Recently, a colleague passed along a newly released research paper on effective instructional practices. The information was too interesting and Indistar-related not to share. It comes from The Wing Institute, an independent, non-profit organization, that promotes evidence-based education policies and practices. 

The paper answered this question: Improving Educational Outcomes in America: Can A Low-Tech, Generic Teaching Practice Make A Difference? William L. Heward and Charles L. Wood (2015).

The authors considered a range of instructional practices that were identified by participants of the eighth Wing Institute summit and make an argument that Active Student Responding (ASR) has the potential to significantly improve student learning. They further make the case that ASR is a low cost, effective alternative to many of the instructional practices, such as computer assisted instruction. The authors consider ASR in the context of the positive benefits and the cost considerations including equipment/materials, training, logistical fit, and the fit with the teacher's belief about effective instruction. 

They counter the misgivings of ASR ("drill and kill", "developmentally inappropriate") with scientific studies that prove the benefits and importance of explicit practice. The paper quotes authors Doug Lemon, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi (2012) of Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better.

...As cognitive scientists like Daniel Willingham have shown, it's all but impossible to have higher-order thinking without strongly established skills and lots of knowledge of facts. Cognitive leads, intuition, inspiration--the stuff of vision--are facilitated by expending the smallest amount of processing capacity on lower-order aspects of a problem and reapplying it at higher levels. You can leap over the more basic work by being able to do it without thinking much about it, not by ignoring it...Creativity often comes about because the mind has been set free in new and heretofore encumbered situations. (pp.37-38).

I've included an example of one of the FAQ's that researchers received about ASR, specifically Choral Responding (CR). This example and others can also be found in the paper:

Q: I already provide a lot interesting, hands on activities for my students and they seem really engaged. My lessons are very engaging. Would my students still benefit from CR?

A: Yes. CR can be used to enhance a lesson and help students build mastery.

Explanation: Many teachers define "engagement" by the activity or materials (e.g. elementary students making dioramas of their favorite scenes from Charlotte's Web, for example) rather than measurable responses to instruction (i.e. ASR) and outcomes. For example, after an engaging week of building their dioramas, several fourth graders have not made progress toward the unit's objectives (e.g. identifying themes, comparing and contrasting with measurable responses). In brief CR previews and reviews of new vocabulary for past and upcoming chapters, they would be more confident and prepared when they tackle their Charlotte's Web reading comprehension and writing assignments. 

This paper and its research would be particularly useful in examining these indicators of effective practice:

You can find the full paper here, with the research and examples of ASR (including long-practiced Choral Response) here:

We want to hear your reactions to this article as well as how you might use it in discussions with teachers and Leadership Team members in your school. How do you currently assess student engagement? 

Please provide your responses in the comment section, below.

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