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The Power of an Instructional Model

Are you stressed? Overwhelmed? Feel underprepared?

With high stake assessments and higher standards, educators are getting more frustrated with a lack of success from their curriculum. The constant changes in expectations, curriculum, and initiatives creates turmoil for teachers. It seems every school year there’s a shift in direction, new initiatives, and a transformation of teacher expectations. Educators are trying to establish an action plan on how to manage all the demands while also deciding where to focus their attention.

Key Predictor of Success

It seems that out of all the changes in education, the most important one is rarely the target. Mike Schmoker, a researcher and school evaluator, demonstrates through his research the key predictor of success is instruction (this is different from the curriculum/content):

“It is time to close the gap between what we know and do to promote learning. It is still the rare school that recognizes that teachers, working together, have the capacity—right now—to improve instruction. We need to give them this opportunity, to ditch much of what we now do in exchange for regular times, at least monthly, for teachers to design, refine and assess their instructional strategies. And then, just as regularly, to honor and celebrate each team’s success as they develop and share better lessons and strategies with their colleagues. It is no overstatement to say that in any school, such practices would yield immense, even immediate benefits.” (http://mikeschmoker.com/planning-for-failure.html, 2003)

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Culture of Success

What if we form and encourage PLCs with the clear focus to be on professional development on instructional methods? This would involve teacher training in research-based and field-tested best instructional practices (Be GLAD® Model), opportunities to practice, refine skills, practice peer coaching, sharing successes, gaining muscle memory of how to perform the strategies, and making sure that all teachers are progressing towards mastery of strategies.

What if we listen more to researchers and teachers and focus on perfecting teacher instruction?

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System of Success

If we agree that instruction is the key to success, then we need a clear instructional model implemented in our schools. However most educational systems don’t have an instructional model only curriculum.

A general survey of administrators and teachers, including my own child’s middle school principal, were asked about their school’s and/or district’s instructional model, most respond with the type of curriculum being used or the district adopted textbooks.

There is a big disconnect between the “how” you teach (e.g. delivery of instruction) and the “what” you teach (e.g. standards, textbooks). The how is the way you teach and make information comprehensible.

A lack of a clear instructional model has not changed in the past three decades. This isn’t only true in public education. We recently checked in with an administrator of an award-winning private school, where tuition is upwards of $17,000 a year, about their instructional approach. Again, they had no clear research-based instructional model their teachers were using.

If there’s clear and convincing evidence through credible research that an instructional model is key for student success and school improvement, then why isn’t every school, public or private, making sure they have a clear and precise researched-based instructional model

Most have clear expectations for curriculum and pacing guides that explicitly determine the chapter and sometimes the page number teachers should be on any given day within the school year, yet teachers around the nation struggle to share or even name their instructional model.

If we expect change, we have to change. We have to know how we’re instructing our students and not just what we’re instructing them.

Schools typically have an over-abundance of curriculum. We’ve got plenty of the “what” to teach, but if we don’t have the “how” to teach, we’ll be spinning our wheels and not moving towards the target we intended to hit.

If you are a teacher, administrator, a parent, or anyone who comes in contact with students, you should know the instructional model used in your district. For the most significant way to make a positive impact on your students is to have a clear, research-based instructional system such as Be GLAD’s model.

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