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Nine Essential Instructional Strategies

Researchers at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) have identified nine
instructional strategies that are most likely to improve student achievement across all content areas and
across all grade levels. These strategies are explained in the ook !lassroom "nstruction That #orks y
Roert Mar$ano% &era 'ickering% and (ane 'ollock.
1. Identifying similarities and differences
2. Summarizing and note taking
3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
4. ome!ork and practice
". Nonlinguistic representations
#. $ooperative learning
%. Setting o&'ectives and providing feed&ack
(. )enerating and testing *ypot*eses
+. $ues, -uestions, and advance organizers
The follo)ing is an overvie) of the research ehind these strategies as )ell as some practical applications
for the classroom.
1. Identifying Similarities and .ifferences
The aility to reak a concept into its similar and dissimilar characteristics allo)s students to understand
(and often solve) complex prolems y analy$ing them in a more simple )ay. Teachers can either directly
present similarities and differences% accompanied y deep discussion and in*uiry% or simply ask students to
identify similarities and differences on their o)n. #hile teacher-directed activities focus on identifying
specific items% student-directed activities encourage variation and roaden understanding% research sho)s.
Research also notes that graphic forms are a good )ay to represent similarities and differences.
-se .enn diagrams or charts to compare and classify items.
Engage students in comparing% classifying% and creating metaphors and analogies.
2. Summarizing and Note /aking
These skills promote greater comprehension y asking students to analy$e a su/ect to expose )hat0s
essential and then put it in their o)n )ords. +ccording to research% this re*uires sustituting% deleting% and
keeping some things and having an a)areness of the asic structure of the information presented.
'rovide a set of rules for creating a summary.
#hen summari$ing% ask students to *uestion )hat is unclear% clarify those *uestions% and then
predict )hat )ill happen next in the text.
Research sho)s that taking more notes is etter than fe)er notes% though veratim note taking is ineffective
ecause it does not allo) time to process the information. Teachers should encourage and give time for
revie) and revision of notes1 notes can e the est study guides for tests.
-se teacher-prepared notes.
2tick to a consistent format for notes% although students can refine the notes as necessary.
3. Reinforcing Effort and 0roviding Recognition
Effort and recognition speak to the attitudes and eliefs of students% and teachers must sho) the connection
et)een effort and achievement. Research sho)s that although not all students reali$e the importance of
effort% they can learn to change their eliefs to emphasi$e effort.
2hare stories aout people )ho succeeded y not giving up.
3ave students keep a log of their )eekly efforts and achievements% reflect on it periodically% and
even mathematically analy$e the data.
+ccording to research% recognition is most effective if it is contingent on the achievement of a certain
standard. +lso% symolic recognition )orks etter than tangile re)ards.
4ind )ays to personali$e recognition. 5ive a)ards for individual accomplishments.
6'ause% 'rompt% 'raise.7 "f a student is struggling% pause to discuss the prolem% then prompt )ith
specific suggestions to help her improve. "f the student0s performance improves as a result% offer
4. ome!ork and 0ractice
3ome)ork provides students )ith the opportunity to extend their learning outside the classroom. 3o)ever%
research sho)s that the amount of home)ork assigned should vary y grade level and that parent
involvement should e minimal. Teachers should explain the purpose of home)ork to oth the student and
the parent or guardian% and teachers should try to give feedack on all home)ork assigned.
Estalish a home)ork policy )ith advice-such as keeping a consistent schedule% setting% and time
limit-that parents and students may not have considered.
Tell students if home)ork is for practice or preparation for upcoming units.
Maximi$e the effectiveness of feedack y varying the )ay it is delivered.
Research sho)s that students should adapt skills )hile they0re learning them. 2peed and accuracy are key
indicators of the effectiveness of practice.
+ssign timed *ui$$es for home)ork and have students report on their speed and accuracy.
4ocus practice on difficult concepts and set aside time to accommodate practice periods.
". Nonlinguistic Representations
+ccording to research% kno)ledge is stored in t)o forms, linguistic and visual. The more students use oth
forms in the classroom% the more opportunity they have to achieve. Recently% use of nonlinguistic
representation has proven to not only stimulate ut also increase rain activity.
"ncorporate )ords and images using symols to represent relationships.
-se physical models and physical movement to represent information.
#. $ooperative 1earning
Research sho)s that organi$ing students into cooperative groups yields a positive effect on overall
learning. #hen applying cooperative learning strategies% keep groups small and don0t overuse this strategy-
e systematic and consistent in your approach.
#hen grouping students% consider a variety of criteria% such as common experiences or interests.
.ary group si$es and o/ectives.
&esign group )ork around the core components of cooperative learning-positive interdependence%
group processing% appropriate use of social skills% face-to-face interaction% and individual and
group accountaility.
%. Setting 2&'ectives and 0roviding 3eed&ack
2etting o/ectives can provide students )ith a direction for their learning. 5oals should not e too specific1
they should e easily adaptale to students0 o)n o/ectives.
2et a core goal for a unit% and then encourage students to personali$e that goal y identifying areas
of interest to them. 8uestions like 6" )ant to kno)7 and 6" )ant to kno) more aout . . .7 get
students thinking aout their interests and actively involved in the goal-setting process.
-se contracts to outline the specific goals that students must attain and the grade they )ill receive
if they meet those goals.
Research sho)s that feedack generally produces positive results. Teachers can never give too much1
ho)ever% they should manage the form that feedack takes.
Make sure feedack is corrective in nature1 tell students ho) they did in relation to specific levels
of kno)ledge. Rurics are a great )ay to do this.
9eep feedack timely and specific.
Encourage students to lead feedack sessions.
(. )enerating and /esting ypot*eses
Research sho)s that a deductive approach (using a general rule to make a prediction) to this strategy )orks
est. #hether a hypothesis is induced or deduced% students should clearly explain their hypotheses and
+sk students to predict )hat )ould happen if an aspect of a familiar system% such as the
government or transportation% )ere changed.
+sk students to uild something using limited resources. This task generates *uestions and
hypotheses aout )hat may or may not )ork.
+. $ues, 4uestions, and 5dvance 2rganizers
!ues% *uestions% and advance organi$ers help students use )hat they already kno) aout a topic to enhance
further learning. Research sho)s that these tools should e highly analytical% should focus on )hat is
important% and are most effective )hen presented efore a learning experience.
'ause riefly after asking a *uestion. &oing so )ill increase the depth of your students0 ans)ers.
.ary the style of advance organi$er used, Tell a story% skim a text% or create a graphic image. There
are many )ays to expose students to information efore they 6learn7 it.
2ource, +dapted from !lassroom "nstruction That #orks y R. (. Mar$ano% &. (. 'ickering% and (. E.
'ollock% :;;<% +lexandria% .+, +2!&.