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Ed Update: 5 Characteristics of Effective Instruction in U.S. History Back to Blog Articles

  • Posted on Jan 27, 2012

Over the course of this school year, teachers at Woodward Academy have focused on what the Iowa Department of Education calls the 5 Characteristics of Effective Instruction.  The Department of Ed often shortens it to “what good teaching looks like.” During professional development opportunities, teachers analyze their upcoming lesson plans and assess them on these characteristics. They are as follows:

1) Teaching for Understanding
2) Assessment for Learning (Formative Assessment)
3) Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum
4) Teaching for Learner Differences
5) Student Centered Classroom

Read more after the break to see how Jeremy Hilbert’s United States History class goes beyond the textbook and engages students on a daily basis.

On this particular day, they were looking at the cultural differences in the North and South prior to the American Civil War.  Any well organized history course would cover this topic, but Hilbert’s class is a good example of how students can be engaged in higher order thinking activities, regardless of the topic.


The Iowa Core Curriculum has identified that a student should be able to “understand societal patterns for transmitting and preserving culture” which is exactly what this topic is centered around.  In groups, they determined the differences and shared their responses with the class.

It is common in Hilbert’s classroom to ask “what if” questions and for students to defend their answers.  This is a considerable difference than asking students to read a textbook and answer questions on a worksheet, or to have the memorization of dates be the focal point of a lesson.  Students here look at “why” things happened and contemplate what the world would look like if they did not.  That type of thinking can be applied outside of the classroom and is a valuable skill to possess.  Another positive observation in Hilbert’s class is that all of his students are engage in whatever activity they are working on.

We showcase this classroom moment to help show the consistent and ongoing efforts to provide WA students with the best possible education. We plan to tell you about more of them in the future.

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