Samuel Odom, a prominent special education researcher says, "The special education community has yet to identify systematic guidelines for specifying the types and levels of evidence needed to identify a practice as evidenced-based and effective." Educational researchers Sean Bulger, Derek Mohr and Richard Walls reviewed studies on effective educational practices and identified four key strategies that met effective practice standards for all students. These are teaching based on outcomes, clear directions, engaging students during lessons and exuding enthusiasm during teaching.
Special education has always required that instruction be based on outcomes, or goals, so this effective practice has been embedded in special education practice for over 35 years. Setting goals for instruction is like making an itinerary for a trip--they show you where you want to be at the end of the journey. Goals lead teachers toward the result of their instructional journey--positive student achievement. Outcome-based instruction enables teachers to assess student achievements more directly and to determine where more instruction is needed.
Effective teaching requires clear instruction. The clearer the instructions, the better the chance that students will understand what is expected. Teachers who give very explicit instructions are more effective teachers. It is important that teachers not leave anything out when they give directions. The teacher should give the direction, show what he means by the direction and say the same thing in several different ways. Teachers who help students make connections between what they already know and what they just learned are helping students understand, which is an effective teaching strategy.
Effective teaching requires engagement, or learning by doing. Being engaged in instruction means teachers provide a vibrant, interesting classroom in which all students have the chance to practice all concepts being taught. Effective teachers give students something to do every minute of the lesson, and every activity is aimed at helping students learn.
The fourth effective teaching strategy is enthusiasm. It may seem obvious, but teachers who do not like what they are doing and do not enjoy teaching produce students who do not like what they are doing and do not like learning. Teachers who believe they have a good grasp of the subject matter and know they can teach all students are more enthusiastic than those who do not feel this way. Teachers who show students how excited they are about what they are teaching inspire students to want to learn.
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