Posts in this series…
- What is Explicit Instruction?
- Explicit Instruction: Segmenting Complex Skills
- Explicit Instruction: Teacher Talk and Equity
- Explicit Instruction: Modeling
- Explicit Instruction: Concreteness Fading
At this point, we have already looked at each individual component of explicit instruction, what remains is effectively putting each component together. As we segment complex skills, we should provide instructional breaks where we “stop teaching” and have our students apply what they are learning. When we do this, we are providing them with opportunities to respond (OTR), a key part of learning.
- Teacher Directed OTR (TD-OTR) improves academic performance (Blood, 2010; Haydon & Hunter, 2011)
- Increased TD-OTR increases academic engagement and decreases disruptive behavior (MacSuga-Gage & Gage, 2015)
- TD-OTR improves behavioral outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disorder (Lewis et al., 2004)
- TD-OTR improves academic and behavioral outcomes for students with EBD, in addition it also results in increased efficacy in the use of class time (Sutherland & Wehby, 2001)
- Ensuring high success for students with academic deficits and behavioral issues requires implementing flexible, universal interventions that address varied student abilities. They must be easily implemented within any instructional content area (Sprick, & Borgmeier, 2010)
In one sense, this is a case where the research backs up common sense. Of course students need to respond to the material and use it to learn. But, if it truly were so simple, then one would expect our students to be learning more. One glance at test scores shows us that there is a significant disconnect between research and practice.
Ideal Rates and the Problem
The disconnect is that while OTR, and especially TD-OTR work, they need to be used more often and in a more structured way than we tend to be comfortable with. Researchers estimate that the ideal OTR rate is roughly 3-3.5 per minute for general education students (Stitcher et. al, 2006; Stitcher et al., 2009). For students with high incidence disabilities, the ideal rate is even higher, somewhere between 4-6 OTR per minute (Council for Exceptional Children, 1987). But unfortunately, these children only receive about one OTR every twenty minutes, or about two opportunities per class (Hirn & Scott, 2012; Van Acker, Grant, & Henry, 1996).
The problem is that while all teachers provide their students with some form of OTR, we tend to only give students an OTR when the opportunity arises naturally. What we ought to do is build TD-OTR into our lesson plans to reinforce key concepts and give students chances to apply what they are learning.
Using Teacher Directed Opportunities to Respond
It can be helpful to think like a coach. A baseball coach who says, “Keep your eyes on the ball.” or “Swing!” will only be of limited help. A good coach anticipates problems and breaks down the mechanics by explicitly explaining and modeling each part of the swing and having the child apply it in actionable segments. As the child gains proficiency in his or her swing, the coach puts more segments together until the child is ready to hit a pitch in a game.
***Notice, this follows the key pillars of explicit instruction outlined by Charles Archer.
A good teacher will do likewise. Don’t just ask a question once you finish your explanation. Use what you already know about your students and ask questions as you go. Don’t just call on volunteers. Then you will only be requiring students who raise their hands to engage and think deeply. Use alternative strategies to engage more students. Think-Pair-Share, choral response, and no-stakes quizzes are great tools for teachers to have at the ready.
Simple and Flexible
One reason TD-OTR works is that it is flexible. This allows it to be effectively used with students of differing abilities, across grades and subjects (Sprick, & Borgmeier, 2010). TD-OTR is flexible because it is simple. The teacher asks students to respond, and then the teacher gives feedback (Ferkis et al., 1997). Pretty simple.
However, the fact that the method is simple doesn’t make implementation simple. TD-OTR must be structured. In order to develop structure, teachers should explicitly define the routines and expectations, provide feedback on expectations and performance, actively supervise students, and provide a high rate of OTRs (Simonsen et al., 2008). Essentially, explicit instruction is helpful not just for teaching our content, explicit instruction is also helpful for teaching our students class routines and expectations.
The Two OTRs
There are two typical ways teachers use OTR. The first is to elicit an individual response. This happens when a teacher cold calls or asks students to raise their hands and calls on a volunteer. As one student answers, the rest of the class is ideally listening and still thinking. But this is the weak point of individual responses. How do you ensure that all students are thinking about your lesson if you only see what one student is thinking?
The other type of OTR is a unison response, where the teacher requires a group of students, or the entire class to respond.
Verbal Examples: Choral response, Think-Pair-Share
Non-Verbal Examples: gesture responses, written responses, response cards
The key to making this effective is structure and expectations. The students must know how to respond. For choral response, give students clear cues for when to start speaking. I prefer to use a hand gesture coupled with slightly raising the pitch of my voice. When using Think-Pair-Share (TPS), be sure to model it for your students first and let them practice using it and then give your students feedback on how to use the method of TPS better. This is particularly important because you do not want the share portion of TPS to devolve into chatting. One type of unison written response that works particularly well is no-stakes quizzing. (See my article for CogSciSci on how to use the above methods effectively).
I find that the largest obstacle to effectively using TD-OTRs is myself. Thinking of good questions takes time. Thinking about how to frame the question (individual or unison, written or verbal) takes time. Learning how to teach your students to use the method effectively takes time. Then, it takes a bit more time still for your students to get used to TD-OTR. But it is worth it. See the list of 5 items at the start of this article if you are unsure.
I am getting a new curriculum next fall, so I have an ideal time to rethink how I should go about my teaching. My basic plan involves coming up with a list of concept questions with different scenarios.
Ex: Many questions about animal adaptations in a desert, rainforest, tundra, etc
Then I will use a smattering of different TD-OTR strategies and have students answer the questions and apply their learning.
How will you intentionally use TD-OTR?
Blood, E. (2010). Effects of student response systems on participation and learning of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 35, 214–228.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) (1987). Academy for effective instruction:
Working with mildly handicapped students. Reston, VA.
Haydon, T., & Hunter, W. (2011). The effects of two types of teacher questioning on teacher behavior and student performance: A case study. Education & Treatment of Children, 34(2), 229–245. https://doi.org/10.1353/etc.2011.0010
Ferkis, M. A., Belfiore, P. J., & Skinner, C. H. (1997). The effects of response repetitions on sight word acquisition for students with mild disabilities. Journal of Behavioral Education, 7, 307–324.
Hirn, R., & Scott, T. M. (2012). Academic and behavior response to intervention project. Louisville, KY: University of Louisville.
Lewis, T. J., Hudson, S., Richter, M., & Johnson, N. (2004). Scientifically supported practices in emotional and behavioral disorders: A proposed approach and brief review of current practices. Behavioral Disorders, 29, 247–259.
MacSuga-Gage, A. S., & Gage, N. A. (2015). Student-level effects of increased teacher-directed opportunities to respond. Journal of Behavioral Education, 24(3), 273–288. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10864-015-9223-2
Simonsen, Brandi & Fairbanks, Sarah & Briesch, Amy & Myers, Diane & Sugai, George. (2008). Evidence-based Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations for Research to Practice. Education and Treatment of Children. 31. 351-380. 10.1353/etc.0.0007.
Sprick, R., & Borgmeier, C. (2010). Behavior prevention and management in three tiers in secondary schools. In M. R. Shinn & H. M. Walker (Eds.), Interventions for achievement and behavior problems in a three-tier model including RTI (pp. 435–468).
Stichter, J. P., Lewis, T. J., Richter, M., Johnson, N. W., & Bradley, L. (2006). Assessing antecedent variables: The effects of instructional variables on student outcomes through in-service and peer coaching professional development models. Education and Treatment of Children, 29, 665–692
Stichter, J. P., Lewis, T. J., Whittaker, T. A., Richter, M., Johnson, N. W., & Trussell, R. P. (2009). Assessing teacher use of opportunities to respond and effective classroom management strategies: Comparisons among high- and low-risk elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11, 68–81.
Sutherland, Kevin & Wehby, J.. (2001). The Effect of Self-Evaluation on Teaching Behavior in Classrooms for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Journal of Special Education – J SPEC EDUC. 35. 161-171. 10.1177/002246690103500306.
Van Acker, R., Grant, S. H., & Henry, D. (1996). Teacher and student behavior as a function of risk for aggression. Education and Treatment of Children, 19(3), 316–334.