Latest research on instruction

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley February 15th, 2024 · 2min read

The evidence

The evidence this week is from the book, The new classroom instruction that works (Goodwin et., al.) I recommend the book as it summarises the latest, high-quality research into effective instruction. I’ll focus on research into student goal setting.

Key points

Learning requires sustained mental energy, known as effortful thinking.

  • Achieving a goal feels good and creates a positive addiction.
  • Setting and achieving goals makes learning more rewarding. Achieving a goal, even as small as ticking a correct answer, delivers a dopamine reward.
  • Students are more likely to pursue goals they find meaningful and achievable.
  • It is important to teach students, often directly, the link between effort and success.
  • Two useful ideas are learned helplessness or learned optimism. Schools can teach optimism by:
    • engaging students in goal setting and monitoring their progress
    • explicitly teaching goal setting and why it matters.
    • ensuring goals and learning objectives are specific.
    • helping students monitor their progress towards goals.

Read a useful summary of the book.

What you can do:

  • Explicitly teach goal setting to your staff and give them the opportunity to set goals (ideally with a coach or manager).
  • Provide time to teach goal setting to your students.
  • Allow time for students to meet (one-on-one) with a tutor to discuss their goals for the year.
  • Ask students to record their goals and return to them each term.


I’ve also included some useful questions we use to begin goal-setting conversations with colleagues:

  • In the last six months, what has changed the most in your life?
  • Tell me about your role in the school.
  • What did you do before that? How did you get into teaching?
  • What do you enjoy most about your role?
  • Clarifying statements, ‘so it’s ________’, ‘you think _______ is important’, ‘you really value ______ in your teaching.’
  • So, thinking about this year, what are some things you are focussing on professionally?
  • Clarifying statements, ‘what I’m hearing is’, ‘so, you really want ____________.’ ‘It’s important to you that _________’
  • If you imagine yourself at the end of the year, what are some things you’d like to say you have achieved?


Happy coaching,


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