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Frequently Asked Questions

How should instructional strategies be chosen?

Classroom teachers know their students and generally can tell which strategies are promising. The teacher should first determine the need(s) to be addressed (ex., word decoding, comprehension of expository text, writing a business letter) and look for a strategy, or set of strategies found to be effective with students similar to those in their classroom.

Teachers should review the methods of individual strategies to see if they are comfortable implementing them. Some strategies are embedded in an approach or system that includes several strategies. Examples of these include Collaborative Strategic Reading (Klingner & Vaughn, 1998) and Strategic Instruction Model (Deshler et al., 2001). Teachers should consider the potential advantages of employing a set of strategies that have been designed to work together, rather than using a number of independent strategies.

Will teachers need additional training to implement new instructional strategies?

If the methods are unfamiliar or complex, teachers should explore ways to get more information and support. Some questions they may want to ask include:

  • Are training sessions available nearby?
  • Is there a teacher in the area using the strategy who would be willing to offer advice and answer questions?
  • Is there a resource on the Internet where teachers can submit questions, or engage in a dialogue with others who use the strategy?

Many times, the availability of support from experienced practitioners proves to be the key to success.

What factors determine whether an instructional strategy will work for a particular student?

No single strategy will work with every student. While many strategies work well with a wide range of students, some do not work as well as others with students who have learning disabilities. For example, a study by Mastropieri, Scruggs, and Butcher (1997) found that an inquiry learning task, in which students were expected to employ inductive thinking, was relatively ineffective for students with learning disabilities, and not at all effective for students with mild mental retardation.

Robert Marzano and his colleagues at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) developed a manual for educators (Marzano, Gaddy, and Dean, 2000) that builds on over 100 studies. This manual provides educators with information about strategies that have the greatest likelihood of enhancing student learning. They state,

The effectiveness of a strategy depends in part on the current achievement level of a student, in part on the skill and thoughtfulness with which a teacher applies the strategy, and in part on contextual factors such as grade level and class size. Instructional strategies are only tools…they should not be expected to work equally well in all situations, or with all students. (p. 5)

What types of instructional strategies work best for students in general?

Research has demonstrated the value of several broad types of instructional strategies. An analysis of a large number of studies done over a period of several years found some common themes and identified nine types of teaching strategies that have been shown to be effective in multiple studies. (Marzano et al, 2000). These strategies include:

  1. Identifying similarities and differences
  2. Summarizing and note taking
  3. Reinforcing effects and providing recognition
  4. Homework and practice
  5. Nonlinguistic representations
  6. Cooperative learning
  7. Setting goals and providing feedback
  8. Generating and testing hypotheses
  9. Activating prior knowledge

How can strategies be modified to improve their effectiveness with students with disabilities?

A meta-analysis of intervention research by Swanson, Hoskyn, and Lee (1999) identified three factors associated with improved instructional outcomes for students with learning disabilities, regardless of the instructional model used or the content of the instruction. These include: (1) control of task difficulty; (2) use of small, interactive group instruction (six students or less); and (3) use of direct response questioning that helps students put their thoughts into words by “thinking aloud.”


The following sources were cited in this Frequently Asked Questions. For additional research and resources, see our links to other pages on this topic below.

Deshler, D. D., Schumaker, J. B., Lenz, K. B., Bulgren, J. A., Hock, M. F., Knight, J., & Ehren, B. J. (2001). Ensuring content-area learning by secondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16(2), 96-108.

Gersten, R., Baker, S., & Edwards, L. (1999). Teaching expressive writing to students with learning disabilities. (ERIC/OSEP Digest No. E590). Reston, VA: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED 439532) Retrieved from

Klingner, J. K., & Vaughn, S. (1998). Using Collaborative Strategic Reading. Teaching Exceptional Children, 30(6), 32-37. Retrieved from

Marzano, R. J., Gaddy, B. B., & Dean, C. (2000). What works in classroom instruction. Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. Retrieved from

Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T. E., & Butcher, K. (1997). How effective is inquiry learning for students with mild disabilities? The Journal of Special Education 31(2), 199-211.

Swanson, H.L., Hoskyn, M., & Lee, C. (1999). Interventions for students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis of treatment outcomes. Guilford: New York.

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