As teachers, our mission is to equip and inspire students to become lifelong learners. Traditional methods of instruction which emphasize rote learning and memorization may help some students achieve high test scores. However, this approach won’t help students develop lifelong learning skills. By using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework in your classroom this year, you can truly empower students to learn independently.
What is the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework?
The Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework supports student-directed independent learning through three primary stages:
- The teacher models a skill and takes full responsibility for teaching about a curriculum unit.
- The teacher and students share the responsibility for directing the learning process.
- Students work independently to practice skills and master the learning unit.
How do you implement the core components of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework?
In The Formative Assessment Action Plan, Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher break down the implementation process into four steps:
“I Do It” — Direct Instruction
The teacher sets goals for the learning unit, clearly expressing expectations for the concepts and skills students should learn by the end of the unit.
At this stage, let students know the purpose behind the lesson plan by demonstrating the direct connection to their lives and/or the world around them. Model, the skills students should practice during this unit so they can experience what it looks like to successfully complete this lesson plan. Ask for feedback from students, so they have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions.
“We Do It” — Guided Instruction
The teacher leads interactive, engaging activities to lead students through the lesson plan.
Offer encouragement, affirmation, clues, correction, and other needed support as students work together or in small groups. ASCD recommends grouping students “based on instructional needs” so you can most effectively serve all your students.
“You Do It Together” — Collaborative Learning
Students work together to lead learning activities and accomplish goals. Give students plenty of opportunities to lead and support one another before offering clarification of any confusing instructions or details.
“You Do It Independently — Independent Practice
Students work independently to complete assignments, and the teacher provides individual feedback.
What does the classroom structure, schedule, and instruction look like when implementing the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework?
The Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework looks different with every learning unit and classroom because you can make instructional decisions based on your students’ needs. For example, you can decide:
- Which order to include each stage of the framework — Maybe your current lesson plan would work best starting with independent practice and ending with collaborative learning.
- The composition of small groups — Some guided instruction and collaborative learning may work best in pairs, while other activities may require larger student groups. Depending on the lesson plan, you may want to group students to guarantee diversity, to ensure similar levels of prior knowledge about the topic, or to meet other criteria.
On the other hand, the framework also comes with requirements which must be met during every learning unit. For example:
- All four stages must be present at some point during the unit.
- Students must clearly understand learning goals and assignment expectations.
- Students must clearly understand why they are learning about the subject at hand and how the academic topic directly relates to real life.
- Students must see the teacher model “examples of the thinking and language required to be successful.”
- Teachers must use a variety of cues and clues to help students practice critical thinking skills as they master the concepts that are being taught.
- Before teachers assign scores to student work, the students must have enough time to practice the new skills they have learned.
Why is the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework vital for providing an equitable education to all students?
The requirements listed above for implementing the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework demonstrate how this approach provides support for all students to complete each lesson successfully. Even if some students enter the classroom at a disadvantage because they don’t have any prior knowledge about the academic concept, they have the opportunity to see the teacher model successful completion of the stated goals. The scaffolding and responsive elements of the framework allow students to build new layers of understanding through each lesson gradually.
Additionally, this approach helps teachers foster a spirit of curiosity and high motivation to succeed by:
- Helping students understand practical applications and strategies that are embedded within each lesson
- Encouraging students to work collaboratively to ask and answer questions about the material
- Providing plenty of opportunities to practice new skills
- Communicating their confidence that students can solve problems and achieve success through independent learning opportunities
The Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework benefits teachers too! When students are grouped based on the level of ability and/or prior knowledge, they can work together to find answers and understand new concepts. Teachers can then give more individualized attention to groups which need additional prompts or clarification on specific parts of the curriculum.
CSAS offers instruction and support to implement the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework and other evidence-based best practices in your school. Schedule a free consultation call with us now to learn how we can create transformation at your school.