Using Effective Instructional Strategies

free essayRobert J. Marzano is an educational researcher, a speaker, and a trainer. In their book Classroom Instructions That Work, Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock identify nine instructional strategies, which can be used to improve the achievement of students in all grade levels and subject areas. The key ones include identifying similarities and differences, summarizing, and note taking. Other two relevant methods are homework and practice and cooperative learning. Involving teachers in their implementation plays an instrumental role in ensuring that content is delivered appropriately to students hence improving their level of performance.

Identifying similarities and differences refers to the process of involving students in a mental activity that will involve them in the selection of like and unlike items.  Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) explain that this ability enables them to break concepts into two components in terms of those with similar characteristics and those with dissimilar ones. Students are able to comprehend and solve complex tasks by analyzing the issue in a more simplified way. Teachers can participate in this activity by providing the various similarities and differences to the students accompanied by further explanations and discussions. On the other hand, students can identify the similarities and differences on their own. The teacher’s activity involves focusing on the identification of specific items while students’ activities include broadening their understanding of concepts and encourages variation. Researchers encourage the use of charts to show differences and similarities.

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Gradual implementation of the identification of similarities and differences involves frequent use of charts for differentiation. According to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001), the teacher should engage the learners in classification, comparing and the creation of analogies and metaphors. He/she should also create links on cause and effects, Venn diagrams, and other instruments that can be used to present similarities and differences. It will enable the students to choose the appropriate type when encountering different subject matters.

An example of identifying similarities and differences is as shown in the chart below that shows direct and indirect costs of education.

Direct costs of education Indirect costs of education
Expenditure on teaching and learning resources such as textbooks Time spent in pursuing education, which would have been spent in doing other things.
School fees or tuition fee Opportunity cost – one foregoes many things for purposes of pursuing education i.e. investing in business.
Research  money or funds Efforts and commitments to pursuing and acquiring education
Expenditure on accommodation, food and transport Psychological factors  or costs i.e. academic stress
Payment for library and computer services Earnings foregone i.e. investing in business, family attachment.

Summarizing and note taking enhances comprehension skills as students are asked to analyze and identify important aspects of a subject and then present them in their own words. It involves substitution, deletion and keeping some aspects of a subject so that its intended message and structure are maintained.  Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) affirm that the teacher is supposed to come up with rules and regulations for summarizing and note taking. Moreover, students are to ask questions for clarification for good summarization and note taking. Students should be given time to review and revise their notes to ensure that important notes are taken and summarized.

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For example, summarizing and note taking on types of authority would appear as follows:

  1. Formal authority
  2. Charismatic authority
  3. Functional authority
  4. Legal authority
  5. Traditional authority.

To effectively implement summarizing and note taking, the teacher should identify the rules and regulations that concern this strategy. He/she should also show the students the summarizing techniques such as the use of bullets, prose narration form, and the creation of simple reports. He/she should also display organized summaries notes that have previously been written.

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Apart from Marzona’s effective strategies, the other two relevant strategies of my choice are questioning and answering and set induction and stimulus variation. Questioning and answering is an effective teaching strategy and is used by many professionals in this profession. This method helps the teacher to discover whether or not students have understood the lesson. The approach also fosters participation by students and makes them think and arouse their curiosity.  The skill aims at seeking clarification about a subject or a topic so that details are understood. In addition to asking questions, the teacher should give students time to ask their questions. Questioning and answering is essential in various stages of a lesson. At the introduction stage, it is important for recapitulation of the previous lesson. At development stage, the ability determines correct pace and checks understanding of new concepts. In conclusion, the ability consolidates the new learning and its association with the previously learnt concepts. An example of questioning and answering strategy is as shown below.

  1. What is biology? Biology is the study of living and non- living things.
  2. What are the branches of biology?
  3. What is the importance of studying biology?

Teachers should be involved in various activities for a gradual implementation of the questioning and answering strategy.  For instance, the teacher should prepare key questions for the whole class. Moreover, the teacher should be brief and clear when asking questions. He/she should also pause for learners to digest, organize, and respond to the question. He/she should also focus on specific tasks and avoid irrelevancy and addressing sensitive issues that touch on mental or physical disability, marital or health status of the learners. The teacher’s questions should be friendly to the students and age-appropriate, as well as given according to their abilities.

Set induction and stimulus variation is another effective teaching strategy that can be used by teachers. Set induction and stimulus variation refers to preparing students to learn something, for instance, starting a lesson by a story or songs. Set induction and stimulus variation can be used at the beginning of a lesson to catch the students’ attention, in the middle of a lesson to increase the students’ concentration, and when concluding a lesson. A song or a story should be relevant to the lesson objectives.

An example of set induction and stimulus variation is where a teacher who experienced the effects of World War II uses a story to explain the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thus gives effects of the Second World War. The teacher’s story tells every detail  in terms how the U.S.A  attacked Japan’s two cities thus marking the end of the Second World War and then discusses the aftermath of the war.

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Gradual implementation of set induction and stimulus variation strategy is based upon involvement of the teacher. The teacher should identify and use appropriate resources for set induction and stimulus variation. Besides that, he/she should use gestures and facial expressions to gradually implement the strategy. The teacher should also vary his/her voice depending on the information he/she wants to deliver. The teacher should involve the students through discussions and storytelling for gradual implementation. He/she can also use body movements by moving in class and encouraging the students to make demonstrations.

Discussions about “high-yield strategies” have been ongoing across the country. In their book, Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) ask numerous questions on the effective strategies that remain unanswered.  Some of the relevant questions they ask include, are some instructional strategies more effective in certain subject areas? Are some instructional strategies more effective at certain grade levels? Are some instructional strategies more effective with students from different backgrounds? Are some instructional strategies more effective with students of different aptitudes? Marzano gives a number of cautions concerning the strategies. The specific cautions that Marzano provides include;

  1. The strategies identified can have a negative impact on the learners in some situations.
  2. The strategies are heavily limited in perspective.
  3. These high yield strategies will not always work.
  4. The strategies cannot be used in every class.

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Assessment is a process of determining what learners have achieved by use of a certain measure that yields qualitative data. Assessment fits into the use of effective strategies because it helps to evaluate their efficiency.  Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) reiterate that assessment of students’ performance and understanding gives information on the effectiveness of a teaching strategy. It also gives information on the best teaching approach to use. Assessment also provides essential data towards the choice of an educational strategy to apply to a particular group of students besides the advantages and disadvantages of using this particular approach.

In conclusion, Mazarno explains summarizing and note taking and identifying similarities and differences as effective teaching strategies. However, he gives cautions on the strategies as mentioned in the discussion. The cautions point to the negativity of the strategies toward learners in some instances and their inability to work at times.  The gradual implementation of the effective teaching strategies requires various teacher activities and involvement. The teacher is the key factor in attaining the effectiveness of the strategies. Assessment fits into the use of effective strategies because it gives valuable information as far as the success or failure of a certain teaching strategy is concerned.