8. Improving student learning

During my last learning meeting at school, my principal provided an article that I found very interesting. The article discussed the relationship between the knowledge I have of the content, the student engagement and how I challenge students academically. City, Elmore, Fiarman, and Teitel (2009) explained the Instructional Core as the complex relationships among three components: teachers’ knowledge and skill, students’ engagement in their own learning, and academically challenging content. From my perspective, the instructional core helps the instructional leader identify where the school is trying to improve so that there is a high impact on student achievement.

   The first element in this relationship, the teacher, refers to what the teacher does in the classroom, which depends on the level of skill and knowledge that the teacher brings to teaching the content. I see the teacher’s role as that of a decision maker. Knowing the students in the classroom, the teacher makes instructional decisions that positively impact students learning process. The second element, the student, has to do with students knowing what they are doing and why they are doing a given task in the classroom. From my perspective, students need to perceive the value in the tasks they are being asked to do so that the learning becomes meaningful to them. The third element, the content, refers to level and the complexity of the content that students are asked to learn. Teachers need to pay close attention to how concepts are presented and the tasks students are asked to complete in regards to the difficulty of content, and level of challenge.  The goal is to provide students tasks that are challenging, but attainable so that they are in a continuous learning process. 

   Elmore (2010) developed the instructional core model to provide instructional leaders with a framework on how to “intervene in the instructional process in order to improve the quality and level of student learning.” (Elmore, 2010, p. 4). Such a model is guided by seven principles that Elmore developed in order to improve student learning.

  1. According to Elmore (2010), increases in student learning occur as a consequence of improvements in the level of content, teachers’ knowledge and skill, and student engagement.
  2. Elmore (2010) argues that if one of the elements in such a complex relationship is changed, the other elements need to be addressed too. Therefore, if a campus principal works on improving the skills and knowledge of a teacher, the instructional leader needs to simultaneously work on the level of engagement of students and the rigor of the content being taught. 
  3. The instructional core defines places for instructional improvement, which need to be observable. According to Elmore (2010), the relationship between teachers, students and content helps instructional leaders predict how student learning will be expected over time. 
  4. According to Elmore (2010), students must know what they are expected to do, and more importantly how they are supposed to do a task. This involves knowing the what knowledge and skills they need to learn while working on the academic task. 
  5. Stakeholders such as teachers and instructional leaders should work collaboratively in order to define what the academic task, instructional practice and students’ outcomes look like so that there is a positive impact on student learning school-wide.
  6. Elmore (2010) states that “we learn how to do the work by doing the work.” (p. 4). Instructional leaders need to design a system in which teachers and leaders work collaboratively in improving student learning, which will lead to building a culture of teaching and learning amongst stakeholders.
  7. Elmore (2010) urges instructional leaders to develop a “common culture of instruction.” (p 5).  He claims that supervisors should create a culture of instructional practice in which they should act as if they do not know in order to learn what they need to know. The goal is for instructional leaders to analyze, predict and fairly evaluate instructional practices. 

   The implementation of the seven principles imply an understanding of the main elements that are necessary to improve student learning. As an educator who likes to reflect upon my own teaching/learning, I know that students and teachers bring knowledge, values and beliefs that play an important role in increasing student performance. Therefore, instructional leaders need to actively engage in the work that will impact student learning.


City, E., Elmore, R., Fiarman, S., & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Retrived from http://www.macombfsi.net/uploads/ 1/5/4/4/1544586/instructional_rounds_-_principles.pdf

Elmore, R. (2010). Leading the instructional core. In Conversation. 11(3), p. 1-12. Retrieved from  http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/summer2010.pdf

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