Instruction and data

Problems to solve

Problem solvers

  • Identify the problem
  • Understand the obstacles to overcome in solving the problem
  • Come up with possible solutions
  • Prioritize and evaluate different solutions
  • Select a solution


  1. I Identify the problem
  2. D Define and represent the problem
  3. E Explore possible strategies or solutions
  4. A Act on a selected approach or solution
  5. L Look back and evaluate

Student needs and skill sets

  • What classroom tasks or activities support problem-solving?
  • How will students learn skills to identify a complex problem that requires higher order thinking?
  • How will students know not to over-think the solution?
  • What process will students use to read and understand complex issues?


  1. Ability to understand the task before solving
  2. Question the problem to gain an understanding
  3. Understand the issue
  4. Make sense of relevant information

Strategies need to be taught, modeled, and practiced regularly.

Appropriate strategies deliver better work product and are easier to grade or evaluate.

Sample strategies

  • Creating lists
  • Organizing thinking with outlines
  • Graphic organizers
  • Note-taking skills

Problem-solving skills take years to develop

  • Understand relevant information
  • Ability to identify non-relevant information
  • Modeling and independent practice
  • Understand how to value and trust information
  • Know how to use background information

Critical independent thinkers

Excessive support and structure do not support thinking.

Structured tasks

Structured tasks usually have one correct answer and follow a set process to solve. Solving a structured task does not support or require high levels of thinking.

Structured tasks can be difficult, but higher order thinking requires complexity.

Unstructured tasks

Unstructured tasks usually have more than one correct answer and require students to justify their thinking. Real-life situations are informal or unstructured.

Real world tasks

  • Involve ambiguities
  • Need more than one source of information
  • Judge value of information.
  • Use close reading skills

Source: How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom - Brookhart

No opportunity, no learning

Students will learn what they have a chance to learn.

Actual instruction matches intended instruction

Learning expectations should match actual instruction. Achieve learning goals with planned opportunities matching the intended learning outcome.

Set learning outcomes, and focus instruction on providing opportunities to learn.

Simplify plans and outcomes

  1. Set goals and outcomes based on learning needs and gaps in a learning progression
  2. Plan instruction and student work product to match expected learning
  3. Implement instructional opportunities
  4. Use formative assessment to measure and analyze student work
  5. Provide feedback to improve learning opportunities and direct student work effort
  6. Intervene or reteach based on student performance
  7. Administer summative and formative assessments to decide new outcomes in the learning progression

Focus at team or grade level

Every team should take steps to improve their effectiveness of instruction.

Consistently look inward and manage things that impact your classrooms.

Closely examine instructional practice in the classroom

Identify strengths and weaknesses based on constant examination

  • Build off strengths, and shore up a weakness
  • Decide on gaps that need to change or be left alone due to a lack of importance
  • Create a formative assessment model that supports learning

Forward moving lesson and assessment design

  • Look at the details of successful lessons to replicate in the future
  • Constant short term wins help student and teach morale
  • Build off short-term wins to support the long term strategy
  • Read and write purposefully in the classroom daily

Intervene only for essential student learning needs, not just for test score increases

Model learning and expect independence

  • Build internal expertise to create a more powerful, effective team

Source: Results Now Schmoker, Michael J. Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006. Print.

Everyone must learn

What skills or knowledge must every student learn?

Establishing minimums does not lower expectations, it raises them

Strictly defined student learning establishes expected performance for every student. Based on realistic expectations, these non-negotiable targets identify achievements every student must attain.

Lofty goals are high, but the minimum expectation is just as important. It sends a clear message everyone is expected to learn.

We will not let any student leave our classrooms without the following skills or knowledge.

Plan improvements or learning will happen without your input

Without focus, specific outcomes, or clear goals, students learning will not always match their needs.

Know the result

Outcomes come from teacher planning based on standards or essential learning targets identified by a district, site, or team.


Often, an assessment program defines classroom outcomes. Assessment focus planning is restrictive and narrows classroom learning environments. There is more to learn than what is on a test.

Plan end of year first

How will we make sure learning has value for the student in the future?

Plan for it or not, every student learns during the year.

Select outcomes based on

  • the students.
  • team or department goals.
  • student participation in district programs.
  • site and district goals for performance.

Standards guide decisions but focus at the skill or knowledge level.

Frequent outcome learning progression models

Learning progressions create models knowing the expected results while working to an end of year goal, and provide options to increase complexity and rigor during the sequence.

Long-term goals divided by short bursts of learning

Long range outcomes are not always useful for planning daily instruction. Partition lofty expectations into manageable pieces and monitor on a regular basis.

The short-term outcome defines current expectations while working toward long-range targets. Students bring previous skills and knowledge with them, so each chunk builds on prior learning.

Different trajectories

Students do not learn at the same pace. Common formative performance assessments guide decisions and provide insight into different learning trajectories.

Build series of brief outcome plans

Based on the end of year target, what will we focus now to build student capacity?

Break long-term learning into manageable pieces understood by teachers, students, and parents. Each cycle builds on the past and prepares future education.

When should we stop and reteach, or move forward?

Students will not gain at the same level of proficiency during instruction. Plan help for students that have not reached the accepted minimums. If possible, create mini-interventions designed to bridge gaps quickly.

What will we do with students that are not moving along the progression?

Do we need intervention, reteaching, or something else for students not showing long-term expected learning?

Intervention decisions made with a predetermined set of rules or criteria identifies potential helping points during instruction. Adjustments are necessary for a particular complex learning. Plan for exit criteria to move students out of intervention, once a student shows minimum proficiency.