Conspicuous Strategies

Assess whether instruction is conspicuous. That is, does it communicate clearly and explicitly the steps the learner must employ to perform the strategy and complete the task?

To solve problems, students follow a set of steps or strategies. A strategy is a series of steps students use to achieve a goal. In instruction, it is important that these steps initially be made overt and conspicuous for students. As students learn a strategy, the steps should become more covert. Many students develop their own strategies, but a considerable amount of time may be required for the student to identify the optimum strategy. For students with disabilities and diverse learning needs, such an approach is highly problematic because instructional time is a precious commodity and these learners may never figure out an effective or efficient strategy.

Learning is most efficient when a teacher can make it conspicuous or explicit. In addition, strategies are most effective when they are of medium breadth and generalizable. When applied to a process such as reading comprehension or to a specific skill such as determining the main idea in a paragraph or a story, a conspicuous strategy is the set of steps that leads students to comprehend and identify the main idea effectively and efficiently.

Unfortunately, many students with diverse learning needs are unable to intuit or figure out the relationship of the main idea to the whole paragraph or story before the opportunities for learning have been exhausted. Moreover, the curriculum may not provide the strategic steps necessary for teachers to communicate the process adequately.

Teachers, then, must devise ways to make clear to the students the strategies proficient readers use to

  1. determine whether the main idea is explicitly or implicitly stated,
  2. discriminate most important from less important information,
  3. summarize ideas, and
  4. come to a reasonable conclusion.

Evaluative Questions
Find instructions from an objective identified by your Big Ideas work and answer these questions.

  1. Do the directions require the teacher to (check the one that applies)
    • Model the skill/strategy? (Demonstrate before asking students to apply the strategy.)
    • Explain the skill/strategy? (Describe.)
    • Reference/note the skill/strategy?
  2. Is the instruction sufficiently conspicuous to enable the full range of learners to demonstrate/perform the skill?
  3. Are the directions clear and sufficient for you to know how to teach the skill?
  4. Is the strategy useful, and will it lead to efficient/generalizable learning for the full range of learning?
  5. Does the lesson apply the strategy to many examples of the target skill(objective)? Based on your analysis, identify the modifications necessary to accommodate the full range of learners:
    • Change or add a strategy.
    • Modify language/teaching to make more explicit.
    • Add examples to which the strategy applies.

*Excerpted from Toward Successful Inclusion of Students with Disabilities: The Architecture of Instruction by Edward J. Kameenui, and Deborah Simmons(1999).

Return to Design Principles.

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