The 7 Principles of Effective Instruction Part 1


Note: School Leadership Reimagined is produced as a podcast and designed to be listened to, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 239

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 239?

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How can you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. 

I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today I want to continue a series that I started last time. So last time I talked about why it is that we don't really believe believe that 100% success is possible. And I broke it down into two things. The first thing is that we don't, we have to create belief. The reason that we don't believe is that we've never experienced it. And if because we've never experienced that kind of success, it's hard for us to conceptualize it to see it as possible, so as to build on what we have experienced and then create that momentum and over time nurture belief so that we can believe that it's possible. And then the second reason that we don't believe it's possible is that we don't know how to make it possible. We overcomplicated we think it's going to be some big grand program or we need a whole bunch of Reese extra resources to make it happen. We don't believe it's possible with the teachers we have because we really don't know how to build teachers capacity. And so over the course of the next several episodes, I'm going to break down just how simple it is to build teachers capacity. So today we're going to talk about the actual building of the capacity. What is it takes? What does it take. And I told you last time that there are really only seven things you need to do as a school to grow teachers capacity instructionally to make every child in your school successful. Everything else is a preference. And so we're going to break down the first three things this time. So we're going to talk about the first three principles, I'm going to break them down and show them why they show you why they're so important. And then help you from the lens of a builder begin to look at what you can immediately start putting in place in your school to make these things happen so that you can begin to build that momentum towards 100% success.

Now I need to say from the very beginning that these seven principles have been talking about for almost 20 years now. I think it has been about 20 years that I started talking about these seven principles of effective instruction. They are the principles that I used in my own classroom. They are the principles that I have taught 10s of 1000s of other I think it's hundreds of 1000s of educators at this point how to use successfully the principles work. And the reason that we are focusing on principles rather than practices is because principles last they're there they're timeless principles will last for as long as we are teaching they have been in place for years now all I've done is kind of articulated and codified them. But these principles have been in play and have been talked about for years as this is what it takes to help other human beings learn. So they're timeless. The second thing is that they are personality agnostic subject area agnostic school situation agnostic. These principles work no matter who the teacher is, they work always because they are principles, they're laws, they, they work because they they it doesn't matter the person so I use illustration last time, you know, if I drop something, if I hold a bottle of water in the air and I let it go, it will always stropped not because of anything that I've done, but because there's a law of gravity that is happening. The same thing is true for the principles. They work, no matter who the person is, because they are principles, there are laws, so they always work. Now, the good news for that is it doesn't, it means that teachers don't have to fit in some sort of cookie cutter image of what we think a master teacher is, in order for the principles to work, they always work. 

So if we focus on developing these principles, it helps us to help any teacher become a master teacher, if they master these principles, they are a master teacher, it's just that simple. The third thing is that these principles, what not only are they timeless, not only do they always work, but they work with anything. So if your district changes the direction that it's going, and you don't have to relearn something new, the principles apply, if the curriculum changes, and another year, you don't have to learn something new, the principles always apply. So that's why I love talking about principles because they always work. They work with anyone in any context. And, and there are only seven of them. So they're very simple. And once you learn them, you can deploy them over and over and over again to achieve 100% success. So we're going to talk about principles today. Now, the only other disclaimer I need to make is this. I am shameless about saying that any teacher can become a master teacher, with the right kind of support and practice. And so the idea around principles is predicated on this idea that when you help teachers master principles, they become a master teacher. In fact, my definition of a master teacher is is someone who had can help any child be successful in the classroom. That's my definition of a master teacher. And how do I how does that person help any child be successful in the classroom, because they've mastered the principles of effective instruction. So we kind of put master teachers on this big pedestal, we treat them like unicorns, right? So we are always, you know, like, even teachers who are master teachers are reluctant to call themselves master teachers, because we make mastery teaching akin to sainthood, or we make mastery teaching, just someone who has gotten the highest marks on whatever teacher valuation we've used. And we've, we've turned mastery teaching into you know, some, it's some designation on an instrument. And we've kind of, we've kind of dulled the, the potency of what a true master teacher is. If you can help every child be successful in the classroom, you are a master teacher. If you have teachers in your building, who can help every child no matter who that child is, be successful in their classroom, that teacher is a master teacher, period. And the only way you get there, it's not by scoring high on your district's instrument, the only way you get there is by consistently practicing the seven principles of effective instruction. Fight me. So here's what we're gonna do. 

Today, we're going to break down the first three principles. 

We're going to show you why they work. And then we're going to talk about how you can begin to help teachers in your building, develop these principles in their instruction, that those of you who are builders should be University, you've got training on this, we and we're adding some more training on this towards the beginning of the year. So you're gonna get even more training on this. And you know that when you're building your one plan, this is the point of the one plan. So for those of you who are not in builders University, let me tell you what the one plan is. Right after people have built a ship University create their vision and their vision story, which is so powerful, the very next step that they're going to take is that they build a one plan and the one plan breaks down how they are going to achieve their 100% vision and their school by consistently applying the Seven Principles of instruction and every single classroom. Now the beauty about the one plan is that once you have a one plan, and the reason we call it one plan, it's because you're only doing the most important thing in every category. And the power of the one plan is that when you do that, you have the you've created the blueprint to exactly how you're going to get to 100% success. And if everything you know, if everything blows up, and you have to take it and pare things back to the basics, you're saying if we just did these seven things, we could achieve 100% success And when you complete the one plan, you feel like, oh my goodness, it's like you've seen inside the matrix, instead of, of 100%. Success mean, this black box is this thing I desire, but that's very amorphous. 100% success. It's very clean and very clear, you see it, you see exactly how you're gonna get there. That feeling of being able to know not only here's my vision, and I'm committed to it, I'm passionate about it. But here's my one plan that's going to help me get there.

You just you feel unstoppable. And you are unstoppable. Because you're building a plan, not around a program or the framework does your the trend thing that everybody's doing right now that everybody says it's going to work, you're building it around principles that are timeless principles that work, no matter what principles that are, that are, that are situation and context agnostic, which means you can have confidence in your plan. And then when people challenge your vision, you can say, whatever, because I have a plan. And here's how we're gonna get there. And then that gives you focus, stead of running around like a chicken with your head cut off. When you go to work every day. You know what's important. When you walk into a classroom and give teachers feedback, you know, what feedback is the most important, when you are planning support for teachers, you know, what supports that the most important when you are, are helping people be accountable, you know, what things they need to do that are absolutely non negotiable. When you are building your budget and your plan, or you're hiring people, you know what you need, because you know what you're trying to accomplish, and you know, what fits in your plan. And your one plan also helps you to push back when the district is pushing you in a different direction. And if you can't push back, your one plan shows you how to handle that, that that that district push in a way that's authentic to your school and serves your bigger vision, mission and core values. So I can't say I can't talk enough about the one plan. And so these principles are at the heart of the one plan, if you can understand these principles, and you can look at instruction through the lens of these principles. And you can start building these principles into your school, you will achieve 100% success.

So let's dive in. Principle number one is start where your students are. Now you might hear that and say da I mean, of course. But do we, in most cases, we want our kids to get on our page, we're not getting on their page. And as a result, it feels like Why was dragging kids to the goal. People talk about oh, we need kids more engaged, you know, what creates engagement started with students are people say, oh, we need, you know, to take care of SEL issues. And we just kind of try to guess at what SEL issues the kids are dealing with, you know, what you what will help with kids SEL issues, starting with students are starting with students are is twofold. The first step is you got to start where, who, where students are as people now. And I break this down a little bit more in my book never work harder than your students. And I introduced this idea of currency. And it's simply this. Everybody is trying to get something. And we use the currencies that we have in order to get what we want from life, and your kids are coming into the classroom. And they're wanting something out of that experience. And they're using the currencies that they have to try to get something out of that classroom experience. Now I know that sounds kind of theoretical, but let's just talk about it. You know, but the kids want attention. They want acceptance. They want affirmation. They want they they're things that kids want from you from their experience in the classroom. And the way that they try to get at least take attention for example, they can get attention by performing and doing everything that you ask them to do. They can get attention by falling out their chair at a quiet moment in the lesson. They can get attention by refusing to do what you ask them to do all kinds of ways to get attention. And if you if you understand what kids are trying to get, then you can pay attention to the currency and the currency is not appropriate. You can help them develop currencies that that that work in your classroom. You don't tell a kid a behavior is necessarily bad or wrong. You just say wrong currency. 

Let me help you develop a currency that's going to work here. 

Now, I already I make I see the calm It's blowing up now, because people are saying it can't be that simple. At its fundamental level, it really is that simple. It really is that simple. And so if we understood that, then a lot of the discipline problems that we're dealing with go away, a lot of the SEL problems that we're trying to tackle become taxable, that I didn't make that word up, they become you're able to tackle them now, and really meet kids where they need to be met. So if teachers understood that, if we helped teachers get better about spotting the need, behind the behavior, if we help teachers get better about understanding what kids need, and then delivering on that, then a lot of the classroom management issues a lot of the a lot of the personality issues that we have a lot of the conflicts that we see in classrooms, they just go away. Hey, it's Robyn here real quick, I just want to interrupt this episode for just a second. Because if you are enjoying what you're hearing, then would you mind sharing this episode with somebody else. So all you need to do is just go to your phone, if you're listening to on your phone, or your podcast player, and then click the three dots next to this episode. And it'll give you the option to share the episode that if you do that, three things are going to happen first, the person that you shared with is going to think you're a hero, especially if they're struggling with what we're talking about right now. They're gonna love you. Secondly, you're going to feel good, because you're going to get the word out about builder ship, and start building this builder, ship nation. And third, you will get my eternal gratitude, because I really want to get this out to the world, and you'd be helping me out, you'd be doing me a huge favor. 

So please share this episode with someone right now who's who's dealing with this same issue, someone you think would really benefit. And now back to the show. And the better we get at at starting where kids are understanding what they need, the better we get at serving them. And that's one of the reasons why I believe well, drivers are so powerful. Now, if you're a principal, you probably came across the wheel driver work, because you're trying to get teachers, you know, trying to understand how to get your teachers motivated. But the wheel driver work actually started when I was trying to figure out how to motivate kids. So if you so if you can understand that every person is motivated by four things, mastery, purpose, autonomy, and belonging. And if you also understand that, although we're all motivated by all four, we need all four to be motivated. Each one of us has a dominant will driver. And if your teachers really understood that and could get good at spotting the dominant world drivers for kids, then you don't have motivation problems in your school, because you're meeting the kids needs. 

So starting where students are, you have to look at the WHO that kid is. But the other part of it is, Do I understand where they are academically? Do I understand where they're starting? From? What skills they have? What do they know? What are they already capable of doing. And then I can build on that. Most of the time, we just dive into the unit. But if we just did some things to really understand where kids are, before we delve into the unit, then we could get kids engaged in the unit, we could help build on the skills that they have. And we can also start teaching them some things that they don't have, so that they can be more successful. So not just talking about pre testing, because even though that's a part of it, but you also need to understand what background knowledge is required by the curriculum. And do the kids have that background knowledge? What are some of the quote unquote, soft skills that are required by what you're about to teach? And do kids have those soft skills? And if they don't, you need to help them acquire it so that they can actually access your lesson. It seems like common sense, but we spend a whole bunch of time talking about all this other stuff. You know, listen, I'm a big advocate for differentiated instruction. But if you don't understand some of the basics about what kids need, you can't differentiate the principle undergirding differentiated instruction is start where students are and principle to know where students are going, which we'll talk about in a second. So if you are saying, well, I just need my teacher to differentiate, but you haven't really dug into the principle of starting where you students are, they can't do it. Now, what does this have to do with you as a builder, right? On one hand, understanding that understanding how to recognize that a teacher doesn't know how to start with students are and understanding how to help teachers do that is really a huge part of what you need to do, and to build up a teacher's instruction In all capacity so that they can reach all students. Yeah, I get that. But the other piece is this. What is your vision? Your vision might be 100% of kids need to read at or above grade level.

Okay, then where do we need to start with kids?

How do we need to start with kids in order to get them there? That's what you need to be thinking about as a builder. So I want all my kids reading at or above grade level, starting where students are is going to really have to say, well, I What is what is the information that I need about kids, in order to help them to be able to read at grade level, I need a couple of things I need to know and understand what their past experiences with reading have been. I need to understand some some, I need to understand where they are with some of the big reading behaviors like comprehension, and fluency and all the other things. So I need to know that I also need to know a little bit about who the kid is, what are they interested in? What are they like doing, so that I can help them find reading materials that they want to read? So starting with students, how do I find that information? How, what can we do school wide, to help teachers start where kids are that that that allow the kid the teachers to be effective and helping every kid read? If you have not thought that through and you don't understand that, then it's going to be hard to achieve 100%? So, first principle, how do we start with students are now what people do when they hear that they're like, oh, we'll do surveys, or oh, we'll do pre teaching and pre testing. Those things are great. But if they're not going to help kids, all kids read at or above grade level. You don't need to do them. They're not important, starting where students are, is a principle. And as a builder, your job is to take that principle and say, How can I leverage this principle to achieve this vision? So what is it? What does it look like? What do you need to be doing right now? What's your vision yet? To start there? What is your vision? And then, based on my vision, how do what is the one thing that I could do that helps my teachers start where kids are so that my teachers can achieve that vision for every child in their classroom? So the test is, will it get me to my vision? And will it work for every kid? If the answer is no, you don't need to be doing it. 

Okay, principle number two, know where the kids are going? Da, right? We if the teachers don't know where the kids are going, how can they get the kids there? It seems obvious. And yet, when I go into schools, the number of people who have no real understanding of where kids are going is astonishing. We have to make sure that our teachers understand now what we do is we do all this curriculum work or, you know, we do this, you know, ridiculous unpacking of standards where we circle nouns and underline verbs, y'all can tell that's a pet peeve of mine, I've mentioned that several times, but it just we're wasting people's time. And they walk out of that training, and they still don't understand where kids are going. We have a whole training, it's an it's an it's in the for those of you and bu it's in the vault that you can look at around rigor and understanding it and what are the five things that that that every curriculum, ask of kids, and we have a whole planning process we use to show teachers how to kind of just break down any standard and plan backwards from the standard around those five things simplifies things significantly. But once you understand that, you always know where kids are going, you look at a standard, you say, Okay, what is the thinking process demanded by the standard? Got it? All right. Now I know how to teach it. It really is that simple. I mean, we spent all this time kind of, you know, writing all these curriculum documents, and then supporting documents and the revised documents and then cheat sheets on the bulky 25 Page lesson. And we have all these, you know, we collect lesson plans in plants, and we read them and we look do the guts teacher the standard and what's the depth of knowledge? And do they have depth? Oh, my goodness, we make teaching too hard. Oh, we need to do is remember the principle? Do the teachers understand what is demanded by the standard, not just what the standard says. But what does the standard mean? Can teachers operationalize the standard? If they can do that, they can teach it and a lot of our instructional problems go away, if we just do that. 

So what is a builder do? They understand that and so they Simplify, going through the curriculum. When teachers are getting together in PLCs, I'll be honest, I don't really care if they read a lesson plan. I'm more interested in the trajectory of the unit does, does a teacher understand the standards that are driving that unit and a unit of instruction could be a day, it could be a week, it could be three weeks, all I'm doing, I count a unit as what is the trajectory to get kids to master that standard. If you can do it in a day, great, you can do it in a week, fine. If it's gonna take you three weeks, fine. All I want to know is how you can help kids get to that standard standard sits at the top of the unit. And then PLC time, when teachers are collaborating together, it makes sense to have teachers collaborating around moving kids closer and closer to that standard, creating learning experiences that help students make steady progress to mastering that standard as it we waste PLC time with this protocol and that protocol, if we could just get our teachers focused on that with their planning, then the individual lesson plans kind of write themselves. So we're spending a lot of time on the lesson plans. What are you doing today, rather than thinking helping teachers think about what what is the whole trajectory look like. And then after you understand that, then break it down day by day by day on how you're going to get there. So as a builder, what is the one thing or process that your teachers, all of your teachers need to do to ensure that your teachers have a clarity around where kids are going, and how they're going to get the kids there, you do that you're going to get 100% success. So start where your students are principle number one, know where your students are going, principle number two. And the third one we're going to talk about today is expect your students to get there. 

This one I call the neglected principle. 

And it basically works like this. We all talk about teachers need high expectations of kids. It's kind of hard to have high expectations of kids when the kids are, are struggling and have been struggling for a long time or the kids have shut down or the kids are combative or the kids aren't there. So how do you have high expectations of kids it's people talk about the Pygmalion effect without really understanding the Pygmalion effect. So Pygmalion began as a Greek myth. And it's about a sculptor named Pygmalion. And he sculpted a woman so beautiful, he fell in love with the woman. And so people say, if you just love something hard enough and long enough, then you can help that thing become real. So Pygmalion fell in love with the sculpture, the woman, and then loved her so much that eventually the goddess I think Aphrodite made the sculpture real. So we say all and we get to love our kids and believe in our kids enough, then the kids can become, you know, they, they they rise to the level of expectation. But you're kind of missing the point. Pygmalion was such a good sculptor, that he sculpted something so beautiful, that even he fell in love with it. And as a teacher, that's what you want your teachers to do. It's not that I want my teachers to believe in my kids. I want my teachers to believe in themselves. I want my teachers to have such confidence and their ability to reach every single student that they do, whatever it takes to get there is if I ask a teacher to believe in the kids, the moment they run across a kid they don't like or they are struggling with, then they start blaming the kids. I don't want the teachers looking at the kids at all. In that regard. I want the teachers looking at themselves. I want the teachers to say there's not a kid out here, I can't teach. There's not a kid out here who's going to beat me.

I remember I was sitting in a team meeting once. It was an assistant principal to school and I was sitting in on a team meeting. And my team leader was talking about a kid that had come up in our team meetings. For over a month the kid was really struggling, nothing that any of the teachers were doing was working. And the team leader was a social studies teacher was giving the student a test, a MAP test. And so the kid had to kind of label things on a map and I don't really understand the curriculum well enough to kind of tell you about it but it was a test that a MAP test and the student did not dwell on the test at all. And the teacher was saying, I just couldn't understand, I needed to understand why the student was struggling so that I could help them. And she said she was sitting now the student is saying, well, so tell me how you're seeing the map. And she noticed that the student will kind of, you know, was really getting confused about the map. And so she just took a piece of paper and covered up part of the map. And as soon as she did, that, the student could focus on the part of the map that was most important and immediately identify things. And so then she said, Okay, so here's what I want you to do, we're going to take the MAP test again. But this time, we're going to cover up the map, and you're going to only answer questions that pertain to this part of the map. And then once you've done that, then we're going to uncover that and cover up another part of the map. And she did that and the student passed the test with flying colors. And I remember sitting there in awe of this teacher, because the teacher wasn't that she had this unshakable belief in the student, the teacher just said, I'm really curious about the student, the teacher started where the student was, and said, I got to understand how this kid thinks, she, she knew where the kid was going, she knew the purpose of the MAP test. So she knew how to adjust it, to make it meet the needs of that kid. And then she believed that if she just was curious enough, and she kept working, she could unlock how to reach this kid. And she did. What would happen in your school, if all of your teachers started where your students were, if all of your teachers had clarity around where your kids were going, so that that way, they understood it so well, that they could adjust it and, and to meet the kids needs, or to meet the pacing needs of your school. They were they they they understood the curriculum well enough that they could teach kids to mastery. And they, they, they, they, they have the expectation that they could get the kids where the kids needed to be. They have this efficacy that said, this is not a kid, I can't help learn.

So my challenge to you this week is this, we need to think about these first three principles start with students are, know where they're going, expect to get them there. 

And then I want you to look at your goal, your vision for your school. And I want you to ask yourself, if we're going to get there, what's the most important thing kids teachers need to do in order to start with students? Or what's the most important thing that teachers need to do to make sure that they have clarity about where kids are going on? What is the most important thing teachers need to do to expect kids to get there? If you just did that, and you cut out all the noise, all the other nonsense, and just focused on that? Where might your school be? If instead of trying to do all the things, you could just narrow it down to those most important things? What difference would it make in the instruction of your school? So let's take those first three principles. Let's figure out what it would take what would need to do in our school. If everybody did those three things, then it could get us closer to our 100% vision. And then go and get rid of everything else and focus on those three things. And if he did that, you can make us go a lot farther and faster. Because instead of kind of hoping and guessing and throwing everything at instruction, you really broke it down to the most fundamental elements like a belter. I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now than you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today. 

Hey. Hey, it's Robyn here. And I want to thank you for listening to today's episode. And if you have a question about today's episode, you just want to keep the conversation going. Did you know that we had a school leadership reimagined Facebook group, all you need to do is go to Facebook, join the school leadership, reimagined Facebook group. Now they're going to be a couple of questions that we asked at the beginning, because we want to protect this group and make sure that we don't have any trolls come in, and that it really is for people who are principals, assistant principals, district administrators. So make sure you answer this question so you won't get in. But then we can keep the conversation going. Plus, we do a lot of great bonus content. I'm in there every single weekday so if you have a question or comment above the episode, let's continue the conversation. Join us at the school leadership reimagined Facebook group, and I'll talk to you next time.

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads and visit

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build a master teachers.