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9 High-Yield Research-Based Instructional Strategies and How I Would Use Them

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A teacher reading to a couple of their students.

In my eight years as a classroom teacher and a school administrator, I came across many different instructional strategies that educators can use to help their learners engage with curriculum content.

But did you know research has shown that some teaching strategies are more effective than others?

In this article, I cover the nine types of high-yield instructional strategies! I also provide examples for each so that you can put impactful, research-based instructional strategies to work in your classroom to get the best student learning outcomes possible.

What is a research-based instructional strategy?

Students sitting on the carpet in a classroom.

Research-based instructional strategies are strategies that have been identified, by independent research, to be the most effective at influencing student learning outcomes and student achievement.

For years, researchers have worked tirelessly to understand the most effective teaching methods with the goal of improving classroom instruction.

Here are some influential educational research studies about instructional strategies:

Dr. George L. Gropper's 1974 book entitled Instructional Strategies

His text covered several competencies that instructors should have, including:

  • Understanding how to properly sequence instructional content
  • Considering the variety of content that should be provided to learners
  • Determining the volume of practice that learners need to attain skill mastery

Dr. Charles R. Beck’s 1998 article entitled A Taxonomy for Identifying, Classifying, and Interrelating Teaching Strategies

This article helped develop categories for the various instructional strategies that are commonly implemented to engage students in learning content.

His goal was to bring cohesion to professional development and further advance the field of research in this area.

Drs. Robert J. Marzano, Jane E. Pollock, and Debra J. Pickering’s 2001 book entitled Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement

This book made a huge splash because it identified 9 “high-yield” instructional strategies that were shown to have an outsized impact on student learning. In 2012, a second edition was published.

What are the 9 high-yield instructional strategies?

In order of impact, the 9 “high-yield” instructional strategies that Drs. Marzano, Pollock, and Pickering defined are:

  1. Identifying similarities and differences
  2. Summarizing and note-taking
  3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
  4. Homework and practice
  5. Non-linguistic representations
  6. Cooperative learning
  7. Setting objectives and providing feedback
  8. Generating and testing hypotheses
  9. Cues, questions, and advance organizers

1. Identifying similarities and differences

There are four key cognitive elements to this strategy, “comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies” as outlined by Connie Scoles West and Dr. Marzano.

To make the most of this strategy, you’ll want to make sure that you’re anchoring yourself on a clear definition for each of the four key cognitive elements.

Once you’ve done that, you can model best practices for your students and keep them focused on the critical content. You might also support them by providing them with tools like graphic organizers.

2. Summarizing and note-taking

Two students note-taking in a notebook and on a laptop.

An instructional guide on this strategy published by Dr. Ria A. Schmidt and Dr. Marzano outlines some of the important steps associated with this strategy and, luckily, there are a plethora of ways to implement them.

You help students with summarizing by asking them to create mnemonic devices or even by giving them the opportunity to re-enact scenes from books you’re teaching.

3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition

Sometimes a little bit of praise can go a long way. But what behaviors should be praised?

Like Dr. Carol Dweck’s concept of a Growth Mindset, it’s important to direct praise towards reinforcing behaviors tied to the level of effort students put forth in their work rather than providing holistic (but unspecific) praise like saying, “you’re so smart!”

As an example, let’s say you have two students in class who have worked on an assignment, but time is tight, and you only have time to give one of them positive reinforcement.

One student has struggled to get through it but has taken the extra time and effort to really learn the concept and content while the other student breezed right through it effortlessly.

In this situation, you’d focus your praise on the student who worked extra-hard to persevere because it reinforces the behavior to work through challenges as learning occurs.

This works no matter the age and across content areas– all the way up to high school (and even beyond)!

4. Homework and practice

Two siblings doing homework at the dinner table.

Regardless of whether it’s at home or at school, there is a reason for the saying “practice makes perfect.”

Students need to have the opportunity to engage in meaningful practice with the content they’re aiming to learn.

According to Drs. Marzano, Pollock and Pickering, an important consideration tied to the amount of homework that students get is their age. Ideally, younger students are assigned less work to complete at home while students who are older can take on a little bit more.

The great news is that homework or practice doesn’t need to be tied to rote bookwork that can be tedious.

There are many different ways that you can make it exciting for students such as encouraging students to practice learning through digital games like Prodigy Math or Prodigy English!

Explore Prodigy for teachers!

5. Non-linguistic representations

Asking your students to create non-linguistic representations of the material they need to know is a great way to encourage creative thinking (especially for your visual-spatial learners) within your instructional practices.

Sometimes, creating a graphic representation of something you need to learn is a great way to cement a picture in your mind for recall or application later.

This highly creative strategy can be easily applied in the classroom by asking small groups of students to put together a thinking map or storyboard to help them outline critical elements of a text they’re working through.

A child expressing themselves by painting on a canvas.

6. Cooperative learning

Get your students working in small groups! That’s the name-of-the-game for this instructional strategy. However, there are a few key elements to keep in mind to make the most of it

Ideally, you’re able to take the time to carefully formulate groups so that they include students with varying ability levels. Once you’ve got the groups formulated, it’s best practice to ensure that the students are assigned roles so that each has ownership over the task.

In addition, cooperative learning often works best when you’re able to circulate around the room to monitor the small groups and provide support.

When you need to have students complete highly rigorous and complex tasks — especially if those tasks benefit from students who each bring unique abilities to the table — then getting students working in a small group is a great way to help them build interpersonal skills while also sharing ownership in the finished product.

7. Setting objectives and providing feedback

Students listening to their teacher at the front of the classroom.

A strategy that’s commonly used to drive effective meetings is to start by stating the overall goal so that participants know the planned outcome right from the start.

That same anchoring strategy can be effectively used by teachers in the classroom.

By writing the educational standard (or a version of it that is in more student-friendly language) up on the board, students will know where their learning journey will take them for the day.

8. Generating and testing hypotheses

Get your students thinking by asking them to generate hypotheses. This strategy can be a fun way to get all of your students engaged.

Asking students to determine what’s about to happen and then having them participate in an experiment is a great way to get them active in their learning.

But hypothesis generation isn’t just reserved for science class. Reading a new book? Show the students the front and back cover and ask them to write down their hypothesis for what will happen at the beginning, middle and end of the book!

9. Cues, questions and advance organizers

It can be a real challenge to help students get a sense of which material they should be focusing their attention and energy on.

One great way to help students learn how to focus is to provide them with advance organizers or a list of guided questions that they should be thinking about as they engage with learning materials.

Ready to start a new book but want to keep your student focused on certain elements of it?

Create an advance organizer that covers the specific material you want to cover. It could be a list of vocabulary words, character descriptions, or even a plot graph.

This can be a great tool to support metacognition, which is helping students think about the way they think!

9 Ways I would use high-yield instructional methods in my teaching strategies

1. Visualize similarities and differences with tools

Identifying similarities and differences can be simple. Let’s say that you’re teaching 2nd grade and you’ve just read the class a book.

After reading, you can start a discussion about similarities and differences and use a Venn Diagram tool, such as Read Write Think by NCTE.

2. Use note-taking templates

Most students don’t have natural-born summarizing and note-taking skills. They’ll need your help to learn how to take effective notes.

Taking the time to train them to take effective notes using templates can help them to learn what to focus on — and is a skill that will help them in higher education!

3. Display students' work often

When students have worked extremely hard on a task, it’s a great opportunity to reinforce effort and provide them with some well-deserved recognition.

One great way to recognize students, in addition to verbal praise, is to post the student’s work up on the classroom wall for everyone to see as an example.

Best of all, this can be done across all subjects, like English, math and social studies.

4. Make homework fun with game-based learning tools

Getting students to complete homework and get much-needed practice can sometimes be a challenge.

Students may have after-school sports, family responsibilities, or other things that compete for their attention. It can also be tough to motivate students to crack open a textbook and start answering math questions.

This may be the perfect opportunity to leverage Prodigy Education’s digital game-based learning tools.

Tools like these can provide a fun way for students to interact with the learning content they need to know.

5. Foster learning with audible or visual representations

An interesting way to get your students involved in non-linguistic representations is by having them tap into their creative side and build out storyboards.

As you’re working through literature and focusing on key events in the text, students can create storyboards or generate thinking maps as a means of showing what they have learned in a way that isn’t writing-based.

This can help them to create a mental picture in their minds that’ll help them to remember content!

6. Try a group-based approach

A couple of students learning as a group.

Getting students involved in cooperative learning is a great way to promote student engagement. One fun way to do this is through a group-based book study.

First, strategically prepare balanced groups so that each group has a mix of students with different learning styles and personalities. Then, choose texts that are leveled appropriately for the students in the group.

Depending on their age, you may want to support them in introducing the task and defining roles for the different members of the group.

Once they start their group work, you can circulate between the groups and support them through the process!

7. Align on learning goals and display them clearly

You can implement setting objectives and providing feedback super easily!

Section off a portion of your whiteboard using painter’s tape and keep the learning goals in the same place so that students know exactly where to look when they want a refresher.

By referencing the goal during your lesson, you reinforce the connective tissue between your lesson and what students need to know, especially as you conduct formative assessments like quizzes to monitor for growth towards academic achievement.

8. Encourage experimentation

One fun way to help students generate and test hypotheses is through group-based science experiments in class.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to prepare a few sets of experiment materials and carefully consider the composition of your groups.

As students work to test their hypotheses, you can observe how they’re working together on their problem-solving journey.

Want some inspiration? Here’s a list of 60 easy science experiments!

9. Incorporate reciprocal teaching techniques into your lessons

You may enjoy implementing the reciprocal teaching technique as you employ the questions, cues and advance organizers strategy.

Since this follows the ‘I do, we do, you do’ formula, you can create an advance organizer for students to reference throughout the lesson.

You can include key questions that students should be thinking about as they’re completing their learning activities.

You can also make advance organizers for any lesson as an accommodation for special education students as appropriate.

How Prodigy uses research to support game-based learning

We believe that game-based learning can be one of the most effective strategies that teachers and parents can use.

We’ve carefully looked at academic research to help inform how Prodigy Math and Prodigy English are designed.

Because of our use of research to inform our design, Prodigy Math was awarded the ‘Research-based Design’ certification from Digital Promise.

According to Partovi & Razavi (1998), digital games can create high levels of motivation in students. That’s why our philosophy of education, Motivation First! helps continuously guide our thinking and helps us to build a meaningful and fun learning experience for students. 

We also think hard about how we’re presenting students with learning content, which is why we take a student-centered approach to pedagogy.

We’ve specifically built learning supports like hints and video lessons into Prodigy Math, because we believe in supporting students with various learning styles – and Prodigy Math was awarded the ‘Learner Variability Certification’ from Digital Promise as a result.

We’re proud to continue to invest in understanding the academic and attitudinal impact of Prodigy Math, and we’re excited to do the same for Prodigy English.

The difference between a research-based instructional strategy and a research-based instructional practice

Research-based instructional strategies are strategies that were shown to have an outsized impact on student achievement in a large-scale study and cover broad categories that educators can leverage in their classroom.

Putting any of these strategies into action categories can help you as you aim to deliver research-based instructional practice (i.e., choosing to use what has previously shown to be impactful in student learning).

Want more professional development from Prodigy? Check out five PD strategies to help make your next session even more effective.

Sign up for your free teacher account for Prodigy Math and Prodigy English today and put game-based learning to work in your classroom!

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