Research tells us what can be expected from a teacher employing instructional strategies and practices that are proven to lead to increased mastery of lessons. Better learning happens in a dynamic setting in which teachers offer explicit active instruction than in situations in which teachers do not actively guide instruction and instead turn control over content and pace of instruction to students (Hattie, 2009).
Is there a diverse set of practices that teachers can efficiently and effectively use to increase mastery of content for a variety of curricula? The structured and systematic approach of explicit instruction emphasizes mastery of the lesson to ensure that students understand what has been taught, become fluent in new material, and can generalize what they learn to novel situations they encounter in the future.
The following are hallmarks of an explicit approach for teachers (Archer & Hughes, 2011; Knight, 2012).
- Teacher selects the learning area to be taught.
- Teacher sets criteria for success.
- Teacher informs students of criteria ahead of the lesson.
- Teacher demonstrates to the students successful use of the knowledge/skills through modeling.
- Teacher evaluates student acquisition.
- Teacher provides remedial opportunities for acquiring the knowledge/skills, if necessary.
- Teacher provides closure at the end of the lesson.
A common complaint of an explicit instruction approach is that it does not offer sufficient opportunities for students to build on acquired knowledge/skills in creative and novel ways that help them to assimilate the material. The reality is that all effective instruction, regardless of philosophy, must aid students in generalizing newly taught knowledge/skills in a context that is greater than a single lesson. An explicit model accomplishes the goal of building toward “big ideas” by first emphasizing mastery of foundation skills such as reading and mathematics, and then systematically introducing opportunities to integrate these critical skills in discovery-based lessons to maximize students’ experience of success.
Effective explicit instruction practices include these features.
- Well-designed and planned instruction: Instruction that is well planned moves students from their current level of competency toward explicit criteria for success.
- Instructional design with clear instructional objectives: The teacher should present these objectives to students for each lesson.
- Scope and sequencing: The teacher should teach the range of related skills and the order in which they should be learned.
- Instruction that offers sufficient opportunities for successful acquisition:
- High rates of responding for each student to practice the skill: The teacher should provide sufficient opportunities for unpunished errors and ample reinforcement for success.
- Sufficient quantity of instruction: The teacher should allocate enough time to teach a topic.
- Teaching to mastery: Students need to learn the knowledge/skills to criteria that are verified by teachers or students’ peers.
- Teaching foundation knowledge/skills that become the basis for teaching big ideas: Current lessons should be built on past knowledge to increase fluency and maintain mastery of material. The teacher should relate lessons to complex issues and big ideas that provide deeper meaning and give students better understanding of the content.
Archer, A. L., & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Efficient and effective teaching. New York, NY: Guilford Publications.
Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-centered teacher-student relationships are effective: A meta-analysis. Review of educational research, 77(1), 113–143.
Hattie, J., (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses related to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge.
Jackson, P. W. (1990). Life in classrooms. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Knight, J. (2012). High-impact instruction: A framework for great teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
Sanders, W. L., & Rivers, J. C. (1996). Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future student academic achievement. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center. Retrieved from http://heartland.org/policy-documents/cumulative-and-residual-effects-teachers-future-student-academic-achievement.
Walberg, H. (1999). Productive teaching. In H. C. Waxman & H. J. Walberg (Eds.), New directions for teaching practice and research (pp. 75–104). Berkeley, CA: McCutchen Publishing.
Wenglinsky, H. (2002). How schools matter: The link between teacher classroom practices and student academic performance. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(12).
White, W. A. T. (1988). A meta-analysis of the effects of direct instruction in special education. Education and Treatment of Children, 11(4), 364–374.
Teaching Functional Life Skills to Children with Developmental Disabilities
In this chapter we describe systematic instructional practices that are necessary for individuals with disabilities to benefit from educational services.
Detrich, R., & Higbee, T. S. (2009). Teaching Functional Life Skills to Children with Developmental Disabilities. Practical Handbook of School Psychology: Effective Practices for the 21st Century, 371.
Do we get better results when teachers match individual learning styles to instructional methods?
This analysis looks at the importance of learning styles impact on student achievement.
States, J. (2010). Do we get better results when teachers match individual learning styles to instructional methods? Retrieved from do-we-get-better.
Does learning style make a difference?
This analysis examines the research on learning styles.
States, J. (2011). Does learning style make a difference? Retrieved from does-learning-style-make935.
What is the relationship between hours of instruction and math and reading achievement?
This analysis examines an international comparison of the length of the school year and it's impact on student's math and reading achievement.
States, J. (2011). What is the relationship between hours of instruction and math and reading achievement? Retrieved from what-is-relationship-between919.
Which approaches to teaching science have the greatest impact on student achievement?
This analysis compares the effectiveness of differing approaches to teaching science.
States, J. (2013). Which approaches to teaching science have the greatest impact on student achievement? Retrieved from which-approaches-teaching-science944.
What are the critical influences in a classroom that result in improved student performance?
The analysis examines direct influences tht have the greatest impact on student performance. 28 categories were distilled by combining the effect size along professional judgment of educational experts.
States, J. (2010). What are the critical influences in a classroom that result in improved student performance? Retrieved from what-are-critical-influences808.
Does a longer school year or longer school day improve student achievement scores?
This reviews looks at the issue, do longer school days and longer school years improve student achievement?
States, J. (2011). Does a longer school year or longer school day improve student achievement scores? Retrieved from does-longer-school-year.
Does Caffeine Affect Classroom Behavior and Student Performance?
This review looks at the impact that caffeine has on student behavior and academic performance.
States, J. (2011). Does Caffeine Affect Classroom Behavior and Student Performance? Retrieved from does-caffeine-affect-classroom.
Does Reading Practice Correspond With Improved Reading Performance?
This analysis examined the relationship between the number of pages students read and improved reading performance.
States, J. (2011). Does Reading Practice Correspond With Improved Reading Performance? Retrieved from does-reading-practice-correspond.
Does Sugar Affect Student Behavior or Achievement?
This analysis examines the impact that sugar has on student behavior and academic achievement.
States, J. (2011). Does Sugar Affect Student Behavior or Achievement? Retrieved from does-sugar-affect-student.
What does science tell us about teaching reading?
This review examines the evidence that identifies the critical practice elements for effective reading instruction.
States, J. (2011). What does science tell us about teaching reading? Retrieved from what-does-science-tell.
What Practices Make a Difference in the Classroom?
This analysis examines meta-analyses to identify teaching practices that have the greatest impact on student achievement.
States, J. (2011). What Practices Make a Difference in the Classroom? Retrieved from what-practices-make-difference.
What teaching strategies make a difference in improving student performance?
This analysis looks at meta-analyses on teaching strategies that have the largest effect on student achievement.
States, J. (2011). What teaching strategies make a difference in improving student performance? Retrieved from what-teaching-strategies-make.
How Effective is Retrieval Practice?
This analysis compares retrieval practice to three other commonly used learning activities.
States, J. (2012). How Effective is Retrieval Practice? Retrieved from how-effective-is-retrieval.
What are the components of effective mathematics instruction?
This analysis looks at a practice guide from The What Works Clearing House that provides practitioners with essential practice elements for effective instruction in mathematics.
States, J. (2012). What are the components of effective mathematics instruction? Retrieved from what-are-components-of.
Which approaches to teaching science have the greatest impact on student achievement?
This review looks at research on how to effectively teach science.
States, J. (2014). Which approaches to teaching science have the greatest impact on student achievement? Retrieved from which-approaches-teaching-science914.
Effective Teaching Practices: Narrowing the Field
This paper distills the research on effective teaching practices to basic assumptions and core practices. It presents a impact-cost paradigm for rating and prioritizing such practices.
Heward, W. (2013). Effective Teaching Practices: Narrowing the Field [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2013-wing-presentation-william-heward.
Teaching Skills That Make a Difference
This paper provides checklist of evidence-based skills that should be the foundation of every teacher's preparation.
States, J. (2013). Teaching Skills That Make a Difference [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2013-aba-presentation-jack-states.
Rethinking the Use of Tests: A Meta-Analysis of Practice Testing
This meta-analysis examined the effects of practice tests versus non-testing learning conditions on student performance. Research demonstrates that students who take practice tests often outperform students in non-testing learning conditions such as restudying, practice, filler activities, or no presentation of the material. Results reveal that practice tests are more beneficial for learning than restudying and all other comparison conditions.
Adesope, O. O., Trevisan, D. A., & Sundararajan, N. (2017). Rethinking the Use of Tests: A Meta-Analysis of Practice Testing. Review of Educational Research, 0034654316689306.
Using active responding to reduce disruptive behavior in a general education classroom
Active responding (in the form of response cards) was employed during a math lecture in a third-grade classroom to evaluate its effect on disruptive behavior.
Armendariz, F., & Umbreit, J. (1999). Using active responding to reduce disruptive behavior in a general education classroom. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 1(3), 152–158.
Improving Student Achievement by Extending School: Is It Just a Matter of Time?
This document explores ways in which time can be used as an education resource. It opens with an overview of studies that indicate that American students trail their counterparts in other leading industrialized nations in academic achievement. It discusses research on the relationship between time and learning.
Aronson, J., Zimmerman, J., & Carlos, L. (1999). Improving Student Achievement by Extending School: Is It Just a Matter of Time?.
Reimagining the School Day: Innovative Schedules for Teaching and Learning
A new report from the Center for American Progress suggests American students would be better served by allowing teachers more time to collaborate with colleagues, planning lessons, and reviewing the effects of instruction.
Benner, M. & Partelow, L. (2017). Reimagining the School Day: Innovative Schedules for Teaching and Learning. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.
Development and validation of the clarity indicators scale
This study was conducted to create a reliable and valid low- to medium-inference, multidimensional measure of instructor clarity from seminal work across several academic fields. The five factors were explored in regards to their ability to predict the outcomes. Implications for instructional communication researchers are discussed.
Bolkan, S. (2017). Development and validation of the clarity indicators scale. Communication Education, 66(1), 19-36.
The debate about rewards and intrinsic motivation: Protests and accusations do not alter the results.
The Debate About Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation: Protests and Accusations Do Not Alter the Results
First Published March 1, 1996 Research Article
Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. D. (1996). The debate about rewards and intrinsic motivation: Protests and accusations do not alter the results. Review of Educational Research, 66(1), 39–51.
Effectiveness of the practice style and reciprocal style of teaching: A meta-analysis
This meta-analysis looks at the effectiveness of two strategies in teaching motor skills to students: practice and reciprocal. The research examined two of the 11 teaching strategies identified in Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles designed for teachers in physical education. Six studies met the criteria for inclusion in this paper. The practice strategy involves the student in the decision-making process. The reciprocal strategy assigns each learner to a specific role: One learner performs the task and the other is the observer who offers immediate and ongoing feedback using a criteria sheet designed by the teacher. At the end of the practice, the students switch roles.
The study showed a very large effect size of 1.16 for the practice strategy, and a large effect size of 0.94 for the reciprocal strategy. It would not be surprising to see these particularly large effect sizes moderated in subsequent replication studies (Makel & Plucker, 2014; van Aert & van Assen, 2018). The study confirms previous research on reciprocal teaching as an effective instructional strategy. Reciprocal teaching has been found to be a powerful strategy for teaching reading and other academic subjects. John Hattie (1995) reported an effect size of 0.74 for reciprocal teaching. The takeaway from this meta-analysis is that practice and reciprocal styles have positive effects on motor skill acquisition.
Chatoupis, C., & Vagenas, G. (2018). Effectiveness of the practice style and reciprocal style of teaching: A meta-analysis. Physical Educator, 75(2), 175–194.
The Development of The Teacher Clarity Short Inventory (TCSI) to Measure Clear Teaching in The Classroom
This study presents the Teacher Clarity Short Inventory (TCSI) as an alternative to existing measures of teacher clarity. Analyses revealed a 10 item scale with an acceptable factor structure, acceptable reliability and validity.
Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (1998). The development of the teacher clarity short inventory (TCSI) to measure clear teaching in the classroom. Communication Research Reports, 15(3), 262-266.
On the teachability of communication strategies.
This article describes what communication strategies are and provides an overview of the teachability issue, discussing the arguments for and against strategy instruction, and suggests three possible reasons for the existing controversy.
Dörnyei, Z. (1995). On the teachability of communication strategies. TESOL quarterly, 29(1), 55-85.
Effective college teaching from the students' and faculty's view: Matched or mismatched priorities?
Thirty-one studies were located in each of which students and faculty specified the instructional characteristics they considered particularly important to good teaching and effective instruction.
Feldman, K. A. (1988). Effective college teaching from the students' and faculty's view: Matched or mismatched priorities?. Research in Higher Education, 28(4), 291-329.
The correlation between teacher clarity of communication and student achievement gain: A meta-analysis
This paper aim to determine the correlation between teacher clarity and the mean class student learning (achievement gain) in normal public-education classes in English-speaking, industrialized countries.
Fendick, F. (1992). The correlation between teacher clarity of communication and student achievement gain: A meta-analysis.
Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics
This meta-analysis examined the impact of lecturing as compared to active methods of instruction on learning and course performance. The effect sizes indicate that on average, student performance on examinations and concept inventories increased by 0.47 SDs under active learning (n = 158 studies), and that the odds ratio for failing was 1.95 under traditional lecturing (n = 67 studies).
Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415.
Effects of quantity of instruction on time spent on learning and achievement.
This article evaluates the extent to which quantity of instruction influences time spent on self‐
study and achievement. The results suggest that time spent on self‐study is primarily a function of the degree of time allocated to instruction.
Gijselaers, W. H., & Schmidt, H. G. (1995). Effects of quantity of instruction on time spent on learning and achievement. Educational Research and Evaluation, 1(2), 183-201.
Adolescent trust in teachers: Implications for behavior in the high school classroom
This study examined teachers' relational approach to discipline as a predictor of high school students' behavior and their trust in teacher authority.
Gregory, A., & Ripski, M. B. (2008). Adolescent trust in teachers: Implications for behavior in the high school classroom. School Psychology Review, 37(3), 337.
Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die
This book reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds draw their power from the same six traits.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. Random House.
Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice
This study examines longitudinal from nine high schools nominated as leading practitioners of Continuous Improvement (CI) practices. The researchers compared continuous improvement best practices to teachers actual use of data in making decisions. The study found teachers to be receptive, but also found that significant obstacles were interfering with the effective use of data that resulted in changes in instruction.
Ingram, D., Louis, K. S., & Schroeder, R. G. (2004). Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. Teachers College Record, 106(6), 1258-1287.
Student Achievement through Staff Development
This book provides research as well as case studies of successful professional development strategies and practices for educators.
Joyce, B. R., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. ASCD.
This article discusses instructional coaching as well as the eight factors that can increase the likelihood that coaching will be a real fix for a school.
Knight, J. (2006). Instructional Coaching. School Administrator, 63(4), 36.
What One Hundred Years of Research Says About the Effects of Ability Grouping and Acceleration on K–12 Students’ Academic Achievement: Findings of Two Second-Order Meta-Analyses
This paper analyzed the results of research on the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on students' academic achievement. Nineteen meta-analyses were met criteria for inclusion for the review. Results were found for improved academic achievement within-class grouping, cross-grade grouping by subject, and grouping for the gifted. No positive effects were identified for between-class grouping. The results were consistent regardless of whether students were high, medium, or low achievers. The study found acceleration appeared to have a positive, moderate, and statistically significant impact on students’ academic achievement.
Steenbergen-Hu, S., Makel, M. C., & Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2016). What One Hundred Years of Research Says About the Effects of Ability Grouping and Acceleration on K–12 Students’ Academic Achievement: Findings of Two Second-Order Meta-Analyses. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 849-899.
Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography.
The results of this study confirm that early literacy instruction is most effective when focused on print-to-sound relationships (phonics) rather than on meaning. The benefits of print-to-sound training were found to be superior to print-to-meaning training for these reasons: (a) Reading aloud trained words learned phonetically was faster and more accurate, (b) generalization in reading aloud untrained words was faster, and (c) comprehension of written words was more accurate earlier in learning.
Taylor, J. S. H., Davis, M. H., & Rastle, K. (2017, April 20). Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.
Two meta-analyses exploring the relationship between teacher clarity and student learning.
This article reports the findings of two meta-analyses that explored the relationship between teacher clarity and student learning. Combined, the results suggest that teacher clarity has a larger effect for student affective learning than for cognitive learning. However, neither the effects for cognitive learning nor affective learning were homogeneous.
Titsworth, S., Mazer, J. P., Goodboy, A. K., Bolkan, S., & Myers, S. A. (2015). Two meta-analyses exploring the relationship between teacher clarity and student learning. Communication Education, 64(4), 385-418.
This literature review examines the impact of various instructional methods
Walberg H. J. (1999). Productive teaching. In H. C. Waxman & H. J. Walberg (Eds.) New directions for teaching, practice, and research (pp. 75-104). Berkeley, CA: McCutchen Publishing.
Does tailoring instruction to “learning styles” help students learn? Ask the cognitive scientist
In this 2018 analysis, Daniel Willingham revisits his 2005 review of the literature on learning styles. Thirteen years ago he concluded there is no evidence supporting theories that distinguish between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles and improved achievement. To update his earlier study, Willingham examined research published since 2005. Learning style theorists have postulated that teaching to a specific learning style will help struggling students achieve success in school. Willingham begins by differentiating between learning style and ability. He defines learning style as the way a person completes tasks, and ability as how well the person executes the tasks. Learning style advocates believe that having a student focus on a preferred style will lead to improved performance. The recent research examined by Willingham supports his earlier conclusion: “There is not convincing evidence to support the idea that tailoring instruction according to a learning-styles theory improves student outcomes.” Matching instruction to learning style ultimately offers no credible benefit to students.Willingham did find new research confirming that people do show a preference for one style over another, but acting on the preference does not improve performance.
The implications from this research are that educators do not need to match learning style to student. Finally, it is worthwhile for teachers to teach students strategies that are effective and necessary for solving specific problems such as memorizing information, reading with comprehension, overcoming math anxiety, and avoiding distraction.
Willingham, D. T. (2018). Does tailoring instruction to “learning styles” help students learn? Ask the cognitive scientist. American Educator, 28–43.
Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
ABAI organization promotes the development, and support of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.
Balefire Labs provides an online educational app review service for mobile apps. It helps teachers and parents to find the highest quality educational apps for kids, ages 0-19 years. It uses rigorous, science-based, review criteria and publishes a detailed rubric on its site.
California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT)
CalSTAT is a project of the California Department of Education. that supports and develops partnerships with schools and families by providing training, technical assistance and resources to both special education and general education.
Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL)
CTL is research center that conducts and disseminates research that focuses on practical solutions to serious problems in school systems.
Edutopia focuses on practices and programs that help students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, skills and beliefs to achieve their full potential.
This web site disseminates information about behavioral fluency; and to connect people interested in building fluent behavior of all kinds and for all types of people.
K-12 Education: Gates Foundation
K-12 Education works to make sure tools, curriculum, and supports are designed using teacher insights.
Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation
MDRC is best known for mounting large-scale evaluations of real-world policies and programs targeted to low-income people.
The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research
UChicago Consortium was created in 1990 after the passage of the Chicago School Reform Act that decentralized governance of the city's public schools. Researchers at the University of Chicago joined with researchers from the school district and other organizations to form UChicago Consortium with the imperative to study this landmark restructuring and its long-term effects