Ultimate Guide: Best Instructional Practices for Student Growth

Bobby Dodd

Bobby Dodd, Lead Learning Partner

As told on his blog


If teaching were easy, everybody would do it.  OK, maybe not, but there would be a lot more teachers who stay in the education field and not leave after a short time.  In fact, there is new federal data that says 17 percent of new public school teachers leave their jobs after four years. As I read this, it forces me to wonder, how many of these teachers were employing the best instructional practices during their time in the classroom?  Were they using practices that made their time in the classroom a more enjoyable experience?  These two questions can determine if a teacher is going to be successful or not.


Let’s take a look at some of the best instructional practices to use that will help teachers and students.  While many of these practices are based on John Hattie’s work Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, there are some fundamental methods that should be used daily in every classroom.


Learning Targets That Come to Life
Create learning targets that mean something instead of just posting learning targets.  As my friend and peer Mike Acomb would say, “Make your learning targets come to life for the kids!” Learning targets need to be addressed during a lesson and embedded in the lesson.  Students shouldn’t have to memorize learning targets.  They learn the targets through the lesson itself.  Let your targets act like a GPS for your students to guide them in the right direction.


Student-Led Learning
Empower your students.  Let them lead their learning.  Teachers need to facilitate class, not teach class.  There will be struggles in the beginning as students and parents aren’t always comfortable with this type of learning environment (remember, we didn’t learn this way in school either). Continue the journey.  Our students deserve it.  We are all lifelong learners.  Let’s teach our students at the earliest age possible the benefits of exploration, research, collaboration, and hard work.
Our students need to know where they stand on a daily basis.  “Excellent”, “Great job!”,  “88%”, or 8/10 are not examples of feedback.  Feedback is information given to a student that fosters growth.  It can’t happen weeks after the assessment or lesson.  It needs to be as instantaneous as possible.  Utilize tools such as Plickers, Nearpod, Google Forms, Padlet, and TodaysMeet to get instant feedback that can be used in school.  Give our students feedback they can use to get better.


Don’t forget about students giving feedback to educators.  Students should be able to give educators feedback on a daily basis to let the teachers and administration know where they stand.  Are we giving our students the most effective learning environment possible?  Let the students tell us.  RemindHQ is a great tool to use to do this.  Educators can allow students to text back using this texting application.


Formative Assessments
Formative assessments are practice.  Plain and simple.


Let students practice before their assessments.  Don’t punish them while they practice.  Let them explore and figure out what they need to know.  Homework and quizzes are practice.  Create a culture of practice in your building and classroom.  Let students prepare without worrying about failing.


When it comes to engagement, there is a simple question to ask, “Would you want to be in your class?”  Don’t base your class on what has been done in the past in education; make your classroom something new.  Use different resources to make your class engaging.  Allow students voice and choice.  Make your classroom something your students have never seen before.  You have a better chance of engaging students that way than sticking with traditional teaching practices.


Alternative Assessments
Why do we still assess the same way we always have? Why can’t we allow students to show what they know in different ways?  Great questions without great explanations to support them. Allow students to try something different.  Your classroom and building culture will improve.  Let’s look at different ways to assess: allow students to make videos, allow them to complete projects, allow them to present, or ask students how they can show what they know.  Taking tests each week doesn’t create lifelong learners, it creates memorizers.


Making Blended Learning Just “Learning”
The term “blended learning” needs to go away.  Blended learning should be a part of learning.  As building leaders and teachers, we need to embed learning in the culture of our school.  We do this by using a wide variety of resources to produce student growth.  We need to professionally develop our students and staff to effectively use the resources each day.  Finally, personalizing your learning environment allows students to use the resources in which they learn the best.


Personalized Learning
As discussed earlier, allow students a voice and choice.  The teacher isn’t always the smartest person in the room in today’s classroom.  Limit the amount of direct instruction and develop new ways to deliver content to students.  Become a learner yourself and find ways to connect, collaborate, build confidence and create to positively affect your teaching. 
A positive classroom environment is invaluable.  Positive educator and student relationships outweigh content knowledge.  Content knowledge can always be learned and mastered. Relationships are built on respect and trust.  Develop great relationships with students and you have foundation for best instructional practices.


Our students lead different lives than we did.  Whether that is for the best or not, it is a reality.  As educators, we need to respect that.  We need to identify our students’ live and work with our students.  We aren’t in the business of teaching our students life lessons; we are in the business of educating students for life.  Compassion isn’t a sign of weakness; it is a sign of respect towards our students. 


Using the best instructional practices in school is a lot of work.  If we take the time to become better educators and use the best instructional practices we can, the workload will lessen. Student will be more productive and maybe, just maybe, more teachers will remain in the business of educating students.  As educators we need to become more knowledgeable in the best instructional practices to make our jobs easier and more rewarding.  Its time for a change, let move our practices from better to best.


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