Glossary of Terms & Links


Glossary: Effective Teaching Terms and Links

Academic learning time (ALT). Academic Learning Time has been defined as time spent by a student engaged in a task in which few errors are produced and where the task is directly relevant to an academic outcome. The concept of ALT represents a considerable refinement over engaged time. ALT is positively correlated with achievement, whereas time unsuccessfully engaged in academic tasks is negatively related to student achievement.

In order to determine which tasks were directly relevant to an academic outcome, ALT researchers emphasized correspondence between the tasks and the tests that would be used to measure student achievement. The alignment among the teacher's instruction, student learning activities, the curriculum, and tests of student outcomes is an important issue. ALT addresses one of these relationships–namely, the alignment between the student learning activity and the test used to measure student outcomes. Clearly, increasing academic learning time is a high priority for the teacher. The measurement of ALT is complex, because one has to combine the assessment of the time-on-task with measures of success and measures of the appropriateness of the learning tasks.

In one study that documented ALT in a large number of classrooms, it was noted that ALT varied from 4 to 52 minutes per day. The researchers commented on this finding as follows:

"It may appear that this range from 4 to 52 minutes per day is unrealistically large. However, these times actually occurred in the classes in the study. Furthermore, it is easy to imagine how either 4 or 52 minutes per day of Academic Learning Time might come about. If 50 minutes of reading instruction per day is allocated to a student who pays attention about a third of the time, and one-fourth of the student's reading time is at a high level of success, the student will experience only about 4 minutes of engaged reading at a high success level. Similarly, if 100 minutes per day is allocated to reading for a student who pays attention 85 percent of the time at a high level of success for almost two-thirds of the time, [he or she] will experience about 52 minutes of Academic Learning Time per day."

The ALT notion of success in the engaged tasks represents a major refinement of the concept of engaged time.
Link: Research into Practice: Time Management

Allocated time. Allocated time is the amount of time assigned for instruction in a content area, without reference to the quality of the activities being conducted during that time. In allocating time to a specific curriculum area, one must consider how the time is allocated as well as total time set aside for the class. The amount of time and the way it is distributed during the day, week, and school year are issues related to allocated time. In an extensive multi-year study of teaching practices, the following findings on the allocation of time were reported.

Within reading and mathematics, classes differed in the amount of time allocated to different skill areas. For example, in one second-grade class, the average student received 9 minutes of instruction over the whole school year in the arithmetic associated with the use of money. This figure can be contrasted with classes where the average second grader was allocated 315 minutes per school year in the curriculum content area of money. As another example, in the fifth grade some classes received less than 1,000 minutes of instruction in reading comprehension for the second year (about 10 minutes per day). This figure can be contrasted with classes where the average student was allocated almost 5,0000 minutes of instruction related to comprehension during the school year (about 50 minutes per day).

• The assumption that the curriculum and associated time allocations are set by school boards and administrators is only partly true. The final arbiter of what is taught is the classroom teacher.
• The research has documented wide variations among teachers for both content and time allocation decisions, even in the presence of clear and mandatory regulations detailing content and time allocations.
• The empirical data relating content coverage, or content emphasis to achievement, is clear. The opportunity to learn a content area is perhaps the most potent variable in accounting for achievement in that area.
Link: Research Into Practice: Time Management
Link: California Reading/Language Arts Framework: Goals and Key Components (PDF) page 4

Available time. This is the time available for all school activities. The available time is limited by the number of days in a school year (approximately 180 days) and the number of hours in a school day (approximately six hours, including one hour of break time). Available time will be divided among all the diverse functions of a school, including the recreational, social, and academic goals that form the mandated and the hidden curriculum present in every school district.

Schools vary only slightly in the number of school days in a school year, but there is considerably more variability in the hours assigned per day and in the average daily attendance. Variations of up to two hours per day among school districts have been noted. The data on average daily attendance has shown that some schools within the same district provided 50 percent more schooling than other schools because of variations in average daily attendance.
Link: Research Into Practice: Time Management

Engaged time. Engaged time is the amount of time the student is actively involved in such learning tasks as writing, listening, and responding to teacher questions. Engaged time does not include classroom tasks such as handing in a paper or waiting for a teacher to pass out materials, or inappropriate activities such as disruptive talking to another student or daydreaming.

Explicit instruction. The intentional design and delivery of information by the teacher to the students. It begins with (1) the teacher's modeling or demonstration of the skill or strategy; (2) a structured and substantial opportunity for students to practice and apply newly taught skills and knowledge under the teacher's direction and guidance; and (3) an opportunity for feedback. (see teaching functions).
Link: Research Into Practice: Teaching Functions

Formative evaluation. The gathering of data, during the time a program is being developed, to guide the development process.

Guided student practice. Guided student practice serves as a bridge between activities designed to present new material and independent student practice. The guided student practice is integrated into activities designed to present new material. In math instruction, for example, guided practice could involve having the student practice one or several steps in the algorithm used to solve a single calculation or problem. In the more advanced stages of presenting new material, guided practice could involve the presentation of several math problems and the associated feedback procedures.

Guided practice and independent practice represent different points on a different continuum, so no absolute dividing point can be established to discriminate between the two related activities. Guided practice should be conducted in small steps and should be intensely supervised. It should prevent the development of consistent error patterns and inappropriate practices. This means that guided practice must be designed and implemented so that errors are identified and reteaching conducted immediately.

Researchers have stressed the need for students to practice their new knowledge or skill under direct teacher supervision. They note that New learning is like wet cement; it is easily damanged. An error at the beginning of learning can be easily set so that it is harder to eradicate than had it been apprehended immediately.

The research literature has consistently stressed the importance of appropriate amounts of guided practice for all learners, but nowhere is this guided practice more important than with low achievers. It has been noted that, The important element seems to be the provision of controlled practice with positive teacher feedback. The fact that certain members of the class will require more guided practice than others suggests that each lesson should contain a certain amount of time in which the higher-achieving students are working on independent practice, while the teacher is working closely with low-achieving students on guided practice.
The effectiveness of guided practice can be evaluated by measures of student success in independent practice. If students are at least 80 percent successful when they begin the subsequent independent practice, then guided practice has been appropriately conducted. (See scaffolding as a vehicle to provide guided practice.

Independent practice. The phase of instruction that occurs after skills and strategies have been explicitly taught and practiced under teacher direction or supervision. Independent practice involves the application of newly taught skills in familiar formats or tasks and reinforces skill acquisition.
Link: Research into Practice: Teaching Functions

Learning center or station. A location within a classroom in which students are presented with instructional materials, specific directions, clearly defined objectives, and opportunities for self-evaluation.
Link: Research into Practice: Teaching Functions

Minilesson. Direct instruction on specific topics or skills. This direct and explicit instruction can also be conducted to benefit students who need more information or further clarification of skills or topics already taught. The lessons, or series of lessons, are connected to the broader goal of getting students to become independent readers and writers. They are presented briefly and succinctly on the assumption that such information will be added to the set of ideas, strategies, and skills to be drawn upon as needed.

Pacing. Pacing has two related dimensions. One dimension, curriculum pacing, is concerned with the rate at which progress is made through the curriculum. The second dimension, lesson pacing, is concerned with the pace at which a teacher conducts individual lessons. One team of researchers summed up the importance of pacing as follows:

". . . researchers have shown that most students, including low-achieving students, learn more when their lessons are conducted at a brisk pace, because a reasonably fast pace serves to stimulate student attentiveness and participation, and because more content gets covered by students. This assumes, of course, that the lesson is at a level of difficulty that permits a high rate of student success; material that is too difficult or presented poorly cannot be learned at any instructional pace."

Thus, pacing, like many other characteristics of effective instruction, shows considerable variability among teachers and has a pronounced effect on student achievement.

In comparing effective and less effective teachers, researchers noted that less effective teachers covered 37 percent less when measured on a daily rate. Less effective teachers tended to try and catch up late in the course and then provided too much material without any distributed practice to consolidate and review the content. Clearly, the amount of content covered daily relates to other skills and should be viewed as both a symptom and a cause.
Link: Research Into Practice: Time Management (PDF) page 6

Prerequisite skills. One of the characteristics of a master teacher is the appropriate treatment of prerequisite skills. The master teacher knows what new material is likely to be difficult for students and which prerequisite skills are important for the successful introduction of new material. Rather than place students in remedial situations, the master teacher will try to prevent errors and misconcepts by making sure that the new material is introduced in small steps and that students demonstrate mastery of the critical prerequisite skills before starting the sequence of small steps.
Link: Research Into Practice: Teaching Functions

Scaffolding. The temporary support, guidance, or assistance provided to a student on a new or complex task. For example, students work in partnership with a more advanced peer or adult who scaffolds the task by engaging in appropriate instructional interactions designed to model, assist, or provide necessary information. The interactions should eventually lead to independence. (See guided instruction.)
Link: Resarch Into Practice: Teaching Functions (PDF) page 6.

Structured/guided practice. A phase of instruction that occurs after the teacher explicitly models, demonstrates, or introduces a skill or strategy. In this phase students practice newly learned skills or strategies under teacher supervision and receive feedback on performance. This critical interactive phase involves teachers and students.
Link: Research into Practice: Teaching Functions

Summative evaluation. An overall assessment or decision regarding a program.

Systematic instruction. The strategic design and delivery of instruction that examines the nature of the objective to be learned and selects and sequences the essential skills, examples, and strategies necessary to achieve the objective by (1) allocating sufficient time to essential skills; (2) scheduling information to minimize confusion on the part of the learner; (3) introducing information in manageable and sequential units; (4) identifying prerequisite skills and building on prior knowledge of the learner; (5) reviewing previously taught skills; (6) strategically integrating old knowledge with new knowledge; and (7) progressing from skills in easier, manageable contexts to more complex contexts. (See teaching functions.)

Teaching functions. The term teaching functions refers to classroom experiences that serve to move students from a lack of mastery to mastery in an academic content area. A synthesis of the research provides the following summary statement on teaching functions:

In general, researchers have found that when effective teachers teach well structured subjects, they
1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous prerequisite learning.
2. Begin a lesson with a short statement of goals.
3. Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.
4. Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.
5. Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
6. Ask a large number of questions, check for student understanding, and obtain responses from all students.
7. Guide students during initial practice.
8. Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
9. 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.
Link: Research into Practice: Teaching Functions

Transition time. A lesson consists of a series of related instructional activities, including demonstrations, discussions, guided practice, and independent practice. Considerable time can be wasted if the transitions between these different activities within a lesson are not managed quickly and smoothly. To facilitate smooth transitions that maintain instructional momentum and student attention, teachers must demonstrate a wide range of curriculum and classroom management skills.

For transitions to occur quickly and smoothly,
• The teacher must have materials ready and demonstrate confidence in closing one activity and initiating the next.
• The teacher must exercise increased vigilance during the transition period.
• The student must enter the next activity with interest and the expectation of success.

The skillful management of transitions does far more than save time. Misbehavior is most likely to occur when there is a lag in the continuity of a lesson. Teachers deal with more deviant behaviors during transitions than during any other time. The management of transitions is one of the most critical management tasks faced by teachers.
Link: Research into Practice: Time Management