• Dimensions of Learning

    A Framework for Planning Instruction

    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: (click on the Dimension to find more information)

    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
    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

    • Instruction must reflect the best of what we know about how learning occurs.



    • Learning involves a complex system of interactive processes that includes five types of thinkingùthe five dimensions of learning.



    • What we know about learning indicates that instruction focusing on large, interdisciplinary curricular themes is the most effective way to promote learning.



    • The K-12 curriculum should include explicit teaching of higher-level attitudes and perceptions and mental habits that facilitate learning.



    • A comprehensive approach to instruction includes at least two distinct types of instruction: one that is more teacher-directed and another that is more student-directed.



    • Assessment should focus on studentsÆ use of knowledge and complex reasoning rather than their recall of low-level information.