As we move through the school year, our professional development cycle asks us to put our own teaching under the microscope. This forces us to look at what we do and how we do it, and identify the things we do well and the things that have become routine but may not add value to our lessons.
As part of developing our pedagogical praxis, we are encouraged to look at how to develop ourselves further. Here, we will look at how to effectively use the HITS, Explicit Teaching, Worked Examples and Questioning, in your classroom to improve student learning.
What are HITS? HITS are evidence-based teaching strategies, that go by various names in different jurisdictions including What works best in New South Wales.
Effective teachers use explicit teaching to set learning goals, give instructions, deliver content and build students skills and knowledge through modelling concepts. Being ‘explicit’ is a process of ensuring that everything is presented in a clear and concise manner that can be easily understood by every learner in the class.
Teachers guide students by modelling application of skills and knowledge, checking for understanding throughout the lesson and revisiting the content covered at the end of each lesson. It is important as teachers that we consider the language used with classes. For example, using idioms or slang may not be conducive to learning for EALD learners.
Some strategies to demonstrate explicit teaching include:
If you’re using Edrolo with your classes, try these easy ways to embed explicit teaching strategies.
The Edrolo video lessons/textbook theory contains concise theory with multiple examples. There are multiple opportunities for students to practise what they have learned with multiple choice questions where they receive instant feedback. This ensures that students' misconceptions or errors in the process are addressed.
At the start of each Edrolo textbook there is a ‘Features of this Book’ section after the contents. This is specific to each textbook and is useful to go through with your class, so students can get comfortable with how to navigate the text. For our VCE textbooks, at the start of each Chapter there is an overview with explicit links to the Study Design. You can also highlight to students where to find key information in the textbook: key word definitions in the margins, examples in different coloured highlighted boxes, and examiners tips.
You can also model how to read and navigate the text and note aloud what you notice/what you’re thinking.
Video solutions for each question provides a model in how to interpret and answer questions. These can be used as part of a gradual release model, where students become increasingly independent and confident, and students can look back on these or view video solutions/explanations to become ‘unstuck’.
Worked examples are essential as part of explicit instruction, as they show students how to do something, rather than just tell. For worked examples to have an impact, teachers can demonstrate the steps required to complete a skill or problem. It is recommended that as students are learning how to do something new, a model of gradual release is followed. By following a plan of ‘I do, We do, You do’, tasks are scaffolded to reduce cognitive load for students.
When planning your lessons, ensure you make decisions about what is going to be the best students. As teachers, we must consider:
TIP: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use some of the questions in your resources. Edrolo has a number of worked examples and questions to draw from in your planning.
When teaching, visual models and diagrams are wonderful at helping students to understand concepts. They are particularly useful in providing concrete examples of abstract concepts, and can also be used for dual-coding. Research shows that students are more likely to recall information when they have associated a concept with a picture or image. This increases a person’s neural network which means there are multiple ways to represent and remember information, this makes memory retrieval much easier.
The Edrolo theory videos go through worked examples where each step is explicitly explained and command terms are focussed on. This helps students to focus on the process required for them to complete a task or question and aids them in skill development.
Often we think of using worked examples at the start of learning something new, but it is important to remember that they can be used at any stage of the learning process.
Every question Edrolo offers has a worked video solution. By getting your students to self-mark, they interact with sample answers and compare them to their work, identifying similarities and differences. The checklist provided for short answer questions helps students identify where they are at. This helps build metacognition and their capacity to appropriately respond to similar questions in future.
As you know, questioning is a powerful tool that can be used to engage students, generate interest and curiosity, and make links to students' lives. Importantly, effective questioning can prompt students’ thinking and help them to get learning out, and made visible. This gives educators immediate feedback on student understanding as they explore different topics or alternate points of view.
Back as a beginning teacher, I found myself defaulting to questions like ‘Which is the correct answer?’, and ‘Do you understand?’. Whilst my intentions were always to help my students, I realised I would always get answers that didn't really give me any information to assess my students’ progress. Soon, I changed tactics and practised asking open-ended questions that required more of a response from my class.
So instead, I asked ‘What do you think the correct response is and why?’, and ‘What are your top 3 take-aways from today?’. My students could no longer guess or answer a simple yes or no. I could then ask follow up questions such as ‘What makes you say that?’, to find out more about their understanding or thinking process.
TIP: The editable teacher slides for our junior Humanities and Science resources have questions and prompts in the presenter notes.
Often when students first respond to a question, their ideas may be half-formed or they may be missing key information or vocabulary. This is very normal, and a part of learning! After receiving the response thank the student and ask them to say it again but better. You may also give some guidance, such as ‘That’s great, thank you for sharing. Now I’m going to get you to say it again, better. This time, let’s link concepts X and Y’. This gives the student more time and practice to formulate their ideas and articulate a response.
The Edrolo data dashboard is a great place to find out where your students might be getting stuck. You can use these questions to then do a deep dive and use these question prompts to encourage student reflection and learning: