Teaching some vs teaching all. This is where the action for improvement lies. (2023)

A theme I explore in most of my CPD and coaching work is the challenge of teaching everyone in a class simultaneously and the pitfalls of allowing ourselves to assume some students’ responses represent the others’.

For a student to be learning they need several things to be fired up:

  • they need to be thinking, focusing their attention where needed to achieve the learning goals
  • they need the prior knowledge needed so that new learning can build on it allowing them to make meaning
  • they need to engage in practice and receive feedback that moves them forward.

All this is supported by the simple model I promote in my CPD as explored in this post:

A model for the learning process. And why it helps to have one.

One of the most powerful ideas I’ve engaged with recently is using a diagram to visualise a shared model of the learning process; using it to get a feel for how learning works in general but also to…

by Tom Sherrington

The meaning-making element is described brilliantly by Sarah Cottingham in this post: – I have added the lightning to this image from her post, for emphasis!

Teaching some vs teaching all. This is where the action for improvement lies. (3)

This applies to each individual. Now multiply that by 30 and what is already complex is hyper complex, fraught with difficulties unless we’re ready for it! A powerful prompt and constant question for teachers is to consider whether each and every student has been able to make meaning from the ideas in hand – building on prior knowledge. We can hope.. but we must never assume.

I would suggest that the most common challenges or flaws in the lessons I observe fall into the area where some students are doing fine but not everyone is… and the lessons allow this to happen or to go unnoticed. I feel a focus in teacher thinking and CPD that can yield significant gains to focus on this explicitly. (It’s a theme I return to over and over – see The #1 problem/weakness in teaching and how to address it.

Here are six things to think about when trying to reach ALL not just some; for ALL students to make meaning successfully, not just a few; for you to adapt your teaching responsively based on the learning progress of ALL students, not just a few.


Securing attention from everyone is paramount. I”m not talking about ‘eyes on me’ – I’m talking about mental attention. Students will mind-wander naturally and inevitably just as adults do unless they have tasks or questions that occupy their minds, linked to some expectations that require them to provide some evidence of their thinking. This can be achieved by routinely setting up questions and tasks that all must do, with an ever-present level of accountability built around the expectation that you might be asked to share your work or your answer. Techniques like Show Call or Cold Call are essential for achieving this – the key questions are for everyone and anyone might be asked to share their answers. These techniques sit alongside active supervision of generative tasks that students should do individually – ie tasks that require thinking, not just procedural copying.

Without attention, without thinking – there is no learning. So it’s fundamental that we consider and check that everyone is thinking.

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Check prior knowledge

Students cannot make meaning in the direction you want according to the demands of the curriculum unless, at every stage, they have the prior knowledge needed. It’s vital, therefore, to check your assumptions about prior knowledge – going back as far you need to allow all students to connect to things they already know. An example I often use is a recent lesson observed where Y9 students discussed how recreational drug use progresses to dependent drug use. In what was otherwise a great lesson, with some superb responses, I encountered a couple of students who did not know the meaning of recreational or dependent and so could not engage in the discussion, even though nearly everyone else could. A routine prior knowledge check might have flushed this out, providing some support around the key vocabulary and thereby allowing those two students to make meaning within this drugs education domain.

This issue is extensive.. you have to take students from where they actually are, not from where you’d like them to be or imagine them to be. Painful as it is, that’s the job… and checking can involve numerous processes including quizzing, pair talk and general assessment over time.

Concrete not Sand – build on what they know!

I’ve encountered so many scenarios across the curriculum where students’ prior knowledge just isn’t secure enough for them to handle the new content of the lesson – at least, not…

by Tom Sherrington

Systematic engagement in questioning

An inclusive classroom involves all students in questioning flows. If you combine whiteboards, think pair share and cold calling, you have three tools that work in combination better than they each work alone. You flex the questioning method to ensure every student can practise, can think and can reveal their thoughts to you. It’s possible to run lessons so that it would be impossible to opt out or for a few students to dominate whilst others sit back passively. Of course a silent student might be thinking – but you can’t know how well that’s going unless you involve them in the flow of giving responses.

Teaching some vs teaching all. This is where the action for improvement lies. (8)
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Running a room with routine, habitual inclusive questioning, making everyone think, should be an absolute bedrock of a teacher development process.

The Dynamics of Questioning….agile, responsive, nimble, purposeful.

Increasingly I find that it’s important and useful to explore teaching techniques through the twin-tracks of a) defining specific techniques so they are deployed with precision and b)…

by Tom Sherrington

Practice and rehearsal through talk and writing

So much learning is tenuous for our least confident students. Under pressure of curriculum coverage, they often experience school as one shallow confusing whizz through after another. Even if they are succeeding in keeping up in any given moment, the lack of consolidation means they don’t retain much and can’t build strong interconnected schema of knowledge. I see this happens very clearly with new terminology, for example. To make meaning with words and phrases, students often need to connect them to concrete knowledge they have – not just building abstraction onto abstraction the whole time. They need so use language, to say words, to select which word to use from a range… repeatedly, to the point that the knowledge sticks, making sense and allowing future appropriate recall.

For this to happen, very very obviously, EVERY STUDENT needs to practise using all the words. Not just some. And yet…… it’s just so common for this not to happen. Some students use some of the words, but not everyone. They might have a labelled diagram or copied paragraph in their books – but this does not represent their actual knowledge. Not yet anyway. It’s very hard to learn words you never say. Good lessons where everyone is learning involve all students practising, both in writing and through talk.

Building Word Confidence: Everyone read, say, understand, use, practise.

A very common phenomenon in many lessons is that students encounter new words.The way we approach this ought to be something teachers think about explicitly so that effective…

by Tom Sherrington

Rehearsal first; retrieval practice later – an important distinction.

In December, Efrat Furst delivered a superb masterclass as part of our In Action series where she explained the stages of learning using the models used in her…

by Tom Sherrington

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Responding to formative assessment outcomes

A vital aspect of teaching is that we adapt our teaching inputs in response to how well students are learning. We need short (in the moment) feedback loops and longer (week to week) feedback loops that allow us to address learning issues as they arise. The whole point of quizzing, for example, is to allow students to test their knowledge and understanding so that they and the teacher gain information about learning gaps so that these gaps can be addressed. And yet, it’s very very common to see routines whereby merely giving the answers after a quiz is all that students get as a response. If we want every student to succeed, including the least confident (which we do of course), then a bit of post-quiz green penning is never going to cut it.

Our routines should be about finding out where students struggle and then reteaching those areas, going back to some solid ground and rebuilding again: more examples, more practice, more concrete reference points, some visual aids, alternative explanations… whatever it takes. Part of this includes empowering them to develop some agency around self-study with good tools to support that. It requires effort on their part – but teachers can direct that effort.

TPS1: Knowledge Gaps.

#1 in the Teaching Problem –> Solution Series. The Problem: How do I deal with knowledge gaps? This problem has been posed in two categories: a) Where students are absent: here they may have…

by Tom Sherrington

Understanding Assessment Part Two: Building student agency.

This blog is the second of a set of ideas used as material for webinars delivered with Century Learning where I set out some key ideas about assessment that might be useful to support…

by Tom Sherrington

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A big part of teaching multiple students at the same time is that some will make faster progress than others. How do we keep the level of challenge high while supporting other students to progress from a lower starting point. Often the answer lies in designing scaffolds – we provide help in the form of resources or routines that allow students to participate and make meaning within a lesson flow or a task, without needing to rely solely on their prior knowledge.

The explicit function of a scaffold is that it provides temporary support and doesn’t foster dependency but well-designed scaffolds can do wonders in bringing students into a conversation or allowing them to construct a piece of writing or to perform key learning tasks. The skill of a teacher lies in working out which scaffolds to use and when to reduce the level of scaffolding so that students ultimately no longer need them. This older post explores some of the issues:

Beyond Dependency Learning: scaffolding, crutches and stabilisers.

One of the challenges we face as teachers is knowing how much help to give. There are so many examples of structured support across a range of learning experiences: arm-bands in swimming, stabilisers on a bicycle… the…

by Tom Sherrington

This post looks specifically at scaffolds for dialogue:

Five Ways to: Scaffold Classroom Dialogue

Five Ways. A series of short posts summarising some everyday classroom practices. The essence of scaffolding is that students are elevated to a level of performance and thinking that they…

by Tom Sherrington

As with so many things, no one of these elements is easy or sufficient. Success comes from weaving them all together over time, lesson to lesson. But it really does start with understanding that unless we do these things, gaps are widening day after day… students are falling behind, often masked by the successes of their peers. All means all… that’s the challenge.

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  • Attention – so that all can focus on meaning-making
  • Prior Knowledge – so all can build schema
  • Engagement in questioning – so that all can practise and reveal their thinking
  • Practice and rehearsal – so all can consolidate
  • Responding to formative assessment – to explore key knowledge gaps from all
  • Scaffolding – so that all can succeed.


What lies in the heart of a great teacher? ›

Rusul Alrubail believes at the heart of every great teacher lies kindness, compassion, empathy, positivity, the desire to build something, and the will to inspire.

What are the two teaching approaches? ›

There are two main approaches to instruction in higher education: teacher-centered and student-centered. Your approaches will significantly impact your students' learning experiences as well as their ability to understand new concepts and transfer knowledge.

What method of teaching is most effective? ›

There is no “best” method of teaching. However, many researchers today agree that including more student-centered learning approaches in the classroom can improve learning. Using only a teacher-centered approach leaves out many skills and learning opportunities for students.

What are the 5 types of teaching methods? ›

Types of teaching methods
  • Differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is the idea of creating tailored education plans for students based on differing needs. ...
  • Lecture-based learning. ...
  • Technology-based learning. ...
  • Group learning. ...
  • Individual learning. ...
  • Inquiry-based learning. ...
  • Kinesthetic learning. ...
  • Game-based learning.
Feb 28, 2023

What are the 3 loves of teachers? ›

“Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.”

What are 3 qualities of a great teacher? ›

The Top 14 Qualities that Make a Good Teacher
  • Adaptability. Adaptability is a must for teachers, who need to continuously evaluate what's working for their students — and even more importantly, what isn't working. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Engagement. ...
  • Active Listening. ...
  • Lifelong Learning. ...
  • Free of Bias. ...
  • Respectful Attitude.

What is the greatest joy of a teacher? ›

The joys of teaching
  • to witness the diversity of growth in young people, and their joy in learning.
  • to encourage lifelong learning—both for yourself and for others.
  • to experience the challenge of devising and doing interesting, exciting activities for the young.

What is teaching strategy? ›

Teaching strategies refer to the methods, techniques, procedures and processes that a teacher uses during instruction. It is generally recognised that teaching strategies are multidimensional and their effectiveness depends on the context in which they are applied.

What is the 4 step teaching process? ›

Peyton's teaching approach is a stepwise teaching approach and consists of the following four steps: demonstration, deconstruction, comprehension and performance.

How do you teach students effectively? ›

Give them a reason to remember your class as an important part of their college experience!
  1. POSITIVE. Keep your students engaged with a positive attitude. ...
  2. PREPARED. You should know the course material. ...
  3. ORGANIZED. Have a plan for what you want to teach. ...
  4. CLEAR. ...
  5. ACTIVE. ...
  6. PATIENT. ...
  7. FAIR. ...

What is the definition of teaching? ›

Teaching can be defined as engagement with learners to enable their understanding and application of knowledge, concepts and processes. It includes design, content selection, delivery, assessment and reflection.

What is an example of a teaching style? ›

Other examples of teaching styles examples include inquiry-based, didactic, democratic, facilitative, and andragogic (the art of teaching adults).

How can we make teaching more meaningful? ›

Understand Learner Behaviour
  1. Decrease anonymity by learning the names of students.
  2. Seek feedback by observing how the class is going and changing up your teaching methods if you find the interest is fading.
  3. Encourage active learning and equal participation by having activities or discussion groups.
Sep 7, 2017

Who is a perfect teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

What makes a teacher a favorite teacher? ›

1) They give love, attention, and acceptance to all kids. 2) They help their students succeed academically, even when that takes extra time to alter a lesson, one-on-one time teaching the student, or staying after hours to make sure they understand a math concept. 3) They make students feel special.

What is the passion of a good teacher? ›

Passion for teaching includes the ability to teach students how to learn and to instill enthusiasm and interest in learning. Good teaching is also about mentoring, not only students but colleagues.

What are the 5 qualities of a good teacher? ›

top 5 qualities and characteristics of a good teacher.
  • Patient and approachable. They say that 'patience is a virtue', and this couldn't be more true for teachers. ...
  • Enthusiastic. ...
  • Strong communication skills. ...
  • Strong knowledge and a solid education. ...
  • Disciplined and professional.
Mar 1, 2022

What are the 8 qualities of a good teacher? ›

  • Effective goal-setting. The most effective teachers know how to set clear objectives for individual students, single lessons, their entire class and themselves. ...
  • Clear communication. ...
  • Acting as a role model. ...
  • Adaptability and flexibility. ...
  • Preparation. ...
  • Self-reflection. ...
  • Life-long learning. ...
  • Promoting a love of learning.
Mar 16, 2023

What is a teacher's greatest strength? ›

Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively is one of the keys to teacher strength. Teachers constantly communicate with parents and their students, so being able to engage others and share their opinions efficiently is crucial. Additionally, empathy is another key trait that teachers must maintain.

What is an admirable teacher? ›

Admired teachers are sources of motivation, inspiration and learning for their students. They not only contribute to their academic achievement but also to their personal and social development.

What is the importance of effective teaching? ›

Going from a poor-performing teacher to a great teacher can increase student learning by multiple years of schooling. Great teachers also have a substantial impact on the well-being of students throughout their lives, affecting not only their academic achievement, but also other long-term social and labor outcomes.

How do you answer what is your teaching strategy? ›

When employers ask this question, they're looking for insight into how you'll perform your teaching duties. Your response should address your teaching methods, your beliefs about the learning process and at least one example of your skills and abilities in a classroom or training environment.

What is teaching skills? ›

Teaching skills are abilities teachers must develop in order to be successful in the field of education. These abilities include dispositions, emotional intelligence, classroom management, communication, content knowledge, and knowledge of curriculum and standards.

What is the impact stage of teaching? ›

Stage 4: Impact

These are the teachers whom students come back years later to thank for affecting their lives. To make an impact on your students, you need to use effective teaching practices. A student learns only when the teacher has made an appreciable impact on a student's life.

What are the key processes in teaching? ›

There are six interactive components of the learning process: attention, memory, language, processing and organizing, graphomotor (writing) and higher order thinking. These processes interact not only with each other, but also with emotions, classroom climate, behavior, social skills, teachers and family.

What are the five components of teaching process? ›

Time To Teach trainings consist of Five Core Components:
  • Self-Control Strategies.
  • Classroom Design Techniques.
  • Teaching to Appropriate Behaviors.
  • Accurate and Timely Consequences.
  • Student Teacher Relationships.

What does good teaching look like? ›

What does engaging teaching look like? Communicating regularly, openly, and transparently; Assigning activities that promote engagement with content, peers, and the instructor; Varying instructional methods (e.g., interactive lectures, discussion, small group work, etc.);

How do you motivate and motivate students? ›

Tips On How To Motivate Your Students
  1. Become a role model for student interest. ...
  2. Get to know your students. ...
  3. Use examples freely. ...
  4. Use a variety of student-active teaching activities. ...
  5. Set realistic performance goals. ...
  6. Place appropriate emphasis on testing and grading. ...
  7. Be free with praise and constructive in criticism.

What is a teacher in simple words? ›

A teacher, also called a schoolteacher or formally an educator, is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence, or virtue, via the practice of teaching.

What is teaching method in simple words? ›

Teaching methods are the broader techniques used to help students achieve learning outcomes, while activities are the different ways of implementing these methods. Teaching methods help students: master the content of the course. learn how to apply the content in particular contexts.

What defines you as a teacher? ›

Great teachers form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people. Great teachers are warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. Teachers with these qualities are known to stay after school and make themselves available to students and parents who need them.

What is one word for style of teaching? ›

pedagogy Add to list Share.

What are the 7 principles of teaching? ›

The 7 Principles of Teaching – Engage Education |
  • Principle one: Encourage contact between students and faculty. ...
  • Principle two: Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students. ...
  • Principle three: Encourage active learning. ...
  • Principle four: Give prompt feedback. ...
  • Principle five: Emphasise time on task.
Mar 10, 2023

What are the three teaching stages? ›

Teaching involves a basic three step process: preparation, delivery, and evaluation.

What are the principles of teaching? ›

Six Principles for Teacher Education
  • Knowledge. Effective teachers possess a well-grounded knowledge of the content areas that are central to their teaching. ...
  • Learning Environment. ...
  • Personalized Learning. ...
  • Community. ...
  • Critical Reflection. ...
  • Growth.

What is an effective teaching? ›

Effective teaching is the knowledge, strategies, processes and behaviours which lead to good student outcomes. Effective teachers have a positive impact on their students and use their expertise to improve learning. These good outcomes are often those that can be measured easily, usually through summative assessment.

What is the best learning style? ›

The visual learners process the information best if they can see it. The auditory learners like to hear information. The read-write learners prefer to see the written words. The kinaesthetic learners like to acquire information through experience and practice.

What are the 4 learning theories? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.

What are the 5 common learning styles? ›

What are the different types of learners?
  • Visual learners.
  • Auditory (or aural) learners.
  • Kinesthetic (or hands-on) learners.
  • Reading and writing learners.
May 6, 2019


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