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10 High impact teaching strategies (and how to use them in your classroom)

By Sarah-Eleni Zaferis on 10 June 2022NSWstaffroomUKstaffroomStrategyPedagogyPD

High impact teaching strategies (HITS) do just as their name implies—deliver high impact for students and their learning. When incorporated into the classroom, these pedagogical approaches have proven to consistently improve the student experience.

This article breaks down what HITS are and provides some simple suggestions on how you might like to lean on them to support your students.

Why high impact teaching strategies?

While we work away in our classrooms, we sometimes forget some of the awesome educational ideas and research we can use to support our students. Researchers like John Hattie have trawled tens of thousands of educational papers to find, summarise and rank the best instructional approaches by how much they improve student understanding, creating a gold mine for teachers to use (Victorian Government, 2022).

The 10 high impact teaching strategies that have been identified to provide the most benefits are:

  1. Setting goals
  2. Structuring lessons
  3. Explicit teaching
  4. Worked examples
  5. Collaborative learning
  6. Multiple exposures
  7. Questioning
  8. Feedback
  9. Metacognitive strategies
  10. And, differentiation

Note

This article is based on the work by the Victorian Department of Education and Training, which aims to produce useful resources to bridge the gap between evidence-based practice and the classroom experience (Victorian Government, 2022).


1. Setting goals

There are two aspects to setting goals that help drive student achievement:

  1. Being explicit about the learning intention and verbalising this to students, so they know what they need to understand (Victorian Government, 2022)
  2. And, ensuring these goals highlight what success looks like for students, so they can strive to achieve it (Hattie & Donoghue, 2016).


Try it in the classroom

Simple strategies could be to facilitate goal setting for students at the beginning of each term, then breaking these goals down into achievable learning intentions (Hattie & Donoghue, 2016). Not only will this help build students' confidence and sense of achievement, but it will also help to drive deep learning.


2. Structuring lessons

It sounds simple, but creating a clear lesson structure that creates rhythm and routine for students can help them thrive. Without any consideration of the flow of a lesson, educators can fall into a fairly teacher-centred approach where learners become passive, which isn’t always conducive to a great learning experience (Iqbal, Siddiqie & Mazid, 2021).


Try it in the classroom

To start, you might like to include “Do Now” activities at the start of every lesson. These are tasks students complete when they enter the classroom and wait for the lesson to begin. This can provide students with the opportunity to revise a previous concept or work on an important skill while creating a consistent routine.

3. Explicit teaching

Direct instruction is where teachers show students exactly what they need to do and how to do it. Steps to achieve this include:

  1. Deciding and verbalising the learning objectives and accompanying success criteria
  2. Evaluating student understanding
  3. And, providing time to conclude lessons or concepts (NSW Government, 2021).


Try it in the classroom

When used appropriately, this strategy has been shown to improve student test scores regardless of classroom environment, which is a big win for students and teachers (OCED, 2018). Including exit tickets at the end of class and a summary of the lesson objective is a great way to implement this, allowing students to reflect on their learning.


4. Worked examples

Time is always the enemy, and this is most definitely the case when it comes to trying to get through the content. So when teachers focus their efforts on certain pedagogical strategies, they want to make sure it has a purpose. Using worked examples reduces the cognitive load on students by focusing on the process of learning, rather than the result (Lange et al. 2021). In turn, this boosts students' understanding and problem-solving skills (Barbieri et al. 2020).


Try it in the classroom

Start by verbalising your problem-solving process when it comes to questions or tasks in class. This can be done as a whole class strategy, or in small groups. When you think your students have built up some confidence, you can increase the question or task difficulty and slowly remove your support (Victorian Government, 2022).


5. Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning happens all day every day for our students. It is where learners work together to solve a problem or complete a task. To be successful, all students need to participate and contribute (Victorian Government, 2022). The body of evidence outlining the benefits of this approach is large, including social wellbeing, psychological benefits and academic performance (Laal & Ghodsi, 2012).

“To be successful, all students need to participate and contribute”

Try it in the classroom

A quick way to increase student collaboration is to use a “think-pair-share” activity. Here, teachers would ask students to think about a statement, problem or solution and then discuss their thoughts with a partner before sharing them with the class. The best thing about this activity is it requires no preparation and can be used in almost all settings.


6. Multiple exposures

Students need to see information multiple times to ensure it lives in their long-term memory (Oregon State University, 2022). It is also not as simple as seeing the information but as Hattie (2009) argues engaging with the material in a meaningful way and at spaced intervals.


Try it in the classroom

By setting students pre-work before class you are providing them context to draw on when engaging with your lesson and activities. This creates an opportunity for them to ask more questions or clarify any misunderstandings. Revising this work again in a few days' time will solidify this strategy even further.


7. Questioning

If we compare the amount of questions teachers and students ask the result is pretty comical. An older study argued that teachers ask anywhere between 300-400 questions per day whereas students ask around 1 per week (Almeida, 2012). While this is one of the broadest and most commonly used strategies, great educators know that questions should be carefully considered and serve a purpose and most importantly create a learning environment where wrong answers are never judged (Victorian Government, 2022).

“Teachers ask anywhere between 300-400 questions per day whereas students ask around 1 per week”


Try it in the classroom

Most teachers won’t need any examples of how to ask questions based on the previous stats but some suggestions on how to make them as impactful as possible include:

  • Pitching questions to student's ability
  • Encouraging students to ask questions of each other
  • And, answering questions with questions to help guide students to an understanding


8. Feedback

Feedback is considered beneficial when it is “precise, timely, specific, accurate and actionable” (Victorian Government, 2022). Teachers are superheroes, but that just seems fairly unrealistic to achieve consistently, which would provide the most impact. It is clear and well accepted that providing appropriate feedback increases student attainment and boosts confidence (Education Endowment Foundation, 2021).


Try it in the classroom

Providing consistent feedback can be exhausting, even though the benefits are clear. Leaning on activities such as model marking, peer marking or resources like Atomi take away the marking load but help the successful implementation of this HITS.


9. Metacognitive strategies

Asking students to think about the learning process can be a powerful tool to engage and motivate students, arming them with self-reflective tools (Victorian Government, 2022). The Australian Teaching and Learning Toolkit argue that when teachers use metacognitive strategies students can potentially have 8 months more progress over a year than those who don’t (Education Endowment Foundation, 2021).


Try it in the classroom

Some examples of metacognitive strategies include self-questioning checklists, providing students choice and scaffolding for activities and goal setting (Victorian Government, 2022).


10. Differentiated teaching

Differentiation is the process of tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of students (Victorian Government, 2022). The goal here is to improve the content knowledge and skills of each student, regardless of any prior learning. This can be achieved by focusing on adapting the content, process, product or learning environment (Tomlinson, 1999).

For ways to implement this strategy in your classroom, check out our article on differentiated teaching.


Final thoughts

While there are 10 HITS, starting to think about ways to incorporate even one can make a big impact on your students' attainment and overall confidence. As the teacher, you are in the room with your students day in and day out and know what strategies will best help them learn. Selecting the ones that suit your teaching style, as well as your students, is the key.


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