The Strategic Instruction Model - Helping All Students Succeed

by Sue Land, M.Ed.

Teachers are faced with a multitude of challenges as they plan for day-to-day instruction. One challenge is responding to the increased emphasis on the results of high-stakes testing related to the Standards of Learning (SOL) and the No Child Left Behind legislation. Thus, in addition to incorporating SOL objectives into their daily lessons and delivering instruction, teachers must prepare students to be successful on assessments. Another challenge is the increasing numbers of students with learning and attention difficulties who struggle to grasp new concepts and retain information (Fulk, 2000). In addition, students with disabilities are being included in general education classrooms, and these students must be given real access to the curriculum (Schumaker, Deshler, & McKnight, 2002). Therefore, general and special educators must collaborate regularly to plan instruction for these diverse classrooms. Finding the time to collaborate often proves to be a major obstacle.

Low-achieving students struggle with complex curricular and setting demands. These students have difficulty gaining information from poorly organized textbooks, many of which are written at the 11th-grade reading level (Schumaker et al., 2002). Specifically, they struggle with course content because much of it lacks relevance to their lives, and they do not have the prerequisite background knowledge and understanding of difficult concepts (Lenz, Bulgren, Kissam, & Taymans, 2004). Moreover, their learning deficits often include below-grade-level achievement in reading, writing, and math, lack of prior knowledge, lack of personal learning strategies to aid in accessing the content, poor note-taking skills, poor discrimination between main ideas and details, and poor generalization of skills across settings (Schmidt, Deshler, Schumaker, & Alley, 1989).

Many secondary teachers fail to incorporate effective teaching methods (e.g., active learning strategies, use of graphic organizers) within their lectures. These teachers often feel that their job is to teach the content and the students' job is to acquire and remember that content. In fact, these teachers may lack the technical teaching skills required to facilitate learning for students with diverse learning needs.

For 25 years, the staff at The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning (CRL) has conducted research designed to develop ways to help students meet the demands of secondary classrooms. They have developed an instructional model for at-risk secondary students including students with disabilities. In this Strategic Instruction Model (SIM)

... special education teachers and general education teachers maintain different roles as they work cooperatively to improve the performance of low-achieving students in general education classes. The special education teacher's major role is that of the "learning specialist," one who teaches students how to learn and how to succeed in response to academic demands in general education classes. In turn, the major role of the general education teachers is to deliver content to the students in such a way that they can understand and remember it. The partnership between the two teachers comes through their communication about: (a) the demands related to succeeding in general education classes, (b) the skills needed by particular students, (c) students' progress, and (d) techniques that can be used to help at-risk students within general education classes. (Schumaker et al., 2002, p. 794)

CRL has developed two kinds of interventions within the SIM model to address the needs of at-risk students, including students with disabilities.

  1. Teacher-focused interventions are directed at how teachers think about, adapt, and present their critical content in a learner-friendly fashion. Content Enhancement Routines are sets of inclusive teaching practices that help teachers carefully organize and present critical information in such a way that students identify, organize, comprehend, and recall it.

  2. Student-focused interventions are designed to provide students with the skills and strategies they need to learn the content. The Learning Strategies Curriculum encompasses strategies for acquiring information from the printed word, strategies for organizing and memorizing information, strategies for solving math problems, and strategies for expressing information in writing, including tests (The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, 2004, Two kinds of interventions section, ¶1).

Content Enhancement Routines are planning and teaching tools that require teachers to think deeply and critically about their content. Various routines are used in planning and leading learning, explaining text, teaching concepts, and increasing performance. These routines have been successfully field-tested in diverse middle and secondary general education classrooms that include students with disabilities. The teachers have used the routines over time and have taught them using a standard set of instructional procedures. Teachers typically use these routines in general education settings or to plan instruction with a special educator.

Learning Strategies are tools that students use to access and interact successfully with subject content. Various strategies help students read, write, think, demonstrate competence, interact socially, and build community. These strategies have been field-tested with students with learning disabilities in public school settings at the middle and high school levels. Like the Content Enhancement Routines, the strategies are taught using a standard set of instructional procedures. Learning strategies may be taught within the general education classroom by a general or special educator. In addition, students with disabilities may receive instruction in a learning strategy from a special educator in a small group setting.

The components of SIM, Content Enhancement Routines and Learning Strategies, give teachers access to a breadth and depth of instructional procedures to address many of the challenges that characterize today's diverse classrooms. To learn more about SIM and Content Enhancement Routines and Learning Strategies, plan to attend the T/TAC W&M Fifth Annual Colonial Institute, "Pace"-ing Beyond AYP: Promoting Achievement Through Content Enhancement, on June 24-25, 2004.


Fulk, B. (2000). Twenty ways to make instruction more memorable. Intervention in School and Clinic, 35(3), 183-184.

Lenz, B. K., Bulgren, J. A., Kissam, B. R., & Taymans, J. (2004). SMARTER planning for academic diversity. In B. K. Lenz, D. D. Deshler with B. R. Kissam (Eds.), Teaching content to all: Evidence-based inclusive practices in middle and secondary schools (pp. 47-77). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Schmidt, J.L., Deshler, D. D., Schumaker, J. B., & Alley, G. R. (1989). Effects of generalization instruction on the written language performance of adolescents with learning disabilities in the mainstream classroom. Reading, Writing, & Learning Disabilities, 4(4), 291-309.

Schumaker, J. B., Deshler, D. D., & McKnight, P. (2002). Ensuring success in the secondary general education curriculum through the use of teaching routines. In M. A. Shinn, H. M. Walker, & G. Stoner (Eds.), Interventions for academic and behavior problems II: Prevention and remedial approaches (pp. 791-823). Bethesda, MD: NASP Publications.

The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. Strategic instruction model. Retrieved February 17, 2004, from

Date: May/June 2004