Glossary of Terms & Links
Glossary: Effective Teaching Terms and Links
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 relationshipsnamely, 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:
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
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.
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).
Formative evaluation. The gathering of data, during the time a program is being developed, to guide the development process.
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.
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.
Learning center or station. A location within
a classroom in which students are presented with instructional materials,
specific directions, clearly defined objectives, and opportunities
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.
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.
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.
Summative evaluation. An overall assessment
or decision regarding a program.
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
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 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