5 High Impact Teaching Strategies to Support Student Growth

High Impact Teaching Strategies are a set of reliable practices which can be used to shape teaching and learning in your classroom. There are, of course, many more high impact strategies you can use too – but for today we’re focusing in on these 5. The thinking behind High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) is to used  tried-and-tested, evidence based approaches to learning that are going to have the greatest impact on learning. There’s a lot we can do in school that has our students ‘busy’ but not all of these hold equal weight in terms of growth.  

At AIS Kuwait we’ve collected data that helps us understand where each child is currently in their learning, and now we’re moving into ways to use this information not to label children or to fill filing cabinets – but to really drive instruction in ways that will benefit every learner. This week I shared this graphic with teachers to help us think about how data, planning, and teaching come together to achieve one of our biggest goals: Student Growth:

The connections between progress monitoring, accountability and HITS

Now as we move into planning and taking action to support growth these will be the core of the High Impact Teaching Strategies we use going forwards;

  1. Goal Setting

I’ve written a fair amount about goal setting recently ‘Goal Setting: Starting with strengths not deficits’ and it’s a process we’re always looking to improve and help students connect to more and help guide their progress.  Goal setting works as a teaching strategy for a couple of reasons;

  • It makes it clear what we’re working towards (and ‘we’ is an important choice here, as any goal setting should reinforce the partnerships between child-school-home)
  • It helps us define action steps – without these we may not know how to get started or what to do next
  • They increase accountability – for all parties involved
  • We can track progress towards these goals 

Whatever the goal is, it must be well defined and referred back to frequently. Many people use SMART as a goal setting tool as it helps focus thinking and produce achievable, actionable goals. But even the most well written goal won’t be met if you simply save it somewhere. The biggest step here is to actively use the goal and action plan (click the image below to download) and check in on progress regularly.

  1. Differentiation

I think differentiation may be my personal favourite teaching strategy – largely because I’ve seen the impact on children I’ve worked with.  

The idea here is simple: each child (group of children) gets different work to match their different abilities, capabililities, needs and interests. There are a number of ways you can differentiate and a quick google search will give you more options that anyone can handle.  For me, I think about differentiation in these 5 areas: 

Ways to differentiate

When you plan your differentiated activities as a teacher you’re going to consider the educational needs and abilities of each child.  Imagine you’re teaching word families: you may have a group of children who are ready to build words by copying the pattern with you, and you may have some who can create sentences using words in that family – you’re going to offer activities that challenge each child.  Similarly, you may draw on interests so when learning about animals and their habitats student choice and interest is going to determine which resources they use. 

As you begin to plan for differentiation, consider these two questions;

  1. Will every child be challenged appropriately? (not too easy, not too hard)
  2. Can I design activities to engage every child? (keep them interested in the learning)

To truly challenge and engage every child you will use different approaches/tools/activities.  

  1. Personalised Learning 

Building on from both goal setting and differentiated learning is personalised learning.  This seems to fall in and out of popular favour a little, but at its heart it really means making learning work for each child.  Personalised learning recognises that each child has slightly different needs, and goes beyond differentiated learning towards target very specific areas for each child (areas of strength or challenge).  This process varies hugely in terms of formality from full Personalised Learning Plans, to a few minutes a week dedicated to targeting skills specific to each child. How structured your approach is will be dependent on a wide range of factors.  In the past 15 years the biggest change in personalised learning is the rise of EdTech. Whilst personalised learning is by no means dependent on technology it can certainly be made much easier to manage and plan for.  

Some of the best personalised learning tools include;

Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers dual options for personalised learning; it can respond to the child’s learning in the programme, or you push particular skills.  If your school utilises MAP testing, this data can be added to each child’s account to help with this process.

Digital Reading Programmes: From Reading Eggs to RAZ kids to Oxford and many, many more.  Digital reading programmes cannot replace books. But they can supplement and help target specific reading skills when used strategically. 

In the day to day classroom personalised learning may include ideas such as a choice board offering different ways to reach/demonstrate the standard being worked towards (strong connections of course to differentiation), or options for levels of text being used when reading. 

  1. Conferencing 

Conferencing with students, whether in small groups or one to one, is another great high impact teaching strategy.  The advantage here comes both in terms of the opportunities to assess learning as it happens and in the flexibility the teacher has to modify/differentiate learning as needed.  Conferencing can include, but isn’t limited to any of these aspects:

  • Explicit teaching – more effective for small groups than whole classes, direct teaching can be a powerful tool when used well (Hattie, 2009)
  • Re-teaching 
  • Modelling
  • Questioning 
  • Discussion
  • Guided Practice 

What makes conferencing effective is that the teacher can respond to the needs of the group and better understand where they are in their learning at that moment in time.  If you apply this to understanding of multiplication strategies – it may be challenging to know whether each child in a class can independently follow and understand each step if you have 25 kids in front of you.  So instead you meet them 5 at a time to conference. Now your time is more focused on the needs of these children and you can see exactly how much they understand/easily identify those who need support, need a little practice or are ready to move on. 

  1. Questioning 

Well thought out, open questioning can work incredibly well to drive student thinking and to help them make connections between learning.  It also offers the teacher lots of information on student understanding and works well as informal formative assessment. Questioning is also a great tool to support engagement and differentiation by asking different questions of different students/groups you can ensure that everyone can participate and feel valued whilst still offering appropriate challenge.  

In all, High Impact Teaching Strategies can give you a bank of approaches to use which are proven to help drive student growth.  Which of these do you already use? Which can you add to your practice? How might you strengthen the way you already use some of these?

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