Join the thousands of training providers around the world who get The Advantage delivered straight to their inbox.
The ultimate goal of teaching is more than simply imparting knowledge. Your goal is for your students to transfer what they have learned to a variety of real life situations. A learner needs to take knowledge that they have learned in a classroom and apply it in new contexts.
A good way to think about this is to consider a football (soccer) team. During practice sessions, football players typically do drills and work on specific skills. The coach will guide the players by demonstrating a skill, providing feedback and correcting as necessary. Players have opportunities to hone their abilities in a relatively low stress environment. However, once it comes time to play in a match, players must be able to transfer what they have practiced into a real in-game setting. The other team will not give them an opportunity to stop and ask their coach which play to use or let them stop to think about how to set up for a goal. If a team cannot execute plays and perform well, they will undoubtedly lose the game.
Teaching is the same way. Much like a football coach, your job as a teacher is to guide and direct, providing feedback and correction. But your job is also to wean your students away from needing your help. They must learn how to transfer what they’ve learned to new contexts. If they cannot do this, then genuine learning has not occurred. In order to effectively teach students how to transfer their knowledge, a four step approach known as the Gradual Release of Responsibility should be implemented.
You can think of the Gradual Release of Responsibility approach as a path that takes your students from you the teacher assuming all responsibility to the students themselves assuming all responsibility. To continue our football analogy – the coach starts out doing the drill himself while the team watches and ends with the players performing elements of the drill by themselves on the field during a game!
The Gradual Release of Responsibility approach can be broken down into four phases.
This is the most hands on phase for you as a teacher. This is when you model, instruct and scaffold the most. Like a football coach, you will need to provide demonstration of skills and clear directions for your students. The students are mainly observing or taking notes at this point. It should be noted that the majority of your teaching happens here, but it should not take up the majority of your classroom time! Aim to have this stage take 25-40% of your instructional time, leaving the rest for the following areas.
The release of responsibility begins with guided practice. This is when students begin to implement the strategies and skills that you have taught. You should monitor and provide scaffolding and support as necessary, but still let students authentically practice. Some students will demonstrate that they are ready for independent practice and can move on, while others may need more support and reteaching. It is appropriate to have some students move on to working independently while some continue to receive support.
Students should eventually begin to perform and use skills independently. Encourage them to be reflective on their practice and evaluate whether or not certain strategies are effective. You can still guide and redirect if necessary, but try to refrain unless absolutely necessary. Think of this as a scrimmage for a football team, where students will practice playing a game. The coach may stop and give directions more than in a real game, but for the most part lets the players practice their skills.
At this point, all responsibility is released from the teacher to the student. In order to prove that learning has taken place, students must extend knowledge to completely new contexts. And this is the most challenging part: they must do it autonomously. This can be difficult for both you and your students. It is difficult to watch people struggle with tasks, but do not jump in and help! After all, the football coach cannot run off the side of the field and assist his players. During game time the players must perform on their own!
In terms of assessment, challenge your students with opportunities to apply their skills in a new context. Develop questions and tasks that are similar to our football game analogy- a fluid, novel game situation where reliance on you, the teacher, is limited. If your test questions contain clues as to how it should be solved, then students are not authentically transferring knowledge.
Any good sports coach knows that the gradual release of responsibility needs to happen every day, in every practice. The same is true of every class period. The more you step back and let your students show you what they can do independently, the easier it will be for them when it really matters. Now, this all sounds nice and tidy, but in reality these four steps can be difficult to navigate. Begin your planning and teaching with the end goal in mind: for your students to apply knowledge in novel contexts.
Think of yourself as a football coach who teaches skills, allows your players to practice and hone the skills, then applies them in challenging game situations.
Exclusive content, eBooks, videos and downloads, all about training provision.
Tips, news and freebies in our newsletter!