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Three Dimensions of Learning Part II: Core Practices in the Dimensions of Learning

The contents of this article build on the excellent work of EL Education’s Dimensions of Student Achievement and were first published by the OACS on October 5, 2015.

This article is the second of three parts. Part I defined the three dimensions of learning within the context of the Biblical story, Part II names specific core practices and data cycles that support the development of these dimensions with educators and students, and Part III will describe the dimensions in action through a case study telling the story of one specific elementary school: Halton Hills Christian School.

Part II: Core Practices in the Dimensions of Learning

How does a school deepen its capacity to support students in developing the three dimensions of learning? The dimensions are broad enough to exist within each individual school’s identity and mission, and Edvance is committed to leading and supporting schools in deepening core practices that support these dimensions.

Edvance is also committed to supporting schools in measuring their implementation of these dimensions. We want meaningful tools by which we can launch effective data cycles that clarify whether or not we are accomplishing our goals in supporting students. The data cycle indicates how leadership can name a specific focus and use data to evaluate their effectiveness in accomplishing that focus.

Embedding these practices in the culture of our classrooms and schools takes time and sustained attention through professional learning. Edvance is committed to providing a dynamic calendar of professional learning opportunities that will support these core practices. However, those province-wide learning opportunities must be supporting a professional learning plan that is owned and also implemented within the school. This learning plan needs to include time for teachers to collaborate with each other in meaningful, sustained windows of time (often referred to in literature as Professional Learning Communities—PLCs). Connect with Justin Cook at Edvance to discuss how these practices might be prioritized and supported through ongoing professional learning and collaboration.

1. Culture and Character

Core Practices

  1. Pursuing a growth mindset as students and as teachers with a belief that effort will lead to growth

  2. Creating classroom or school-wide norms for social/emotional health with students in order to clarify how people will treat each other in the school community

  3. Creating a school-wide “habits of a graduate” or “character code” that is woven into classroom learning targets and community times

  4. Empowering students to lead and speak in full school assemblies/chapels and school tours

  5. Celebrating student and teacher embodiment of the character traits the school wants to encourage

  6. Leading devotions as “morning meetings” where each child is welcomed, engaged, and has an opportunity to speak/participate

  7. Using circles with open-ended questions as check-ins and reflection to empower all learners to participate and share their social/emotional states

  8. Support students to lead their own learning in sharing with parents through student-led conferences: their growth in character, in knowledge/skills, and through producing beautiful work

Gathering Data and Supporting Growth

  1. Panorama Survey of Students and Teachers assessing social/emotional belonging and engagement

  2. Learning Walk Protocol

2. Mastery of Knowledge and Skills

Core Practices

  1. Linking mastery of knowledge and skills to engagement with beautiful work and character in authentic projects

  2. Clarifying purpose of learning through student-friendly learning goals clearly displayed and communicated

  3. Linking effective assessment—of, for, and as learning—to mastering learning goals

  4. Co-constructing with students the success criteria for accomplishing learning goals

  5. Differentiating instruction and ability groupings

  6. Creating interdisciplinary structures and opportunities—schedules, team teaching…

  7. Mapping curriculum across grades and disciplines (use of Ontario Ministry curriculum documents)

  8. Using learning protocols to engage all learners and use time effectively

Gathering Data and Supporting Growth

  1. Measures of Academic Progress assessments of numeracy and literacy growth for K-8 students

  2. Ontario Ministry of Education High School Inspection Reports

  3. Curriculum Trak

  4. Learning Walk Protocol

3. Beautiful Work

Core Practices

  1. Linking beautiful work to engagement in mastery of knowledge and skills and supportive character development

  2. Planning meaningful projects—“real work that meets real needs for real people”

  3. Examining models and exemplars to understand what quality can look like in a given project

  4. Co-designing with students success criteria in rubrics or checklists to name the aspects of quality—complexity, craftsmanship, authenticity, and purpose—and to support assessment of, for, and as learning

  5. Using critique sessions with students and experts to create growth through revision and multiple drafts of work (assessment for and as learning)

  6. Planning for sharing the work with an audience who can benefit from seeing or receiving the work

  7. Incorporating community organizations and experts who understand the project and can deepen aspects of quality

  8. Celebrating both success and failure through checking in with students often throughout the project

Gathering Data and Supporting Growth

Bonus: Three Dimensions Graphics by Sean Purcell

See more of Sean’s work at


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