What Is A Practice Guide? How Should You Use Them?

A practice guide is designed to be an accurate, accessible, and applicable summary of the topic’s research. The guides are written by experts, for non-experts. This approach helps ensure they are accurate and accessible. The writers work to make them accessible by providing concrete worked examples of the suggested strategies.

Doing this involves naming a specific strategy, rating the level of evidence, and summarizing the evidence for it. Then the guide explains how to implement the strategy and provides sample scenarios. Finally a practice guide also identifies common roadblocks to successful implementation and how to overcome them.

1. Naming a Strategy

2. Level of Evidence

  1. See the bottom of the article for an explanation of the “level of evidence”.

3. Summary of Evidence

4. Implementing a Strategy

5. Sample Scenario

6. Roadblocks and Solutions

So that is what a practice guide is. How should you use a practice guide?

It is helpful to think of a practice guide as a set of generally applicable rules. All of its recommendations will not necessarily work for your particular circumstance. But, the practice guide should be based on a broad survey of the topic’s research, so it should generally be helpful. They will also be relatively quick reads (less than 1 hr).

If you are pressed for time or do not enjoy reading, go straight to the “strong” levels of evidence. Here you will find strategies that the writers deemed to be the most robust (proven in the lab and classroom). Then you should read through the section/s, thinking about your classroom, paying special attention to the “How to carry out the recommendation” and “Roadblocks/Solutions” sections.

At this point, plan it. Then do it.

*Remember to scroll to the bottom of the page to see an explanation of what the “Levels of Evidence” mean.

Links to some IES What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guides

1. Reducing Behavior Problems In The Elementary School Classroom Improving behavior in the elementary classroom with evidence. Includes 5 concrete strategies (Table 2, p12). Includes challenges of implementing strategies and provides solutions. *I disagree with how the summary uses the term “student needs”. But it is still helpful and worth reading.
2. Organizing Instruction And Study To Improve Student Learning How to include learning strategies in your classroom. Includes challenges of implementing strategies and provides solutions.

1. Spaced Repetition
2. Interleaving Worked Examples
3. Dual Coding
4. Concrete Examples
5. Retrieval Practice (Quizzes)
6. Teaching Study Skills
7. Deep Explanatory Questions

3. Teaching Elementary Students To Be Effective Writers Provides recommendations to enable elementary students to become effective writers.

1. Write everyday
2a. Teach students the writing process
2b. Teach students to write for a variety of purposes
3. Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing
4. Create an engaged community of writers

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