Briefly, as the graphic to the left illustrates, all learning takes place against the backdrop of learners' attitudes and perceptions (Dimension 1) and their use (or lack of use) of productive habits of mind (Dimension 5). If students have negative attitudes and perceptions about learning, then they will likely learn little. If they have positive attitudes and perceptions, they will learn more and learning will be easier. Similarly, when students use productive habits of mind these habits facilitate their learning. Dimensions 1 and 5, then, are always factors in the learning process. This is why they are part of the background of the graphic shown in graphic to the left.
When positive attitudes and perceptions are in place and productive habits of mind 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). Notice the relative positions of the three circles of Dimensions 2, 3, and 4. (See graphic to the left). The circle representing meaningful use of knowledge subsumes the other two, and the circle representing extending and refining knowledge subsumes the circle representing acquiring and integrating knowledge. This communicates that when learners extend and refine knowledge, they continue to acquire knowledge, and when they use knowledge meaningfully, they are still acquiring and extending knowledge. In other words, the relationships among these circles represent types of thinking that are neither discrete nor sequential. They represent types of thinking that interact and that, in fact, may be occurring simultaneously during learning.
It might be useful to consider the Dimensions of Learning model as providing a metaphor for the learning process. Dimensions of Learning offers a way of thinking about the extremely complex process of learning so that we can attend to each aspect and gain insights into how they interact. If it serves this purpose, it will be a useful tool as we attempt to help students learn.