Chapter Summary: Instruction

This chapter started with one premise but ended with another. It started with the idea that teachers need to locate curriculum goals, usually from a state department of education or a publisher of a curriculum document. In much of the chapter we described what these authorities provide for individual classroom teachers, and how their documents can be clarified and rendered specific enough for classroom use. In the middle of the chapter, however, the premise shifted. We began noting that instruction cannot be planned simply for students; teachers also need to consider involving students themselves in influencing or even choosing their own goals and ways of reaching the goals. Instructional planning, in other words, should not be just for students, but also by students, at least to some extent. In the final parts of the chapter, we described a number of ways of achieving a reasonable balance between teachers’ and students’ influence on their learning. We suggested considering relatively strong measures, such as an emergent or an anti-bias curriculum, but we also considered more moderate ones, like the use of the Internet, local experts and field trips, service-learning, and of guided and independent practice. All things considered, then, teachers’ planning is not just about organizing teaching; it is also about facilitating learning. Its dual purpose is evident in many features of public education, including the one we discuss in the next two chapters, the assessment of learning.

In the United States, broad educational goals for most subject areas are published by many national professional associations and by all state departments of education. Usually, the state departments of education also publish curriculum frameworks or curriculum guides that offer somewhat more specific explanations of educational goals, and how they might be taught.

Transforming the goals into specific learning objectives, however, remains a responsibility of the teacher. The formulation can focus on curriculum topics that can be analyzed into specific activities, or it can focus on specific behaviors expected of students and assemble them into general types of outcomes. Taxonomies of educational objectives, such as the ones originated by Benjamin Bloom, are a useful tool with either approach to instructional planning.

Since students normally are diverse, teaching requires differentiated instruction, or adjustments to students’ learning needs, backgrounds, and capacities. A widely used framework for doing this is called response to intervention and involves continual short-term assessment of students’ response to teaching, coupled with a system of more intense instruction for the relatively small number of students who need it.

In addition to planning instruction on students’ behalf, many teachers organize instruction so that students themselves can influence the choice of goals. One way to do so is through emergent curriculum; another way is through multicultural and anti-bias curriculum.

Whatever planning strategies are used, learning is enhanced by using a wide variety of resources, including the Internet, local experts, field trips, and service-learning, among others. It is also enhanced if the teacher can build bridges between curriculum goals and students’ experiences through judicious use of modeling, activation of prior knowledge, the anticipation of students’ preconceptions, and an appropriate blend of guided and independent practice.


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Educational Psychology Copyright © 2020 by Nicole Arduini-Van Hoose is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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