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13.

Teaching Functions 1

Barak Rosenshine and Robert Stevens

University of Illinois 2

Recent Experimental Studies

In recent years our understanding of successful teaching has increased

considerably. There have been numerous successful experimental studies in which teachers

have been trained to increase the academic achievement of their students. In these studies,

which have taken place in regular classrooms, one group of teachers received training in

specific instructional procedures and one group continued their regular teaching. In the

successful studies, the teachers implemented the training and their students had higher

achievement and/or higher academic engaged time than did students in the classrooms of

the untrained teachers. Particularly noteworthy studies include:

- Texas First Grade Reading Group Study (Anderson, Evertson, & Brophy, 1979, 1982);

- Missouri Mathematics Effectiveness Study (Good & Grouws, 1979) (for math in

intermediate grades);

- The Texas Elementary School Study (Evertson, Emmer, Clements, Sanford, Worsham, &

Williams, 1981; Emmer, Evertson, Sanford, & Clements, 1982);

- The Texas Junior High School Study (Emmer, Evertson, Sanford, Clements, &

Worsham, 1982; Emmer, Evertson, Sanford, & Clements, 1982);

- Organizing and Instructing High School Classes (Fitzpatrick, 1981, 1982);

- Exemplary Centers for Reading Instruction (ECRI) (Reid, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981) (for

reading in grades 1-5);

- Direct Instruction Follow Through Program (Becker, 1977).

The results of these studies are consistently positive and indicate that there are

specific instructional procedures which teachers can be trained to follow and which can lead

to increased achievement and student engagement in their classrooms.

Examples of Experimental Studies

An example of these experimental studies is the one conducted by Good and Grouws

in 1979. In their study, 40 fourth grade teachers were divided into two groups. One group,

of 21 teachers, received a 5-page manual which contained a system of sequential,

instructional steps for teaching mathematics. The teachers read the manual, received two

90 minute training sessions, and proceeded to implement the key instructional behaviors in

their teaching of mathematics. The control teachers did not receive the manual and were

told to continue to instruct in their own style. During the 4 months of the program all

teachers were observed six times.

1 . In M.C. WITTROCK (dir.), Handbook of Research on Teaching, 3e éd., New York, Macmillan, p. 376-391, 1986.

2 . The authors thank reviewers David Berliner (University of Arizona), Jere Brophy (IRT, Michigan State University),

and Richard Shavelson (UCLA).

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The results showed that the teachers in the treatment group implemented many of

the key instructional behaviors and, in many areas, behaved significantly differently from

those in the control group. For example, the treatment teachers conducted review, checked

homework, actively engaged students in seatwork, and made homework assignments

significantly more often than control teachers. The results also showed that the test scores

in mathematics for students of the treatment teachers increased significantly more than did

the scores for students of the control teachers.

Fitzpatrick (1982) conducted a similar study involving ninth grade algebra and

foreign language classes. Twenty teachers were divided into two groups, and the treatment

group received a manual explaining and giving teaching suggestions on 13 instructional

principles. The treatment group met twice to discuss the manual. The control teachers were

told to continue their regular teaching. All teachers were observed live times in one of their

classrooms.

The results showed that the treatment teachers implemented many of the principles

more frequently than did the control teachers. For instance, the treatment teachers were

rated higher in attending to inappropriate student behavior, maintaining the attention of all

students, providing immediate feedback and evaluation, having fewer interruptions, setting

clear expectations, and having a warm and supportive environment. In addition, overall

student engagement was higher in the classrooms of the treatment teachers.

The other studies cited above were similar to these two: they all provided in-service

teachers with manuals and training to implement the recommended instructional

procedures. The manuals and training materials for these programs could be used

effectively in both preservice and in-service teacher training. Four of the manuals are useful

for general instruction (Emmer et al., 1982; Evertson et al., 1982; Fitzpatrick, 1982; Good &

Grouws, 1979). The manual by Anderson, Evertson, and Brophy (1982) is oriented primarily

toward instruction in elementary reading groups, whereas the program developed by Reid

(1978-1981) and by Engelmann (Becker, 1977) included both general instructional methods

and highly specific procedures for the teaching of reading.

The purpose of this paper is to study those successful teacher training and student

achievement programs and identify the common teaching functions which they emphasize.

This information will be supplemented by correlational research whenever relevant.

In general, researchers have found that when effective teachers teach well structured

subjects, they:

- Begin a lesson with a short review of previous, prerequisite learning.

- Begin a lesson with a short statement of goals.

- Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.

- Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.

- Provide a high level of active practice for all students.

- Ask a large number of questions, check for student understanding, and obtain

responses from all students.

- Guide students during initial practice.

- Provide systematic feedback and corrections.

- Provide explicit instruction and practice for seatwork exercises and, where necessary,

monitor students during seatwork.

The major components in systematic teaching include teaching in small steps with student

practice after each step, guiding students during initial practice, and providing all students

with a high level of successful practice. Of course, all teachers use some of these behaviors

some of the time, but the most effective teachers use most of them almost all the time.

Use and Limits of Research

It would be a mistake to claim that the teaching procedures which have emerged

from this research apply to all subjects, and all learners, all the time. Rather, these

procedures are most applicable for the “well-structured” (Simon, 1973) parts of any content

area, and are least applicable to the “ill-structured” parts of any content area.

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Most Applicable Procedures

These explicit teaching procedures are most applicable in those areas where the

objective is to master a body of knowledge or learn a skill which can be taught in a step-by-

step manner. Thus, these procedures apply to the teaching of facts that students are

expected to master so that they can be used with new information in the future. Examples

include arithmetic facts, decoding procedures, vocabulary, musical notation, English

grammar, the factual parts of science and history, the vocabulary and grammar of foreign

languages, and the factual and explicit parts of electronics, cooking, and accounting.

Similarly, these procedures apply to the teaching of processes or skills that students

are expected to apply to new problems or situations. This includes mathematical

computation, blending sounds in decoding, map reading, the mechanics of writing personal

and business letters, English grammar, applying scientific laws, solving algebraic equations,

or tuning an automobile engine. In these cases, the student is taught a general rule which is

then applied to new situations.

Least Applicable

These findings are least applicable for teaching in areas which are “ill-structured”,

that is, where the skills to be taught do not follow explicit steps, or areas which lack a

general skill which is applied repeatedly. Thus, the results of this research are less relevant

for teaching composition and writing of term papers, analysis of literature, problem solving

in specific content areas, discussion of social issues, or the development of unique or

creative responses.

Almost all content areas are composed of well-structured and ill-structured parts,

and explicit teaching can be used for teaching the well-structured parts. For example, when

teaching a foreign language, explicit teaching can be used to teach vocabulary and

grammar, but these procedures are less relevant for teaching fluency in conversation or

reading comprehension. In teaching literature, there is a place for explicit teaching in

teaching about the characters, setting, plot, and theme identification. But these procedures

are less relevant for teaching students to appreciate the story, evaluate the ideas, or critique

the style of writing.

New Developments in Explicit Instruction

As noted, explicit procedures are less applicable for those skills or processes where

there is no clearly defined procedure that is learned and applied in new situations. Until the

1980s, this was the case in teaching reading comprehension. Durkin (1978-1979) noted

that there is little explicit instruction when teaching reading comprehension. Rather, she

noted that teachers spend most of their time asking questions, and spend very little lime

giving explicit or direct instructions in helping students understand the meaning of a

paragraph or story. Indeed, she observed 24 fourth grade reading teachers for 5,000

minutes, and found that explicit comprehension instruction occurred less than 1% of the

time. Durkin (1981) also inspected elementary reading textbooks and found a similar lack of

explicit instruction.

Since 1975, investigators have developed explicit, direct procedures which have been

shown to aid students in reading comprehension and study skills. In reading

comprehension, these studies have involved training students in generative activities during

reading (Carnine, Kuder, Salvino, & Moore, 1983; Linden & Wittrock, 1981) and teaching

students strategies for comprehension skills (Carnine et al., 1983; Day, 1980; Patchings,

Kameenui, Colvin & Carnine, 1979; Raphael, 1980; Singer & Donlon, 1982). Each of these

studies yielded significant effects in improved reading comprehension. Similarly, studies

which train students in skills for studying texts (Dansereau, 1979; Larkin & Reif, 1976)

have yielded significant results.

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For Whom is This Approach Most Relevant?

The small-step approach which emerges from the research is particularly useful

when teaching younger students, slower students, and students of all ages and abilities

during the first stages of instruction with unfamiliar material (Berliner, 1982). Similarly,

these ideas best apply when learning hierarchical material because subsequent learning

builds upon well-formed prior learning. These ideas would also apply when the material is

difficult, no matter how talented the learners.

In general, the amount of time spent in presentation, guided practice, and

independent practice varies with the age and maturity of the students and the difficulty of

the material. With younger students and/or difficult material, the presentation is fairly

short and more time is spent in guided practice and supervised independent practice. With

older, more mature, and faster students, and as the material becomes more familiar, more

time is spent in presenting new material and less time is spent in guided practice.

No single, common term to describe this teaching has emerged as yet. Rather, a

variety of terms are being used including direct instruction, systematic leaching, explicit in-

struction, active teaching, and effective teaching. All of these terms are useful for describing

the systematic, explicit, direct procedures which will be discussed in this chapter.

Information Processing and Instruction

Another approach to understanding classroom teaching is to look at the recent

research on human information processing. There is good correspondence between the

results of this research and the research on effective teaching. The information processing

results apply in three areas: the limits of our working memory, the importance of

elaboration and practice, and the importance of continuing practice until the students are

fluent.

When teachers present new information, they should be concerned with not

presenting too much information at one time. Current information-processing theories

suggest that we are “limited-capacity processors”. That is, there are limits to the amount of

information learners can attend to and process effectively (Beck, 1978; Miller, 1956). When

too much information is presented at once, our working memory becomes swamped (James,

1890; Norman & Brokow, 1975). When this happens, we become confused, omit or skim

material, and are unable to complete the processing correctly (Tobias, 1982).

This suggests that when teaching new or difficult material, a teacher should proceed

in small steps and provide practice on one step before adding another. In this way, the

learner does not have to process too much at one time and can concentrate his/her

somewhat limited attention to processing manageable size pieces of information or skills.

In addition, a teacher can help students by reviewing relevant prior knowledge. Such

review may provide the student with a cognitive structure for encoding the new material and

thus require less processing resources than if the information were totally new (Spiro,

1981). Teachers provide this support by previewing lessons, telling students what they are

going to learn; by relating the new information to what students have previously learned;

and by providing organizers and outlines for the lesson.

A second finding is that we have to process new material in order to transfer it from

our working memory to our long-term memory. That is, we have to elaborate, review,

rehearse, summarize, or enhance the material (see Gagne, 1985). This suggests that a

teacher should provide active practice for all students. This practice is facilitated if the

teacher guides the necessary processing by asking questions, requiring students to

summarize ideas in their own words, helping students make connections between old and

new knowledge, having students tutor each other, supervising students as they practice new

steps in a skill, and providing feedback on their efforts.

A third point is that new learning is easier when prior learning is readily accessible

or automatic. In a large number of academic situations the student needs to apply and use

the knowledge or skills that have been previously learned. Retention and application of

previously learned knowledge and skills comes through overlearning, that is, practice

beyond the point where the student has to work to give the correct response. This results in

automatic processes which are rapidly executed and require little or no conscious attention.

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When prior learning is automatic, space is freed in our working memory, which can then be

used for comprehension, application, and problem solving (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974; Spiro,

1981; Wagner & Sternberg, 1984).

Reading is a good example of the importance of automatic recall. Readers who do not

decode automatically need to allocate much of their limited capacity to decoding and word

identification, and as a result, they have little capacity left for comprehending what is read

(LaBerge & Samuels, 1974; Perfetti & Lesgold, 1979). However, when learners are fluent in

word recognition, they can then devote more processing capacity to comprehending the

passage. Similarly, Greeno (1978) noted that mathematical problem solving is improved

when the basic skills (addition, multiplication, etc.) are overlearned and become automatic,

thus freeing processing capacity.

The benefits of overlearning suggest that there is value in repeating and rehearsing

basic material that will be used in subsequent learning. In most fields, such basic material

can include facts, concepts, skills and procedures, and specialized vocabulary.

We might summarize the above by saying that when learning new material it is

important for the teacher to provide “instructional support” for the learner (Tobias, 1982).

When providing such support, a teacher would (a) break the material into small steps in

order to reduce confusion, (b) give the learner practice in each step before increasing

complexity by adding another step, (c) provide for elaboration and enhancement in order to

help the learner move the material from working memory into long term memory, and (d)

provide for additional practice and overlearning of basic material and skills so that the

learners are fluent and automatic in using them.

The research on information processing helps explain why students taught with

structured curricula generally do better than those taught with either more individualized or

discovery learning approaches. It also explains why young students who receive their

instruction from a teacher usually achieve more than those who are expected to learn new

material and skills on their own or from each other. When young students are expected to

learn on their own, particularly in the early stages, the students run the danger of not

attending to the right cues, or not processing important points, and of proceeding on to later

points before they have done sufficient elaboration and practice.

A General Model of Effective Instruction

Putting together ideas from a number of sources (including those mentioned on page 1), we

have developed a list of six fundamental instructional “functions” which appear below and,

in more detail, in Table 13.1.

1. Review, check previous day's work (and reteach, if necessary)

2. Present new content/skills

3. Guided student practice (and check for understanding)

4. Feedback and correctives (and reteach, if necessary)

5. Independent student practice

6. Weekly and monthly reviews.

A primary source for this list was the "key instructional behaviors" developed by

Good and Grouws (1979) as part of their experimental study in fourth grade mathematics.

Many of these functions appeared earlier as the elements of the “Lesson Design” developed

by Hunter (Hunter & Russell, 1981), and Hunter derived her list from the “components of

instruction” developed by Gagne (1970, p. 304). Interestingly, a series of steps titled “How to

Instruct” developed during World War II (War Manpower Commission, 1945) is very similar

to the work of Gagne, Hunter, and Good and Grouws.

This is not a hard and fast list. Rather, it is possible to enlarge, contract, and revise

it; but if is intended to serve as a model, and as a basis of discussion about the nature of

effective teaching.

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Table 13.1.

Instructional Functions

1. Daily Review and Checking Homework

Checking homework (routines for students to check each other's papers)

Reteaching when necessary

Reviewing relevant past learning (may include questioning) Review prerequisite skills (if applicable)

2. Presentation

Provide short statement of objectives

Provide overview and structuring

Proceed in small steps but at a rapid pace

Intersperse questions within the demonstration to check for understanding

Highlight main points

Provide sufficient illustrations and concrete examples Provide demonstrations and models

When necessary, give detailed and redundant instructions and examples

3. Guided Practice

Initial student practice takes place with teacher guidance

High frequency of questions and overt student practice (from teacher and/or materials)

Questions are directly relevant to the new content or skill

Teacher checks for understan ding (CFU) by evaluating student responses

During CFU teacher gives additional explanation, process feedback, or repeats explanation — where necessary

All students have a chance to respond and receive feedback; teacher insures that all students participate

Prompts are provided during guided practice (where appropriate)

Initial student practice is sufficient so that students can work independently

Guided practice continues until students are firm

Guided practice is continued (usually) until a success rate of 80% is achieved

4. Correctives and Feedback

Quick, firm, and correct responses can be followed by an other question or a short acknowledgment of correctness

(i.e., “That's right”).

Hesitant correct answers might be followed by process feedback (i.e., “Yes, Linda, that's right because...”).

Student errors indicate a need for more practice.

Monitor students for systematic errors.

Try to obtain a substantive response to each question.

Corrections can include sustaining feedback (i.e., simplifying the question, giving clues), explaining or reviewing

steps, giving process feedback, or reteaching the last steps.

Try to elicit an improved response when the first one is incorrect.

Guided practice and corrections continue until the teacher feels that the group can meet the objectives of the

lesson.

Praise should be used in moderation, and specific praise is more effective than general praise.

5. Independent Practice (Seatwork)

Sufficient practice

Practice is directly relevant to skills/content taught

Practice to overlearning

Practice until responses are firm, quick, and automatic

Ninety-five percent correct rate during independent practice

Students alerted that seatwork will be checked

Student held accountable for seatwork

Actively supervise students, when possible

6. Weekly and Monthly Reviews

Systematic review of previously learned material

Include review in homework

Frequent tests

Reteaching of material missed in tests

Note: With older, more mature learners, or learners with m ore knowledge of the subject, the following adjustments

can be made: (1) the size of the step in presentation can be larger (more material is presented at one time), (2)

there is less time spent on teacher-guided practice and (3) the amount of overt practice can be decreased,

replacing it with covert rehearsal, restating and reviewing.

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There is some difference in the amount of time teachers spend on these functions in

the upper and lower grades. In the lower grades the amount of material presented at any

one time is smaller, more time is spent in guided student practice (through teacher

questions and student answers), and more of the practice is overt. In the higher grades, the

time spent in presentation becomes longer, and more material is presented at one time. In

the higher grades the amount of overt practice is decreased and replaced with covert

rehearsal, restating, and reviewing.

Although all classrooms have these components, they are not always carried out

effectively. All classrooms have demonstrations, but frequently they are too short, there are

too few examples, and the examples are imprecise or unclear. All classrooms have guided

practice, but often it is infrequent or too brief, there are loo few questions and examples,

and too little checking for student understanding. All teachers also correct student errors,

but frequently the corrections are uninformative, consisting of only a single word or

sentence; reteaching in small steps occurs seldom; and there is insufficient systematic

guided practice to ensure error-free performance. All classrooms have independent practice,

too, but frequently too great a proportion of classroom time is allocated to independent

practice, especially without immediate feedback, and students are expected to learn too

much from worksheets. Frequently the teacher does not circulate to help students during

independent practice and does not reteach when necessary. All classrooms have review, but

frequently there is insufficient reteaching of material missed during review, and the review

and practice does not continue until student responses are rapid and firm.

Many of these specific teaching skills can be taught fairly easily to experienced

teachers. In numerous experimental studies (Anderson et al., 1979; Becker, 1977; Emmer et

al., 1982; Evertson et al., 1981; Good & Grouws, 1979) where one group of teachers received

training in these techniques and another group did not, investigators found that (a) the

trained teachers used more of these skills in their classrooms and (b) the students of the

trained teachers had higher achievement scores and/or engagement rates. For example,

Good and Grouws (1979) found that the trained teachers reviewed and assigned homework

more frequently than did the untrained teachers: Emmer et al. (1981) found that the trained

teachers were rated higher in describing objectives clearly, giving clear directions, and giving

clear explanations.

Demonstration, Guided Practice, and Independent Practice

Three of these functions form the instructional core: demonstration, guided practice,

and independent practice. The first step is the demonstration of what is to be learned. This

is followed by guided student practice in which the teacher leads the students in practice,

provides prompts, checks for understanding, and provides corrections and repetition. When

students are firm in their initial learning, the teacher moves them to independent practice

where the students work with less guidance. The objective of the independent practice is to

provide sufficient practice so that students achieve overlearning (Brophy, 1982) and

demonstrate quickness and competence. A simple version of this core is used frequently in

the elementary grades when a teacher says: “I'll say it first, then you'll say it with me, and

then you'll say it by yourself”.

How would one teach two-digit multiplication (54 x 7) using these steps? The first

step would be teacher demonstration of the steps followed in solving these types of

problems. As part of the demonstration the teacher would model the use of the steps by

doing problems on a chalkboard (or an overhead). This is followed by guided practice in

which the students work two, three or more problems and the students are guided through

the rules with teacher prompts. The teacher circulates and checks for student

understanding as they do the problems. As the students become more proficient, the

prompts are diminished. The frequency of student errors during guided practice gives the

teacher an indication of whether any students need reteaching on the material. When a

student or subset of students make frequent errors, the teacher would review or reteach the

skill or process for those students or the entire class. When the students are firm in the

guided practice, and are making few errors, they are moved to independent practice where

they practice learning how to do the skill accurately and rapidly.

Sometimes the teacher may alternate quickly from brief demonstrations to guided

practice, and back, making the two steps seem as one. For example, when teaching a word

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list a teacher could demonstrate how to pronounce the first word, then conduct guided

practice, and continue this mixture of demonstration and practice. An integration of

demonstration and guided practice allows one to present information in small steps,

particularly when the information involves discrete pieces or steps. This would be followed

either by guided practice on all of the new skills (e.g., class reads all the words on the word

list) or independent practice on the new skills (e.g., students read the word list to the person

next to them).

The Excitement of Effective Instruction

When this type of instruction is done well, it is an exciting thing to watch. It is

exciting to watch the class or group move at a rapid pace and to watch all the students

giving the correct response rapidly and confidently. When this instruction is done well, the

demonstration part moves in small steps accompanied by checking Tor understanding. The

guided practice continues until all the students are responding firmly. (There is a great

difference between this firmness and the usual situation in which only half or three-fourths

of the students are responding confidently.) Watching all the students learning new material

and responding confidently can be quite exciting.

Across a number of studies and personal reports (Rosenshine & Stevens, 1984) there

is no evidence, at this time, that systematic instruction is taught in an overbearing manner

or that student attitudes toward school or self are affected adversely. Rather, such

classrooms have reasonable teacher warmth and lead to reasonably positive student

attitudes. These studies indicate that decent, humane, genuine interactions occur in many

classrooms which are highly structured and teacher-directed. The image of the formal

classroom as humorless, cold, and regimented was not found to be true. Today, teachers in

formal classrooms are warm, concerned, flexible, and allow freedom of movement. But they

are also task oriented and determined that children shall learn.

Let us turn, now, to a review of research in each of the six functions.

Daily Reviews and Checking Previous Work

There are two purposes for beginning a lesson with a short review: it provides

additional practice and overlearning for previously learned material, and it allows the

teacher to provide corrections and reteaching in areas where students are having difficulty.

Checking of homework is one form of review.

There are a number of ways in which this function — reviewing and reteaching when

necessary — can be carried out. Some suggestions include:

- Ask questions about concepts or skills taught in the previous lesson.

- Give a short quiz at the beginning of class on material from previous lessons or

homework assignment.

- Have students correct each other's homework papers or quizzes.

- Have students meet in small groups (2 to 4 students per group) to review homework.

- Have students prepare questions about previous lessons or homework and ask them to

each other or have the teacher ask them to the class.

- Have students prepare a written summary of the previous lesson.

- Have students ask the teacher about problems on homework and the teacher reviews,

reteaches or provides additional practice.

The idea of beginning a lesson by checking the previous day's assignment appears in

the experimental study of Good and Grouws (1979) and is found again in the work of

Emmer et al. (1982). Each of these programs was designed for grades four to eight. In the

primary grades, such explicit checking and reteaching is part of the Distar program (Becker,

1977) and the ECRI program (Reid, 1978). In the Distar reading program, there is daily

review or new sounds and new words. In the ECRI program the teacher-led lesson always

contains choral reviews of the vocabulary words from previous and future stories.

One would have thought that daily reviews and checking of homework were common

practice. Yet, in the Missouri Math program (Good & Grouws, 1979), where daily review was

included in the training manual given to the treatment teachers, they conducted review and

checked homework 80 percent of the time, but the control teachers did so only 50 percent of

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the time. Thus, a daily review is a teaching function that could be done more frequently in

most classrooms.

Presentation of Material to be Learned

All teachers, of course, demonstrate new skills and materials. But recent research in

grades four to eight has shown that effective teachers of mathematics spend more time in

demonstration than do less effective teachers (Evertson et al., 1980b; Good & Grouws, 1979;

Stallings, Needles, & Stayrook, 1979). The most effective mathematics teachers spent about

23 minutes per day in lecture, demonstration and discussion, whereas the least effective

teachers spent only 11 minutes (Evertson et al., 1980b).

Good, Grouws, and Ebmeier (1983) reviewed four classroom-based experimental

studies in mathematics which varied the amount of time spent on teacher-led development

(development includes both presentation and teacher-guided practice) and the amount of

time devoted to independent student practice. Although the results were not significant in

all cases, there were a number of significant results and a consistent trend favoring

spending at least 50 percent of the time on demonstration and guided practice.

When additional time is spent on demonstration and guided practice the teachers

provide redundant explanations, give many examples and provide sufficient instruction so

that the students can do the seatwork with minimal difficulty. These teachers also check the

students' understanding of the presentation by asking questions (guided practice). When

students make frequent errors, it is a sign of an inadequate presentation and reteaching is

necessary.

What does one do in an effective demonstration? Summarizing ideas from the

research review of Brophy (1980), the experimental study by Emmer et al., (1982) and the

studies on teacher clarity by Kennedy, Bush, Cruickshank and Haefele, (1978) and Lard and

Smith (1979), we developed the suggestions listed in Table 13.2. These are grouped under

four headings: clarity of goals and main points; step-by-step presentations; specific and

concrete procedures; and checking for understanding.

Table 13.2.

Aspects of Clear Presentations

1. Clarity of goals and main points

a. State the goals or objectives of the presentation.

b. Focus on one thought (point, direction) at a time.

c. Avoid digressions.

d. Avoid ambiguous phrases and pronouns.

2. Step-by-step presentations

a. Present the material in small steps.

b. Organize and present the material so that one point is mastered before the next point is

given.

c. Give explicit, step-by-step directions (when possible).

d. Present an outline when the material is complex.

3. Specific and concrete procedures

a. Model the skill or process (when appropriate).

b. Give detailed and redundant explanations for difficult points.

c. Provide students with concrete and varied examples.

4. Checking for students' understanding

a. Be sure that students understand one point before proceeding to the next point.

b. Ask the students questions to monitor their comprehension of what has been presented.

c. Have students summarize the main points in their own words.

d. Reteach the parts of the presentation that the students have difficulty comprehending,

either by further teacher explanation or by students tutoring other students.

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Beyond these general suggestions for improving teachers' techniques during the

presentation of new material a number of questions remain. For example: How does one

organize new material so that it can be learned most effectively? What are the

characteristics of an effective demonstration? How many examples, and what kind, should

teachers use? Is there a most effective way for sequencing examples? How much information

should be presented at one time (i.e., how small or large should the instructional steps be)?

At present there is little conclusive research on these questions, and determining the

answers to them represents the next step in research on the function of presenting new

material.

The quality and design of the instructional materials used can have an impact on the

effectiveness of the presentation phase of teaching. Research on instructional materials is

currently proceeding in two general areas, task analysis and instructional design (Resnick,

1976). Perhaps some of the questions presented above will be answered by this research

(e.g., how many; what kind; and what sequence of examples). However, while there are

presently many models for instructional design, these models vary, and a general model of

effective instructional design has not yet been developed.

Although demonstration is a major part of instruction in areas such as mathematics,

English grammar, science, and foreign language, there are some areas where, unfortunately,

demonstration is used infrequently. As noted earlier, it is seldom used when teaching

reading comprehension or higher-level cognitive thinking. Durkin (1978-1979) noted that

there is seldom a demonstration phase in reading comprehension. As discussed previously,

recent research has begun to define and explicate specific comprehension skills. Thus,

current research is attempting to provide teachers with demonstration procedures in

comprehension skills.

Similarly, although teachers are exhorted to ask higher-level cognitive questions (i.e.,

questions which require application, analysis, and synthesis), they seldom demonstrate how

to answer such questions (nor are they taught how to provide this demonstration). Again,

this may be due, at least in part, to the fact that we are only beginning to understand the

cognitive processes that underlie these skills (particularly in the area of reading

comprehension). Until recently, then, teachers have been limited to teaching these

complicated skills without knowing how to provide explicit demonstrations.

In summary, it is important for teachers to state the goals of the lesson, provide

students with explicit, step-by-step demonstrations of the new material, use many

examples, and check to see that all the students understand the material before proceeding

to the next point.

Guided Student Practice

In the successful experimental studies, demonstration is followed by guided student

practice. In all of the studies, to date, this guided practice is conducted by the teacher. The

purpose of guided practice is to:

- Guide initial practice

- Correct errors

- Reteach, if necessary

- Provide sufficient practice so that students can work independently

In one form of guided practice, the teacher asks questions and initially provides

prompts or guides the students in responding, and gives them feedback and corrective help

when (hey make errors. The questions provide the students an opportunity to practice the

new skills in a controlled environment where mistakes can be corrected. In guided practice

it seems preferable that students work no more than one question or problem at a time

before getting feedback. This assures that students' errors will not go uncorrected. The

guided practice continues until the students are confident and firm in their responses, at

which time they are ready to begin independent practice.

Throughout the guided practice — from the initial, hesitant responses to the

confident and firm responses — the teacher questions allow the teacher to check for

understanding, that is, the student answers tell the teacher whether the students are ready

to proceed to the next step, or whether additional practice and/or reteaching is necessary.

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Of course, all teachers spend time in guided practice. However, the more effective

teachers devote more time to it. That is, they spend more time asking questions, correcting

errors, repeating the new material, and working problems with teacher guidance than do the

less effective teachers.

The form of guided practice is modified to fit the material being taught. When a

process is being taught, as in long division or multiplication with carrying, the guided

practice frequently consists of problems worked under the teacher's supervision, and the

teacher restating the steps as the students proceed (i.e., providing what Good & Grouws

[1979] called process feedback). Teachers frequently have some students doing the math

problems at the board, thus providing models for the entire class.

When facts are being taught—as in historical facts, scientific facts, and number

facts--then there is less process feedback and more questions and answers during guided

practice.

In summary, the guided practice function is usually led by the teacher who:

- Asks a large number of questions

- Guides students in practicing the new material, initially using prompts to lead students

to the correct response and later reducing them when students are responding correctly

- Checks for student understanding

- Provides feedback

- Corrects errors

- Reteaches when necessary

- Provides for a large number of successful repetitions

Four topics in guided practice are considered below: frequent practice, high

percentage of correct answers, checking for understanding, and organizing and conducting

practice.

The Importance of Frequent Practice

Both correlational and experimental studies have shown that a high frequency of

teacher-directed questions and student answers are important for instruction in basic

arithmetic and reading skills in the primary grades. Stallings and Kaskowitz (1974)

identified a pattern of “factual question-student response-teacher feedback” as the most

functional for student achievement. Similar results favoring guided practice through teacher

questions were obtained by Stallings, Gory, Fairweather and Needles (1977), Stallings,

Needles and Stayrook (1979), Soar (1973) and Coker, Lorentz and Coker (1980). The

significant correlational results in these studies means that although all teachers asked

some questions, the effective teachers asked many while the less effective teachers asked

few questions.

Similar results on the importance of a high frequency of questions have been

obtained in mathematics in grades six to eight. In a correlational study of junior high school

mathematics instruction (Evertson, Anderson, Anderson & Brophy, 1980a) the most

effective teachers asked an average of 24 questions during the 50-minute mathematics

period, whereas the least effective teachers asked an average of only 8.6 questions. For each

group the majority of questions were factual, but the most effective teachers asked more

process questions (i.e., “Explain how you got that answer”). The most effective teachers

averaged six process questions per math period, whereas least effective teachers averaged

only one or two.

Two experimental studies (Anderson et al., 1979; Good & Grouws, 1979) used guided

practice as part of the experimental treatment. In each study the teachers who received the

additional training were taught to follow the presentation of new material with guided

practice. It consisted of questions asked by the teacher and supervised exercises. In both

studies, teachers in the trained group asked more questions and had more guided practice

than did the control teachers who continued their normal teaching. Also, in both studies,

students in the experimental groups had higher achievement than the students of teachers

in the control groups.

The critical variable appears to be a high percentage of student responses. Beck

(1978) found a positive correlation between the number of times a word appeared in a

reading program for the first grade students and the speed with which the students

recognized the word, indicating that the more the students practiced the word the better it

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was learned. Elementary students need a good deal of practice and the frequency of teacher

questions is one indicator that such practice is taking place. This is also important for

adults. Kulik and Kulik (1979) found that students in college classes which gave weekly

quizzes had final examination scores that were higher than the scores of students in classes

that had only one or two quizzes during the term. Presumably, the added gain came from

the additional practice associated with the weekly quizzes. This suggests that additional

practice is also helpful for college students.

High Percentage of Correct Answers

The frequency of teacher questions is not the only important factor, because the

percentage of correct student responses also plays a role in successful learning. The

importance of a high percentage of rapid (“automatic”), correct responses is a relatively new

idea resulting from recent research (Samuels, 1981). Although there are no scientific

guidelines as to exactly what the percentage of correct answers should be, a reasonable

recommendation at the present time (suggested by Brophy, 1980) is an 80% success rate

when practicing new material. When reviewing, the success rate should be very high,

perhaps 95% and student responses should be rapid, smooth and confident.

How can a teacher reduce the student error rate during practice exercises? The

following suggestions derive from the research presented above.

1. Break down the instruction into smaller steps. Give the students instruction and

practice to mastery on each step before proceeding to the next step.

2. Provide the students with very explicit demonstrations of the skills, whenever

possible.

3. Intersperse the demonstration with questions in order to maintain students'

attention and to check for student understanding.

4. Provide the students with teacher-monitored practice prior to seatwork activity

so that the teacher can correct errors before they become part of the students' repertoire.

5. With especially confusing material, provide precorrections by advising the

students about particularly confusing areas.

6. Provide sufficient independent practice, both in length and in number of

exercises, to enable students to master skills to the point of overlearning (with additional

exercises for the slower students).

7. Reteach material when necessary.

The research results support the value of frequent correct responses given rapidly

and automatically. One of the major findings of the BTES study (Fisher et al., 1978) was

that high percentage of correct answers (both during guided practice and independent

practice) was positively correlated with achievement gain. Similarly, Anderson et al., (1979)

found that the percent of academic interactions where the student gave the correct answer

was positively related (r = .49) to achievement gain.

More specific information can be obtained from studies which compared the most

effective and least effective classrooms. For example, in the study by Anderson et al., 1979,

the mean percentage of correct answers during reading groups was 73% in the treatment

teachers' classrooms but only 66% in the control classrooms. Gerstein, Carnine, and

Williams (1981) found that teachers using the Distar program who obtained high reading

achievement from their students had student accuracy rates near 90% whereas those with

lower class achievement had accuracy rates of less than 75%. In a correlational study in

fourth grade the more effective math teachers had a success rate of 82% whereas the least

effective had a success rate of 76% (Good & Grouws, 1977). However, this result was not

replicated in a study of junior high school math (Evertson et al., 1980a). Therefore, a high

frequency of correct responses for all students appears to be very important in the

elementary grades.

Of the variables mentioned above, there are two which seem most important. The

effective programs and the effective teachers (a) teach new material in small steps so that

the possibility for errors is lessened, and (b) practice until over-learning occurs (that is, they

continue practice beyond the point where the children are accurate). For example, in the

ECRI programs (Reid, 1980), there is daily review of new words in the stories that have been

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or will be read. Students repeat these words until they can say them at the rate of one per

second. In the Distar program (Becker, 1977), the new words in every story are repeated by

the reading group until all students are accurate and quick. In the instructions to teachers

in their experimental study on primary reading groups, Anderson et al., (1979) stressed the

importance of overlearning and of making sure that each student “is checked, receives

feedback, and achieves mastery”. All of the above procedures, which facilitate obtaining a

high success rate, can be used with any reading series.

Checking for Understanding

Guided student practice also includes teacher “checking for understanding”. This

refers to frequent assessments of whether all the students understand either the content or

skill being taught, or the steps in a process (such as two-digit multiplication). This

instructional function appears in the teacher training materials developed for the Missouri

Mathematics Effectiveness Project (Good & Grouws, 1979) and in the manual “Organizing

and Managing the Junior High Classroom” (Emmer et al., 1981).

It is best that checking for understanding take place frequently so that teachers can

provide corrections and reteach when necessary. Some methods for conducting checking for

understanding include:

- Prepare a large number of oral questions beforehand

- Ask many brief questions on main points, supplementary points, and on the process

being taught

- Call on students whose hands aren't raised in addition to those who volunteer

- Ask students to summarize the rule or process in their own words

- Have all students write the answers (on paper or chalkboard) while the teacher

circulates

- Have all students write the answers and check them with a neighbor (frequently used

with older students)

- At the end of a lecture/discussion (especially with older students) write the main points

on the board and have the class meet in groups and summarize the main points to each

other.

The wrong way to check for understanding is to ask only a few questions, call on

volunteers to hear their (usually correct) answers, and then assume that all of the class

either understands or has now learned from hearing the volunteers' responses. Another

error is to ask "are there any questions?" and, if there aren't any, assume that everybody

understands. Another error (particularly with older children) is to assume that it is not

necessary to check for understanding, and that simply repeating the points will be

sufficient.

Organizing and Conducting Practice

A number of studies have provided some information on the issues of organizing and

conducting practice. Topics include: random vs. ordered turns, accepting call-outs, and

choral versus individual responding.

First in a correlational study (Brophy & Evertson, 1976) and then in an experimental

study (Anderson et al., 1979) it was found that in primary grade reading groups it was

better for student achievement if the teacher called on students in ordered

turns. Such ordered turns were used when reading new words and when reading a story out

loud. The authors say that ordered turns insure that all students have opportunities to

practice and participate, and that they simplify group management by eliminating

handwaving and other student attempts to be called on by the teacher.

Anderson et al. (1982) note that although the principle of ordered turns works well in

small groups, it would be inappropriate to use this principle with whole class instruction in

most situations. They suggest that when a teacher is working with a whole class it is usually

more efficient to select certain students to respond to questions or to call on volunteers than

to attempt systematic turns.

In both studies, student call-outs were usually negatively related to achievement

gain among higher achieving students. However, for the lower achieving students in these

studies, call-outs were positively related to achievement. This supports Brophy and

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Evertson's (1976) conclusion that call-outs may be desirable with students that may be

alienated or fearful of responding. However, due to the lack of other studies in this area,

these results are tentative.

One technique for obtaining a high frequency of responses in a minimum amount of

time is through group choral response (see Becker, 1977). This technique is particularly

useful when students are learning materials which need to be overlearned, such as

decoding, word lists, and number facts.

A research study by McKenzie (1979) provides some evidence of the usefulness of

group response. His study showed that students in teacher-led practice had significantly

higher engagement rates when there was group response than they did during individual

response. McKenzie reasoned that group responding gives each student more response

opportunities than are possible with individual responses. Thus group or choral responding

provides a way for teachers to achieve greater student attention during guided practice, as

well as more practice on the new skills for each student.

Two successful programs, Distar (Becker, 1977) and ECRI (Reid, 1978-1982), make

extensive use of choral responding in primary grade reading groups. In these programs,

choral responses are initiated by a specific signal from the teacher so that the entire group

will respond at the same time (much like a conductor and an orchestra). There is a danger

that the slower students may delay their responses a fraction of a second and thus echo the

faster students or not respond at all if the teacher does not instruct the class in how to

respond in unison. Thus, choral responses without a signal and without a unified response

have been associated with lower student achievement gain (Brophy & Evertson, 1976).

Becker (1977) argued that choral responding to a signal (a) allows the teacher to

monitor the learning of all students effectively and quickly; (b) allows the teacher to correct

the entire group when an error is made, thereby diminishing the potential embarrassment of

the individual students who make them; and (c) makes the drill more like a game because of

the whole group participation. The Oregon Direct Instruction Model suggests that teachers

use a mixture of both choral responses and individual turns during the guided practice

phase, with choral responding occurring about 70% of the time. The individual turns allow

for testing of specific children. If the slower children in the group are “firm” (i.e., respond

quickly and confidently) when questioned individually, the teacher moves the lesson

forward; however, if they remain slow and hesitant during individual turns, this is a signal

that the children need more practice. In this case it would also be argued that because the

hesitant children are in a small group with others of the same ability, it is likely that the

other children in the group could also benefit from the additional practice.

Group responding, in unison and to a signal, is also used successfully in the ECR1

program. In ECRI it is used for learning new words and for reviewing lists of up to 100 old

words. With this training, students learn to read the list of new words at a speed of one

word per second.

Choral responding works best in small groups—where the teacher can monitor the

responses of individual students. Monitoring is also facilitated by seating slower students

close to the teacher. In primary grade mathematics, for example, choral responses can also

be used with the whole class to review number facts such as multiplication tables. In short,

choral responses can be an effective way to conduct guided practice.

Feedback and Correctives

Another major teaching function involves responding to student answers and

correcting student errors. During guided practice, checking for understanding, and review,

how should a teacher respond to student answers?

Simplifying a bit, four types of student responses can be identified:

- Correct, quick and firm

- Correct, but hesitant

- Incorrect, but a “careless” error

- Incorrect, suggesting lack of knowledge of facts or a process

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Correct, Quick, and Firm

When a student response is correct, quick, and firm (usually occurring in the later

stages of initial learning or in a review), then the research suggests that the teacher should

simply ask a new question, thereby maintaining the momentum of the practice. There is

also value in short statements of acknowledgement (c.g., “right”) which do not disturb the

momentum of the lesson.

Correct, but Hesitant

This often occurs during the initial stages of learning, that is, during guided practice,

checking for understanding, or during a review of relatively new material. If students are

correct but unsure of themselves, it is suggested that teachers provide short statements of

feedback such as “correct” or “very good”. It is also suggested that the teacher provide

moderate amounts of process feedback, that is, re-explain the steps used to arrive at the

correct answer (Anderson et al., 1979; Good & Grouws, 1979). Such feedback may not only

help the student who is still learning the steps in the process, but may also help others who

need this information to understand why the answer was correct.

Incorrect but Careless

When a student makes a careless error during review, drill, or reading, teachers

should simply correct the student and move on.

Incorrect, Due to Lack of Knowledge of the Facts or the Process

Student errors made during the early stages of learning new material often indicate

that the student is not firm in the facts or process being taught. The teacher has two

options for remedying this problem:

1. Provide the students with prompts or hints to lead them to the correct answer

2. Reteach the material to the students who do not understand

Generally, the most effective approach during teacher-led practice is to try to guide

the student to the correct answer by using hints, prompts or simpler questions. However,

this is useful only when these individual contacts remain brief (e.g., 30 seconds or less).

Contacts of longer duration are detrimental because the teacher loses the attention of the

rest of the students. If a student cannot be guided to the correct answer through a brief

contact, it is necessary to reteach the material to that student. Usually this reteaching

occurs while the rest of the class is doing independent seatwork, or at some other time of

the day (e.g., during recess, art, group activities or before or after school).

Both of these approaches to error correction — that is, prompting and reteaching —

have been used successfully in experimental research and in effective instructional

programs. Asking simpler questions or giving hints or prompts were successful when the

contacts were brief in duration (Anderson et al., 1979; Stallings & Kaskowitz, 1974).

Reteaching the material to the students who made errors is recommended by a number of

programs (Becker, 1977; Good & Grouws, 1979; Reid, 1980). Good and Grouws (1979)

instruct teachers to reteach when the error rate is high during a lesson. Reteaching,

particularly during the initial stages of learning new material, is recommended by Becker

(1977) and by Reid (1980). Each of these programs provide specific correction procedures for

the student to use. The Distar program specifics not only correction procedures but also

additional teaching to strengthen the student in any area of weakness.

When students are being instructed in ability groups (such as small groups in

reading) and one or more students are making errors, it is usually beneficial to reteach the

entire group (Becker, 1977; Reid, 1980). Since the students in the group are of similar

ability, it is very likely that many of them are having similar difficulties. Thus a re-

explanation of the material to the entire ability group will be useful to all of the students in

the group.

When the initial presentation is given to the whole class, correcting errors by

reteaching is more problematic. In most cases only a small portion of the students need

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reteaching, but finding the time for it and managing the other students during this remedial

instruction is a problem. One method used by teachers is to reteach the entire lesson to

students needing it during independent seatwork (Arlin & Webster, 1983). However, these

students still need to engage in independent practice because it supplies the necessary

repetitions to enable them to master the material. Another alternative is to provide remedial

instruction to slower students (or students who have been absent) during recess, lunch, art,

music, physical education, or before or after school. While these options may be useful on a

short-term basis, they may not be satisfactory on a daily basis.

Another option for correcting errors that occur during whole class instruction is

through peer tutoring (or reteaching within teams, Slavin, 1981). In this case faster students

are selected as tutors and re-explain the material to students who have been making errors.

Observations in Mastery Learning classrooms have recorded evidence of the usefulness of

this technique (Arlin & Webster, 1983). Not only do the slower students get the reteaching

they need, but the tutors also get useful practice explaining the process or skills in their

own words (Webb, 1980). However, these peer tutoring techniques are probably most

effective with older students, and primary grade teachers usually are faced with the problem

of finding time to reteach the material to the slower students themselves.

In summary, whether one uses hints, prompts, or reteaching the material, the

important point is that errors should not go uncorrected. In most cases, if a student makes

an error, it is inappropriate to simply give the student the answer and then move on. It is

also important that errors be detected and corrected early in a teaching sequence. If early

errors are uncorrected they can become extremely difficult to correct later and systematic

errors (or misrules) can interfere with subsequent learning.

In their review on effective college teaching, Kulik and Kulik (1979) found that

instruction was more effective when (a) students received immediate feedback on their

examinations, and (b) students had to do further study and take another test when their

quiz scores did not reach a set criterion. Both points seem relevant to this discussion:

students learn better with feedback given as immediately as possible; and errors should be

corrected before they become systematic.

Independent Practice

Once students are exhibiting some proficiency on the new concepts or skills (as

observed in correct responses at least 80% of the time in guided practice), they are ready to

begin practicing on their own. Independent practice gives the students the repetitions they

need to (a) integrate the new information or skills with previous knowledge or skills, and (b)

become automatic in their use of the skills. What is merely demonstrated is likely to be

forgotten if the student doesn't have the opportunity to practice overlearning. This

independent activity should give the students enough practice that they become firm in their

understanding and use of the new concepts or skills.

During independent practice the students usually go through two stages: unitization

and automaticity (Samuels, 1981). During unitization the students are putting the skills

together. They make few errors, but they are also slow and require a lot of energy to

complete the task. After a good deal of practice, students reach the “automatic” stage where

they are successful and rapid, and no longer have to “think through” each step. For

example, when students are learning two-digit multiplication, they are in the unitization

phase when they are hesitantly working the first few problems. When they have worked a

sufficient number of problems correctly, and are confident, firm, and automatic in the skill,

they are in the automaticity phase. The students' responses become more automatic

because they have practiced the skills to the point of overlearning.

The important part of independent practice is that the students get enough

successful practice to ensure overlearning which can be observed when their responses are

automatic (i.e., quick and firm). Overlearning is particularly important for hierarchical

materials such as mathematics and elementary reading. Unless there is overlearning to the

point of automaticity, it is unlikely that the material will be retained (Brophy, 1980).

Furthermore, hierarchical material requires the application of previously learned skills to

subsequent new skills. The advantage of automaticity is that students who master the

material can then concentrate their attention on learning new skills or applying the skills to

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new situations. For example, automaticity of decoding skills frees the students' attention for

comprehension, just as automaticity of computation frees the students' attention for

mathematical problem solving.

Managing Students During Seatwork

The most common context in which independent practice takes place is in individual

seatwork. Students in grades one through seven spend more time working alone on

seatwork than on any other activity (approximately 50 to 75% of their time) (Evertson et al.,

1980a; Fisher et al., 1978; Stallings et al., 1977; Stallings & Kaskowitz, 1974). However,

students are less engaged during seatwork than when they are in groups receiving

instruction from the teacher. Therefore, it is important for teachers to learn how to maintain

student engagement during seatwork.

Students' engagement during seatwork is affected by (a) the degree to which they are

adequately prepared to do the seatwork exercises, and (b) the management of seatwork ac-

tivity (keeping the students on task during seatwork). Fortunately, there are instructional

procedures which can help increase student engagement during seatwork, including:

- The teacher spends more time in demonstration (explanation, discussion) and guided

practice

- The teacher makes sure students are ready to work alone, by achieving a correct

response rate of 80% or higher during guided practice

- The seatwork activity follows directly after guided practice

- The seatwork exercises are directly relevant to the demonstration and guided practice

activities

- The teacher guides the students through the first few seatwork problems

There is ample support for these instructional procedures, both in research and in

successful programs. Evertson et al. (1980b) found that teachers in junior high

mathematics whose classes were more engaged during the seatwork prepared students for it

during demonstration and guided practice. The most effective teachers spent 24 minutes (in

a 50-minute period) in demonstration and guided practice, whereas the least effective

teachers spent only 10 minutes on these same activities. Similarly, Fisher et al. (1978)

found that teachers who had more questions and answers during group work had more

engagement during seatwork. That is, another way to increase engagement during seatwork

is to have more teacher-led practice during group work so that the students can be more

successful during seatwork. Successful teachers also had the students work as a group on

the first few seatwork problems before releasing them for individual seatwork (Anderson et

al., 1979). The guided practice of Hunter and Russell (1981) and of Good and Grouws (1979)

are additional examples of the importance of teacher-led guided practice before seatwork.

Another finding by Fisher et al. (1978) was that when teachers had to give a good

deal of explanation during seatwork, student error rates were higher. Having to re-explain to

many students during seatwork suggests that the initial explanation was not sufficient or

that there was not sufficient practice and corrections before seatwork began. The students

were not adequately prepared to work on their own. Evertson et al.'s (1980b) finding that

long contacts during seatwork were negatively related to achievement suggests a replication

of this negative correlation.

Another effective procedure for better preparing students for seatwork activity, and

hence for improving their engagement during seatwork, is to break the instruction into

smaller segments and have two or three segments of instruction and seatwork during a

single period. In this way, the teacher provides an explanation (as in two-digit

multiplication), then supervises and helps the students as they work a problem, then

provides an explanation of the next step, and then supervises the students as they work the

next problem. This procedure seems particularly effective for difficult material and/or slower

students. This practice was advocated in the manual for teachers in the successful Junior

High School Management Study (Emmer et al., 1982) and characterized successful teachers

of lower achieving students in junior high math classes (Evertson, 1982).

In summary, although seatwork activities take place in all classrooms, the

successful teachers spend a good deal more time than do average teachers in demonstrating

what is being taught and in leading the students in guided practice. Students who are

adequately prepared during the teacher-led activities are then more able to succeed during

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the seatwork. In contrast, the less successful teachers spent less time in demonstration and

guided practice and relied more on self-paced, “individualized” materials, where students

spent more time working alone. A second way of improving student engagement during

seatwork is to effectively manage the activity. Some useful management procedures are

listed below:

- The teacher circulates among the students during seatwork, providing feedback, asking

questions, and giving short explanations.

- When the teacher is instructing a small group and the rest of the class is working on

seatwork, the teacher arranges the seats so s/he can face both the small group and the

students working independently.

- The teacher establishes a set routine to be used during all seatwork activities which

prescribes what students will do during seatwork, how they will get extra help when needed,

and what they will do upon completion of the seatwork activity.

Fisher et al. (1978) found that when students have contacts with the teacher (or

another adult) during seatwork their engagement rate increases by about 10%. Teachers

moving around and interacting with students during seatwork is also an illustration of the

“active teaching” which was successful in the experimental study of Good and Grouws

(1979). The advantage of a teacher circulating and monitoring during seatwork led Good and

Grouws (1979) to advocate teaching the class as a whole for fourth to eighth g rade math.

Such whole class teaching permits the teacher to actively circulate and interact with all

students during seatwork.

How long should these contacts be? The research suggests that they should be

relatively short, averaging 30 seconds or less (Evertson et al., 1980b; Scott & Bushell, 1974).

Longer contacts appear to pose two difficulties: (a) the need for a long contact suggests that

the initial explanation was not clearly understood, and (b) the more time a teacher spends

with one student, the less time there is to monitor and help other students.

In elementary grades the teacher frequently instructs students in an ability group

(e.g., reading groups) while the rest of the students are doing independent seatwork. The

most effective way for teachers to monitor the seatwork activity during small group

instruction is to arrange the seats so they can monitor both groups at the same time

(Brophy & Evertson, 1976). In this way the students in the small group have their backs to

the other students, and thus are not distracted. The teacher can also monitor the

independently working students with periodic glances, thus improving students'

engagement during seatwork.

Because teachers are frequently engaged in other activities while students are doing

their seatwork (c.g., reteaching or small-group instruction), it is beneficial for the teacher to

have a previously established routine for the students to follow during seatwork activity

(Brophy, 1983). This routine should prescribe how the students are to conduct themselves

during seatwork, including what activities they are to do during this time, what they are to

do after they complete their exercises, and how they are to get extra help if necessary. For

example, the routine might specify that:

- Students who have completed the exercises are to turn them in and work on other

assignments or do free reading or enrichment exercises.

- Students are to check their exercises with prearranged “buddies”.

- Students who need help are to approach the teacher between, not during, small-group

activities.

- Students who need help may quietly ask preassigned peer tutors.

Teachers should instruct students in the various aspects of these seatwork routines

at the beginning of the year, and see that they are followed throughout the year. The

advantage of such routines is that they can minimize the need for teacher monitoring of the

seatwork activity while they are engaged in small group instruction.

In summary, successful independent practice requires both adequate preparation of

the students, and effective teacher management of the activity. Neither preparation nor

management alone is sufficient.

Other Ways of Accomplishing the Independent Practice Function

As explained previously, the goal of independent practice is to provide practice to the

point of overlearning and automaticity. Seatwork is the usual setting in which this function

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occurs, but there are three other ways in which independent practice can take place:

teacher-led practice, independent practice with a routine of specific procedures, and student

cooperative practice in groups.

TEACHER-LED PRACTICE

In the elementary grades, independent practice is often teacher-led. For example, if a

teacher is leading a review of word lists, letter sounds, or number facts this activity can be

called independent practice if the children are at a high success level and do not require

prompts from the teacher.

In her study of successful teachers of lower achieving, junior high English classes,

Evertson (1982) found that the teacher who had the highest engagement rate did not have

long seatwork activities. Instead, the teacher used short presentations followed by long

periods of repeated questions where the participation of all students was expected, the

questions were narrow and direct, and there was a high degree of student success. This

teacher led practice provided the practice to mastery that the students needed.

INDEPENDENT PRACTICE WITH ROUTINES

The ECRI program (Reid, 1978-1982), on the other hand, obtains high engagement

by organizing routines to be followed when practicing each story. During independent

practice all students work independently on a story for which they are trying to achieve

“mastery”. To achieve mastery a student has to:

- Read all new words in the story at a rate of one per second or faster;

- Spell all new words without error;

- Read any selection in the story at a predetermined rate; and

- Answer comprehension questions on the story.

During independent study students proceed through a checklist of tasks relevant to these

skills. They use a stop watch or the clock to time themselves. When they are ready, students

give a spelling test to each other, check each other for accuracy and speed of the word list,

and/or check each other for accuracy and speed on the reading selection.

There are noteworthy advantages to these ECRI procedures. First, this series of tasks

can be readily followed by the students, because they are repeated with each story.

Therefore, the teacher is not faced with the typical problem of having to prepare students for

a different kind of worksheet each day. Second, the tasks are designed to insure that all

students receive sufficient practice and obtain automaticity. Third, the student interaction

provides a social dimension to this task, for it allows a student to get help from another

student, and yet, keeps them focused on the academic task. Many of these ECRI procedures

could be incorporated into existing programs. In particular, teachers might consider using

the repeated reading until the students are reading rapidly and the student cooperative

work.

STUDENT COOPERATIVE PRACTICE

Researchers have also developed procedures for students to help each other during

seatwork (Johnson & Johnson, 1975; Sharan, 1980; Slavin, 1980a, 1980b, 1981). In some

cases the students in the groups prepare a common product, such as the answer to a drill

sheet (Johnson & Johnson, 1975), and in other situations the students study cooperatively

in order to prepare for competition which takes place after the seatwork (Slavin, 1980a).

Research using these procedures usually shows that students who do seatwork under these

conditions achieve more than students who are in regular settings. Observational data

indicates that students are also more engaged in these settings than are similar students in

conventional settings (Johnson & Johnson, in press; Slavin, 1978, 1980b; Zeigler, 1981).

Presumably, the advantages of these cooperative settings come from the social value of

working in groups, and the cognitive value gained from explaining the material to someone

and/or having the material explained to you. Another advantage of the common worksheet

and the competition is that they keep the group focused on the academic task and diminish

the possibility that there will be social conversation.

Summary

The purpose of independent practice is to provide the students with sufficient practice so

that they can do the work automatically. This is usually done by having students work

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individually at seatwork. Suggestions from the research for improving student engagement

during seatwork are:

1. Give clear instruction—explanations, questions, and feedback—and sufficient practice

before the students begin their seatwork. Having to provide lengthy explanations during

seatwork is troublesome for the teacher and for the student.

2. Circulate during seatwork, actively explaining, observing, asking questions, and giving

feedback.

3. Have short contacts with individual students (i.e., 30 seconds or less).

4. For difficult material in whole class instruction, have a number of segments of

instruction and seatwork during a single period.

5. Arrange seats to facilitate monitoring the students (e.g., face both small group and

independently working students).

6. Establish a routine to use during seatwork activity which prescribes what students will

do, how they will get help and what they will do when they have completed the exercises.

Although the most common organization of independent practice is seatwork with each

child working alone, three other forms of organization have been successful:

1. Teacher-led student practice, as in repetition drills and question and answer sessions,

2. A routine of student activities to be followed during seat-work where the student works

both alone and with another student, and

3. Procedures for cooperation within groups and competition between groups during

seatwork.

Weekly and Monthly Reviews

The learning of new material is also enhanced by weekly and monthly reviews. Many

of the recent instructional programs include periodic reviews and also provide for reteaching

in areas in which the students are weak. In the Missouri Math Study (Good & Grouws,

1979) teachers were asked to review the previous week's work every Monday, and to conduct

a monthly review every fourth Monday. The review provides additional teacher checking for

student understanding, insures that the necessary prior skills are adequately learned, and

is also a check on the teacher's pace. Good and Grouws recommend that the teacher

proceed at a fairly rapid pace (to increase student interest). They also suggest that if a

teacher is going too fast, it will be apparent in the weekly review, because students will

make many errors.

Periodic reviews and recycling of instruction when there are student errors have been

part of the Distar program since 1968. Extensive review is also built into the ECR1 program

in that slower students are reviewing new words for three weeks before they encounter the

words in a story in their reader. This kind of massed learning followed by spaced reviews is

also part of Hunter's program on increasing teaching effectiveness (Hunter & Russell, 1981).

Management Functions

Many of the programs cited on the first page also contain suggestions for managing

transitions between activities, setting rules and consequences, alerting students during

independent work and holding them accountable, giving students routines to follow when

they need help but the teacher is busy, and other management functions.

The developers of these programs understand that instruction cannot be effective if

the students are not well managed. However, that topic is beyond the scope of this paper.

For a more detailed discussion see Brophy (1983).

Discussion

This chapter has discussed a number of teaching functions: review of previous

learning; demonstration of new materials; guided practice and checking for understanding;

feedback and corrections; independent practice; and periodic review. While writing this

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chapter, we were impressed with the fact that many different people, working independently,

came up with fairly similar solutions to the problems involved in effective classroom

instruction. The fact that independent researchers have reached similar conclusions and

have collected student achievement data which supports their positions serves to validate

each individual research study.

One advantage of this chapter is that it provides a general overview of the major

functions of systematic teaching. What is missing, however, is the specific detail which is

contained in the training manuals and materials developed by each of the investigators. We

would hope that all teachers and teachers' trainers have a chance to study and discuss

those training manuals.

The functions identified and explained in this paper are quite similar to those used

by the most effective teachers. Most teachers already perform some of them, but the specific

programs elaborate on how to perform all of these functions and provide more routines,

procedures, and modifications than an individual teacher working alone could have

developed. These programs make teachers aware of the six instructional functions, bring the

set of skills to a conscious level, and enable teachers to develop strategies for consistent,

systematic implementation (Bennett, 1982).

Now that we can describe the major teaching functions, we can ask whether there

are a variety of ways in which they can be fulfilled. We have already seen that the

independent practice function can be met in three ways; students working alone, teacher

leading the practice, and students helping each other. (There are even a variety of ways for

students to help each other.)

We have just begun to explore this issue of the variety of ways of meeting each

function, and at present no conclusions can be drawn regarding their relative merit. It may

be that each function can be met three ways: by the teacher, by a student working with

other students, and by a student working alone — using written materials or a computer.

Right now, however, not all functions can be met in all three ways — and we are limited in

our choices by the constraints of working with 25 students in a classroom, the age and

maturity of the students, the lack of efficient “courseware” for the student to use when

working alone, and the lack of imaginative routines which will keep students on task and

diminish the time lost when they move from activity to activity. For example, although the

idea of students working together during independent practice always existed “in theory”,

such working together was also associated with off task behavior and socializing. We needed

the routines developed by Slavin (1981), Johnson and Johnson (1975) and Reid (1981)

before we could be confident that students would work together during independent practice

and still be on task. Similarly, although “checking for understanding” could “theoretically”

be handled by students working with materials or by students working with other students,

at present we do not have effective routines for enabling this to happen in the elementary

grades.

In conclusion, now that we can list the major functions or components which are

necessary for systematic instruction, we can turn to exploring different ways in which these

functions can be effectively fulfilled.

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