Classroom Instruction

Citation: Huitt, W. (2003). Classroom instruction. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from

Return to | Overview of Instruction | EdPsyc Interactive: Courses |

Models of Instruction

Instruction was defined previously as "the purposeful direction of the learning process" and is one of the major  teacher class activities (along with planning and management). Professional educators have developed a variety of models of instruction, each designed to produce classroom  learning. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2003) describe four categories of models of teaching/instruction (behavioral systems, information processing, personal development, and social interaction) that summarize the vast majority of instructional methods. Each model differs in the specific type or measure of learning that is targeted. Therefore, as we make decisions about "best educational practices" we must be certain that we connect recommended practices with specific desired outcomes. This point is often omitted; discussion of best practices then becomes a debate about desired outcomes rather than a discussion of how to achieve them.

Another important point is that the different models and methods of instruction have been developed based on specific interpretations of concepts and principles of teaching and learning. While it is important to learn and practice the approaches developed by others, it is even more important to understand the concepts and principles upon which they are based.

If you learn only methods, you'll be tied to your methods, but if you learn principles you can devise your own methods.  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

As you review each of the models or methods of instruction, ask yourself "Why is this being done?" and "Why is this being done now?" See if you can determine the underlying principles that are being advocated. You will then be in a better position to make modifications as your competency as a teacher grows.

Direct Instruction

As stated in other sections of these materials, the most often used measures of student achievement in the U.S. are scores on standardized tests of basic skills. Using this criteria as the desired student outcome, one set of models, labeled direct or explicit instruction (Rosenshine, 1995), has developed overwhelming research support in the past 25 years. Several principles of direct instruction, such as more teacher direction and student-teacher interaction, provide the foundation for this approach. The following chart (adapted from Slavin, 1994, p. 287) provides a comparison of instructional events from several well-known direct instruction models that incorporate these principles. 

Slavin (1994) Gagne (1977); Gagne & Briggs (1979) Rosenshine (1995) Hunter (1982) (Mastery Teaching) Good & Grouws (1979) (Missouri Mathematics Program)
1. State learning objectives and orient students to lesson. 1. Gain and control attention

2. Inform the learner of expected outcomes.

1. Review
  • Homework
  • Relevant previous learning
  • Prerequisite skills
1. Objectives; provide anticipatory set. 1. Opening.
2. Review prerequisites. 3. Stimulate recall of relevant prerequisite capabilities. 2. Presentation
  • State goals
  • Small steps
  • Model
  • Examples
  • Check understanding
2. Review. 2. Review homework; mental computations; review prerequisites.
3. Present new material. 4. Present the stimuli inherent to the learning task 3. Guided practice
  • High frequency of questions
  • All students respond
  • High success rate
  • Continue to fluency
3. Input & modeling 3. Developement.
4. Conduct learning probes. 5. Offer guidance for learning.


4. Corrections & Feedback
  • Process
  • Sustaining
  • Reteach
4. Check understanding and guided practice. 4. Assess student comprehension.
5. Provide
independent practice.
6. Elicit performance

7. Provide feedback

5. Independent practice.
  • Help during initial steps
  • Continue to automaticity
  • Active supervision
5. Independent practice. 5. Seatwork.
6. Assess performance and provide feedback. 8. Appraise performance.  
7. Provide distributed practice and review. 9. Ensure retention and make provisions for transferability


6. Weekly and
monthly reviews
6. Homework. 6. Homework; weekly and monthly reviews.

Notice that Slavin's model, which provides a reasonable summary of the approach of the other models, is focused on the activities of the teacher. This is in line with his QAIT model of effective classrooms in which he proposes that the classroom teacher is responsible for classroom learning. Huitt (1996) provides a model of direct instruction from a transactional perspective. From this viewpoint, both the teacher and student are active participants in the learning process, each with their respective responsibilities. At each event of instruction, Huitt provides both a recommended teacher activity and a set of alternative student activities. The most important deviation from the other models is that Huitt emphasizes teacher/student interaction at every event in the lesson.

Considering Individual Differences

Although the research shows that, in general, direct instruction is the preferred model of instruction when the measure of learning is scores on a standardized test of basic skills, teachers must also decide how to deal with individual differences. In general there are three different approaches. The first is to develop a set of instructional events that directly address different student learning styles. This is the approach adopted by Bernice McCarthy in her 4MAT System. A second approach is to use a method of grouping. Research has shown that cooperative learning, an in-class, hetergenous grouping alternative, is an effective alternative that both impacts student achievement as well as social skills. A third approach is to alter the schooling system within which instruction is provided. This is the approach used by Bloom (1976; see Davis & Sorrell, 1995) in his mastery learning strategy. Although many teachers have attempted to implement a mastery learning strategy in their individual classrooms, the approach seems to work best when implemented on a school- or district-wide basis.


In summary, instruction (the purposeful guidance of the learning process) is complex and can take many forms. It is a vitally important classroom activity, but must be considered in the context of such factors as measures of desired student learning (including overlapping objectives taught to objectives tested), controlling student behavior (classroom management activities), individual differences among students, and school processes and characteristics. Under the best conditions it takes many years of experience for most teachers to meet the ideals of instructional practice that they set for themselves as preservice undergraduate students.


| Internet Resources | Electronic Files |

Return to | Overview of Instruction | EdPsyc Interactive |

Dr. William G. (Bill) Huitt
Dept. of Psychology, Counseling & Guidance
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA 31698-0001

whuitt at valdosta dot edu

All materials on this website [] are, unless otherwise stated, the property of William G. Huitt. Copyright and other intellectual property laws protect these materials. Reproduction or retransmission of the materials, in whole or in part, in any manner, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, is a violation of copyright law.