Monday, August 3, 2009

Opportunities for Learning and Change

In July I visited a friend in Boston who is in her last year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Being both the nosy type and a book lover, I did my usual routine -- I browsed her book shelf. My eyes fell upon a thin green book, The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives by Robert Marzano and John Kendall (2nd ed).

Of course, this isn't exactly bed side reading material -- but it immediately caught my interest because of my involvement with the Learning Frameworks Committee.

My friend explained that this was her professor's choice as the best update of Bloom's work. The original publication came out in 1956 and I knew that there have been many attempts to correct and revise Bloom. But given the prestige of this recommendation, I decided to spend some time with Marzano and Kendall.

To make a long story short, I was incredibly impressed.

And I instantly saw an application for Frameworks since I knew that Bloom was one of the theories included in the Russ Hodges material.

I make no claim to have absorbed the whole book. But just reading the first chapter (which is conveniently available in Google Books) was enough for me. Actually pages 10-12 were enough. The authors call it the Model of Behavior that undergirds the New Taxonomy.

I can't say for sure why it resonated so perfectly for me. It's probably because of the way that it brings motivation and metacognition into the forefront. Learning and change begin with the self-system and a decision whether or not to engage. The strength of that engagement determines the extent to which a metacognitive system is employeed, and finally the cognitive system does its work. Each of the three "mental systems" works on and with the individual's store of knowledge.

I'm an intuitive so perhaps I'm making too much of a leap here. But what I saw in this was a compelling way to organize the material in the Learning Frameworks course. Begin with the self-system, then move through the other components. There's a logic to this if Marzano is correct when he says these are steps and represent "how information is processed once a decision to engage has been made. (11)

Here's what he says about the primacy of self-system thinking.

"The self-system consists of an interrelated arrangement of attitudes, beliefs, and emotions. It is the interaction of thee attitudes, beliefs, and emotions that determines both motivation and attention. The self-system determines whether an individual will engage in or disengage in a given task; it also determines how much energy the individual will bring to the task. Once the self-system has determined what will be be attended to, the functioning of all other elements of thought (i.e., the metacognitive system, the cognitive system, and the knowledge domains) are, to a certain extent, dedicated or determined. This is why the act of the self-system's selecting a task has been referred to as 'crossing the Rubicon.' " (55)

Once the Rubicon is crossed, the next system falls naturally into place. The metacognitive system is the system of goals, strategy, and self monitoring that provides the structure which enables the cognitive functions (retrieval, comprehension, analysis, and utilization) to succeed.

Knowledge is a whole other thing probably deserving it's own separate blog post. And that's convenient because I've run out of writing steam and I expect you're probably nearing your supply of reading steam as well. :)

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