High Leverage Teaching Practices

A mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; the great teacher inspires - William Arthur Ward

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The list below includes some of the fundamental skills and practices that teachers need to be effective: 

    • Leading a group discussion
      The purposes of a discussion are to build collective knowledge and capability in relation to specific instructional goals and to allow students to practice listening, speaking, and interpreting, agreeing and disagreeing. In a group discussion, you and your students contribute orally, listen actively, and respond to and learn from each others’ contributions.
       
    • Explaining and modeling content, practices, and strategies
      You might use simple explanations when working with straightforward content, but modeling is more appropriate when sharing the metacognitive process is critical for providing access to students. Modelling includes verbal explanation, thinking aloud, and demonstrating,
       
    • Eliciting and interpreting student thinking
      Carefully chosen questions and tasks can help to draw out student thinking, allowing you to consider and check alternative interpretations of student ideas and methods. You can then use what you learn about students to guide instructional decisions, and to surface ideas that will benefit other students.
       
    • Diagnosing common patterns of student thinking and development in a subject-matter domain
      Although there are important individual and cultural differences among students, there are also common patterns in the ways in which students think about and develop understanding and skill in relation to particular topics and problems. Becoming familiar with common patterns of student thinking and development and can anticipate or identify them will allow you to work more effectively and efficiently as you plan and implement instruction and evaluate student learning.
    • Coordinating and adjusting instruction during a lesson
      It is important to coordinate and adjust instruction during a lesson in order to maintain coherence, ensure that the lesson is responsive to students’ needs, and use time efficiently. This includes explicitly connecting parts of the lesson, managing transitions carefully, and making changes to the plan in response to student progress.
       
    • Specifying and reinforcing productive student behavior
      Setting clear expectations for student behaviour and taking the time to reinforce and reward it, while also strategically redirecting off-task behaviour will help to create productive learning environments for all. See Classroom Community & Classroom Management for more.
       
    • Implementing organizational routines
      Through the selection and use of organizational routines, you can establish learning environments in which students have equitable access to resources, time, space, and voice.
       
    • Setting up and managing small group work
      Choose tasks that require and foster collaborative work, provide clear directions that enable groups to work independently, and hold students accountable for collective and individual learning. Use your own time strategically, deliberately choosing which groups to work with, when, and on what. See Tips for Setting Up Successful Group Work for more information.
       
    • Building respectful relationships with students
      Respectful teacher-student relationships are characterized by trust, care, joy, and appreciation of students’ cultures and communities. Teacher-student relationships can be built through all aspects of teaching, including communication with students, nonverbal signals, and acknowledging and responding students during lessons.
    • Designing single lessons and sequences of lessons
      Carefully-sequenced lessons help students develop deep understanding of content and sophisticated skills and practices. See the Lesson Planning page for more information.
       
    • Checking student understanding during and at the conclusion of lessons
      Checking for student understanding goes well beyond asking “are there any questions?” You can use a variety of informal but deliberate methods to assess what students are learning during and between lessons to help adjust instruction during a single lesson or from one lesson to the next. See the Classroom Assessment Techniques page for a list of options you can try.
       
    • Selecting and designing formal assessments of student learning
      In composing and selecting assessments, consider validity, fairness, and efficiency. Effective summative assessments provide both students and teachers with useful information and help teachers evaluate and design further instruction. See the Assessment page for more information.
       
    • Providing oral and written feedback to students
      Feedback supports learning by focusing students’ attention on specific aspects of their work and supporting their ongoing learning. Good feedback is specific, focused, and not overwhelming in scope, and supports students’ positive perceptions of their own capability.
       
    • Analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it
      Learning to teach and continuing to improve requires regular analysis of instruction and its effectiveness. Analyzing instruction may take place individually or with colleagues and involves identifying patterns, opportunities, and making hypotheses for how to improve. See the Reflective Practice page for more information. 

(Adapted from the University of Michigan’s Teacher Education Program)