What kinds of results can students expect to achieve when taught SIM strategies?
The goal of the Strategic Instruction Model is to create independent, successful learners--that is, students who can effectively deal with the demands of the general education curriculum. Too frequently, programs aimed at at-risk learners are only geared to helping students "just get by." Before an instructional procedure is considered to be validated by our Center, the outcome that it produces must be found to be both statistically and socially significant. That is, the magnitude of gains must be sufficently large so as to move students who were previously receiving failing grades into the "C" range or better in standard school subjects.
Central to at-risk students becoming successful learners is the consistent application of sound instructional procedures. Our data have repeatedly shown that student performance markedly changes when teachers use explicit, direct instruction when training students to master a new learning strategy. For students to successfully generalize and maintain the use of a new strategy or skill, it is imperative that students be explicitly taught how to do so. If students are not brought to fluency in the use of a new strategy, the likelihood of them independently using that strategy is greatly diminished. Although the effective instruction of various learning strategies requires time, the pay-off is tremendous because students become capable of learning content information much more quickly and with significantly more confidence than before.
Anecdotal data strongly indicate that students who master several SIM-based strategies become good citizens within the classroom and school. Because they are finally being successful in school, they evidence fewer inappropriate behaviors and set meaningful goals relative to performing successfully in school and in post-secondary settings. Most importantly, as students become better learners, their confidence and willingness to work hard in a purposeful way increases.
Finally, in response to the issue of whether the SIM strategies can do what has been claimed about them, we offer the following response. All research conducted by the Center for Research on Learning has been critically reviewed by scientifc panels in the U.S. Department of Education and other federal and foundation funding agencies. Additionally, Center researchers have regularly presented their findings in the field's most prestigious scientific journals. Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that the Center has done no commercial advertising to promote SIM, yet in excess of 175,000 teachers in more than 3,500 school districts have sought out training in SIM. The number of requests continues to grow because of the successes experienced by classroom teachers in a host of settings throughout the world. It is because individual classroom teachers and clinicians find the instructional procedures to work well that the word about SIM spreads to others.Back to top
What effect has the use of SIM had on teachers?
Teachers have repeatedly indicated that their introduction to the Strategic Instruction Model has had a dramatic effect on their careers as classroom teachers. Some report that for the first time, they have been able to help students make significant gains in achievement. Others indicate that the layout and clarity of the SIM instructional materials provide them with a sense of confidence and guidance during the teaching process that enables the teacher to carefully monitor students' progress and to adjust instruction in a systematic way. Although the instructional packages provide a certain amount of structure, teachers are always reminded that these packages are to serve as "blueprints" only during the instructional process. It is clearly recognized that the teacher must have sufficient flexibility to make adjustments during instruction to repond to individual student learning styles and needs.
The SIM instructional materials and procedures provide teachers with a common language and data collection systems that greatly facilitate communication across teachers and settings. The scoring and data display procedures included in each of the instructional packages have been designed to be done relatively quickly by the classroom teachers (or even a paraprofessional). Students are taught to record their scores and chart their performance on graphs so they can see how their performance matches the goals that they set prior to a lesson. Hence, the packages have been designed to minimize the demands placed on teachers for doing excess paperwork, but they contain sufficient specificity to ensure that instruction is carefully monitored during each session so that both student and teacher know exactly what is happening and the types of adjustments that need to be made to reach mastery.
The SIM instructional materials and procedures can be very helpful tools for improving the quality of instruction provided by teachers. That is, in as much as they are grounded in validated learning principles, they can provide the basis from which teachers can set goals for improving the quality of their instruction in targeted areas.Back to top
How is SIM instruction most effectively provided?
All assessment done within SIM is curriculum-based. In as much as the major criterion for success is how students perform on tasks they are expected to master in the general education classroom, representative tasks from those settings comprise the pre- and post-assessment measures. These samples are very easy to administer and score and take relatively little time. The major emphasis of SIM is to optimize the time spent in instruction and to minimize assessment activities.
The strategies should be taught in a sequential order according to the demands students are expected to meet in the general education classroom. Student performance escalates significantly when students are taught a "critical mass" of related strategies. Although there isn't a definite scope and sequence of instruction that must be followed when teaching the strategies, there are some sequences that have been found to yield significantly better results than others in certain settings. Of course, a major factor that must be considered in the determination of any scope and sequence of instruction are the needs of the students. The optimal sequence for a given situation is one of the topics addressed during each SIM training session. Regardless of the sequence of instruction followed across strategies, it is imperative that the eight-stage instructional methodology be carefully followed within each strategy to ensure that students both master and generalize the strategy.
Strategies can be effectively taught to groups of students (from six to 12 students). Although the instructional demands on teachers are significantly less if the groups of students they are teaching are homogeneous, the reality is that most at-risk groups of students are quite heterogeneous. The instructional packages make suggestions for dealing with diverse groups. These issues also are covered during training sessions.
Typically, a SIM strategy can be taught to mastery in three or four weeks (about one hour of instruction per day). This time period varies, however, depending on learner characteristics, the particular strategy, and the skill of the teacher.Back to top
What types of training and supports are needed to successfully implement SIM strategies?
An effective program of staff development is essential to optimize fidelity of implementation by teachers as well as to achieve significant growth by students. Effective training of staffs proceeds in various phases. During the initial phase, it is important to have all training provided by certified members of the International Training Network. Not only do these trainers have in-depth knowledge of the targeted strategies, but they can effectively respond to the broad array of implementation questions and issues that surface during training sessions. After teachers have had an opportunity to implement numerous strategies at a high level of fidelity, a limited number of individuals who would have interest (and the time availability) could begin the process of becoming a SIM Trainer. Becoming a certified SIM Trainer usually requires about three years. During the training process, these potential trainers would be asked to serve in an apprenticeship role with seasoned SIM Trainers. Thus, over time, your organization could develop a cadre of trainers to serve the needs of your organization.
Typically, one strategy is taught during a training session (which lasts three to six hours). Teachers are then asked to return to their teaching assignment and implement the newly learned strategy. In subsequent sessions, they engage in debriefing and problem solving with their SIM Trainers. During the course of one academic year, approximately three strategies can be effectively mastered by a teacher.
Training sessions should not consist of more than 25 teachers. Each teacher would be expected to purchase (or have provided to them) the necessary instructor's manual and the attendant student materials. The average cost of an instructional manual is $15.Back to top
Given the decline in the availability of resource rooms as a venue for teaching Learning Strategies, what alternatives can be considered by teachers?
First of all, educators need to think about the types of instructional conditions that are necessary for students to become good learners. They should not necessarily focus so much on place or where the services for students are delivered. The important question becomes what kinds of things need to be happening instructionally for students to become good learners. The key is for students to receive intensive, well-managed instruction. Sometimes, that can occur in the general education classroom; but often times, it simply can't. As teachers, we can best make our case for finding alternative service delivery mechanisms if we specifically identify what needs to occur in the learning process. Most importantly, at-risk students need multiple opportunities for practicing the strategies as well as for receiving individual feedback on their performance.
If these and other instructional elements--such as modeling, scaffolding instruction, and demanding mastery--are in place, at-risk students will successfully learn strategies. Thus, the task becomes creating an instructional environment where these instructional elements can be implemented.Back to top
What will happen if there isn't a balance between the implementation of Learning Strategies and Content Enhancement within a school?
The instructional goals embodied in the Content Enhancement Routines and Learning Strategies instruction are quite distinct. The two are designed to be complementary of each other, and they are not exclusive of one another. Each is needed to create an instructional whole for students.
Students are good learners when they possess both a broad array of content knowledge and a variety of skills associated with processing information effectively. They obtain a broad array of content information by being able to connect with the curriculum that's being delivered in content classes. Teachers who use the Content Enhancement Routines on a regular basis do much to facilitate the degree to which students can build a solid knowledge base. In addition, at-risk students must receive explicit instruction in the use of a broad array of Learning Strategies to enhance their ability to process information effectively.
Our goal is to ensure that these students succeed in general education classes such that they earn average or above average grades. If Learning Strategies instruction is combined with Content Enhancement Routines, we are much more likely to achieve that result.Back to top
Given what's happening in schools today, is strategic instruction becoming obsolete?
No, as a matter of fact, it is not.
Due to content explosion--the significant amount of information being added to world knowledge on a daily basis--teachers will not be able to continue to try to teach all of the content related to their subject areas. The only viable solution for them is to teach students how to access, think critically about, and manipulate information on their own so that students can be lifelong learners who access any information they need.
That's where strategy instruction comes in. Strategy instruction is the only instructional method that has been shown through research to enable students with disabilities and other at-risk students to meet the complex learning demands of secondary and post-secondary schools.
Through strategy instruction, they become able to find, study, and express information independently.
Another educational trend in this country, which is somewhat contrary to the emphasis on content coverage, is an emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Increasingly, state competency exams are starting to include tasks that are more authentic. This shift will require schools to spend more time teaching students strategies to improve their ability to do well on these thinking tasks. Again, strategic instruction is one of the few instructional methods that has been shown to improve at-risk students' thinking skills. Thus, it will be a very important part of any school's program.Back to top
Why is process as important as content?
The demands that students encounter in school as well as nonschool settings require them to have a solid background in key content areas as well as an ability to process information fluently.
We all know that the nature of the workplace is changing, markedly. Jeremy Rifkin, for example, in his book "The End of Work," indicates that several job areas will be eliminated because of the technology explosion. Other jobs will be transformed very quickly, and only a minority of individuals will have job stability, defined as working in one job with one company for an extended period of time. Some futurists have estimated that students graduating from school in the 1990s will have as many as four separate careers throughout the course of their working lives. Under these circumstances, the only individuals who will be able to survive in that type of working environment will be those who have the capacity of knowing how to learn, who can readily shift from one job situation to another.
Of course, successful transitions across jobs and careers are dependent on individuals being good learners--having the ability to learn the necessary information required for successful performance in a new area relatively quickly.
Hence, having lots of background information or content and knowing how to learn or the process of learning will both be vitally important in the future.Back to top
How can strategic instruction be used in our school to help students meet important academic standards?
One of the keys to preparing students to successfully meet academic standards is to expose them to a well-designed scope and sequence of strategy instruction.
The Learning Strategies Curriculum has both the necessary breadth and depth to provide students that type of instruction. For example, the writing strategies can be systematically sequenced over several grade levels and taught in both general and special education classes. The same can be done with the math strategies for younger children. Similarly, the reading strategies, especially the Paraphrasing and Self-Questioning strategies, can be taught to students for the purpose of helping them effectively deal with the reading demands of courses and standardized tests.
In addition, using Content Enhancement Routines, such as the Concept Comparison Routine or the Concept Anchoring Routine, on a consistent basis has been shown to greatly improve the capacity of students to apply critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies.
Vocabulary performance, obviously a key demand on competency tests, can be greatly enhanced by the use of the Clarifying Routine.
So in short, we have found strategic instruction to be an essential component in helping students meet demanding academic standards.Back to top