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.
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, studentdirected 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
Applications:* Provide a set of rules for creating a summary.
* When summarizing, ask students to question what is unclear, clarify those
* Use teacher-prepared notes.
* Stick to a consistent format for notes, although students can refine the
notes as necessary.
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.
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
* "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.