“High-Leverage Practices” from TeachingWorks

The School of Ed where TeachingWorks is based, and behind whose lower left windows JSB once took some AP tests. Photo taken ~30 minutes before this posting.

This week I go on a tangent from the Goals series to alert you to TeachingWorks, an initiative of the School of Education at the University of Michigan here in Ann Arbor. Its motto–“Great teachers aren’t born. They’re taught.”–represents its conviction that skillful teaching isn’t merely the result of certain personality traits, nor is it something that can only be learned on the job through trial and error, but it consists of a combination of demonstrably effective practices that teachers and pre-teachers can be taught.

My living as a teacher-trainer depends in part on the teachability of teaching skills, though I recognize and honor the many ways in which teachers grow as a result of trials in their classrooms and of individual reflection and study.

19 High-Level Practices

I want to alert you, with minimal commentary, to a list of 19 practices that the researchers at TeachingWorks have identified as “High-Leverage Practices.” Some, such as “Leading a group discussion” and “Implementing organizational routines,” may not start any revolutions, but many are worthy of deep reflection. Four that stand out to me are

  • Diagnosing particular common patterns of student thinking and development in a subject-matter domain (#4)
  • Coordinating and adjusting instruction during a lesson (#6)
  • Learning about students’ cultural, religious, family, intellectual, and personal experiences and resources for use in instruction (#12)
  • Analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it (#19)

All the practices relate generally to the Goals series in that we can identify one or more that we would like to work on. And one explicitly relates to goals: “Setting long- and short-term goals for students.” (Note that the expanded description of this practice pertains mainly to content areas that can be broken down into discrete bits of knowledge or discrete skills, which is tricky for a language course whose purpose is for students to develop linguistic proficiency.)

I encourage you also to check out the five Core Ideas of TeachingWorks, with which I agree wholeheartedly, and see what else you find useful on its site!


Is there anything you would add to the list of High-Leverage Practices? Anything that stands out to you? Let us know in the Comments!

To become a Master Questioner equipped with even more ways to form and use questions to enact these high-leverage practices, check out my recorded webinar It’s All about the Questions!

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  1. How about the flexibility/adaptation, the ability to toss out plans and whatever you are doing to seize the moment, when an idea from students or teacher sparks a high amount of interest and engagement?

    • I’m with you all the way, Sabrina! I would like to think that this is included in #6, “Coordinating and adjusting instruction during a lesson,” but the expanded description there isn’t as seize-the-moment-y as you or I would shoot for!

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