3 best practices in teaching you should be using

Best practice in teaching is a refined art, often shaped and molded over time, thanks to the work of many.

Some top-notch teaching strategies have become mainstays in the classroom because they produce results. In short, these instructional techniques improve student achievement.

Best practice isn’t about trying something with the hopes it will work. Instead, best practice springs from intensive research. Robert Marzano, for example, spent a significant amount of time in classrooms determining what works and what doesn’t. His research has influenced classroom instruction significantly.

As Rebecca Alber points out, many teachers use Marzano’s six-step approach to building vocabulary. The process is both efficient and effective. As a result, teachers use direct instruction to teach vocabulary.

Direct teach for vocabulary isn’t the only research-based strategy you should be using in your classroom. These additional three best practices will deliver results.

Establish clear goals

Clear goals are more than high expectations. They are the reason the learning is taking place. A teacher’s priority is to show students what they are expected to learn.

You must articulate what you want them to know and do at the end of each lesson. A concrete goal like “find the square root of a number” is superior to “complete the problems at the end of the chapter.”

Here’s how to write clear lesson goals for your students:

  • Begin with a clause like, “The students will . . . . “
  • Add an action verb (analyze, calculate, decipher, evaluate, write, etc., as long as it can be measured).
  • The concept you want students to understand, such as the impact of pasteurization.

Ultimately, you’d end up with a goal like this: “The students will analyze the impact of pasteurization in food safety.”

Give feedback

Students need specific feedback on how they are doing. Vague and unspecific comments, like “great job” or “way to go,”, aren’t helpful. Generic feedback de-motivates students. Excellent feedback includes the following:

  • Specificity: Name the task, such as “identify the difference between an infinitive and a participle.”
  • Frequency: Give consistent and frequent feedback to encourage students and let them know they are on the right track. Opt for a variety of feedback methods, including self, peer and teacher evaluations.
  • A process-focus: Keep the focus on the learning process rather than the results.

Feedback goes both ways. Student feedback allows teachers to adjust their instruction accordingly to student need.

Formative assessment

As much as teachers stress over summative assessments, formative assessments are more critical in developing understanding.

Formative assessment provides teachers with a better picture of how students are doing, and it reveals what they may still need. Teachers can use developmental assessment results to predict student success on summative exams more accurately.

Teachers who consistently gather evidence through formal data collection are more likely to adjust their instruction to provide students with what they need for academic success. Ongoing evaluation allows teachers to correct thinking errors and improve student achievement.

Relying on the tried-and-true in education is okay. By implementing just a few of the research-based best practices in teaching, you’ll be in a position to boost student achievement.

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