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  • Writer's pictureEric Young

General Principles that Can Guide Instruction

Teaching is an art.

Whether you have been teaching for 30 years or a few months, it can be difficult to discover and apply the most suitable instructional strategies.

As a teacher, there is no single solution for effective teaching because every student is different. However, there are several general principles that can help boost the learning outcomes of your students.

1. Backward Design

Effective teachers often base their lesson plan off of what they want their students to achieve by the end of the lesson. By implementing multiple strategies, such as graphic displays, short clips, and small-group activities, they can achieve their respective goals.

2. Scaffolding

Scaffolding is a teaching method that allows a student to carry out tasks with the gradual removal of outside assistance. With new and challenging tasks, students typically need structure and assistance in order to successfully complete their assignments. By initially providing clear directions and suggestions to help students better understand how they need to address a new task and slowly removing assistance as they become more adept at the particular task, students are able to eventually take full control over a task. As shown below, effective teachers find a good balance of scaffolding to help their students achieve development and engagement.

3. Authentic Activities

Effective teachers help students acquire skills that can be readily applied in the real world. They do so by applying authentic activities, or tasks that students will likely encounter similarly in the outside world, throughout their lessons. For instance, assigning computer science students to create a website would be an authentic activity because they are likely to complete a similar task in their future careers.

4. Differentiated Instruction

Effective teachers take the diversity of students into account. While they don't over-generalize based on group stereotypes (eg. race, economic status, disabilities), they try to tailor instruction to individual students (based on their needs).

5. Formative Assessment

Effective teachers regularly assess and provide feedback to their students to allow them to reflect on their learning and improve accordingly. Formative assessment also helps teachers understand how they need to adjust their teaching based on the strengths and weaknesses of their classes.

All in all, being an effective teacher is a challenge since every student is unique. Hopefully these general guidelines can help you become one!


Ormrod, J. E., Anderman, E. M., & Anderman, L. H. (2019). Educational psychology: developing learners. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson.

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