General Teaching Model and planning


The purpose of this article is to describe a general teaching model and how educators can use it to make decisions to inform their planning and instruction to facilitate learning. The understanding of general model can provide a foundation to use more specific models or syntaxes for more focused instructional purposes.


Miles and Robinson define a general teaching model as a procedure to guide the design, implementation, evaluation, and improvement of instruction, which is applicable to all levels of education, all subject matter, and for any length of instructional time (Miles, David T. And Roger E. Robinson, 1969).


A general teaching model is a generic procedure to suggest helpful information to guide the decisions professional educators make to order instructional steps and select specific strategies to plan instruction and facilitate learning, teach. The focus here is to provide an overview of a general model and how it can be used. Additional information on planning and teaching.

When teachers plan and implement instruction, or facilitate learning, they are making decisions in many different areas. For this article six broad areas are used to show how they can be used with a general teaching model. The areas are:

  1. What is to be learned or taught: topics, concepts, objectives, goals, and outcomes.
  2. What level of understanding at which to begin.
  3. Quality classroom atmosphere. How to describe a positive classroom atmosphere conducive to facilitate learning the content. Creations of social emotional systems, principles of reactions of participants communication, the support systems available, and the effects they have on nurturing student actions in and beyond the intended topics (such as social emotional learning) and the effects they have on instruction with their implementation.
  4. What, when, and how to assess and evaluate students.
  5. General teaching model (syntax) to facilitate learning. Procedure or steps to facilitate understanding of the desired learnings (instructional methodology),
  6. How to assess and evaluate instructional progress and teaching success.

While these areas are numbered for the presentation of this information a plan does not have to be created in any specific order. It is possible to start with ideas in any of the areas and proceed in any order with the goal being to create an activity or lesson plan that uses a general teaching model to guide instructional decisions.

The first four areas are discussed, then an explanation of a general teaching model syntax, and last assessment of instructional progress and success.

1. What is to be learned or taught

It probably seems obvious that a topic of learning should be decided so the detail of an instructional model can be selected to achieve the desired outcomes so we start by reflecting on:

  1. The topic and or subjects and depth of their content.
  2. Necessary information for the selected topic that should be included to achieve appropriate outcomes.

While these decisions are sometimes decided at levels above the classroom level (national, state, local) it is important each teacher unpack the topic sufficiently to know what students are to attain, what kind of model to select and syntax is appropriate to design a plan comprehensive enough to facilitate the degree of learning desired.

Planning information includes: intended learnings for the topic in the form of facts, concepts, generalizations, big ideas, habits of mind, attitudes, and relationships, objectives, indicators, outcomes. In other word, ways to describe what is to be learned, taught, or facilitated.

Therefore, what is to be learned or taught includes content information necessary for teachers to know and use to facilitate student's learning. Information used to help learners construct understanding, imagine how the information might be represented internally, how it might be constructed, remembered, and accessed later, and what it looks like when students demonstrate understanding. A demonstration of learning used to infer what students remember and the depth of their understanding. External behaviors which are stated as indicators, outcomes, skills, and objectives, used for assessment and evaluation.

Examples to unpack and describe information to be learned:

If the learners or students are to select the topic and scope of learning for that topic, then a step with a process must be included in the syntax of the instructional model for students to select a topic and procedural details that include how students, with different degrees of teacher guidance, will establish a topic, related content, and depth of the content.

When topics and intended learnings are predetermined, then there is no need for steps in the model's syntax for instructional procedures for making those decisions. However, since students might not have a strong personal commitment for a topic that is not of their choice, then consideration for how students might be motivated to accept the topic and its content as important and necessary to learn should be included.

As educators inquire and reflect on these selections their personal philosophies and experiences will guide and influence their choices. Choices based on their belief on what is important to know, limited by their knowledge of the relevant topic and content related areas, their pedagogical knowledge to facilitate learning, their understanding of child and adolescent learning and development, what they know about their current students, what they know about the community and the world, and the resources available to them.

Educators need to be aware of this and how it might influence their views for the topic and the unpacked content. Additionally the five areas identified in this article are selected as important areas to consider as to how they inform decisions made when planning and instructing.

2. A level of understanding at which to begin

When a topic is unpacked and information for students to learn is described and defined, then the unpacked topic information is compared to students background information and their developmental levels to decide an appropriate level for all students to begin their learn of the topic. This information should inform the beginning of of the model and the progression of instructional procedure. The initial level of understanding and the expected outcomes should be used to create scoring guides or rubrics or to verify congruence with planning, instruction, assessment, and outcomes as defined in the scoring guides or rubrics.

3. Quality classroom atmosphere.

A positive classroom atmosphere is necessary to facilitate learning the content. However, content learning is not the only learning that can happen and will happen when students learn. Therefore, teaching models should incorporate ways to create positive social emotional systems, enhance communication and conflict resolution, provide support systems to nurture student goal oriented actions to learn the intended topics and to learn in other areas as appropriate to achieve a love of learning and life long learners.

The quality of the classroom atmosphere is created by the kinds of interactions resulting from decisions in these areas. Decisions being based on our educational philosophies proceduralized through the implementation of a model of teaching.

Success not only for learning the content, but learning how to participate in the practices of creating knowledge by using processes to create knowledge and the dispositions and habits of mind used to be successful in understanding different subjects and their perspective for providing explanations about the world. As well as being able to use critical thinking to make decisions and creatively solve problems to create a better world where we care for each other and the well being of the Earth.

We can do this by using a comprehensively described teaching model to improve our depth of thinking about the decisions we make to plan, and facilitating learning. Thinking about the organization of content and how to sequence it for better understanding is important, but more important may be how to make classroom social systems more democratic, principles of communication more encouraging, cooperative, collaborative, and the positive effects these can have on productive instruction and nurturing students in humanistic ways. Resulting in more learning with long term student success for content and beyond as describe in our philosophies and goals for education.

4. How, when, and what to assess and evaluate for students

After the topic is selected and unpacked, information for the topic is analyzed, organized, and described so teachers know different ways information can be described to meet specific student learning needs. Knowing this information they select an instructional model or syntax and describe procedures, steps, and strategies to facilitate learning. Embedded in the syntax steps are procedures and strategies for assessment from which evaluations can be made to inform student's and the teacher's decision making. Each of the four ways to think about assessment (diagnostic, formative, summative, and generative) need to be included in the syntax.

While it's possible any assessment task, activity, or questions might fit in all four categories, there are good reasons to consider how differently assessment might be incorporated in each step of an instructional model.

More on assessment.

5. Syntax or steps to take to facilitate understanding (instruction)

An instructional model or syntax is used to guide planning and instruction to make better decisions and better student achievement.

While there are numerous teaching models (Nondirective, inductive, inquiry, partners in learning, mastery, direct, cooperative, learning cycle, picture word inductive model, PWIM, and reciprocal teaching) a generic model is presented here to describe a minimal set of steps and conditions to facilitating student learning. Information that should and could be included in any model or syntax.

Syntax for a general model

Lets relate the different areas to a simple syntax of a beginning, middle, and end.

  1. Beginning
    (Consider how all interactions affect the quality of the classroom atmosphere)
    1. Provide a focus on the topic by using information from planning what is to be learned or taught.
    2. Diagnostic assessment. Use a pretest, or other activity to probe student's understanding of the topic as specified in planning the topic and start collecting assessment information to use to make a decision on levels for beginning instruction that matches student's abilities. Level of understanding to begin. How, when, and what to assess and evaluate.
    3. Use information from what is to be learned or taught, How, when, and what to assess and evaluate, and A level of understanding at which to begin to assess what students understand and verify the accuracy of a planned level of understanding at which to begin for each student.
  2. Middle
    (Consider how all interactions affect the quality of the classroom atmosphere)
    1. Focus students attention on what they know and set goals to decide for greater understanding about the topic while they study it using information from planning How, when, and what to assess and evaluate
    2. Use information from a variety of models or strategies to decide what might be successful to provide a sequence of opportunities for students to construct their learning for the topic and how to include appropriate support (scaffolding, optimal mismatch, formative assessment, ) from a procedure, syntax, or steps to take to facilitate understanding of the desired learnings (instruction), to facilitate all aspects desired for the topic.
  3. End
    (Consider how all interactions affect the quality of the classroom atmosphere)
    1. Continually decide How, when, and what to evaluate with the purpose of students having the ability to take their learning and apply it in the world outside the classroom and the self-efficacy to do so successfully.
    2. Implement the ending of a procedure, syntax, or steps to take to facilitate understanding of the desired learnings (instruction), with the purpose of not only assuring students have the ability to take their learning and apply it in the world outside the classroom and the self-efficacy to do so successfully, but are aware of what the practices and processes of the discipline they used for their learning is and they can be used for topics with similar perspectives. They should also review the attitudes, values, and habits of mind are associated with the success they had and how they will benefit them in future situations.

Some may believe a list of steps is the totality of a teaching model or syntax. However, if a syntax or teaching model only includes procedural information and activities, then the information described in all areas discussed may not contribute to the decision making.

Information that may be missing can include:

6. How to assess and evaluate teaching

Outstanding teachers are continuously reflecting on their actions and how they facilitate learning. Educators reflect on how well they plan and instruct periodically and use that information to adjust the decisions they make. They do so before, during and after interacting with students. Different questions and instruments can be used to check the comprehensiveness of this reflection.


Select a set of ideas. Use the ideas to analyze the effects each will have on nurturing student actions in and beyond the intended topics and the effects they have on instruction with the teaching model.

For instance. Assume the following ideas are selected:

The content

The social systems

The communication and reaction participants

The support systems available for learning

Then for each of these reflect and analyze the effects the plan and instruction (with respect to the teaching model or syntax) have on nurturing student learnings in and beyond the intended topics..

Bringing it all together

Documents can be created to communicate this process include: Planning maps created for topics, a syntax or procedure for steps to implement a learning plan, and reflection notes about the process.

Let's review some key points:

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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