Instructional Practices Key Finding


As some colleges begin to be more intentional about improving instruction to address Guided Pathways pillar four--ensure learning--it's worth noting decades of solid research on instruction.

One key finding in particular:

Instructional practices are not THE main ingredient of improved student achievement. It's the level of focus on using them well with reflective cycles of inquiry combined with clear goals and indicators, frequent productive meetings among collaborating teachers, institutional support for cycles of instructional inquiry, and external expertise & facilitation.

Most of the research on instruction is informed by K12. That said, please don't discount K12 research. Community college personnel dislike it when universities treat community colleges in a similar fashion. Four-year universities have a tremendous amount they can learn from community colleges. Likewise, community colleges and higher education in general have tons they can learn from K12 research on instruction. The closest to the above K12 research description in higher education are faculty inquiry groups (FIGs), but unfortunately, I've seen FIGs become unproductive student-blaming sessions divorced of genuine reflective inquiry and courages conversations about equity and instruction.

To truly reside at the intersection of data analysis and instructional analysis that improves the quality of instruction, collaborating faculty should meet for two hours at least twice a month (I know, a tall order but absolutely necessary) and consider using the following steps:

Step 1: Identify and clarify specific and common student needs (learning gaps & equity gaps) to work on, based on student learning outcomes and course success data.
Step 2: Formulate a clear objective for each need; identify related student work to be analyzed.
Step 3: Identify and adopt a promising instructional practice to address the need.
Step 4: Plan and complete necessary preparation to test the selected practice in the classroom.
Step 5:  Deliver the instruction and analyze student work with FIG members to (a) see if the objective is being met, (b) better understand the need, (c) evaluate the effectiveness of selected practice.  
Step 6: Reassess, continue, and repeat the cycle or move on to another need.



Each FIG team should be as job-a-like as possible. It's not necessarily bad for cross-functional inquiry among STEM and social science/humanities faculty, but over time faculty will hunger to work on content that is most relevant to them.

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Also visit:

Elephant in the Room: Instruction in Higher Education

5-E Model in Instruction

Transforming Instruction in Math

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