Dimensions of Learning is the theoretical framework used at Assisi Catholic College to understand and improve the process of learning.
Dimensions of Learning recognises that there are five key aspects to the learning process. These are represented by five Dimensions:
Positive Attitudes and Perceptions
Acquiring and Integrating Knowledge
Extending and Refining Knowledge
Using Knowledge Meaningfully
Productive Habits and Values
While these Dimensions represent separate parts of the total learning process, they work together in successful learning experiences for students. All learning takes place against the backdrop of the students’ attitudes and perceptions (Dimension 1) and their use of productive habits and values (Dimension 5). Dimensions 1 and 5 are always factors in the learning process. When positive attitudes and perceptions are in place and productive habits and values are being used, learners can more effectively do the thinking required in the other three dimensions, that is, acquiring and integrating knowledge (Dimension 2), extending and refining knowledge (Dimension 3), and using knowledge meaningfully (Dimension 4).
Attitudes and perceptions affect students’ ability to learn. For example, if students view the classroom as an unsafe and disorderly place, they will likely learn little there. Similarly, if students have negative attitudes about classroom tasks, they will probably put little effort into those tasks. A key element of effective teaching, then, is helping students to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the classroom and about learning. . Our work habits program supports and reinforces this dimension.
Helping students acquire and integrate new knowledge is another important aspect of learning. When students are learning new information, they must be guided in relating the new knowledge to what they already know, organizing that information, and then making important aspects of it part of their long-term memory. When students are acquiring new skills and processes, they must learn a model (or set of steps), then shape the skill or process to make it efficient and effective for them, and, finally, internalize or practice the skill or process so they can perform it easily.
Learning does not stop with acquiring and integrating knowledge. Learners develop in-depth understanding through the process of extending and refining their knowledge (e.g., by making new distinctions, clearing up misconceptions, and reaching conclusions.) They rigorously analyse what they have learned by applying reasoning processes that will help them extend and refine the information. Some of the common reasoning processes used by learners to extend and refine their knowledge are the following:
Abstracting Inductive reasoning
Deductive reasoning Constructing support
Analysing errors Analysing perspectives
The most effective learning occurs when we use knowledge to perform meaningful tasks. For example, we might initially learn about a musical instrument by talking to a friend or reading a magazine article about them. We really learn about it, however, when we are trying to decide what musical instrument to buy. Making sure that students have the opportunity to use knowledge meaningfully is one of the most important parts of planning a unit of instruction. In the Dimensions of Learning model, there are six reasoning processes around which tasks can be constructed to encourage the meaningful use of knowledge:
The most effective learners have developed powerful habits of mind that enable them to think critically, creatively, ethically, responsibly, and regulate their behaviour. Assisi Habits and Values provide a framework for developing in our students intelligent behaviour based on a set of values.
At Assisi Catholic College, we:
Help students understand habits of mind and Franciscan values
Help students identify and develop strategies related to the habits of mind and Franciscan values
Create a culture in the classroom and the school that encourages the development and use of the habits of mind and Franciscan values
Provide positive reinforcement to students who exhibit the habits of mind and Franciscan values
The five key areas of our Assisi habits and values are:
Being your own person
By planning curriculum and units of work using the Dimensions of Learning, and by structuring our work in the classroom according to this framework, students have the best possible opportunity and encouragement to develop these necessary life-long learning skills.
The College Student Manual that is issued to all students in Years 7 – 12 reinforces Dimensions of Leaning and provides a consistent and shared approach to the teaching of a range of skills and processes.