Improving Level of Instruction
Benefits of Improving Level of Instruction
Analyses from the MNPS-PRI Partnership project demonstrated significant associations between higher levels of instruction across the day and children’s gains in knowledge of letters and sight words, early writing, math, and self-regulation. These associations are even stronger for children with lower entering skills, meaning that higher levels of instruction are particularly important for more vulnerable children. Instruction happens in many circumstances in early childhood classrooms. Instruction is coded as occurring whenever a teacher and child are engaged with each other in a learning interaction. What has been coded is the level of the interaction as described below.
Recognizing Level of Instruction
PRI observers use a 4-point scale to rate a teacher’s Level of Instruction:
Strategies for Improving Level of Instruction:
Inferential Questions & Cognitive Demands
Incorporating inferential questions to improve level of instruction
- Inferential questions are open-ended and have more than one possible answer. They require answers that are not directly provided during a lesson or in a text, but instead ask children to draw from their experiences, background knowledge, context clues, and even shared experiences from others in order to work out an answer.
- In prekindergarten, inferential questions often involve asking children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes to think about how that person might have felt or what they might do next. Inferential questions can also involve problem solving, such as asking children what could be done to a block structure in order to keep it from falling over, or what they could do when a friend takes a toy away from them.
- When an inferential question is asked, the teacher must wait for the children to respond in order for this to be counted in the observational measure.
- Inferential questioning can lead to high inferential learning when inferential questioning goes a step further and involves the exploration of a topic (discussion with more than one turn) and/or connections are made to the children’s world/experiences brought about by an inferential question(s).
Using cognitive demands to improve instruction level
- Ask children questions about their thinking or understanding of an activity (e.g., “Why did you…?” or “How did you know…?”). Be sure to wait for a response–these kinds of questions are cognitively and linguistically demanding for children.
- Ask children to make a prediction about what will happen next or in the future (e.g., “What do you think will happen…?”). To make a prediction, children must use clues from the activity along with their previous knowledge and experiences to figure out what might happen next.
- Ask children to connect the content being learned to their prior experiences to help them personally relate to the content being learned. Children could be asked to make connections to their own life experiences (e.g., “Have you ever felt sad like Sam?”) or other content or lessons (e.g., “What other animals have we learned about that live on farms?”).
- Ask children to reflect on or think about an activity or lesson they have been a part of. Reflections often include talking about what children enjoyed about a lesson or what they thought was interesting (e.g., “What was your favorite part…?”).
Examples from ELC Classrooms
ELC teachers are working hard to improve their level of instruction by including more inferential questions, and utilizing cognitive demands. Click here for a summary of teaching episodes coded as Level 3 Instruction during the 2015-16 school year.