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close this bookTeaching (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 34 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE
View the documentSeries preface
View the documentOfficers of the International Academy of Education
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. A supportive classroom climate
View the document2. Opportunity to learn
View the document3. Curricular alignment
View the document4. Establishing learning orientations
View the document5. Coherent content
View the document6. Thoughtful discourse
View the document7. Practice and application activities
View the document8. Scaffolding students’ task engagement
View the document9. Strategy teaching
View the document10. Co-operative learning
View the document11. Goal-oriented assessment
View the document12. Achievement expectations
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences
View the documentThe International Academy of Education

5. Coherent content

To facilitate meaningful learning and retention, content is explained clearly and developed with emphasis on its structure and connections.

Research findings

Research indicates that networks of connected knowledge structured around powerful ideas can be learned with understanding and retained in forms that make them accessible for application. In contrast, disconnected bits of information are likely to be learned only through low-level processes such as rote memorizing, and most of these bits either are soon forgotten or are retained in ways that limit their accessibility. Similarly, skills are likely to be learned and used effectively if taught as strategies adapted to particular purposes and situations, with attention to when and how to apply them; but students may not be able to integrate and use skills that are learned only by rote and practised only in isolation from the rest of the curriculum.

In the classroom

Whether in textbooks or in teacher-led instruction, information is easier to learn to the extent that it is coherent-the sequence of ideas or events makes sense and the relationships among them are apparent. Content is most likely to be organized coherently when it is selected in a principled way, guided by ideas about what students should learn from studying the topic.

When making presentations, providing explanations or giving demonstrations, effective teachers project enthusiasm for the content and organize and sequence it so as to maximize its clarity and coherence. The teacher presents new information with reference to what students already know about the topic; proceeds in small steps sequenced in ways that are easy to follow; uses pacing, gestures and other oral communication skills to support comprehension; avoids vague or ambiguous language and digressions that disrupt continuity; elicits students’ responses regularly to stimulate active learning and ensure that each step is mastered before moving to the next; finishes with a review of main points, stressing general integrative concepts; and follows up with questions or assignments that require students to encode the material in their own words and apply or extend it to new contexts. If necessary, the teacher also helps students to follow the structure and flow of the content by using outlines or graphic organizers that depict relationships, study guides that call attention to key ideas, or task organizers that help students keep track of the steps involved and the strategies they use to complete these steps.

In combination, the principles calling for curricular alignment and for coherent content imply that, to enable students to construct meaningful knowledge that they can access and use in their lives outside school, teachers need to: (i) retreat from breadth of coverage in order to allow time to develop the most important content in greater depth; (ii) represent this important content as networks of connected information structured around powerful ideas; (iii) develop the content with a focus on explaining these important ideas and the connections among them; and (iv) follow up with authentic learning activities and assessment measures that provide students with opportunities to develop and display learning that reflects the intended outcomes of the instruction.

References: Beck & McKeown (1988); Good & Brophy (2000); Rosenshine (1968).