The Elements of Effective Instruction framework outlines five intertwined elements of instructional practice that complement and enhance one another. When integrated into learning experiences, these elements foster student engagement with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes and achievement. The framework is grounded in the understanding that students are more interested and invested in their learning when they feel safe in their learning environment, understand what they are learning and why it matters, have opportunities to practice, receive clear feedback on their work, and engage in complex, meaningful thinking.
The tool below supports educators to design and facilitate learning experiences that reflect the five elements of effective instruction and incorporate the corresponding key traits. While applying the key traits is critical, a demonstrated commitment to each element’s supporting beliefs is a necessary foundation for fostering student ownership of learning and ensuring equitable outcomes for all students.
a result of effective instruction
Engaged students are curious about and invested in their learning. They make choices about what and how they learn and can explain the relevance and importance of their work. Genuine engagement leads to deeper learning and improved outcomes.
1. Learning Environment: The learning environment supports all students to take risks, ask questions, and make and learn from mistakes. The physical space, routines and procedures, and development of positive relationships create a physically, socially, and emotionally safe environment.
- The learning environment is a shared domain between students, teachers, families, and other partners.
- Positive and meaningful relationships are the foundation of a productive learning culture.
- Safety and respect are vital to engagement and risk-taking.
Physical Space and Routines
Relationships and Culture
2. Clear, Shared Outcomes: The learning outcomes are shared and internalized by teachers and students. These outcomes anchor and guide the choices of instructional activities, materials, practice assignments, and assessment tasks. Outcomes are understood and used by students to set goals, guide learning, and prompt self-reflection.
- Everyone involved in the learning process must know where they are going and why the work matters.
- Teachers and students need to be invested in the learning process to achieve outcomes.
- A culture of reflection is necessary for students to set and adjust personalized goals.
- Learning outcomes are clear—both long-term (e.g., graduation standards and performance indicators) and short-term (e.g., learning targets).
- Clear descriptions of what success looks like are established and shared.
- Materials, activities, and assessment tasks are selected by teachers and students to align with the learning outcomes.
- Students can explain how tasks and experiences align to learning outcomes.
- Students use standards and learning targets to reflect on their own progress and set goals for growth.
3. Varied Content, Materials, and Methods of Instruction: Students explore ideas and information in varied ways and access learning through multiple entry points. Teachers select content and materials to engage and meet the needs of all learners.
- Selected content must foster and reflect an understanding of multiple perspectives, critical issues, and the diversity of our world.
- Learners must see themselves represented in the materials and connect to the content in authentic ways to become fully engaged.
- Different entry points, options for exploration, and end products are critical for student engagement and success.
4. Feedback and Practice: Students have opportunities to practice what they are learning and are given timely, specific feedback based on their current performance in relation to the desired outcomes.
- Learning is a cycle that includes goal-setting, successes, multiple attempts, and course corrections.
- Productive practice and novel application of skills are essential for learning.
- Timely, specific, and varied feedback is a catalyst for growth.
5. Complex Thinking and Transfer: Students are coached and taught to engage in higher order thinking through instructional activities and practice tasks. Curriculum, instruction and assessments are designed to prompt complex thinking, integration of concepts and ideas, and application of learned skills to new material or novel situations.
- Every student is capable of complex thought and transfer of learning.
- Higher order thinking promotes student engagement.
- Learning that promotes transfer of knowledge and skills prepares students for the future.
- Students engage in complex thinking throughout all stages of learning—from the introduction of new material to the application of what has been learned.
- Students ask and are asked questions that help them access and integrate knowledge to analyze, evaluate, and draw conclusions.
- Students are taught how to integrate and apply what they have learned within and across content areas and are given opportunities to practice.
- Students wrestle with complex and authentic problems.
→ Download Elements of Effective Instruction (.pdf)
Evidence and Resources
For additional references that support the key features of each element of effective instruction, please click the links below.