Effective Teaching

Effective Teaching: How the Standards Come To Be

Document Series
No. 1
Roland G. Tharp

January, 2008

For 30 years, education has been deeply concerned for students placed at risk of educational failure, due to poverty, race, or cultural and linguistic diversity. Many programs were developed to increase the success of specific groups: Native American, Native Hawaiian, inner-city African-American, Latino, or Asian immigrants. But there cannot be a separate program for every group, and most American classrooms have students of many ethnic or linguistic origins.

Is there any way of teaching and learning that is effective for ALL students? The five standards for effective pedagogy are the results of many years work by the Center for Research in Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE) and its predecessor, the National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning. (Under the same leadership, the line of work began at the Kamehameha Early Education Program, Honolulu, in 1970). We scoured the research and development literature, looking for agreements among educators working with every diverse group. And we actually found five basic principles that everyone agrees on, whether they are working with Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Native American Indians, Mexican immigrants, Appalachian urban immigrant whites, Southeast Asian newcomers, Eskimos or Aleuts, or mainstream gifted and talented. We then put those five principles through a consensus process, presenting them to every kind of educational group: researchers, teachers, parents, administrators, policy makers; in focus groups and in large auditoriums; in workshops and conferences; in professional meetings and community meetings. This process took five years; it has been many years since we encountered any disagreement. We actually have a consensus.

CREDE has now issued these consensus statements as “Standards,” by which we mean ideals that we can all set for ourselves — ideals for best teaching practices. Thus they express the principles of effective pedagogy for all students. Even for mainstream students, the Standards describe the ideal conditions for instruction; but for at-risk students, the Standards are vital.

The Standards are expressed in the theoretical language of the sociocultural perspective. Of course not all the original reports use that vocabulary, indeed many writers whose work has contributed to the consensus work within other theoretical systems. Agreement across theorists adds to the credibility of the consensus. But there are advantages to expressing the Standards in a uniform theoretical language, because the interactions among them are revealed.

For many years now specific research has been conducted to better understand and to evaluate the Standards’ effects on student learning and satisfaction.  The reader can follow that research on this website.

You will notice that some writers refer to Seven Standards, rather than Five.  This is because the research evidence for the two additional standards has been largely confined to classrooms of indigenous students; there has not been sufficient evidence to declare a genuine consensus for Standards Six and Seven.  My personal belief is that when these two additional standards are sufficiently studied, they too will gain consensus status.  These two Standards call for liberal use of Modeling & Demonstration in teaching, and for Student Choice and Initiative in instructional activities.