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Evidence-Based Teaching Strategies

Below, you will find descriptions of 10 evidence-based teaching strategies you may wish to implement in your courses. If you have any questions regarding evidence-based teaching strategies, you may consider making a consultation request with one of our team members at Teaching & Learning Innovation.

Research indicates that setting clear learning goals is one of the most effective teaching practices in which you might engage (Simon & Taylor, 2009).  This process clarifies for you and your students what is to be learned.  It also provides a roadmap that guides and focuses both you and the student on what is important in the teaching and learning process. There are a multitude of ways in which you can systematically make explicit what you want your students to know, do, or value.  Please see the following links for ideas:

  1. What is the Value of Course-Specific Learning Goals?
  2. A Process for Developing Introductory Science Laboratory Learning Goals To Enhance Student Learning and Instructional Alignment

Most students want to meet your expectations and succeed; however, they are not always sure exactly what is required to perform well in your course.  Modeling and sharing what we want in an assignment helps to clarify what is needed to do well (Gooblar, 2015, 2016).  The way that you envision modeling for your course can depend on your discipline.  For example, it might be as easy as systematically having students review exemplar assignments and identify what makes these quality examples.  You may demonstrate a particular process or experiment in order to help students understand the proper steps.  There are several ways that you can regularly model and share what your expectations are.  For some examples, please review the following blogs:

  1. Doing Your Own Assignments First
  2. Modeling the Behavior We Expect in Class

Throughout time, good instructors use questions as a powerful tool to facilitate student learning.  Using questions to check for understanding, especially before moving on the next part of the lesson is a practice that allows the instructor to determine how well students are comprehending course material and what misconceptions they might have. Asking comprehension questions early on in a lesson provides an opportunity to address problems before they contribute to further confusion or misunderstanding (Questioning Strategies, n.d.).  When considering an approach to the systematic and purposeful use of questions in the classroom, you might consider types of questions, level of questions, strategies for incorporating questions into your overall classroom engagement (Tofade, Elsner, &Haines, 2013).  For examples and strategies, please reflect on documents associated with the following links:

  1. The Verbal Structure of Teacher Questions: Its Impact on Class Discussion
  2. Responding to Student Questions When You Don’t Know the Answer
  3. Question Strategies
  4. Questioning Skills to Engage Students

Graphic Organizers such as concept maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, grids, timelines, etc. help students organize ideas, represent relationships, and retain information.  Research shows that they are an effective tool in helping students make greater meaning of the information they come in contact with through text and classroom interaction (Narkawicz & Casteel, 2012; Weimer, 2009).  They can be employed in the classroom as a learning activity, formative assessment, and/or summative assessment.  For examples and ideas about how you can use these to enhance student learning, please review the following links and resources:

  1. How Foldable Graphic Organizers Can Help Learners Retain Information
  2. Reading Assignment Strategies that Encourage Deep Learning

Research related to neuroscience and learning indicates that for easier recovery of information, mastery of material, and long-term retrieval, it is important to provide students with multiple and spaced opportunities to practice engaging in the course materials (Akresh-Gonzales, 2015).  The material that students are asked to practice should be purposeful given the stated expectations and the current stage of instruction.  The appropriate kind of “practice” can depend on the discipline and the goals of the course.  For examples of ways others have implemented regular practice in their classroom, please see the following resources:

  1. Spaced Repetition: The Most Effective Way to Learn
  2. Can the Spacing Effect Improve the Effectiveness of a Math Intervention Course for Engineering Students?

Feedback from the instructor is arguably the most straightforward way to influence the quality of student work.  However, students do not always see feedback as a learning tool but instead often see it as a graded assessment. Thus, it is important to structure your feedback as a learning exercise and communicate as well as show students how they are to use the feedback.  Developing a system of providing feedback from which students can learn and improve can be influenced by the number of students in the class, number of courses taught, and the number or difficulty level of the assignments.  Some instructors use rubrics, peer grading, checklists, as well as other tools and approaches to provide students with regular feedback.  For additional information on providing students with regular feedback, please see the following resources:

  1. Written Feedback for Students: too much, too detailed or too incomprehensible to be effective?
  2. Creating formative feedback spaces in large lectures

Mastery Learning is based on the idea that students learn at different paces. Thus, while the expectations and learning outcomes are the same, the time required to learn a concept is variable (Klecker & Chapman, 2008).  Some have taken this approach by creating more one-on-one learning between the instructor and the student.  Additionally, asynchronous approaches to engagement can allow application of the mastery learning approach.  Instructors have also done this in the context of quizzes and papers in which students can continue to submit and get feedback until they achieve the desired outcome.  For more examples and research related to mastery learning, please see the following articles:

  1. Mastery Learning Benefits Low-Aptitude Students

Collaborative learning and group work are two concepts the benefits of which have been widely researched (Hassanien, 2005).  Group work can draw on the unique strengths and perspectives of students to create a better learning experience or product than could be produced by an individual student. There are numerous approaches to collaborative learning and group work activities. To better understand how you might use group work in your class effectively, please review the following resources:

  1. Collaborative Learning Overview
  2. Student Experience of Group Work and Group Assessment in Higher Education

Students cannot do well in our courses without developing effective approaches to studying.  What worked for them in high school will not work in college. However, our students may not know how else to approach developing knowledge and understanding about our content.  Teaching in college can also include exposing our students to different study strategies (Deslauriers, Harris, Lane, Wieman, 2012).  There are many ways in which we can do this.  Sharing your own or your peers’ study strategies can be impactful.  Anonymously gathering data from students about their study strategies and providing a list for your class is useful.  For other ideas on how to systematically share with students study approaches, please review the documents associated with the following links:

  1. Helping When They Are Listening: A Midterm Study Skills Intervention for Introductory Psychology

Metacognition refers to the processes related to students’ planning, monitoring, and assessing their understanding and performance. In metacognition, students are thinking about various learning strategies that they have at their disposal and which one will lead to the desired outcome.  Fostering metacognitive skill development is not just about asking questions. Rather, it is about asking questions to get students to consider their thinking and approaches to learning in their discipline, and how they can adapt the latter for different contexts (Railean, Elci,& Elci, 2017).

One technique that is widely used is the wrapper.  A wrapper  is a series of questions that are asked of students at the end of project, exam, or assignment that encourages them to think about how they approach the opportunity and what they could do different to better attain the desired outcome.  Other metacognitive strategies include pre and post assessments, as well as reflection activities.  For more ideas and research on metacognition in the higher education context, please review the following resources:

  1. Metacognition and Successful Learning Strategies in Higher Education
  2. Thinking about One’s Thinking