The Highly Engaged Classroom (Classroom Strategies Series)



The Highly Engaged Classroom/The Classroom Strategies Series
By Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering with Tammy Heflebower
(Marzano Research Laboratory, 2010 – Learn more)

englebretson highly engagedReviewed by Jeremy Engebretson

Currently there is a clear focus on finding ways to motivate students and hold the attention of all learners in a classroom. The Highly Engaged Classroom by Robert Marzano and Debra J. Pickering doesn’t disappoint!

Having read and used other books and articles by Marzano, I was drawn to this recent addition to the Classroom Strategies series. It includes the appropriate amount of theory and research to support the varied practical classroom ideas offered throughout the majority of the book. In the first section, the authors present clear research that builds a foundation for the strategies they then propose to motivate and engage learners.

highly-engaged-classroom embretsonThe book is organized around four guiding questions related to students’ frame of mind:

• How do I feel?
• Am I interested?
• Is this important?
• Can I do this?

This creates a clear structure for teachers to find the specific goal areas they may need to focus on to engage the learners in their classroom.

Covering the Spectrum from Newbies to Vets

The strategies would clearly be beneficial for newer teachers. Once a teacher completes a few years in the classroom, they are able to focus on honing their craft and they often look for strategies such as these.  Experienced teachers would also benefit from a review of structures that they may already have in place but would like to refine. Veterans may also find fresh ideas that they have not tried. It might be a small change from something they currently use: instead of a generic debate, stage a town hall meeting where students are able to examine an authentic issue from multiple perspectives.

Each big idea presented in the book includes vignettes of teachers using the strategy so the reader can envision how it might be used in their own classroom. Several of the strategies also include a list of resources that can be helpful in implementation (including websites and books). Each strategy has an exercise that allows the reader to reflect on the key concepts, and each chapter ends with a self-assessment to pinpoint the areas of focus within each strategy. This could be very beneficial in setting goals and planning instruction.

Going Well Beyond the Expected

Several of the book’s ideas include resources unlike ones you might find in other professional literature. For example, lists of quotes organized around topics and intended to promote self-efficacy is something that many teachers would spend a lot of time compiling, and with this book the work is done for you.

The book wraps up with clear examples of organizing the strategies for day-to-day instruction. It’s the sort of thing that many professional books leave out: how to implement this in a real classroom. Within this final portion of the book, I was pleased to see inclusion of other current research around the fixed and growth mindset. It’s a brief introduction to whet your appetite about an intriguing topic.*

Looking at The Highly Engaged Classroom through the lens of 16 years of experience allows me to recognize many strategies that I’ve developed over these years. I can only imagine how much sooner I might have engaged learners had I read this book earlier in my teaching career.

*The growth mindset states that any individual is able to get smarter by working harder. It emphasizes effort over innate talent. The fixed mindset states that everyone is born with a certain amount of intelligence, and an individual cannot change that intelligence, no matter what. The differences between the theories are important because they affect how students approach challenging or difficult tasks. (Marzano Research Laboratory)

Jeremy Engebretson has been a classroom teacher for 16 years, teaching in grades 3, 5 and 6. He is a National Board Certified teacher who earned his master’s degree in education from Hamline University. He has served as the Language Arts department chair in the Minnetonka School District where he developed K-5 essential learnings focused on the Minnesota state standards. Jeremy has recently accepted the position of teacher instructional coach and new teacher support specialist.


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