This page is designed to give you the background of the concepts demonstrated on Educator's Virtual Mentor. If some of the words or phrases seem unfamiliar, this is the place to find out more. The first thing you'll notice is that the concepts are arranged to roughly follow the process of designing, executing and closing your instructional strategy.
All descriptions of the concepts on this Web site are copyright © 2005 by Learning for the Future, Inc..
Plan the Learning
Assessment. Developing assessment is the process of creating a means for the learner and teacher in order to determine at which level the learner is (1) gaining a required skill, (2) accomplishing a required task, and (3) acquiring knowledge and understanding of specific content. During this process, the quality of the learner's "thinking" in pursuit of a finished answer/product should be evaluated.
Bloom's Knowledge Taxonomy. In 1956, a taxonomy (a system in which information is classified) was published by a group of educators, led by Dr. Benjamin Bloom. The taxonomy was initially used to help professors analyze the level of student thinking as they answered various test questions. This taxonomy is now used to help educators identify the different types of cognitive processes that take place as people learn.
Homework and Practice. Homework is generally defined as practice or studying done by the student outside the classroom and is related to academic performance. To make decisions that have a positive impact on learning, the teacher should be aware of the purposes, general guidelines, and impact of homework.
Instructional Objectives. Objectives, standards, high achievement outcomes, key component and learning goals help an educator identify specifically what the learner is expected to know or be able to do as a result of instruction. Having an instructional objective clearly in mind focuses the instructor's behavior, handouts, activities lectures, and questions.
Meaningful Content focuses on curriculum. The curriculum experiences need to embrace knowledge that will benefit the learner for a lifetime, make real world connections and connect to the learners developmental needs while creating satisfaction for the learning experience.
Modality.People come in all shapes and sizes, colors of hair, color of skin, speaking a variety of languages, wearing a variety of clothing, different genders, representing different geographic regions, socio-economic status and right handed, left handed or ambidextrous. As diverse and complex as the differences observed on people on the outside, even more complex differences make up the mind and personality of each individual. The educator has the unique challenge and opportunity of helping each learner identify who they are and what they can contribute to others and society.
Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic. In the 1970s, Madeline Hunter said that motivation is a state one has within, much like hunger. No one can make a person hungry, but one can create the conditions that increase that hunger. Or one might create an environment that doesn't let hunger turn into overeating.
Planning for Learning. An effective student-centered class requires preparation and planning that extends beyond objectives for creative activity ideas. Consistent preparation of the classroom and necessary materials is also needed. In a student-centered classroom, a minimum of potential learning time should be lost due to the gathering of materials. Teachers should invest time to organize their room and their learning materials outside of instructional time.
Relevance. When teachers plan activities that are applicable to the world in which students live, the lesson can be said to have "relevance." Lessons or units with relevance include those in which students understand the connection to problem solving, the work world, family life, or later learnings; those in which student skills are developed and clearly identify how those skills, especially the problem solving skills, will be used in the future; and, perhaps most importantly, those that increase the ability of the learners to knowingly gain skills to continue their learning and increase their problem solving skills.
Compare and Contrast. The identification of similarities and differences has been found to produce the greatest measurable impact upon student achievement of the nine learning skills identified by Marzano, Pickering and Pollock (2001). Activities such as comparing/contrasting, classifying, and creating analogies are embodied in the learning skill of identifying similarities and differences. All of these are considered higher-order thinking skills, and the processes involved should be explicitly taught if students are expected to use them.
Instructional Tools. A major difference between the real world and the institution of education is the access to tool. Learners should be allowed the opportunity to choose developmentally appropriate tools to facilitate and present their learning.
Learning as a Process. Most professional educators realize that in addition to teaching specific content area knowledge, skills, and processes they are expected to teach students in a way that instills the importance of learning and prepares the students to be successful in life. The Business-Higher Education Forum lists the following skills and attributes of a nation of learners: Leadership; Teamwork; Problem Solving; Time Management; Self-management; Adaptability; Analytic Thinking; Global Consciousness; and Basic Communication.
Metacognition. The ability to analyze how well a student has learned or understands a subject is metacognition. More technically, metacognition is the ability to evaluate one's own comprehension and understanding of subject matter and use that evaluation to predict how well one might perform on a task. More simply stated, metacognition is the ability to accurately predict how one will perform on a task or might demonstrate the knowledge gained based upon what one thinks he or she has learned. The skills a student needs to analyze his or her learning are processes that are purposely taught.
Questioning & Discussion Techniques. Students are inquisitive and they like to "figure things out." Teacher skills in questioning and developing discussions with the students allow for deeper engagement and a clearer understanding of the concept. Highly effective questioning teachers create opportunities for students to develop much stronger critical thinking skills.
Organizers. The majority of new knowledge is presented using linguistic descriptions. Students experience more brain stimulation when imagery is used to convey new knowledge. Using experiences, graphic representations, physical models, mental pictures, drawing pictures and pictographs and engaging in kinesthetic activities are all forms of nonlinguistic representation.
Summarizing & Note Taking. Summarizing and note taking are skills used to reduce large amounts of information into a synthesized form for later use. Summarizing and note taking involve more than outlining or copying notes from a board. The process of summarizing requires (1) removing information, (2) creating substitute statements or symbols, and (3) recognizing and retaining main points.
Begin the Learning
Clear Directions. A common lament of teachers from all areas of the country is, "My students will not follow directions." The three common causes of this problem are: 1) the student does not intend to follow directions; 2) the student is incapable of doing what the teacher directed him/her to do, and 3) the directions or the methods of giving the directions were confusing or unclear. In this lesson, the third common problem is discussed.
Lesson Introduction. The introduction or "bell ringer," often referred to as "set induction" is a focus activity in which students are provided an opportunity to review previously learned material or to use past knowledge that will facilitate today's learning. This motivational activity is generally done at the beginning of class, lesson or day, prior to introducing new concepts.
Modeling. A model may be a sample of a finished product, an example, or a demonstration of a skill or procedures. Modeling is one of the most powerful assists to learning.
Application (Mastery) is the ability to use knowledge. Differing levels of application indicate the level of mastery at which the students presently perform. While a teacher might be able to apply the information or knowledge in one area, it may take greater skill to apply the same knowledge in differing disciplines or areas. Through the use of the technique of Mastery, teachers have the ability to apply their knowledge of real-world unpredictable situations, thus using that information to solve problems and design solutions.
Choices. When teachers empower the learner with choices, the learning is transformed from teachers to students, and student learning is enhanced. The final product of choice, ownership for learning by the learner, directly correlates to motivation. Teachers want students to be motivated to learn; therefore, they should be empowered to select, prefer, desire, or like the topics within a unit of study and be able to present new knowledge from their various projects.
Community of Learners. Learning is stepping out of a comfort zone into an area that demands risk. For learners to invest fully in this opportunity, they need support and encouragement. The classroom can function as a learning community that supports learners and learning.
Dignity of the Learner. Frequently, learners fail to volunteer answers and provide information during discussion because they fear they will be wrong and humiliated in front of peers. If the teacher's response to an incorrect answer helps the student maintain dignity, the chance the student will be willing to risk and participate in the future is increased.
Enriched Environment. Through enriched environments, learners are encouraged and facilitated to become involved with the learning opportunity. While most educators acknowledge five senses and generally teach to two or three of these senses, a total of 19 senses have been discussed in the research. The teachers who connect with multiple senses create learning opportunities that become unforgettable. Where is your teaching in the ladder of the enriched environment?
Feeling Tone is strongly related to retention, motivation, and classroom climate. The feeling tone is set by the teacher in her/his interactions with students. Feeling tone is conveyed through body language, tone of voice, choice of words, and facial expressions.
Level of Concern is one principle of learning that can affect students' motivation or intent to learn. This is sometimes referred to as level of anxiety or level of tension. Whatever term is used, it refers to how much students care about what they learn.
Pass Option. Students should be given the opportunity to "pass" when they are inadvertently caught unawares or "put on the spot" in front of the class. The "pass" is most effective when the teacher returns to the student and gives him or her the opportunity to expand on the concept or clarify an answer shared by another student.
Providing Proper Praise. The use of praise and recognition is an important consideration for the teacher. Praise is a high motivation for people; however, praise may be the first and easiest use of extrinsic motivation. Teachers should look forward to moving students into the intrinsic mode of personal motivation rather than receiving the greatest satisfaction from extrinsic motivation. Researchers have shown that some forms of praise or reward actually reduce intrinsic motivation in students.
Attention Getting. In order for teachers to maintain an efficient learning atmosphere, it is advantageous to use a consistent and clear method to gain student attention, with minimal disruption to the learning environment. Every teacher should have a plan to gain student attention in an orderly calm fashion. Teaching and learning can proceed in a business-like manner when student attention is enhanced.
De-escalation. Teachers will have times when they must confront a student about disruptive or inappropriate behavior. When a teacher handles this situation well, the learning atmosphere and the dignity of the learner are preserved. The relationship between the learner and teacher are maintained and possibly strengthened.
Procedures. Teachers who understand the need for and plan the procedures to be used in an activity recognize the importance of order in learning. When procedures are clearly taught, teachers take the first step in creating an ordered learning environment. Because attention is on the learning task at hand, students learn the expected procedures, learning time becomes more proficient, there are fewer discipline problems, and student achievement increases.
Proximity/Interaction Sequence. These two instructional strategies provide teachers and students with opportunities for interaction with the teacher connecting with the students where they are learning. Very seldom will you see teachers effectively implementing these strategies while sitting behind their desk. The goal of these strategies is to provide learners with a means of communication with the teacher or awareness that the teacher is present and knows what is going with the learners.
Rule Setting. Every classroom should have a set of expected behaviors established and taught (and some say posted) establishing how students are to learn, work, and play together as a primary duty of any teacher. Effective teachers plan for and then establish a positive learning atmosphere in the classroom.
Teacher Awareness. The ability of the teacher to be aware of what is going on in the classroom and anticipate what might happen if the present actions continue is a key to a positive and productive learning environment. This awareness deals with physical (student movements and actions taking place in the room), academic (how students are attending and performing on learning tasks), and relational (how students are interacting with one another) factors. Awareness and anticipation, followed by teacher action (however small), are sometimes referred to by teachers and students as "teacher eyes."
Engage the Students
Active Participation is the consistent engagement of the mind of all learners with that which is to be learned. Active participation contributes to the rate of learning and the degree of learning.
Adequate Time. Learning takes time. All children have the potential to learn well but differ in terms of the time required. Master teachers understand that learning requires adequate time to process, store and lock into long-term memory that which is to be learned. In all domains of learning, the amount of time it takes to learn is roughly proportional to the amount of material being learned.
Adjusting Instruction. A good teacher has the ability to study a student, and from the interactions with the student, be able to gather useful information regarding the student's understanding of the objective on which she/he is working. From the information gathered, the teacher makes the decision to let the student continue, re-teach toward the objective, or abandon the concept. (If the objective is a high achievement outcome or integral toward understanding the standards, the objective needs to be re-taught until learned).
Cooperative Learning/Collaboration. Through cooperative learning, an opportunity is provided to interact with others in a positive manner, while being dependent on each other for better learning. Cooperative learning is set apart from group work by at least four basic principles: (1) Positive Interdependence, (2) Individual Accountability, (3) Equal Participation, and (4) Simultaneous Activity.
Expectations. The expectations teachers hold for their students have a significant effect on how they perform in the classroom. An essential need is for students to believe they can succeed. In many examples of performances and successes, no one but the performers believed in themselves; however, many times their beliefs can be caught and taught by educators.
Immediate Feedback. The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback. The simplest prescription for improving education must be "dollops of feedback." Learners not only need to learn but also need to know what they know, what they don't know and what they can do to learn it.
Instructional Input. Input is the part of the lesson during which the teacher teaches the skills or the information the student needs to reach the predetermined objective. Since this is a crucial part of the lesson, it is helpful to review what content needs to be included and the criteria for evaluating the quality of the input.
Monitoring Learning is the consistent, continual and active process of checking to what extent each learner is gaining the knowledge, understanding the concept, developing the skill, or performing analysis during the classroom instructional time.
On-The-Clock strategy is an example of a teaching technique that raises the student's level of concern, and, therefore, it impacts motivation. Basically, this strategy imposes a timeline for the completion of a specific activity in which the students are required to budget their time. The on-the-clock strategy is used by the teacher as a classroom management technique.
Reinforcement & Recognition. Teachers have been taught that it is important to reinforce, recognize, and praise students in order to maximize learning. However, it is not as simple as that. To understand the impact of reinforcement, recognition, and praise on learning, one must understand attribution theory. To what do we attribute our successes and failures?
Sponge Activity. Sponge activities are used to fill the time gaps and transform what would ordinarily be wasted time into learning time. Rather than lose/waste time before the bell, between classes, and during transitions, teachers may fill this gap with a "sponge" activity.
Success. Success breeds success. There is no motivator like "success," yet there is no greater killer of curiosity and effort than either "cheap success", success without effort, or the use of unattainable goals. Success increases when students can attribute their success to ability combined with effort. Instruction aimed at the students "zone of proximal development" is key in the proper use of success as a motivator.
Transfer. Through the process of Transfer, something already learned affects what is being learned. Transfer is the heart and core of creativity, problem solving, and decision-making. The time required for learning is shortened, and transfer is a better predictor of learning rate than IQ.
Wait Time. Mary Budd Rowe found that wait time was the most effective variable in eliciting responses from students. The two facets to wait time are wait time I, the time the teacher waits for an answer after asking a question, and wait time II, the time the teacher waits after a student gives an answer. Understanding the impact of wait time will enable the teacher to use it strategically depending on the type of question.
Close the Learning
Celebration. Celebrations are times taken to celebrate and recognize that learning has taken and is taking place. Celebrations may be three-second routines built into the instructional time or elaborate and orchestrated opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning.
Closure. The ending of a lesson is critical. Because of its position at the end of a lesson, learning can be facilitated or hindered. "Closure" means different things to different people. For the purpose of this training resource, closure is defined as ending a lesson in a way that optimizes learning.
Reflection. Reflection is a powerful tool that can be used to reinforce and improve learning. Group reflection is often missed; however, it is an extremely important part of helping students retain acquired learning, analyzing their performance on the task at hand, and establishing what they might do better in the next group situation.