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Putting Effective Education Strategies Into Action

Photo: Courtesy of Hans-Peter Gauster

Miguel Guhlin

Director of Professional Development, TCEA

A tool is only useful when used correctly, but “pop” research and flashy marketing can sometimes lead teachers astray.

Whether it’s the latest gadget buy, or something just feels right, instructional strategies abound, as do digital tools. The problem is, many of the tools we use in classrooms fail to accelerate student growth. Luckily, we can determine when technologies work best; when you match your tools to evidence-based strategies. Those strategies, then, work best when they match your learning intentions. 

Let’s clarify some terms to glean the secret of research-based teaching. We’ll explore a free resource that shows how you can match digital tools to strategies that work.

Identify learning intentions

Dr. John Hattie and a bevy of researchers have taken the mystery out of what works best for learning, but many educators are unaware of the research. Worse, they don’t know when to use strategies and technology. When strategies don’t match learning intentions, they are less effective. Let’s review the three types of learning intentions:

1. Surface learning

“I had no idea the jigsaw approach worked so well. I’ll use it with my science class more often now that I know,” a middle school science teacher recently told me. 

Approaches like the jigsaw method, mnemonics, and vocabulary programs are surface learning strategies. That is, they are instructional strategies that focus on introducing new skills and content. 

Looking for some other strategies that work great? Try flipping your classroom, using summarization, and spaced vs. mass practice. Think of surface learning strategies as gathering materials and building a foundation.

2. Deep learning

For this learning intention, it’s all about relationships. New skills and content can often sit unused in our brain, like disconnected silos. Deep learning strategies focus on building relationships between new skills and knowledge. Those strategies include classroom discussion, reciprocal teaching, concept mapping, and others. 

These strategies focus on conceptualization of ideas and knowledge. Metacognition falls into deep learning. Each strategy makes students see how information fits together.

3. Transfer learning

The third learning intention is applying what you’ve learned to new situations. Strategies like problem-solving teaching (AKA problem-based learning with strong knowledge foundation) and service learning comprise this learning intention. 

As educators, we must first determine where students are, then provide feedback. That feedback helps them take ownership of the task or process and close the gap. When students own their level of performance, they can identify next steps to growth.

Amplifying the effect

Each strategy, no matter the learning intention, focuses on accelerating student growth. Each approach also has an effect size that measures its potential to do this. 

We’ve only scratched the surface for learning intentions and instructional strategies that work. You can see how you can connect feedback, formative assessment, and technology by using the free, easy-to-access app TCEA Strategies That Work.

Strategies in action

Curious to see how this might look in a teaching and learning situation? Here’s a thousand-foot view for a multi-day process: 

  • Demonstration: Activity with pollination. Students watch or take part.
  • Observed phenomena: Students rely on note-taking strategy.
  • Classroom discussion: Teacher and students engage in classroom discussion. 
  • Students add concept maps to their notes. 
  • Students create a vocabulary chart. 
  • Teacher mini lesson: Teacher engages in direct instruction. 
  • Reflection: Students review and enhance notes and vocabulary charts.
  • Exit tickets: Students complete an exit ticket. This encourages deep-learning consolidation.
  • Throughout this process, the teacher provides one-on-one feedback to students. This feedback explores the gap between students’ current understanding and target cognition level.  

Putting effective strategies into action means using the right evidence-based strategy at the right time, then matching digital tools to strategies that work.

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