This summer when we presented our Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) workshop, we wanted to ground the workshop in a highly effective, evidence-based practice (EBP). We decided on Self Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD), a set of student strategies for writing that teachers can explicitly teach to students, that is an all-star EBP with a very high effect size (1.14) for both behavior and writing. The only problem was that teaching SRSD could potentially take a week or more and our workshop was only three days! It was clear to us that, in order to provide effective training on SRSD, we needed to clearly define it and identify the critical core components in terms that could be taught, learned, practiced, and assessed efficiently and effectively. We would have to transform SRSD into a “useable innovation”.

According to the National Implementation Research Network, an EBP can be made usable by crafting a precise description with the core components of the practice, operational definitions of those components, and creation of a practical performance assessment. We got to work reviewing materials and developing a “bullet proof” definition. We took online training, read through journal articles and consulted national experts. We came to realize that, although SRSD is an instructional approach designed to help students learn, use and adopt the strategies used by skilled writers, it is essentially about using the EDI methodology to teach genre, strategy, self-talk/self-monitoring and goal setting — those are the core components of SRSD. This made a lot of sense to us since we know that EDI and Direct Instruction are also EBPs.  In fact, in a meta-analysis of 328 studies of Direct Instruction published in the Review of Educational Research, it was stated: “It is clear that students make sense of and interpret the information that they are given – but their learning is enhanced only when the information presented is explicit, logically organized, and clearly sequenced. To do anything less shirks the responsibility of effective instruction.”  (Marshall Memo, July 2018).

Making SRSD Learnable and Doable for Teachers

With this realization we were able to create a visual (See Fig. 1) representing the core components of EDI and SRSD and their alignment.  It helped us identify what we could directly teach teachers so that they could implement SRSD with fidelity in their classrooms.  We could now  engage participants with multiple examples, non-examples and modeling of SRSD and its core components.  Through role-play, participants tried out the SRSD approach and then applied their new knowledge of SRSD in lesson planning activities.

 Figure 1

“But how do I know I’m doing it well?”

Not only does a practice need to be teachable, doable and learnable for it to stick, it also needs to be “assessable”.  In other words, what should this practice actually look like in action?  What should I look like when I’m using it?  How should students be responding if it’s done well? Because there are observable behaviors associated with implementing each core component of SRSD, participants could use fidelity checklists to provide feedback to each other and sharpen their understanding of what to look for from students to assess the impact of their teaching.

What we learned

Every evidence-based practice has an effect size that is based on a set of steps implemented with fidelity.  SRSD, like EDI, is a highly effective practice and takes thoughtful planning – it is not something that can be “free-styled”.  When we took the time to make SRSD “useable”, we significantly increased the likelihood it would be implemented with fidelity and have the desired impact on student outcomes.

Next time you pick up a research article on an evidence-based practice, check out the Methodology section. See if you can identify the core components of the strategy, and what it would look like and sound like in your classroom. What connections can you make?  Knowing that EDI is foundational to implementing many other EBPs, see if you can make connections to EDI as you read the steps.  Let’s dedicate this school year to learning and implementing EBPs for all of our students and see these high effect sizes for ourselves!

References

Stocker, J, Wood, T, Coughin, C & Rasplica Koury, C. (2018). The effectiveness of Direct Instruction curricula: A meta-analysis of a half century of research, Review of Educational Research, 88(4), pp. 479-507.  Cited in Marshall, K. (2018, July 30). How effective Is Direct Instruction? Marshall Memo, 746 (9).