Family Involvement, Reflective Professional Practice, Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators

Reasons Some Parents Are Not Involved

Research findings about why some parents are not involved in schools may surprise many teachers. Sometimes educators assume parents who are not active in school activities simply are not concerned about their student’s education. However, the following research findings listed below reveal some parents have justifiable reasons for not attending school functions:

•The work schedules of many parents do not allow them to attend school functions at times convenient for school personnel;

•Parents who must work evenings have difficulties helping their children with homework;

•Many parents who did not graduate from high school are embarrassed about the lack of formal education;

•School personnel often use technical jargon, which some parents do not understand;

•Some parents, especially those from low-income backgrounds, do not believe school personnel really want their involvement. However, most low-income parents are very concerned about their children’s education because they understand how educational opportunities often result in socio-economic advancement.

Parental Involvement and Student Success 

•Equality of Educational Opportunity Report: Parental involvement was an important predictor of academic achievement in schools. Schools with high levels of parental involvement typically had much higher levels of academic achievement than did those schools with little parental involvement.
•Bianchi and Robinson: Parental expectations of academic achievement significantly affect children’s attitudes about the importance of school.
•Henderson and Berla: Increases in parental involvement result in higher graduation rates, better attendance, and higher completion rates of homework.


Involving Parents at the Classroom Level

Teachers can keep parents apprised of student performance, homework assignments, and future classroom events through letters home, email messages, and or phone calls to parents. Some communication between teachers and parents needs to concentrate on positive themes such as calls home to inform parents their children completed an excellent science project. Parent-Teacher Conferences In terms of preparing for effective parent-teacher conferences, teachers can provide parents with academic and attendance records and samples of student work. In addition, teachers need to give parents prior notice about respective conferences so that parents can arrange their work schedules in advance and so that teachers are able to determine if an interpreter (e.g., another teacher, counselor, trusted parent) is needed. Parents who are English language learners need to feel welcome at school and to know they will be able to communicate with teachers. Equally important, when teachers discuss problems with parents, they need to present the respective situation in factual ways and to avoid judgmental statements. For instance, if a student has not turned in 7 of the last 10 homework assignments, then the teacher needs to show the parents the student’s record. Using objective comments helps to clarify problems and reduces the chances for conflicts or misunderstandings. Also, when a teacher shows concern for the student and is open to parents’ suggestions about how to help the student, parents are more inclined to trust the teacher and to keep avenues of communication open. When parents do not respond to a teacher’s efforts to meet, teachers can send follow-up messages and show their appreciation when the parent does respond.

School-Wide Efforts to Increase Parental Involvement Research

•When needs assessments are conducted to identify the concerns of parents, parents are more inclined to become involved because they believe their input is valued.

•Parents should be part of key school committees that set policy, approve curriculum, or establish guidelines for various school events. In this respect, a collaboration model is developed to include parents with all other school personnel.

•School districts need to conduct workshops at the request of parents, who may want training about various parenting skills or about ways to help their children with homework, reading, or mathematics.
•The establishment of a parent-teacher liaison to keep parents informed about student progress and other school-related activities.
•The development of community involvement with businesses, religious organization,and other community groups (e.g., Lion’s Club) to expand community involvement with organizations interested in helping children, adolescents, and young adults.



Vertical teaming requires teachers to work with other teachers one grade below and above them to ensure that the curriculum is sequenced in a logical manner. For instance, a third grade teacher may work with both the second and fourth grade teachers on mathematics concepts to ensure second grade students are prepared for third grade and third grade students have the prerequisite skills for fourth grade.

Horizontal teaming provides teachers with opportunities to work with teachers from their own grade or content areas.

Professional Development Planning Teams organize professional development activities and in-service training for teachers to continue their professional development to stay current with best practice and new policies.

Committees at the School Level and Site-based Management and Decision Making

Site-based management decision making provides teachers opportunities to serve on committees which make recommendations to administrators about various decisions concerning:

•school regulations and policies;
•curriculum innovations;
•the school calendar;
•the creation of innovative programs;
•ways to increase parental involvement;
•or to improve any other school-related function or activity.


Collaborating with District Level Personnel and Specialists

Some specialists such as diagnosticians and school psychologists assist teachers in their work with students while others work as supervisors in that they oversee the instructional practices of teachers such as:
•special education, bilingual, and ESL directors;
•science, mathematics, language arts, or social studies coordinators;
•technology coordinators.


Professional learning communities are a group of administrators and school staff who are united in their commitment to student learning. These school communities share a vision, work and learn collaboratively, visit and review other classrooms, and participate in decision making. The benefits to the staff and students include a reduced isolation of teachers, better informed and committed teachers, and academic gains for students. The PLC is a powerful staff-development approach and a potent strategy for school change and improvement.

Professional Development


Teachers have the following options to complete their 150 hours of Continuing Professional Development via:
•distance learning;
•university courses;
•published written work;
•in-service training and staff development.


Staff Development- Most school districts have made strong commitments to provide staff development opportunities for teachers so that they are able to stay current with research-based best teaching practices. As society becomes more diverse and the needs of student change to some extent from decade to decade, teachers need to stay current in the professional knowledge-base of teachers. School districts often offer a wide array of teacher training session focusing on the following themes to note a few examples:
•classroom management;
•teaching reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies;
•diversity training;
•critical thinking;
•cooperative learning;
•classroom assessment;
•and ways to increase parental involvement.


Teacher Mentoring Programs

Beginning teachers have to teach and learn to teach. Teaching is a higher cognitive activity; consequently, it is not surprising that research on learning to teach has shown becoming an expert teacher takes several years. Some mentors observe lessons of new teachers and include conferences before and after a given lesson is taught to provide feedback about the strengths of the lesson as well about tips for improvement. Equally important, mentors helps mentees to understand how learning theories guide practices and how reflecting mindfully on practice guides theory. Reflective practice leads to the self-assessment of teachers and improvements in teaching.

Student Rights and Due Process

A student facing possible suspension or expulsion has the right under the guidelines of due process to prepare a defense. Other than the Brown decision of 1954, Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District is the most influential U. S. Supreme Court case of the 20th Century in terms of school law.


There is an exception, however, in that principals can use their authority to issue an emergency expulsion before a hearing if there is strong evidence that students, school personnel, or school property are potentially at risk. In this case, the principal's primary responsibility is to protect students, school personnel, and school property from harm. No one wants another Columbine incident to occur. Nevertheless, a student who is expelled on an emergency basis still has the opportunity for a hearing at a later date as required by due process.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

•A student’s records (e.g., such as grades) are only to be given to the student, parents/guardians, or school personnel who are directly involved in the student’s program.

•A student’s records are not to be shared with other students or their parents/guardians.

•Grade reports and other student records ought not to be left in the open where others may be able to view this confidential information.

Child Abuse

The question frequently arises, “Can I Be sued if I am wrong, and there is no child abuse?" Understand that Texas law requires you to make the call, and you have immunity from possible lawsuits even if you are wrong about your assumption a child is being abused. The only reason a person would be vulnerable to a lawsuit is if s/he reported child abuse to maliciously hurt a parent's reputation; in this case, the teacher would be guilty of slander, which is against the law in and of itself.

Corporal Punishment

Many school districts avoid corporal punishment and instead make the consequences of an infraction congruent with the infraction itself. For example, if a student spray painted an image on a brick wall, a logical consequence is to require the painter to remove the image from the wall even if it takes hours to do so.

Copyright Laws, the Fair-Use Exception, and Acceptable Use Policy

Instances where you can make copies of copyrighted material:
•a complete work of prose if it is less than 2,500 words;
•a poem of 250 words or less;
•an excerpt from a work of prose if it is less than 1,000 words and less than 10% of the work;
•one graph, chart, etc. from an article or book;
•a back up copy of software if used for the teaching context.


In addition, teachers need to be aware that each school district has an Acceptable Use Policy, which consists of a district’s guidelines concerning the proper use of computers, Internet resources, and other school resources. School districts typically require teachers to sign a copy of its Acceptable Use Policy to show their understanding of and willingness to comply with the district’s respective guidelines.


Classroom and Behavior Management

Appearance of a Positive Classroom

Décor affects the classroom environment, and teachers often decorate classrooms to create a positive context. For example, teachers often:

  • decorate walls and bulletin boards with colorful pictures and posters with motivational messages;

  • allow students to help to decorate the room;

  • display student work to show students they are proud of their accomplishments and efforts;

  • arrange desks in seating arrangements conducive to group work, discussions, and easy access to instructional materials such as books, papers, and other necessary materials.


Positive and High Expectations

Establishing Clear Standards for behavior by teaching students the classroom rules, procedures, and routines, so that students know how they are expected to conduct themselves in the classroom during lessons and other activities. Clear rules and procedures also include set standards for positive social interactions among students, so that students are expected to treat one another respectfully, and of course, teachers need to model how to show respect to others.


Teaching developmentally appropriate social skills training helps students understand the parameters of acceptable behavior standards and why these behaviors are important. A student’s social development needs to be carefully considered when teaching students social skills.


Teaching students conflict resolution strategies helps students to deal with conflict in positive ways.


High but attainable academic standards help teachers ensure students have the prerequisite skills and background to succeed in their academic work. Also, when teachers scaffold instruction and guide students in a step by step progression through the zone of proximal development as advocated by Vygotsky, students are more likely to succeed academically. Small successes help students to develop stronger self-efficacy perceptions, and as a result, they are more inclined to persevere through difficult academic work because they believe they will succeed.


Encouraging students in their work and acknowledging their effort helps teachers create and maintain a positive classroom environment in which all groups of students need to be encouraged and acknowledged for their accomplishments and hard work.


Establishing cooperative instead of competitive classroom structures improves student learning outcomes. Teachers must design learning activities with cooperative goal structures in which students work together, students learn more. In contrast, when learning activities have competitive goal structures in which one or a few students win and others lose, some students refrain from trying because they believe they will not succeed.



Organizing the Classroom

Floor Space, Seating Arrangements, and Storage Space

How teachers organize the physical structure of classrooms affects classroom management. For example, if the design of floor space allows students to freely move where they are supposed to be for learning activities such as a lesson involving stations, then potential management problems involving student movement are eliminated.


Also, places for storing books or other frequently used classroom materials need to be easily accessible to students.


Equally important, students with special needs ought to be able to move freely. For instance, a student in a wheelchair needs to be able to move as freely as other students to ensure participation in classroom activities.



Teachers need to create a classroom management plan in the event classroom rules are broken, especially if infractions are habitual and interfere with student learning. Some types of misbehavior are serious (e.g., defiant hostility toward the teacher) while others are mild (e.g., talking out of turn).


Both the severity and frequency of the respective misbehavior needs to be considered in the development of any intervention plan. For example, if a student left his seat without permission, the first step of a behavior plan for a minor offence may be a warning. For a second offence, the teacher may withdraw a privilege (e.g., use of a game), send to the student to time-out, or assign detention. Conversely, major offences such as the use of harsh and hostile profanity may require the teacher to send the student to the principal even if this is a first offense.


Logical consequences: Teachers must use consequences for infractions that must be reasonable, respectful, related to the specific infraction of a set rule, and logical. For example, a logical consequence for students who wrote on a wall with spray paint is to clean the wall. Logical consequences teach students to take responsibility for their actions.


Categories of Penalties

Graduated Consequences- Teachers should use the least intrusive method to re-direct student behavior. The severity of the consequences can increase if the student continues to break rules. However, using the most severe consequence at the first instance a student breaks a rule will not allow teachers any recourse to other consequences if the student continues to break rules. Therefore, graduated consequences allow teachers several opportunities to redirect students to act in accordance to the expected behavior.



Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcing Behavior - Behavior management ought to include positive and negative reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors and to create a more positive classroom environment. Both positive and negative reinforcement result in the increase of the targeted behavior. Positive and negative punishment result in the decrease of the targeted behavior. Teachers often use:

  • praise to recognize student effort and performance;

  • rewards such preferred activities and privileges (e.g., playing a game, an extra trip to the library); and

  • tangible awards such as award stickers in the form of stars or tokens to be exchanged for some type of award later.




Physical Development


During prenatal development, a child’s development is affected by various factors such as:

*nutrition (balanced nutrition or malnutrition).

*maternal substance abuse.

*alcohol use (excessive use of alcohol may result in fetal alcohol syndrome).

*the mother’s general health.

*sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s).

*general prenatal care.


Mothers who have used proper nutrition, avoided alcohol and drugs, have no STD’s and are healthy will have children who develop more quickly than do the children of those mothers who did not use healthful prenatal care practices. Children who were not provided good prenatal care often have development delays.


Cognitive Development

Piaget was an innovative researcher who conducted meticulous studies about developmental differences in thought processes of individuals as they mature in understanding.


He believed individuals have two basic tendencies in their thinking, which he referred to as organization and adaptation. Organization concerns how individuals process information into generalizations, which he referred to as schemes.


Adaptation involves how individuals adapt their thinking to an environment or situation in which their schemes change. On one hand, people assimilate new knowledge into their existing schemes as they make sense of the information or situation. On the other hand, individuals revise their schemes as they evaluate the new information; this change is called accommodation in that the new information is accommodated and translated into a new scheme.


Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

From his research on individuals of different age groups, Piaget developed his stage theory of cognitive development. Here are Piaget’s stages:


Sensorimotor Stage (Birth to 2 years): Infants learn through their senses and motor activities. From these two sources their schemes develop. An important developmental milestone occurs when the infant realizes that than object still exists even when it is temporarily out of sight.


Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years): Children learn to use symbols- primarily in the form of words and can think through operations in one direction only. In other words, children have trouble with what Piaget called reversible thinking in that they are not able to think backwards, and much of their thinking is illogical.


Children at this stage also have problems with conservation. Piaget used the example of water in glasses to illustrate this concept. Two glasses had the same amount of water; however, one glass was taller. Children in the preoperational stage typically assume the taller glass contains more water than does the shorter but wider glass. Another characteristic of preoperational children is they are egocentric and assume everyone thinks the way they do.


The use of concrete objects, props, and visual aids enhance student learning, and children need hands- on opportunities to practice important skills such as those used for reading comprehension. Also, instructions need to be short and as concrete as possible; using actions with words enhances student understanding.


Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 years): Children in this stage are able to think in more than one direction; in other words, they no longer have problems with reversibility and conservation. They are able to think logically when dealing with concrete items; however, they have considerable problems with abstractions and need learning activities that require concrete and hands-on thinking. In addition to understanding reversibility and conservation, children at this stage also have mastered seriation, which is the ability to sequence items in orderly arrangements such as from short to tall.


Teachers need to continue using concrete representations of concepts in the form of props, demonstrations, and visual aids; however, students are capable of classifying objects and need opportunities to do so. Also, to encourage critical thinking, teachers ought to ask open-ended questions and riddles or brain teasers.


Formal Operations Stage (11 to adulthood): Adolescents and young adults in this stage are typically able to think abstractly and to make generalizations and predictions. Nevertheless, there is wide variation in the abilities of individuals in this stage. Adolescent geocentricism affects their thinking and social interactions. Students in this stage become overly introspective and self-conscious and often assume their thoughts are as important to others as they are to themselves. The approval of their peers becomes especially important.


Visual aids, graphic organizers, and charts are helpful, and visual aids can become more sophisticated and require critical thinking (e.g., compare/contrast charts). Students need opportunities to explore and develop their own ideas (e.g., writing an essay about their version of a just society). Teachers need to develop problem-solving activities and to concentrate on developing students’ conceptual knowledge.



Psychosocial Development

Erikson viewed each stage of psychosocial developmental level as a continuum with two polar points. A child's personality will develop somewhere between these two points according to how the child is treated.


Trust vs. Mistrust (birth to 1 year): During their first year of life children learn to trust or to be distrusting. During this time a healthy children learn to trust when caregivers meet their needs consistently. Conversely, inconsistent treatment of children will cause them to be uncertain of what to expect from others.


Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (2 to 3 years): Children emerge from total dependence on their parents. Parents should allow toddlers to explore their environment to the extent that they can do so safely. This enables children to develop independence or autonomy. Doing too much for children or shaming them for unacceptable behavior leads to self-doubt. For example, parents need to allow their children to make some choices (e.g., food choices for lunch) without undermining their confidence.


Initiative vs. Guilt (4 to 5 years): Initiative adds to the quality of undertaking, planning, and attacking a task leads to autonomy. Freedom and encouragement help children initiate and undertake tasks on their own. For example, parents might allow children to help with household chores instead of discouraging their desires to help. Parents must encourage initiative and avoid ridiculing children when they offer to help.


Industry vs. Inferiority (6 to 11 years): Erikson sees industry as a form of achievement motivation. For example, children often learn to win recognition through hard work in school. The successes of children need to be recognized by significant individuals such as parents, teachers or peers. Children experience feelings of inferiority if their efforts are unsuccessful or if their successful efforts are not recognized.

Consequently, teachers need to provide children with adequate time to finish tasks and to praise their effort. Teachers should begin with short assignments and then add length and complexity to students’ academic work gradually, so that they experience success. For those students who are discouraged by their academic performance, teachers can use progress charts to show their improvement. In addition,

teachers need to develop students’ sense of responsibility and independence, and teachers often have a set of classroom jobs (e.g., watering the plants or feeding the fish) for students.


Identity vs. Role Confusion (12 to 18 years): The primary issue of adolescents is the development of an identity, and adolescents often ask, “Who am I?” Adolescents must organize their beliefs, attitudes,


goals, and choices into a consistent view of self. Teachers can encourage students to develop their own ideas and to find out what really interests them.


Parenting Styles

Authoritative parents: Set clear boundaries and rules for their children and have confidence in them. They also explain their reasons for various rules so that they are more understandable for children. Children from these homes are often self-motivated and productive workers.


Authoritarian parents: Expect children to do as they are told, but they often do not set clear restrictions for children. Children learn to obey to stay out of trouble rather than to do so to elicit love and approval from parents. Typically children from these homes are not as self-motivated as they are inner-directed.


Permissive parents: Are inconsistent in setting rules and are often disorganized. They do not set clear boundaries and limitations for their children and are typically not assertive when necessary. They make few demands on their children. Children from these homes are generally not assertive and are not as intellectual as are children from authoritative homes.


Rejecting-neglecting parents: Do not respond to children’s emotional needs and make few demands on children. Children from these homes are typically not as socially adjusted or cognitively developed as are children who are raised by authoritative parents. They are often withdrawn emotionally.


Emotional Characteristics

Kindergarten: Children in kindergarten express their emotions and views openly, and outbursts of anger are common. Jealously is common among children because they want the affection of their teacher (Slavin, 2001). Teachers need to show affection for all children and to help them understand their feelings.


Elementary: Children have already developed a self-image (Harter, 1990), and students often compare themselves with others in terms of how they fit in socially and perform academically. The stability of family relations is especially important in this period for the development of a healthy self-image.


Middle School: Students’ interpersonal skills develop in terms of more complex interpersonal reasoning in that they are more aware of the feelings of others. The peer group is so important that middle school students have strong inclinations to conform to the dictates of their peer group.


High School: Students still are influenced by their peer groups; however, the tendency to conform is not as pronounced as it was during their middle school years. Various disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa, or depression are more likely to emerge in this stage as students attempt, and in some cases struggle, to develop their identities (Woolfolk 2005).



In addition, classroom teachers need to consider the following research findings when planning lessons:

  • Girls often are not active during hands-on science activities and are less inclined to assert themselves than boys are during classroom activities.

  • Boys are placed in special education and in remedial math or English classes more often than girls are (Willingham & Cole, 1997).

  • The contributions of women in various fields are often overlooked; teachers need to use examples of famous women in their lessons.

  • Teachers are more inclined to call on boys and expect more from them in math and science classes than they are for girls (Nieto, 2004).



IDEA requires:

  • Students with disabilities to receive services related to transportation and support services to enable them to benefit from special education.

  • Students are to be educated in the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, children must be “mainstreamed” in the regular classroom if it is feasible and will enhance their educational opportunities.

  • Students with disabilities must have a written Individualized Education Program (IEP), which includes specific learning outcomes and ways to meet and assess those goals.

  • An IEP is required by law to be reviewed annually by each of the following parties: parent or guardian, a teacher, a professional who formally evaluated the child, another party (e.g., the principal or special education resource person), and the child.


Communication Differences

For example, some cultures view direct eye contact with authority figure as respectful while other cultures consider direct eye contact as disrespectful.


Asian students may speak to teachers and authority figures in much more reserved and formal ways than are typical for many public school students.


Research findings that display cultural misunderstandings:

  • Teachers display more verbal or nonverbal forms of negativity toward students of color than they do toward European American students.


Teachers have fewer quality instructional interactions with and provide less encouragement for students of color than they do for European Americans.


Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, and Krathwohl (1956) emphasized there are three primary learning domains for teachers to consider: (1) the cognitive domain, which entails thinking processes; (2) the psychomotor domain, which concerns physical movement and skills; and (3) the affective domain, which focuses on students’ attitudes about learning and school. Most of student learning, however, focuses on the cognitive domain.


Consequently, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels of Thinking is especially helpful for teachers when planning lessons, and here are the six levels of thinking codified by Bloom:


Knowledge: the lowest level of thinking in that pure memorization of facts does not require real understanding. If students are required to memorize definitions of vocabulary words, then they are thinking at the knowledge level on Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Thinking.

Key action words for objectives: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, or memorize.


Comprehension: shows some understanding of the content; for example, students are able to state definitions in their own words although they may not be able to relate other ideas to the concept. Key action words for objectives: summarize, restate, review, select, translate, or define/explain in one’s own words.


Application: involves using a concept or set formula to solve a problem such as applying the formula for surface area (e.g., to compute the surface area of a dining room floor to determine how much carpet is needed to replace the floor covering). Key action words for objectives: collect, prepare, demonstrate, apply, draw, or choose.


Analysis: entails breaking down concepts into logical components, which requires critical thinking in that information is not just given to students. Key action words for objectives: analyze, appraise, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, or question.


Synthesis: involves the creation of new ideas by combining other ideas. Key action words for objectives: construct, create, design, develop something new, combine, hypothesize or formulate.


Evaluation: evaluation involves making a judgment of some sort about ideas, materials, or methods. Key words for objectives: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.


In brief, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels is a valuable tool for classroom teachers as they write instructional objectives and plan a sequence of related lessons. For example, when teaching new concepts, teachers should begin at the lower cognitive levels to build background knowledge, and then they can guide students step by step to higher cognitive levels of thinking.


Madeline Hunter’s 7 Elements of Lesson Design The Lesson Cycle as Represented by Hunter’s Model

After teachers have identified their instructional objectives, which should be aligned with the TEKS, they need to plan lessons. One version of the lesson cycle is Hunter’s (1982) model, which consists of the following steps: (1) anticipatory set; (2) statement of the lesson’s objectives and purpose; (3) input; (4) modeling; (5) checking for understanding; (6) guided practice; (7) independent practice; (8) and closure.


Anticipatory Set (Set Induction): Is sometimes called a "hook" to grab the student's attention. Research by Brophy (1998) has shown how an introduction to a given lesson, which he refers as “entry,” increases student learning and understanding. This step also has a theoretical basis in cognitive constructivism in that the hook elicits students’ background knowledge, and the teacher links this background knowledge to new concepts to be learned.


Statement of What is to be Learned and Why the learning is Important: Teachers explain to students what they will do and why it is important. Research has shown how informing students what they are to learn enhances their learning and motivation (Marzano, 2001).



Input: In this case the teacher introduces or reviews key terms or background knowledge. It is important for teachers to be very thorough when teaching critical background information and definitions of key terms. The success of a lesson is contingent to a great extent on whether or not students have the prerequisite skills or background knowledge to prepare them for the concept to be modeled.


Modeling: Once background information is taught in input, the teacher models how to complete each step of the task noted in the objective. For example, when the teacher models how to solve a mathematical problem, she should do so in a methodical, step by step manner, which is easily followed by students. Modeling is an instructional scaffold, which enhances student understanding, and from a Vygostkian perspective it provides opportunities for students to learn within the zone of proximal development.


Checking for Understanding: The purpose is to determine whether students understand the modeled concept before proceeding to guided practice. The teacher may want to ask a number of questions while explaining each step to ensure students understand the concepts being taught. If students do not understand the concepts at hand, then teacher should reteach key points.


Guided practice: This step is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their grasp of new learning by working through an activity or exercise under the teacher’s direct supervision. The type of work assigned in guided practice is exactly like the type of activity taught in modeling. If the teacher assigned a different type of activity other than that which is modeled, then students will not be as prepared to complete the academic work. Teachers often have students work in groups during guided practice, and this provides an opportunity for students to learn within the zone of proximal development.


Independent practice: Once students understand the given concept, they need to practice the concept on their own. As previously noted, the exact same type of learning activity or problems taught in modeling and practiced in guided practice ought to be assigned in independent practice. One way we learn is through repetition and practice. From a behaviorist perspective practicing skills correctly reinforces learning, and from a cognitive constructivist perspective students need to process the concepts. Independent practice follows modeling and guided practice to ensure students are prepared for their homework.


Closure: Is a review of key concepts; closure wraps up a lesson in the same way the conclusion of an essay brings an essay to a smooth and logic al conclusion. Closure also provides another way to reinforce key concepts.


Marzano’s Nine Instructional Strategies

Identifying Similarities and Differences

  • Students need explicit instruction on how to identify similarities and differences between concepts or categories.

  • Students should have the opportunity to independently practice in comparing and contrasting.

  • Nonlinguistic representation (graphs and symbols) are especially powerful.


Applications /Activities

  • Compare and Contrast

  • Venn Diagrams

  • Classifying objects

  • Metaphors

  • Analogies

  • Patterns and attributes


Summarizing and Note Taking

  • For students to effectively take notes and summarize, they must be able to discriminate between:

    • essence and detail;

    • terms and meaning;

    • claims and evidence.

  • Summarizing: students must understand information in order to delete, substitute and keep information.

  • Note taking: students must process information and record information in the most concise manner.


Applications /Activities

  • Teach students how to take notes.

  • Evaluate note taking skills.

  • Embed summarizing and note taking activities in learning activities in a lesson plan.


Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

  • Not all students realize the importance of believing in effort.

  • Students can learn to change their beliefs to an emphasis on effort.

  • Self-Efficacy


Applications /Activities

  • Teach and exemplify the connection between effort and achievement.

  • Share stories about people who succeeded by not giving up.

  • Rubrics

  • "Pause, Prompt, Praise.” (Fred Jones)

  • Incentives and Rewards (both academic/non-academic)


Homework and Practice

  • Research shows that the amount of homework assigned should vary by grade level and that parent involvement should be minimal (meaningful interactions).

  • The purpose of homework should be identified and articulated.

  • If homework is assigned, it should be commented on (feedback).


Applications /Activities

  • Establish and communicate a homework policy.

  • Design homework assignments that clearly articulate the purpose and outcome.

  • Vary the approaches to providing feedback.


5-Nonlinguistic Representations

  • According to research, knowledge is stored in two forms: linguistic and visual.

  • The more students use both forms in the classroom, the more opportunity they have to achieve.

  • Recently, use of nonlinguistic representation has proven to not only stimulate but also increase brain activity.


Applications /Activities

  • Incorporate words and images in lessons.

  • Use physical models and physical movement.

  • Graphical organizers

  • Generating mental pictures.

  • Visual Instructional Plans.


Cooperative Learning

  • Organizing students into cooperative groups yields a positive effect on overall learning.

  • Keep groups small and don't overuse this strategy—be systematic and consistent in your approach.

  • Organizing groups based on ability should be done sparingly.


Applications /Activities

  • Use a variety of criteria for grouping students.

  • Use a variety of group patterns: Informal or ad hoc (last few minutes of a class period), formal (long enough to complete an academic project) and base groups (semester or year, providing students with long-term support).

  • Combine cooperative learning with other classroom strategies.


Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback

  • Instructional goals/objectives narrow what students focus on. Instructional goals/objectives should not be too specific. Students should be encouraged to personalize the teacher's goals.

  • Feedback should be "corrective" in nature by explaining to students what they are doing correctly and incorrectly.

  • Feedback should be timely. Feedback should be specific to a criterion.

  • Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback.


Applications /Activities

  • Lesson objectives


  • Criterion referenced tests

  • “Start with the end in mind”

  • Informal vs. Formal Feedback

  • Summative vs. Formative Assessment

  • Self-Assessment (metacognitive)


Generating and Testing Hypotheses

  • Hypothesis generation and testing can be approached in a more inductive or deductive manner. In general, students produce better results when using the deductive thinking process.

  • Deductive thinking requires students to apply current knowledge to make a prediction about a future action or event.

  • Inductive thinking involves students in a process of drawing new conclusions based on information they know or have presented to them.


Applications /Activities

  • Problem Solving

  • Historical Investigation of Controversial Issues

  • Experimental Inquiry-The Scientific Method

  • Decision Making


Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

  • Cues, questions, and advance organizers help students use what they already know about a topic to enhance further learning.

  • Research shows that these tools should be highly analytical, should focus on what is important, and are most effective when presented before a learning experience.


Applications /Activities

  • Questioning techniques

  • Pre-surveys

  • Skimming before reading

  • Graphic organizers



Scope and Sequence

Scope: Refers to content selection. Because classroom teachers have limited time during any academic year, they must carefully select content to meet their instructional objectives, and in Texas teachers must focus on the TEKS.


Sequence: Refers to the ordering of the content selected. From a curriculum perspective, teachers sequence content they intend to teach, so that a logical progression of concepts/skills unfolds smoothly as one concept builds on and leads logically into the next concept taught. A logically sequenced curriculum enhances student learning to a great extent.


Scope and Sequence: So how can we conceptualize what a sound scope and sequence entails? In simple terms it is like a detailed outline, which a writer develops to plan an essay before she writes her initial draft. In this respect, a well planned scope and sequence is like an outline of concepts a teacher intends to teach.


Theories of Learning


Observations of Models: Modeling is a key concept of social modeling theory, and students learn effectively from the various forms of models such as:

  • A teacher may model how to clean up after an activity or may refer to a student as a model of how to clean up properly.

  • Models of successful work products with set steps of how to complete the assignment are valuable models for student learning.

  • Students may follow the example of another student who has mastered the given academic work.


Information processing- a way to study how people acquire, process, store, and recall information to guide their learning. Learning processes, as presented in this model, entail information entering the mind through the senses, and then the information is quickly stored in the sensory memory for short duration and is remembered if there is something of importance or personal interest.


When details are initially remembered, they are stored in an individual’s short term memory. During this initial short period of about twenty seconds, a person needs to pay close attention to the information by using a rehearsal strategy. Typically a person’s working memory is able to handle only five to nine items at a time.


However, if a person uses chunking, more pieces of information are retained because all information is chunked into one unit or theme of information. Showing students a common theme or concept to attach relevant bits of information to is a helpful learning strategy. In terms of long term memory, information is retrieved if it was consider important enough to be retained, and of course, the more we use important information, the more likely we will be able to retrieve it at appropriate times.


Cognitive Constructivism: emphasizes how information is processed and made meaningful in the processes of assimilation and accommodation. In other words, the classroom teacher needs to elicit and build on students’ background knowledge when teaching new concepts. The following strategies are

effective for eliciting and building students’ prior knowledge:

  • Graphic organizers to provide students with an overview of key concepts before teaching a lesson;

  • Using KWL Charts in which a teacher elicits prior knowledge (e.g., K- what students know), then focuses on what students want to know about the given subject (e.g., W- what are students’ purposes for learning about the given concept), and what students learned after the lesson was taught (L- is a form of debriefing about the lesson).

  • Using reading strategies such as the SQ3R strategy in which students follow a set five step process: (1) S- survey the reading material; (2) Q- develop questions about the given reading; (3) R- read and take notes on key passages; (4) R- recite key themes and information; and (5) R- review the material.



Assessment Drives Instruction

Active and Reflective Listening and Responding


Active Listening - Teachers need to:

  • carefully observe verbal and nonverbal communication patterns of students and respond to them thoughtfully;

  • sort out the emotional and intellectual content of students’ messages and make careful inferences about students’ feelings before responding;

  • paraphrase a student’s comments to ensure they understand what the student intended to say.


Questioning Techniques

Handling Incorrect Responses: Teachers need to correct incorrect responses but need to address students in positive ways.

  • Students who are ridiculed for their responses are less inclined to participate in discussions. Why should they participate in discussions if a teacher’s responses are often sarcastic?

  • Classrooms are public places- very much like fish bowls, and students who see a peer ridiculed know they could bear the brunt of the same disrespectful treatment. Therefore, many students choose not to respond to teachers’ questions is these cases.

  • Sometimes rephrasing a question is helpful especially if the teacher’s question itself was not as precise as it ought to have been. Under such circumstances a teacher may say, “Let me rephrase the question a little more clearly” before asking a given question in a different way. Or, a teacher may build on a student’s response by saying, “That’s a good point and let’s consider something else about the topic.”



Student-centered Instruction

For example, if students are completing a cooperative learning activity such as a jigsaw, they are required to present their portion of the learning activity to the group. In other words, the teacher does not present the concepts or skills to the group but provides assistance in the role of a facilitator. Or, a teacher may serve as guide as she guides students step by step through a research investigation.


Examples of Student-centered Instruction

Simulations: Create a real-world context for learning important concepts. For example, some elementary teachers have designed addition and subtraction activities around the context of a store in which students buy and sell items. Consequently, their computations for adding and subtracting focus on tangible items in a store-type of setting they know. Similarly, some high school social studies teachers teach students about how the stock market works by simulating a stock market and requiring students to buy and sell stocks while keeping track of their profits and losses.


Role-Playing: Engages students in taking on the role of a historical figure, character from imaginative literature, or even an animal. Role-playing allows students to be creative and often fosters higher cognitive thinking in that taking on the role of another persona requires careful analysis of that given persona’s personality traits and typical actions.


Problem-solving: Is one form of critical thinking, which requires the identification of a problem and the formation of steps to solve the problem. The teacher guides students through the problem-solving and then has a debriefing session with students to check the results and determine what was learned. For example, consider this scenario. Students are given a small budget and must purchase enough food for a family of four for a week and must meet the requirements for each specific food group. Students have to find the most economical ways to meet the given family’s nutritional needs and to provide a sound rationale how they did so.


Inquiry Learning: The teacher’s role is to initiate a puzzling situation to elicit students’ interest. The teacher guides students through data collection and analyses to lead them to a logical conclusion. Inquiry learning has many characteristics of the scientific method and is employed by teachers of all grade levels to design a wide variety of learning activities such as scientific experiments or research projects. Inquiry learning is a higher cognitive activity, and teachers typically guide students through the respective inquiry processes.


Service Learning: Service learning connects academic learning to the real-world context of communities. Students are engaged in activities that fulfill real needs of communities. For example, students may help at a nursing home and write a report about their various experiences.


Group Discussions: Usually consist of small groups of students, who discuss key prompts provided by the teacher, who monitors each group’s interactions in her role as a facilitator. Group discussions are effective if students have the background knowledge to discuss the given prompts.


The Role of Thinking in the Learning Process

Convergent thinking generates established ideas and can be thought of as the accepted knowledge base.


Divergent thinking is a process involving the production of multiple answers based on what is already known. Divergent thinking, in contrast to convergent thinking, requires one to look for alternative answers from the available knowledge. It is a process whereby unexpected combinations are made, recognition of abstract associations takes place, and information is transformed into unanticipated or new forms. Once a person has a knowledge base or background knowledge of key concepts (part of convergent thinking) divergent thinking can take place.



Extrinsic Motivation occurs when a person’s actions are motivated by a reward such as stickers, extra points, or privileges.


Intrinsic Motivation occurs when a person’s actions are motivated by the personal satisfaction of the act itself such as a person who reads for enjoyment.


Both types of motivation are important considerations for the classroom teacher; however, as students grow and mature, they hopefully will become more intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated to learn.

Self-concept is a one’s self-description of one’s emotional, cognitive, and social attributes.


Self-esteem, on the other hand, is one’s evaluation about one’s own attributes.


Self-efficacy- is one’s judgment about one’s ability to perform well at a specific task. One’s self-efficacy perceptions vary from task to task in that a student may have strong self-efficacy perceptions in language arts but not in mathematics.


Self-efficacy perceptions are primarily formed from a person’s past successes and failures; therefore, it is extremely important for teachers to prepare effective lessons to enhance student success.


Also, self-efficacy perceptions are affected by vicarious experiences, social persuasions, and psychological indexes. Vicarious experiences are one’s observations of others. When one sees someone with similar capabilities as oneself either succeeding or failing at a given task, then one often assumes one would perform at about the same level. The academic success of one student may affect the

performance of peers in positive ways. Bandura has found that students’ self-efficacy perceptions improve when they observe competent peers.


Verbal persuasions affect students’ self-efficacy perception also. Students with low self-efficacy are more apt to be affected by either positive or negative comments than are students with strong self- efficacy perceptions; consequently, encouragement is especially important for students who lack confidence.


Attribution Theory

Attribution theory, a way to view motivation, concerns that which a person attributes the reasons for success or failure. For example, high achieving students typically attribute their success to hard work and ability and their failure to a lack of hard work. In contrast, low-achieving students often attribute their lack of success to bad luck instead of lack of effort. Low achieving students often do not see the cause and effect relationship between hard work and academic success.


High achievers have an internal locus of control; in other words, they believe they have control over the outcome of their academic performance. If they work conscientiously, they believe they will succeed.

Conversely, low achievers typically have an external locus of control in that they believe they have little control over their academic performance.


Teachers can assist a student with an external locus of control by teaching study skills and organizational strategies.


Attributions for Successes and Failures

Individuals with low in self-esteem often demonstrate a pattern of attributions for successes and failures opposite to those of individuals with high self-esteem. They blame themselves for negative outcomes and refuse to take credit for positive ones.



Technology Related Laws for Teachers

Laws to Protect Children - The Children’s Internet Protection Act and the Neighbor Children’s Internet Protection Act were passed by Congress in 2000. School districts and libraries are required to use blocking or filtering technology on computers with Internet access to protect children from obscenities and other harmful materials. Schools and libraries are required to set policies to protect minors when using electronic communications such as email or chat rooms and must protect minors from any unauthorized access.


Technology Related Laws for Teachers

Copyright Laws and Fair Use: Copyright laws protect authors of original works. However, the fair use doctrine does allow teachers to copy and use some materials for instructional purposes. For instance, teachers are able to copy passages from books and are able to tape a television program if they use the tape within a ten-day period.


Materials to Avoid: Teachers and students cannot legally copy materials such as logos of famous brand names of clothing or the music of a program. Also, it is illegal for school personnel to load multiple computers with software unless the school district has a license to do so. Teachers need to be careful only to make necessary copies when using materials of others to avoid violations of copyright laws.


Acceptable Use Policies: Many districts have Acceptable Use Policies to delineate the district’s policies about the use of school computers, software, web sources, and other technologically related concerns. These policies need to be followed carefully to avoid possible legal ramifications.


Developmentally Appropriate Uses of Technology

Even kindergarten and first grade students are capable of learning from and using electronic based instruction.


For example, digital storybooks are effective tools for enhancing students’ language acquisition and enhancing their interest in reading and writing. At all grade levels teachers use technology for skill development such as for learning math facts or grammar.


In addition, many elementary, middle school, and high school teachers develop web quest activities, so that students have opportunities to conduct research via the web. These types of research assignments are often valuable inquiry activities that foster critical thinking and problem-solving.


Computer Assisted Learning

Some programs enhance student learning by providing opportunities for students to receive immediate feedback about their performance in completing a given task. For instance, computers have been used to enhance the mathematical skills of students of all groups including students with learning disabilities. Likewise, reading skills are often enhanced by computer-based technology through extensive practice and immediate, direct feedback.


Another strength of computer-based technologies is that adaptations can be made for students with exceptionalities. For example, adaptations can be used to bypass keyboards for those students who are not able to use their hands, and special large screen computer monitors create size enhancements for students with visual disabilities.


Simulations and Problem-Solving

Similarly, the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1997) created a videodisc problem-solving set called The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury. Each episode creates a problem-solving set that has multiple solutions, and students have to identify the problem and arrive at a mathematical solution. The Cognition and Technology Group found significant improvements in students’ problem-solving and

mathematical skills, and students’ attitudes about mathematics improved as well. Another type of problem-solving is emphasized in the program Decisions, Decisions. Students are provided with various situations and are required to identify and find viable solutions for moral dilemmas.



Equally important, students are now able to take virtual tours and field trips of many famous sites around the world, and teachers are able to add important content into their lessons through visual representations of concepts through technology; visual representations enhance the learning of all students but are especially helpful for visual learners.



Formative & Summative Assessments


Formative Assessments: Provide appropriate feedback and direction to students as they learn new concepts and also are a way for teachers to check for student understanding. Teachers often:

  • give students a pre-test to determine how well they understand the concepts to be taught;

  • check students’ work as they are completing short assignments to ensure they understand each step of the academic work;

  • give a short quiz to check on student progress;

  • assign homework to ensure concepts learned are understood and retained.


Summative Assessments: Are very important because teachers need to evaluate students’ academic performance for their long-term levels of academic achievement and are often given at the end of an academic year. Summative assessments:

  • provide opportunities for teachers and students to review the primary concepts taught during the year;

  • show teachers whether or not their instructional methods resulted in substantial student learning;

  • give teachers valuable data about how to revise lessons and instructional units and to develop remediation strategies for the future.


Test Reliability

Reliability is another concept to consider when creating or using any type of assessment. A reliable measure is one which gives similar results consistently from one day to the next. Consider the following example: A teacher requires students to underline complete verbs in sentences, and the majority of students do so correctly. Two days later the teacher has students complete the same type of exercise, and the test results are very similar to the previous ones. In this case the assessments are considered reliable.


Test Validity

Whenever we use any type of assessment, we must consider its validity. A valid measure is one that measures what it is supposed to measure. For example, if an educational psychologist used an IQ test to measure a fifth grade student’s reading ability, this would not be a valid measure; instead, the educational psychologist ought to use a reading assessment appropriate for fifth grade students. Teachers develop assessments carefully to ensure they are valid measures of what they taught students, and they are primarily concerned about content validity.


Content validity: Content validity concerns whether or not the content represented on a given assessment is aligned with the content taught during lessons. In other words, teachers need to evaluate how well they are testing students on concepts they actually taught. Teachers are not so much teaching to the test; instead, they are testing students on the content and concepts they taught them.


Norm-referenced Tests

Norm-referenced tests: A given test is considered a norm-referenced test when the results of each test taker’s performance are compared with those of other test takers, who are the same age group.

Teachers are able to determine how a student’s score compares to that of other students. In other

words, scores typically are reported in percentile ranks, and students’ score are compared to those of their grade level group.


Criterion-referenced Tests

Criterion-referenced tests: When student learning is compared to set criteria, then a test is considered a criterion-referenced test. When criterion referencing is used, teachers compare what students learned to what they were expected to learn as determined by concepts of the set criteria. In other words,

when this process is used, students’ scores are compared to an achievement standard.


Objective and Subjective Tests

The objective testing methods discussed in this section are primarily for testing students at the knowledge and comprehension levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels of Thinking. Although our primary goals concentrate on fostering critical thinking, testing at the lower cognitive levels is important because facts, details, and key terms are important background knowledge for critical thinking.

  • Matching: The matching test item format is an effective way to test students’ background knowledge at lower cognitive levels. Here are some guidelines for making matching sections:

    • Make sure the matching sections consist of two columns; that is, one column is for cues and a second column for responses.

    • The column for cues ought to focus on one theme such as famous inventors. In column two, only list possible responses that are plausible; in this case, all responses ought to focus on inventions.

    • Also, always list at least one response more than the number of cues in the first column. Then students are not able to answer a test item correctly through the process of elimination without really knowing the answer.

  • Multiple Choice: Multiple choice test items are effective for testing background knowledge at the lower cognitive levels although multiple choice questions can be used for higher cognitive thinking. Here are some guidelines for multiple choice test items:

    • Provide sufficient detail in the stem of the test item. (The stem is the test question or introductory prompt before the choices are listed.)

    • Make sure there is only one correct choice; however, create plausible distracters, which seem to answer the stem and which are similar to many of the key words or phrases used in the correct response.

    • Avoid any ambiguities of language that confuse students. First and foremost, teachers are evaluating students’ understanding of concepts, not their skills to perform well on tricky test items.

  • Fill-in-the-Blank: Fill-in-the-Blank test items are valuable for lower cognitive questions if the questions focus on valuable content taught and if the test item is written precisely. In other words, state the prompt clearly, so that there are no ambiguities or plausible answers that do not concern the knowledge you are testing.


Essay Test Items: While objective types of assessment formats are valuable for lower cognitive test items, the essay format is often effective for assessing higher cognitive thinking.

  • An essay prompt must clearly require students to think at higher cognitive levels.

  • In addition, teachers must provide students ample time to complete the essay.

  • Teachers need to ensure the criteria of evaluation are delineated clearly, and sometimes teachers assign points for each of the given parts noted in the criteria.


Performance-based Assessments

Here are some examples of performance-based assessments:

  • An art teacher requires students to paint in the expressionistic style after teaching students the key elements of expressionism and after demonstrating expressionistic techniques.

  • A math teacher requires students to work on a project involving real-world problem solving situations.

  • A P.E. teacher requires students to shoot free-throws with good form (per the set criteria) as well as with accuracy.

  • A speech teacher requires students to write and deliver a persuasive speech.


To guide students through the process of completing a respective performance-based assessments, teachers need to provide students:

  • with an outline of steps to complete it, so that they understand how to successfully perform the respective task;

  • with some type of rating scale concerning how they will be evaluated. Knowing the evaluation criteria before being evaluated helps students complete the assigned task; also, the respective criteria becomes a self-evaluation tool for students to evaluate their own work and that of their peers. Teachers often use rubrics to clarify performance standards.

  • with some choices of topics to build on students’ interests and to create a more student- centered classroom.



Rubrics are designed in a variety of ways; however, two guidelines are constant:

  • Different performance levels are set (e.g., an excellent rating of 4 to a needs improvement rating of 1);

  • various categories are listed (e.g., in writing an essay separate categories may concentrate on the quality of the introduction/thesis, support of the thesis, effective conclusion, voice, or diction). In this respect, the given task is evaluated in separate categories, and students are given more feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of their work.