Instructional Strategies

Instruction involves the use or application of instructional strategies for optimizing learning experiences for students. Engaging students in active learning activities and tailoring their learning experiences to meet their individual needs assures that all students can improve their academic performance and achieve their learning potential. 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. Teachers at the Sterling Community School apply these, as well as many other effective instructional strategies, in their classrooms each day.

Strategy #1: Identifying Similarities and Differences

The ability to break a concept into its similar and dissimilar characteristics allows students to understand (and often solve) complex problems by analyzing them in a more simple way. Teachers can either directly present similarities and differences, accompanied by deep discussion and inquiry, or simply ask students to identify similarities and differences on their own. While teacher-directed activities focus on identifying specific items, student-directed activities encourage variation and broaden understanding, research shows. Research also notes that graphic forms are a good way to represent similarities and differences.

Strategy #2: Summarizing and Note Taking

These skills promote greater comprehension by asking students to analyze a subject to expose what's essential and then put it in their own words. According to research, this requires substituting, deleting, and keeping some things and having an awareness of the basic structure of the information presented.

Strategy #3: Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

Effort and recognition speak to the attitudes and beliefs of students, and teachers must show the connection between effort and achievement. Research shows that although not all students realize the importance of effort, they can learn to change their beliefs to emphasize effort.

Strategy #4: Homework and Practice

Homework provides students with the opportunity to extend their learning outside the classroom. However, research shows that the amount of homework assigned should vary by grade level and that parent involvement should be minimal. Teachers are most effective when they explain the purpose of homework to both the student and the parent or guardian, and teachers should try to give feedback on all homework assigned.

Strategy #5: Non-linguistic Representations

According to research, knowledge is stored in two forms: linguistic and visual. The more students use both forms in the classroom, the more opportunity they have to achieve. Recently, use of non-linguistic representation has proven to not only stimulate but also increase brain activity.

Strategy #6: Cooperative Learning

Research shows that organizing students into cooperative groups yields a positive effect on overall learning. When applying cooperative learning strategies, keep groups small and don't overuse this strategy-be systematic and consistent in your approach.

Strategy #7: Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback

Setting objectives can provide students with a direction for their learning. Goals should not be too specific; they should be easily adaptable to students' own objectives.

Strategy #8: Generating and Testing Hypotheses

Research shows that a deductive approach (using a general rule to make a prediction) to this strategy works best. Whether a hypothesis is induced or deduced, students should clearly explain their hypotheses and conclusions.

Strategy #9: Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

Cues, questions, and advance organizers help students use what they already know about a topic to enhance further learning. Research shows that these tools should be highly analytical, should focus on what is important, and are most effective when presented before a learning experience.

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