About Instructional Models

numeracy leaders teachers Oct 12, 2023

I am currently involved in the review of a primary school. I volunteered for the role of ‘challenge partner’ and I am loving the opportunity to see the inside workings of a school from the perspective of an 'outsider'.

As a teacher, I remember the first time my school was reviewed. I was the Numeracy Leader and was asked to collate and present our school wide Numeracy data. This was something that I had never really done before and it was a wonderful learning experience. It was probably my first step into whole school data analysis and I loved it!

As a parent, my children’s school has undergone several reviews over the years. We have been asked to fill in surveys, and I know the kids have been asked to provide their thoughts. Gathering insights from all stakeholders is critical.

Reviews are an important part of checking in and seeing how a school is progressing, but I understand how they can be seen as an extra burden for already busy schools. 

But just like assessing students to see where they are at, we also need to stop, take stock and see how we as a school in tracking, so we can keep moving forward.

Lately, in my role as a consultant I have found myself on the other ‘end’ of reviews. Once recommendations have been made, schools often reach out to ask for assistance to achieve their goals.

When a school undergoes a review, a common recommendation related to Numeracy to decide upon a consistent 'instructional model'.

For those unfamiliar with the term, an instructional model is basically a set of agreed upon strategies or approaches used to effectively teach mathematics.

There are several different instructional models that are commonly used in mathematics across Australia. One is the ‘Launch, Explore, Summarise’ model which is a model for student-centred structured inquiry. You can read more about this model here.

Another instructional model, which focuses more around explicit teaching, is the ‘I do, we do, you do’ or the gradual release model. In this model, instruction moves slowly and purposefully from teacher modelling, to teachers and students sharing responsibility, to finally students practicing and applying their knowledge independently (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983).

Another instructional model is the Explicit Direct Instruction model (Hollingsworth & Ybarra,2018) . This model follows the following structure:

  • Learning Objective
  • Activate Prior Knowledge
  • Concept Development
  • Skill Development
  • Guided Practice
  • Relevance
  • Lesson Closure

There are also a number of other instructional models that you may be familiar with or using at your school.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to go into the affordances and constraints of each model, but to highlight that each relies heavily on teachers knowing their students and knowing the content they are teaching.

Spending lots of time developing or trying to find the world’s greatest instructional model, is for me is overlooking an important part of the Numeracy teaching puzzle.

Which brings me to a piece of world history I read about last week.

In 1854 in London there was another Cholera outbreak (the disease had already killed ten of thousands of people in the 1840s and 1850s). The government health authorities were convinced the spread of Cholera was caused by 'bad air' vapours flowing around London. They were doing everything they could to address this problem.

There was one person, Dr John Snow (no relation to the Game Of Thrones character!), who conducted his own experiments and was convinced the virus was not spreading through the air, but was spreading through the water.

No one believed him.

Over 4 years he has conducted his own independent research and for months he lobbied the government to investigate his 'water' theory.

The government did not listen and focused all their attention on finding a solution to a problem that in actual fact was NOT the real cause of issue.

After some serious persistence, eventually Dr Snow was granted permission to run a 'pilot' of his theory in London's SoHo district. Amazingly the local people suddenly stopped dying!

He had proved his theory, saved countless lives, and showed that the government were putting all their efforts into trying to solve the wrong problem.

In some ways I feel this is what we often do in Numeracy Education. We spend lots of time (for example a whole PD day exploring the ins and outs of one of the instructional models above) when what is really needed is to increase the pedagogical content knowledge of teachers!

Don't get me wrong, an instructional model is definitely an important part of our overall Numeracy program, and something that we need to implement consistently across the school. But without high teacher PCK, the best instructional model in the world (whatever that is!) will fail!

We need to take steps to upskill the teachers on how to assess their students, use this data to guide their instruction, and provide them with the knowledge to actually teach the content efficiently and effectively.

This knowledge will allow teachers to develop the autonomy and confidence to make informed decisions. It will allow them to make decisions that may include using different instructional models depending on the content, age, level of understanding and context of their school and students.

So this week I encourage you to think about what the real problem is at your school. Is it the lack of a consistent instructional model or is it the teacher's understanding of how to effectively teach the mathematics?

Have a great week!

Ange 🎲🎓

Want to learn more from Dr Ange Rogers? Click here to find out about her 'Quality Place Value Assessment in Years 3-6 Mini Course'

Ooh! Tell me more!

Enter your details below to receive weekly blog updates from Dr Ange!