I would like to think that I am familiar with past and current instructional strategies, the variety of ways to meet student needs, different curriculum designs, and the like, all in the hope of making a difference in student learning and boosting academic achievement. But now and then, new ones pop up or at least with different packaging and emphases, and possibly even a name change. That brings me to “high-impact instruction.” According to researchers, “high-impact instruction” increases student retention rates and engagement.
When I heard about high-impact instruction, I wanted to learn more. High-impact instruction includes strategies that have been synthesized from studies and ranked from most contributing to student academic success to least.
Once I reviewed and compared the works of Robert Marzano, John Hattie, and Jim Knight, it became clear that their high-impact instructional strategies have much in common, all striving to increase student learning while not requiring more of teachers. The goal is for teachers to work not harder, but wiser. Check out the list of high-impact strategies and see how many you recognize. I bet as you read through the list many of them will sound familiar, and you will say, “I know them and have used them at some time during my career.”
High-impact instruction includes:
- setting goals when content planning;
- using direct instruction; summarizing and taking notes;
- providing targeted feedback;
- using concept or learning maps, worked examples, guiding questions, and advance organizers;
- building community through cooperative learning; homework and practice;
- reciprocal teaching.
So, how does high-impact instruction play out in classrooms? It is important to remember that using individual strategies in isolation does not ensure best results nor best practices. High impact teaching strategies (HITS) should be part of a larger comprehensive framework that builds on professional knowledge, which can be applied across grade levels and subjects.
The 5E Framework
One of the best ways to implement HITS is to align teaching and learning with the 5E framework of Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation. Using the 5E framework as a planning, teaching, and learning tool serves to remind us to implement many of the high-impact strategies.
First, get students engaged by introducing a topic using nonfiction or close reading literature and give them opportunities to explore ideas in these materials or with objects that pertain to the lesson to answer a focus question that guides their learning. Also, incorporating kinesthetic investigative experiences in small groups in or out of the classroom can reinforce the mind and body connection.
Second, implement direct teaching strategies, taking the time to explain the information behind student discussions and explorations. This is the time to set the record straight and address misconceptions by introducing and clarifying academic core and subject-specific vocabulary, answering the focus question and raising others, and providing a context for making connections across core concepts and practices. As noted earlier, a steady diet of inquiry and problem-based learning may translate into limited student success. Researchers have found that students enhance their academic performance when they are “explicitly” taught during the lesson.
Third, give students opportunities to extend or elaborate on their learning by having them rehearse or practice (including homework) what they have learned. For example, participatory learning activities–games, simulations, visualizations, dramatizations, art, projects, pair sharing, gallery walks, and role playing–get students to apply learned content by answering and posing questions, analyzing texts and situations, preparing scenarios, brainstorming, writing descriptions, drawing pictures, and/or creating concept maps. The products of these activities offer a clearer picture of where the learning gaps are and yield many opportunities to practice and retrieve information.
Fourth, tie clear learning lesson and unit goals to performance objectives that can be used by teachers and students to evaluate formatively what has been learned based on evidence. Involving students in the assessment process encourages them to take ownership of their work, which in turn increases their motivation to learn. Providing specific feedback about how to reach the next step in the learning progression gets student ready for the “final performances” of unit, end of course, and yearly state mandated testing.
High-impact instruction is merely the tip of the iceberg. Effective instruction and the resultant student learning does not just happen. It takes planning, and there are few quick fixes. High-impact instruction is only one of the many tools in a teacher’s toolbox that is part of a larger more comprehensive framework that has many components. I offer the 5E framework because it naturally embeds many of the high-impact teaching strategies. Test it out! Wishing you good luck as you travel the teaching learning road.