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 book Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock. 1. Identifying similarities and differences
2. Summarizing and note taking
3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
4. Homework and practice
5. Nonlinguistic representations
6. Cooperative learning
7. Setting objectives and providing feedback
8. Generating and testing hypotheses
9. Cues, questions, and advance organizers
The following is an overview of the research behind these strategies as well as some practical applications for the classroom. 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. Applications:
•Use Venn diagrams or charts to compare and classify items. •Engage students in comparing, classifying, and creating metaphors and analogies. 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. Applications:
•Provide a set of rules for creating a summary.
•When summarizing, ask students to question what is unclear, clarify those questions, and then predict what will happen next in the text. Research shows that taking more notes is better than fewer notes, though verbatim note taking is ineffective because it does not allow time to process the information. Teachers should encourage and give time for review and revision of notes; notes can be the best study guides for tests.
•Use teacher-prepared notes.
•Stick to a consistent format for notes, although students can refine the notes as necessary. 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. Applications:
•Share stories about people who succeeded by not giving up. •Have students keep a log of their weekly efforts and achievements, reflect on it periodically, and even mathematically analyze the data. According to research, recognition is most effective if it is contingent on the achievement of a certain standard. Also, symbolic recognition works better than tangible rewards. Applications:
•Find ways to personalize recognition. Give awards for individual accomplishments. •“Pause, Prompt, Praise.” If a student is struggling, pause to discuss the problem, then prompt with specific suggestions to help her improve. If the student’s performance improves as a result, offer praise. 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 should explain...