5 Principles of Teaching

The Teacher Matters

An essential question concerning school improvement is “What is the critical factor in improving student outcomes? Is it a new set of standards, a new curriculum or a new instructional approach? Is it an emerging technology? Is is greater parent involvement or better prepared students? The research suggests the teacher matters. The amount a student learns depends significantly on which teacher within a school the student gets. This means that if all teachers within a school taught as well as the most effective teacher, the result would be far greater student achievement for all students.

Engaging and Effective Teaching produces accelerated learning

Accelerated learning is the result of purposeful and focused teaching. In order for accelerated learning to take place, three primary things must occur. First, the teacher must aligned the instruction within each student’s zone of proximal development (Vygotsky) or life space (Lewin). If tasks are well beyond students’ levels of competence, it is unlikely that learning will occur. If learning tasks are too easy, it is also unlikely that learning will occur because students may quickly become bored and be unwilling to repeat tasks they have already mastered. Second, the teacher must provide engaging instruction so students can see the value of their work and experience a growing sense of efficacy when facing worthwhile challenges. Finally, the teacher must use effective research-based instructional practices that have been proven to increase the likelihood of success. It is the confluence of these ideas that encourages accelerated learning.

Effective Teaching depends on clear expectations and consistent,
student-friendly feedback to promote learning

The key to effective feedback is to provide students with examples of what is good enough. Most students are able to meet the bar if they have a clear image of what is expected of them. Teachers should allow students to see examples (exemplars) of student work that meet the standards to which they are expected to work. Teachers should provide students with clear criteria (rubrics) for how their work will be judged. Students are more likely to experience success if they know beforehand what is expected of them. Finally, teachers should provide students with consistent and continuous feedback with ample opportunities to improve their work and learn from their mistakes.

Effective Teaching focuses on the uncoverage of powerful ideas through sustained
investigation, reflection, self-assessment, and self-adjustment

The key job of the teacher is to cause understanding. Teachers should build their learning activities upon the two essential elements of understanding: big ideas and transfer of discrete knowledge and skills. Teachers should not based their teaching and learning on the coverage of content knowledge, but on desired student performances, which is the thoughtful and effective use of content knowledge. On most assessments, teachers should require students to self-assess their work as part of the assessment. Teachers should require students to regularly reflect on their learning–what they understand, what they do not understand, what strategies work well, and what might they do next time. Finally, teachers should help students develop a better understanding of their own learning styles, an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, and a plan to improve their weaknesses.

Effective Teaching builds on students’ interests, preferences,
strengths, contributions, and prior knowledge

Teachers should provide a differentiated experience based on who the students are in their class–this year. Since students come with a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses and are able to use their individual strengths to exploit in learning new tasks, teachers should routinely survey students’ learning styles, interests, talents and readiness levels prior to launching into a new subject. As a result of appropriate pre-assessments, teachers may have to adjust their unit plans. Teachers should differentiate through flexible groupings, learning choices of process and products, and other options. Finally, teachers should know when they must differentiate, when they might differentiate, and when they must not differentiate, given the demands of content and performance standards.