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High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching

reviewed by Amanda R. Bozack - August 16, 2013

coverTitle: High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching
Author(s): Jim Knight
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 1412981778, Pages: 392, Year: 2012
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The author of High Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching is clearly passionate about coaching teachers to create learning-focused classrooms. He has authored two previous books about instructional coaching, of which this book is an extension. He also hosts Talking about Teaching on the Teaching Channel, and excerpts from those shows, as well as other tools for readers, can be found on the book’s publisher-hosted website. Because this book is written “for educators working in schools—teachers, coaches, principals, and their students” (p. xii), I will review it from the perspective of usability for inservice teachers.

The book is comprised of 15 chapters divided into three sections of focus--planning, instruction, and community building.  Within each section, the chapters present instructional techniques and describe why they are important, and then provide information about how to implement the techniques successfully.

Part I attends to planning for high-impact instruction, with a focus on developing guiding questions, incorporating formative assessment as part of planning, and utilizing learning maps as a tool for helping students see connections within content.

Frustratingly, Chapters One and Two read mostly as a plug for the author’s other books. Chapter Two focuses on “guiding questions,” but does not provide explicit examples of them or clearly distinguish them from goals, objectives, or other similar terms. More accessible is Chapter Three, which outlines numerous ways to formatively assess students. Here again though, some of the author’s ideas are ill-defined, and his suggestions are primarily an acknowledged reflection of work conducted by others, notably Richard Stiggins and Jan Chappuis. This chapter has some nice elements that early career teachers, in particular, may find helpful. Chapter Four describes the incorporation of learning maps into instruction as a way to ensure that students are able to visualize “how everything being learned is connected” (p. 93). Many types of learning maps are presented, and examples of ways in which they can be used are plentiful.

Part II examines five instructional strategies the author identifies as high-impact by increasing student engagement in learning: using thinking prompts, effective questioning, effective storytelling, cooperative learning, and authentic learning. He makes the powerful claim that, “When we allow students to move from class to class, day to day, year to year, bored and not engaged by school, we allow them to develop habits of practice in which not being engaged is the norm” (p. 129).

Chapter Five straightforwardly provides examples of thinking prompts, describes why they are important and what attributes signify a good thinking prompt. It does not, however, provide models, examples or explanations of why one prompt may be more effective than another. Chapter Six describes effective questions that can be used in conjunction with thinking prompts and in other instructional formats. It examines the type, kind, and level of questions teachers use, with the argument that teachers must “determine what kind of learning they are involved in and then make sure they have the kind of questions that are appropriate for that kind of learning” (p. 165).

Chapter Seven seems a bit out of place with its focus on storytelling as a mechanism to engage students. It explores aspects of good storytelling and offers suggestions to help teachers ensure their stories are interesting, effective, and relevant to students and to the topic. Chapter Eight focuses on the use of cooperative learning as a way to engage students. It describes the types of cooperative learning frequently used by classroom teachers and strategies for implementing it successfully. The information found in this chapter is a useful review, but does not offer any new ideas or extend current ones.

In Chapter Nine the author makes a substantive case for authentic learning and provides a cursory description for how teachers need to plan for incorporating it into their repertoire. The chapter, unfortunately, does not provide practical, step-by-step strategies for how teachers might start to include authentic learning in their classroom or a discussion of what challenges they might face when deviating from the confines of a lock-step curriculum guide or how to overcome them.

Part III focuses on community building—the aspects of classroom life that support learning, such as routines, expectations, and management. Given that this is the foundation on which learning occurs, I am uncertain why it was left as the last section of the book and not given top billing.

Chapter Ten provides an overview on ways teachers can promote a learner-friendly culture in their classroom. Suggestions include co-constructing classroom norms, positively reinforcing and correcting students, spreading learner-friendly emotions, and designing a learner-friendly environment. Chapter Eleven offers suggestions for how to shift the power balance in classrooms to create productive learning environments. In its strongest section, the author describes the importance of diffusing conflict with students by focusing on resolutions that meet the needs of the teacher and the student. This is something that many teachers struggle with, and the chapter left me wishing for a few short case scenarios with analyses; but, as it is, there is little practical advice offered on the topic.  

Chapter Twelve describes, albeit in an overly complicated way, how choice can be constructed within the parameters of classroom structure. A section on classroom procedures helpfully provides a list of common practices used to maintain order, such as employing the use of timers or other signals for attention, and having ritual class beginnings and endings. Chapter Thirteen outlines the importance of making sure students know what is expected of them—from activity outcomes to behavior. The power of recognizing positive student qualities and behaviors is explored in Chapter Fourteen; it provides some ideas for how teachers can evaluate the feedback they use in their own classroom and offers suggestions for how to provide meaningful, positive comments to students. Table 14.1 provides a great list of ways that teachers can increase positive interactions with students in their classroom.

Titled Fluent Corrections, Chapter Fifteen ran astray from my expectation that it would be about making seamless behavior adjustments during instruction. Opening sections on conflict and basic needs were ill-placed, and the best part of the chapter was a section on effective corrections, which, though it did not give examples of effective corrections, did provide a good strategy for keeping one’s cool in heated teaching moments.

Early on in the book the author encourages readers to accommodate his suggestions to fit the needs of our individual contexts; he recognizes that his exact recipe will not work for everyone and that modifications are what will help ensure success. However, beyond that, he describes how to use high-impact instruction from a context-free perspective. While I agree that the practices he outlines can make a difference in students’ learning, he fails to acknowledge the complexities of current teaching reality and the hurdles teachers face in creating authentic engagement in their classrooms. As a result, readers who may support these high-impact instructional strategies are left to wonder how to initiate them in less than idyllic situations. For this reason, the book falls far short of its intentions in terms of usefulness to its target audience.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 16, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17217, Date Accessed: 11/29/2021 10:11:11 AM

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About the Author
  • Amanda Bozack
    University of New Haven
    E-mail Author
    AMANDA BOZACK is an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of New Haven and coordinator of preservice foundation courses. Her research interests include preservice teaching experiences and perceptions and novice teacher mentoring and induction practices. She is co-author of Mentoring within a comprehensive induction program: Roles and outcomes, a chapter in the forthcoming L. Searby & S. Brondyk (Eds.) Best Practices in Mentoring for K-12 Teacher and Leader Development, published by Information Age Publishing.
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