Evidence Based Teaching Strategies: The Future Of K-12 Learning

Sep 09, 2021

For decades, researchers have refined their ideas on student engagement. Teachers who are familiar with this history can identify opportunities to make their work resonate with students.

Research has shown that engagement is linked to academic success and a reduction in antisocial behavior and substance abuse. In addition, teachers are blessed with evidence-based strategies that can help them assess and improve student engagement. We will be sharing a few evidence-based strategies to boost student engagement and success here, but do you know what evidence-based learning is?

What is Evidence-based Learning?

Learning is a lifelong process. Therefore, individuals and organizations both care about evidence that supports learning. Evidence-based learning refers to a set of methods, processes, and strategies that have been empirically proven to produce learning outcomes. This definition includes "evidence of occurred learning, " which assumes that learning is quantifiable.

For this definition, learning is the effort students put in to fulfill the requirements for their enrollment at a formal educational institution. Graduation from such institutions will be the formal end-point. In this Context, students are learners.

Teachers, educators, and instructors are professionals who help students learn. Therefore, learning outcomes, such as professional dispositions, knowledge, and skills, result from learning.

1) Understanding by Design® (UbD®)

Understanding by Design is an evidence-based learning strategy. This has been proven to be very successful for K-12 leaders across different countries like Australia, New Zealand & USA.. [SK1] K-12 leaders should consider this strategy as they search for the right strategy for Evidence-based practices to combat learning loss among their students

UbD's goal is to cultivate a deeper understanding. These concepts are not meant to replace the Development of foundational skills and basic content knowledge. The designing curriculum is the second aspect of UbD. This will allow for deeper learning. UbD A three-stage reverse design process is proposed. This begins with the end goal in mind.

The first stage is where educators find the specific area where they want students to have the content knowledge and skills. They then form the essential questions designed to stimulate student thinking. This understanding will help them to succeed.

The second stage is to determine the assessment evidence to prove students are competent & have acquired the required knowledge and skills. and can use their knowledge and skills.

The final stage involves planning activities related to the goals decided in stage one and preparing students for the Assessments in stage 2. Just like foundational knowledge and basic abilities, implementing traditional quizzes and tests is highly recommended for a spot in the assessment UbD positions.

UbD gives an added advantage by showing how students can learn to understand and apply their learning in more authentic projects and tasks for performance.


1) Knowledge acquired at the level of rote memory rarely transfers; most likely, it will transfer when the learner can recognize and understand the underlying concepts which can be applied to new problems. The more you understand, the better you learn. Therefore, promote the transfer of knowledge, not just memorizing information.

2) Experts seek first to develop an understanding of problems that is key to solving them. It involves thinking in terms of core concepts or big ideas. The knowledge of novices is far less likely to be organized around large ideas, and they are more likely to approach novices' problems by finding formulas or pat answers that match their intuition.

3) Most assessments are purely factual. Never ask students to verify their knowledge. Know when, where, and why you should use information. To achieve deeper Learning, Assessments must be based on understanding. It is not just about facts and procedures.

Evidence Of Success:

Educational consultant Elliott Seif & nationally recognized educator Jay McTighe believe the UbD framework is accelerated by Cognitive psychology research, including studies that help us understand How people learn. The two published a summary of their research including some of the key principles supporting the UbD framework.

McTighe, Seif also discuss how research works & supports authentic approaches for learning.

A study was conducted on 24 elementary, middle, and high school students. It only included High schools that had restructured their curriculum to implement authentic pedagogy Assessments in math and social studies. On comparing the performance of these students with similar students in classrooms with lower levels of authentic learning, they observed striking results. Students who had high levels of authentic pedagogy & performance were helped substantially irrespective of their previous academic records.

"The study provides strong evidence that authentic pedagogy and assessments pay off in improved academic achievement for all students, but especially for low-performing students," they write.

2) Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project-Based Learning is an evidence-based Learning strategy that is effective & has been proven to be a success. K-12 leaders need to consider this strategy as it uses an instructional approach. Students learn by actively engaging in projects that are meaningful to them personally and also have real-world relevance.

Schools should use evidence-based methods. They aim to reduce achievement gaps by implementing best practices and help them meet the needs of students most in need.

PBL is a very motivational and effective learning strategy if you manage to do it well. To encourage high-quality Implementation, PBLWorks created a PBL Model called the Gold Standard. It includes seven essential project design elements:

  • A difficult problem or question.

A significant problem is the basis of the project. Therefore, solving a meaningful problem or answering a question is necessary at the appropriate level of challenge.

  • Sustained inquiry.

rigorous process involves student engagement primarily through Q&As, finding resources, and applying information.

  • Authenticity.

Real-world involvement is part of the project, be it in the form of Context, tasks, tools, or quality standards. It should speak to personal concerns or impact students' interests and concerns in general.

  • Students have the right to choose.

Students have the right to choose. Some decisions regarding the project, such as how they work and what they create. They can express themselves in their voices.

  • Reflection.

Teachers and students reflect on their journey in this stage.

Their inquiry's effectiveness, learning achieved through project activities, the quality of student's work, obstacles encountered, and the strategies that can be implemented to overcome them; are all assessed.

  • Critique and revision.

Students can give and receive feedback to improve their processes & products. The same is being executed to make changes to the existing work.

  • Public product.

Students create their projects & make their work public by sharing, presenting, and explaining it to others even beyond the classroom.


1) It involves working in a group and collaborating. It is often motivating to be with other students and helps students keep their morale high.

2) PBL lets students have the right to choose and speak for themselves by providing self-expression and decision-making opportunities, which is a powerful motivator for both students and adults.

3) PBL emphasizes authenticity when it comes to tasks. They are completed on time, and the product that comes out is now available to everyone; it's public. The project emerges with authenticity & encourages student engagement.

4) The nature in which questions are addressed & academic tasks are completed involves novelty. PBL is not a school & this has been evident from the response in terms of heightened motivation and engagement amongst the students. This shows that PBL is a powerful catalyst for student success.

Evidence Of Success:

A book by Jon Larner, John R. Mergendollar & Suzie Boss: Setting the Standard for Project-Based Learning has a chapter that summarizes 25 years of research on PBL's effectiveness.

There are many K-12 research studies that document students that were in PBL scored higher on traditional as well as performance-based assessments in comparison with students learning the same material using traditional instructional methods.

The research also reveals students had high levels of motivation and were more engaging. For example, a two-year study was conducted in 18 public middle schools in Detroit by Geier et al. (2008). About 5,000 students—mostly receiving lunches for a free or reduced-price—and 37 teachers who participated. Students enrolled in PBL focused on environmental science projects, studied physical & biological problems, answering questions such as: Why is it necessary to wear a helmet when I ride my bike? What is the quality of water in my community? What is the effect of global warming in my city?

All students completed the Michigan Assessment of Educational Progress (MEAP) exam at the school year administered by the state. Students in project-based classes scored significantly higher than students who had used the traditional methods to cover the same study material.


Evidence-Based Learning practices bring together several factors that have been shown to encourage motivation, with evidence showing that when kids are given authentic performance tasks, they are more likely to see the value in what they're learning instead of just learning for the sake of it.

Leaders need to think about how they invest money in the future. Choosing evidence-based strategies can have a huge impact on student learning & they can be a source of motivation and energy, provided they are used wisely. UbD and PBL are two such strategies that have proven to be efficient in multiple scenarios.

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