Top 5 Research-Proven Instructional Strategies

According to research done by the Marzano Institute, these are the top 5 ways to increase student learning. They are listed in order of effect size; in other words, the first strategy listed is proven to have the highest effect on student learning.

1. Have Students Identify Similarities and Differences

  • Ask students to compare and classify information
  • Ask students to create a metaphor
  • Ask students to create an analogy
  • Ask students to create a graphic representation

2. Have Students Summarize and Take Notes

  • Ask students to leave out unnecessary information and keep important information
  • Ask students to rewrite information in their own words

3. Reinforce Student Effort and Provide Recognition

  • Use symbolic recognition (not tangible rewards) to reward student performance

4. Practice/Homework

  • Always state the purpose
  • If practice is assigned, it should be commented on later

5. Non-linguistic Representations

  • Ask students to participate in a kinesthetic activity based on the lesson
  • Ask students to create a model
  • Ask students to create a drawing


Marzano, R., & Pickering, D. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Data Isn’t Always Numbers

The word “data” naturally calls to mind lists of numbers to most people – to teachers this usually means tracking students’ scores on assessments. This can be an extremely informative tool for teachers, but data doesn’t always have to mean numbers.

Collecting observational data in the classroom can be as simple as observing (and recording) ongoing behaviors of students and using that information to make instructional decisions

Example Instructional Decisio15046542586_6209a96b6e_o.jpgn Based on Observational Data

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of making instructional decision based on non-numeric observational data is crafting an intentional seating arrangement for students. The research of Spencer Kagan shows that student achievement goes up when they are seated in groups containing students of varying ability levels. This does not naturally occur when students are allowed to choose their own seats. A well-crafted seating arrangement made using observational data by the teacher is one of the true art forms of education and can change the entire instructional atmosphere in a classroom.

This is one of many examples of how teachers can (and do) use observational data to improve their classrooms. If numbers aren’t your thing, don’t worry, data isn’t always numbers.

Photo credit: Photo Credit: privatetutoring001 via Compfight cc

Providing Feedback During Questioning

We have conversations in our classrooms every day, but have you ever considered the fact that the when you question your students and provide feedback you are engaged in formative assessment? Those discussions help your students (and you) know in which areas they are doing well, and they also help students improve in areas of need as you speak… literally.

How teachers react to their students’ responses to questions determines how the students process (or don’t process) the content on which the questions is focused. Intentional questioning and thoughtful responses can increase student engagement in a big way.

For example, research shows that when a teacher replies to a student’s response by asking a follow-up question, it expands the thoughts of all the students. However, when a teacher offers a monosyllabic response like “Yes” or “Correct” students often ignore the answer.

In their book, Quality Questioning: Research-Based Practice to Engage Every Learner Walsh and Sattes offer the ideas in the table below to help guide teachers as they react to student responses to questioning:

Adapted from

Adapted from “Quality Questioning” page 96.

SMART Goals in the Classroom

Why create goals? Goals provide the focus and guidance to move forward, even when it’s tempting to get lost in the day to day.

SMART is a acronym developed in the 1980s in the business word to help people create and fulfill their goals. Mike Schmoker, author of The Key to Continuous School Improvement says, “Clear, measurable goals are the center to the mystery of a school’s success, mediocrity, or failure.” Teachers can write student-centered SMART goals to focus their work during a data cycle, or more teacher-centered SMART goals to help measure their own growth in the classroom.

Ask yourself these questions when writing a SMART goal:

S: Specific and Strategic (What exactly do I want to measure and why?)

M: Measurable (How am I going to measure it?)

A: Action Oriented/Attainable (Is this a goal I can reasonably meet with the resources I have?)

R: Relevant (Will meeting this goal improve my students’ learning?)

T: Timed/Tracked (When will I achieve this goal?)

Here is an example teacher-centered SMART goal for the classroom:

GOAL: By the end of 3rd quarter I will double the amount of feedback I give my students by writing in their class notebooks every Friday instead of every other (changing to once a week from once every two weeks). This will provide my students with twice the amount of opportunities to see my thinking about their work and make changes in their thinking.

S: amount of feedback given to students

M: “changing to once a week from once every two weeks”

A: the notebooks are already a resource in the classroom

R: “provide my students with twice the amount of opportunities to see my thinking about their work and make changes in their thinking”

T: “By the end of 3rd quarter”

Research Says: Tracking Data Increases Achievement

Most teachers are part of a data team that works together to gather and analyze student data, but you don’t necessarily have to be working as part of a data team for your students to benefit from tracking achievement data. Research shows that teachers who create graphic representations of students performance, like charts or graphs, see a 26% gain in student achievement on the chosen objectives over time.

In addition, when students track their OWN progress on a specific objective over time, research shows a 32% gain in achievement.

There are many ways to graphically track individual student data. This graph is just one example.

There are many ways to graphically track individual student data. This graph is just one example.

To get the highest return on the investment of taking time to track student data, researchers have found that there are 3 important things to keep in mind:

1) It works best to have the students track their progress on a single objective. Trying to track multiple objectives at the same time can get overwhelming and confusing, especially for students and teachers new to the process.

2) Students and teachers must have a clear and consistent rubric to successfully track achievement data.

3) It is best to use many types of assessments while tracking data, not the same one over and over. Written questions are only 1 type of assessment. Discussions, observations, and demonstrations can often be assessed using the same rubric as a written test.

For more information on the research behind tracking students data, read: Marzano, Robert. “The Art and Science of Teaching / When Students Track Their Progress.” Educational Leadership 67.4 (2010): 86-87. ASCD. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

This is a repost from October 4, 2014.

Join Us For #BodeShare

This October there is an easy way for you to join with your colleagues in #BodeShare – a Twitter challenge designed to help us share and learn together, inspired by Dr. Justin Tarte.

HERE’S HOW: Each school day in October has a sharing prompt that you can tweet about with the hashtag #BodeShare. Add your own thoughts each day, or simply check out what your colleagues are saying.

If you already use Twitter, please jump right in. If you are curious but unsure how to start, click this link for some Twitter basics. You can also leave a question here and I will answer to the best of my ability.

Here is the calendar for the #BodeShare Twitter Challenge: #BodeShareCal

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