1989 and 1990, consortium members learned the Dimensions of Learning strategies, field tested them in classrooms, reported results, and suggested revisions to the team of authors.

During 1990 and 1991, consortium members continued to use the Dimensions of Learning strategies and met in subgroups to assist the author team with the final development of training materials by responding to proposed text, developing examples, writing vignettes, and suggesting various revisions. Dimensions of Learning is undoubtedly stronger and more "classroom friendly" because of this intensive work with the many talented educators involved in the project.

What communities and states are using this program?

Dimensions of Learning is used in 40 states and several European and Asian countries. It has also been translated into Spanish.

What's involved in using this program in my school and community?

It is important for a school district first to be clear about the nature of their long-term instructional improvement goals. Dimensions of Learning can be used for four purposes that represent four levels of implementation ranging from Level One, which focuses on an informational overview of the Dimensions of Learning framework, to Level Four, which encompasses using the program as a restructuring vehicle for systemwide change in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Training can be conducted by a McREL trainer or by a trainer within the district. Dimensions of Learning training materials are available through the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Costs associated with implementing this program vary, depending on the components of the program being used.


Robert Marzano
2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500
Aurora, CO 80014-1678
Phone: (303) 743-5534
Fax: (303) 337-3005

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