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Description of (selected) High Leverage Practices from Teaching Works
The heart of the TeachingWorks strategy is to ensure that all teachers have the training necessary for responsible teaching. We focus on a core set of fundamental capabilities that we call "high leverage practices."
A “high-leverage practice” is an action or task central to teaching. Carried out skillfully, these practices increase the likelihood that teaching will be effective for students’ learning. They are useful across a broad range of subject areas, grade levels, and teaching contexts, and are helpful in using and managing differences among pupils. The list here is a set of “best bets,” warranted by research evidence, wisdom of practice, and logic. Over time, and in collaboration with our partners, TeachingWorks will improve the set of high-leverage practices by studying their effects on students’ learning of basic and complex academic content and skills.
The set of high-leverage practices is intended as a common framework for the practice of teaching that will provide the basis for a core curriculum for the professional training of teachers. Such a core curriculum would make possible collective development of materials and tools for training teachers, common assessments of performance, and agreement about standards for independent practice.
1. Making content explicit through explanation, modeling, representations, and examples
Making content explicit is essential to providing all students with access to fundamental ideas and practices in a given subject. Effective efforts to do this attend both to the integrity of the subject and to students’ likely interpretations of it. They include strategically choosing and using representations and examples to build understanding and remediate misconceptions, using language carefully, highlighting core ideas while sidelining potentially distracting ones, and making one’s own thinking visible while modeling and demonstrating.
2. Leading a whole-class discussion
In a whole-class discussion, the teacher and all of the students work on specific content together, using one another’s ideas as resources. 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. In instructionally productive discussions, the teacher and a wide range of students contribute orally, listen actively, and respond to and learn from others’ contributions.
3. Eliciting and interpreting individual students’ thinking
Teachers pose questions or tasks that provoke or allow students to share their thinking about specific academic content in order to evaluate student understanding, guide instructional decisions, and surface ideas that will benefit other students. To do this effectively, a teacher draws out a student’s thinking through carefully-chosen questions and tasks and considers and checks alternative interpretations of the student’s ideas and methods.
4. Establishing norms and routines for classroom discourse central to the subject-matter domain
Each discipline has norms and routines that reflect the ways in which people in the field construct and share knowledge. These norms and routines vary across subjects but often include establishing hypotheses, providing evidence for claims, and showing one’s thinking in detail. Teaching students what they are, why they are important, and how to use them is crucial to building understanding and capability in a given subject. Teachers may use explicit explanation, modeling, and repeated practice to do this.
5. Recognizing particular common patterns of student thinking 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. Teachers who are familiar with common patterns of student thinking and development and who are fluent in anticipating or identifying them are able to work more effectively and efficiently as they plan and implement instruction and evaluate student learning.
8. Implementing organizational routines, procedures, and strategies to support a learning environment
Teachers implement routine ways of carrying out classroom tasks in order to maximize the time available for learning and minimize disruptions and distractions. They organize time, space, materials, and students strategically and deliberately teach students how to complete tasks such as lining up at the door, passing out papers, and asking to participate in class discussion. This can include demonstrating and rehearsing routines and maintaining them consistently.
9. Setting up and managing small group work
Teachers use small group work when instructional goals call for in-depth interaction among students and in order to teach students to work collaboratively. To use groups effectively, teachers choose tasks that require and foster collaborative work, issue clear directions that permit groups to work semi-independently, and implement mechanisms for holding students accountable for both collective and individual learning. They use their own time strategically, deliberately choosing which groups to work with, when, and on what.
12. Appraising, choosing, and modifying tasks and texts for a specific learning goal
Teachers appraise and modify curriculum materials to determine their appropriateness for helping particular students work toward specific learning goals. This involves considering students’ needs and assessing what questions and ideas particular materials will raise and the ways in which they are likely to challenge students. Teachers choose and modify material accordingly, sometimes deciding to use parts of a text or activity and not others, for example, or to combine material from more than one source.
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