William and Mary School of Education

Next Steps for Creating Meaningful Learning Experiences

By Denyse Doerries, Ph.D.


By this time in the school year teachers have a more complete, in-depth picture of what their students know and what they can do with that knowledge. This brings an acute awareness of learners’ differences and may lead teachers to ask, “what next?”

In his book, Visible Learning, John Hattie (2009) suggests that in order to move students to the next steps of learning, teachers must match student needs with learning experiences. To accomplish this, teachers must know how their students think and what they know and then use this information to create meaningful experiences to advance students’ learning. Hattie (2009) recommends that teachers look for evidence of learning, or lack thereof, and intervene with meaningful targeted instruction. Discovering what your students know and how they think is an important component of designing and selecting effective instructional strategies. Teachers need a rich arsenal of teaching strategies to be able to provide multiple opportunities and flexible alternatives to help students learn (Hattie, 2009).

The articles in this issue of T/TAC Link Lines present strategies to help teachers find out what students know and are learning, and suggestions for matching this knowledge with effective instructional interventions. In diverse classrooms, it takes multiple perspectives, including the students’, to obtain the information needed to create effective learning experiences.

The article “The Planning Meeting Process: An excerpt from the Considerations Packet, Co-Planning for Student Success” on collaborative planning, or co-planning, is about teachers coming together to plan for instruction in diverse classrooms, including students with disabilities. It supports co-teachers by outlining a process for creating a shared perspective around student needs in order to plan effective instruction. Having multiple perspectives on student learning helps to make the instructional match.

The two-part series “Standards-Based IEP Goal Writing: Instructional Strategy Selection” and "Writing Standards-Based IEP Goals" provides examples of seven critical questions teachers can employ in writing the PLoP, setting goals, and selecting appropriate reading strategies to reach the goals. The process requires thoughtful consideration of intersecting factors that will lead to sound decisions and, ultimately, to effective instruction.

The article “Teaching and Learning: Selecting the Right Math Strategy” employs questions to create the appropriate instructional match to foster students’ progress in math. This article illustrates how a student’s incorrect response to a math problem can be used to discover what the student knows and can do with what she knows.

A student’s perspective is provided in “Students Voices: Zack’s Story”. Understanding how students’ think and perceive their learning environment is pivotal to student success. Zack, a student with Asperger’s Syndrome, discusses what he would like teachers to know about how he processed information and how that knowledge can help educators assist students like him.  A link to another ‘student’s story’ is provided to enhance this section on ‘student stories’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/us/autistic-and-seeking-a-place-in-an-adult-world.html).

Additional resources to enhance teachers’ instructional strategies may be found in the following two articles, “Featured Applications: Reading Applications Across the Components of Reading” and “Assistive Technology that Supports Students with Disabilities in the Least Restrictive Environment,”  which highlight the use of technology to enhance learning experiences in general education classrooms. Both articles provide inexpensive, easily-accessed technologies that can be employed in reading, writing, and study skills.

Teachers who are willing to search for information from students about their learning needs will find that asking the right questions can provide the feedback necessary to make the best learning match (Hattie, 2009). You may be astounded by your students’ responses! Be prepared to be surprised!


Hattie, J., (2009). Visible learning. London and New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.