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Course Strands and Dimensions of Learning


Means of interpreting and assessing student achievement will involve Course Strands and Dimensions of Learning.


Course Strands

communication, research/content, technology, and collaboration - and scales which describe activities we typically see as stages researchers move through in their development as readers, writers, and users of technology.


Five Dimensions of Learning

Confidence and Independence
Confidence and independence in your own reading, writing, and thinking abilities.
We see growth and development when learners' confidence and independence become coordinated with their actual abilities and skills, content knowledge, use of experience, and reflectiveness about their own learning. The overconfident student learns to ask for help when facing an obstacle; the shy student begins to trust her own abilities and begins to work alone at times, or to insist on presenting her own point of view in discussion. In both cases, students develop along the dimension of confidence and independence.

Skills and Strategies
Specific skills and strategies involved in composing and communicating effectively, from concept to organization to polishing grammar and correctness, and including technological skills for computer communication and adherence to APA style. Skills and strategies represent the "know-how" aspect of learning. When we speak of "performance" or "mastery," we generally mean that learners have developed skills and strategies to function successfully in certain situations. In this course, it will be communicating as classroom researchers using available resources-databases, experts in the field, other colleagues and researchers and effectively communicating to an audience of other educators. Some may opt to publish their research in academic journals.

Knowledge and Understanding
Knowledge and understanding refers to the "content" knowledge gained about new technologies, rhetoric, research methods, the topics you write about, the methods of organizing and presenting your ideas to others, and so on. Knowledge and understanding is the most familiar dimension, focusing on the "know-what" aspect of learning. What is a research question that is meaningful to me? What is my role, purpose, intention, and design of my research inquiry? How well do I research about my interest

Use of Prior and Emerging Experience
The use of prior and emerging experience involves the ability to draw on your own experience and connect it to your work. A crucial but often unrecognized dimension of learning is the ability to make use of prior experience as well as emerging experience in new situations. It is necessary to observe learners over a period of time while they engage in a variety of activities in order to account for the development of this important capability, which is at the heart of creative thinking and its application. In focusing, reflecting and designing our own research proposal and agenda, our prior experience might be tapped to help scaffold new understandings, or consider how ongoing experience shapes the content knowledge or skills and strategies we are developing.

Critical Reflection
Reflection refers to your developing awareness of our own learning process, as well as more analytical approaches to reading, writing, and communication. When we speak of reflection as a crucial component of learning, we are not using the term in its commonsense meaning of reverie or abstract introspection. We are referring to the development of your ability to step back and consider a situation critically and analytically, with growing insight into your own learning processes, a kind of metacognition. Researchers need to develop this capability in order to use what they are learning in other contexts, to make connections, to recognize the limitations or obstacles confronting them in a given situation, to take advantage of their prior knowledge and experience, and to strengthen their own performance.

It is important that you are made aware of the course strands and the five dimensions of learning. This evaluative process provides a framework with which you can see and evaluate your own growth. As researchers, you are measuring your own learning given the strands and dimensions, considering them in relation to your prior learning.



Frances Vitali- October 2006


Midterm Summary

I have approached this inquiry research seminar course with participants and instructor equally engaged as colleagues in academic pursuit of extending our professional selves and learning through communication, research, technology, and collaboration. The emphasis is on how we communicate identified areas of interest through the work we do with our students in and outside of our classroom settings; what research (literary & people) informs our practice; how we are using technology to our benefit; and how we collaborate with others in a supportive network through writing groups, school support teams, and other nurturing venues?

In developing our questions, the syllabus is designed to gradually lead us through text and journal readings to understand the practitioner research framework guiding each colleague to owning a meaningful question to systematically research following a design, data collection, results, analysis, interpretation and reflection as a formal proposal. Journal Reflections help colleagues uncover the obvious direction of their thinking toward recognizing their research question. Response Papers is a research technique to help synthesize and reflect about pertinent information concerning a topic. As the culminating year of their masters level work, the learning roles are now returned to them, so to speak, for each colleague will share as research practitioners what matters to her as an educator; what she know about her topic; how she will design a plan to carefully explore this window of discovery with her students; and articulate her proposal and eventually her research story to her research community. We are not there yet but the stage has been set, I believe, for each colleague is progressing according to schedule.

As the instructor of this course for the first time, I have relied on the former instructor, Vicki Holmsten, to guide my planning. My role is a coach who is beginning to know her team players, and who can individually and effectively inspire them from the sidelines as they gain more confidence in their question, the research process and themselves. The midterm preview panel Oct. 9 is meant to be stop along the way to share their research questions with a selected research community - to try it on for size to see where it needs to be tailored for the final fit-before they committing themselves to their question proceeding with the research process.

My goal is that each colleague is recognizing their competence in each of the five dimensions of learning and to extend their own learning experience and expectations beyond what do you want me to do in this course to get a good grade to owning their own learning with confidence and ownership to this is what is important to me and I am exploring it in these ways. This deep level of inquiry will extend to continuing the quality and insight within their respective learning settings at school.

I honor, recognize and celebrate the five dimensions of learning:

  • confidence and independence
  • knowledge and understanding
  • skills and strategies
  • use of prior and emerging experience
  • reflectiveness (critical awareness)

that each colleague owns, shares and builds upon as their intellectual history. This is what they will draw from and upon in their practitioner research process.


Midterm evaluation

  • As a colleague, I will continue to pass on pertinent information I find about their respective topics.
  • I will be less visible in the process now as colleagues begin to rely on themselves and their writing groups, which will take on greater involvement now. It is not so important what I think but how they share and process with each other –support and collaboration becomes an integral part of practitioner research.
  • I will continue to take my leads from my colleagues in adjusting how we proceed and hope they will feel comfortable to communicate and articulate their needs in professional and caring dialogue and conversation.


This midterm and final summary/evaluation form is based on the Learning Record Online (LRO) for college level developed by   M.A.  Syverson at the CWRL of the University of Texas at Austin available at