Curriculum Planning · Teaching Strategies

Organizing Instruction

One of the schools I worked at liked to do surprise walk-thru’s that linked our evaluations to Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels (more on DOK levels in another post). Evaluators wanted to see higher DOK levels, teachers were getting frustrated because not everyday can be a DOK 3/4 day so what do you do when your evaluator surprises you on and DOK 1 day!! In other words- the nitty gritty days of lectures, note-taking and basic memorization tasks are essential/vital part of learning. As teachers we know that you cannot reach higher level learning and deeper thinking without first memorizing the basics. Fortunately, with time the expectations became more realistic and clear. As long as you reach that higher level of learning and thinking- it was understood that “lower level” learning has to happen first.

In 2007 the Institute for Education Sciences put out a manual titled Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Learning. The guide provides 7 evidence based strategies that facilitate learning by organizing around a central principle of memory. Memorization is the most basic tenet of learning and without it deeper understanding of skills and concepts cannot be achieved.The authors of this guide ranged from Teacher of the Year professionals to psychology and education professors; research was ranked as showing strong, moderate or low level evidence; any conflicts of interest were disclosed. 

In order to reach deeper levels of learning, the teaching and organization of curriculum needs to be designed to facilitate student memorization- so that they can learn the information, apply it and jump to deeper learning tasks.

The next few weeks I’ll look at each strategy- give a quick synopsis and provide some resources and/or implementation tips. 


The 7 Strategies:

Recommendation 1: Space Learning over time

Recommendation 2: Interleave worked example solutions and problem-solving exercises.

Recommendation 3: Combine graphics with verbal descriptions.

Recommendation 4: Connect and integrate abstract and concrete representations of concepts.

Recommendation 5: Use quizzing to promote learning.

Recommendation 6: Help students allocate study time efficiently.

Recommendation 7: Ask deep explanatory questions.


One big obstacle in regards to memorization is when students have executive functioning disorders or other memory processing impediments. I plan on addressing these issues (and more) and effective strategies in future posts.  


Link to Practice Guide:


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