Marzano’s top ten

citw-2nd editionThis table of the top ten methods comes from the major meta-study of hundreds of classroom experiments done in Colorado USA, published as :  Classroom Instruction that Works.  Marzano, R et al (2001)

The second edition, edited by Ceri Dean, is available here

Top ten methods:  Brief description*

1 Similes and analogies This method comes in several parts:

  • using similes, analogies, models etc in your teaching to link the new knowledge to things the students already know about.
  • getting your students to identify similarities and differences between ideas which they can easily muddle up.

Similes and analogies can also be used as an active learning method if students create them themselves.

2 Note-making and summarizing This is a process by which your students discover the big picture, the main points from their learning.  Examples:

  • •       Doing a précis.
  • •       Students make notes after you talk, or have watched a video.
  • •       Making a mindmap at the end of a topic

Notes made by the learner are more effective that copied notes, books etc.

3 Reinforcing effort Also known as Attribution Training (to what do they attribute the results of their learning?) and creating a Growth Mindset.

Learners who attribute their performance to things they cannot change (natural ability, quality of teaching etc) do significantly worse that those who attribute it to their effort.

  • •       Use language with students which recognises effort, not ability.
4 Repetition Staged repetition: The brain needs repetitions to secure memories.

  • •       Will you have to change the way you teach your topic to build in the staged repeats needed for good memories?
5 Graphical methods This means using any method other than spoken or written words.  Visual methods are especially effective.  For maximum effect, students should generate their own graphics.

  • •       Pictures, diagrams, mind-maps, graphical organiser etc
6 Cooperative learning This covers a wide variety of ways that students can work together.  Successful methods are usually group ways of using other evidence-based methods such as hypothesis testing, graphic organisers etc.  To get the high effect size individuals must be held accountable for their learning.
7 Goals and feedback Setting goals and objectives helps the learner see where they are going.Providing feedback shows them how far they are on this learning journey. Assessment for Learning (AfL) is an example of this.

Summative assessment: a test or task which is marked by the teacher and the student receives a numerical mark, grade etc

Formative assessment: feedback given to a student which increases their learning.

Research shows that summative tests have an overall slight negative effect on learning and should be used as little as possible.  Formative Assessment is a highly effective learning device which can take a huge variety of forms.

  • •       Peer and self-assessment.  Learners mark/assess themselves or other learners.
  • •       Formative comments. Verbal or written.  (e.g. “three stars and a wish”)
  • •       Card sorting.
  • •       Assertive questioning
8 Hypothesis testing A “hypothesis” is an unproven explanation, the first step to developing a “theory”.  This approach covers active learning methods where students grapple with a problem.

  • •       Modern history:  “Why did we invade Iraq?”
  • •       Building:  “Why don’t we have the bedrooms downstairs?
  • •       Fitness: “What sort of training routine would suit someone with high blood pressure?”
  • •       Teaching: “Why are evidence based methods not taught in PGCE courses?”
9 Activating prior knowledge Students need to be able to link their new learning to something they already know.  We need to assess the current level of knowledge and build on it. The old learning needs to be “activated” by bringing it to mind. Nothing new can be learned (other than by rote) unless it is linked to existing concrete knowledge.
10 Advance organisers These show the student what will be covered in the session (or course) and should be referred to during the course. This helps make the links between the detail and the big picture.

They work better if presented graphically, either with words or, preferably, pictures. Mind-mapping is a variation.

* For full description see (for instance) Geoff Petty’s “Evidence Based Teaching” or Marzano’s “Classroom Instruction that Works“.

Top ten methods:  Extended list of methods

1 Similes and analogies
  • Similes,
  • Analogies,
  • Metaphors,
  • Classifying
  • Models
  •  Identifying Similarities and Differences
2 Note-making and summarizing
  • Doing a précis.
  • They make notes as you talk, or as they watch a video.
  • Making a mindmap at the end of a topic
  • Identify the main points at the end of a lesson
3 Reinforcing effort
  • Comment on the time spent
  • Comment on the number of sources used
4 Repetition
  • Recap quiz
  • Assertive questioning
  • Repeating exercises as homework
5 Graphical methods
  •  Pictures,
  • Diagrams,
  • Mind-maps,
  • Graphical organiser etc
6 Cooperative learning 
  • Discuss a question in pairs before answering.
  • Work together to make a presentation.
  • Initially, students work on their own, then come together as a group and agree a shared answer.
  • Work together on a practical task to achieve an objective, solve a problem etc

Note: Individual students, not just the group, need to be held to account for their own learning

7 Goals and feedback
  • Set challenging goals at the start of a lesson or unit
  • Peer assessment or tutoring
  • Self-assessment.
  • Formative comments. Verbal or written.
  • Card sorting (Manipulatives)
  • Assertive questioning
8 Hypothesis testing
  • Devise and test an idea or explanation practically
  • Use historical sources or literature search to test
  • Devise “What if….” questions
9 Activating prior knowledge
  •  Link their new learning to something they already know
  • Assess the current level of knowledge and fill any gaps
  • Recap the last lesson or topic so far
  • The old learning needs to be “activated” by bringing it to mind.
10 Advance organisers
  • Make the links between the detail and the big picture.
  • Use diagram, list or table to link this lesson to the whole topic