High Impact or High Probability?

by | Aug 6, 2019

Janelle Wills at the Marzano Summit

The Victorian Department of Education and Training’s High Impact Teaching Strategies are 10 of the most effective instructional strategies — but can they be used more effectively? Dr Janelle Wills explains how you can expand upon the HITS list with The New Art and Science of Teaching framework.

In 2017, “High Impact Teaching Strategies: Excellence in Teaching and Learning”, also referred to as “HITS”, was released by the Victorian Department of Education and Training as a resource for educators. The document outlines 10 instructional practices that evidence suggests reliably increase student learning whenever they are applied. The list of 10 high-impact instructional strategies have been developed from the work of researchers such as John Hattie and Robert Marzano, both of whom have synthesised the findings of thousands of studies on the most effective instructional strategies in classroom settings across the world. When these strategies are ranked in order of impact on student learning, the “HITS” represent the top 10 instructional strategies. As such, it is a very useful document to inform the professional practice of educators keen to maximise learning for their students. Although the appeal of a list of evidence-based, highly effective strategies is compelling, caution must be applied in their application so as not to narrow our focus.

Teaching as both Art and Science

Robert Marzano wisely cautions that teaching is both an art and a science. The research, or science, provides guidance as to the nature of effective teaching practices, but cannot provide a definitive formula that can be applied in all circumstances. Research is not able to identify instructional strategies that work with every student in every classroom. At best, the research can provide direction as to which strategies will have the highest probability of affecting student learning. It is incumbent upon the individual teacher, with an in-depth knowledge of each of their students and their specific learning needs, to choose the right strategy at the right time. This is the art of teaching. Recognising teaching as both an art and a science is why Marzano created the instructional framework “The Art and Science of Teaching”, published in 2007.

From the Old to the New

The Art and Science of Teaching framework recognised the complexity and intricacy of teaching and provided a more comprehensive set of instructional strategies for consideration – addressing the use of effective instructional strategies, effective management strategies and effective classroom curriculum design strategies. More recently (2017), Marzano updated the framework to represent contemporary knowledge of effective teaching. Entitled “The New Art and Science of Teaching” the framework recognises the importance of the classroom culture and student psychology in the learning process. Like the previous framework, this updated framework provides a common language for teachers to discuss and share effective practice. In this way, teachers not only develop their individual knowledge but also the collective knowledge of the whole staff, thereby increasing the collective efficacy of the staff and effectiveness of the school.

The New Art and Science of Teaching Framework Structure

The New Art and Science of Teaching framework is organised into three overarching segments: Feedback (specific information provided to and from the teacher and learner to clarify and guide learning); Content (the ways in which lessons typically progress from direct instruction through use and review of the knowledge and skills being learned); and Context (addressing the psychological needs of students, such as engagement, a sense of belonging and high expectations).

One of the major changes in The New Art and Science of Teaching is the focus on student outcomes as opposed to teacher outcomes. Previously, the focus was on teachers’ effectiveness in implementing instructional strategies. Now, the focus is on the student outcomes obtained by teachers’ instructional actions. The premise is that teachers who purposefully implement instructional strategies will help students use mental processes that successively enhance learning. In other words, it’s not enough to merely use an instructional strategy – a teacher must ensure it has the desired impact on students’ thought processes and learning. The framework is a student-centred vehicle for increasing self-regulatory behaviours as students engage in strategies such as goal-setting, strategy design and reflection on their own learning.

The Importance of Reflective Practice

Like any artist, teachers must continuously refine and develop their skills while still being informed by research and theory. Such reflective practice involves deliberate engagement and reflection at an individual level on one’s work and abilities. When applying reflective practice to teaching, our Marzano team supports teachers through a four-step process. First, introduce an instructional framework of effective teaching. Second, have teachers develop growth goals based on the specific elements of the framework (reflective practice scales are available for each element of the framework and provide for growth as teachers consider if they are at the beginning, developing, applying or innovating phase in their use of an element). Third, teachers engage in focused practice and, lastly, receive focused feedback on their chosen growth goals. Collaborative teams within a professional learning community can utilise this process to either work on common goals as a team or to support each other in working on individual goals.

The Right Framework for Raising Student Achievement

All in the all, The New Art and Science of Teaching framework brings together a wide array of instructional strategies in a way that teachers can reflect and determine the right strategy at the right time to meet the needs of their students and contexts. Used deliberately and purposefully, these strategies have a high probability of raising student achievement as teachers consider both the art and the science of their craft.


Workshop — Maximising High Impact Teaching Strategies: The New Art and Science of Teaching

Melbourne, Monday 9 September 2019

Discover how the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s High Impact Teaching Strategies are embedded in The New Art and Science of Teaching framework in this full-day workshop with Dr Janelle Wills.

Book now!

Janelle Wills Dr Janelle Wills is the Associate Director of Marzano Research Australia and works extensively with educators, school networks and regions to implement research-based strategies known to impact student achievement. Read more articles by Janelle Wills

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