Frequently Asked Questions




AAA Instructional Design
AAA instructional design includes the Activate, Acquire, Apply spiral sequence of teaching and learning strategies. Activating strategies prepare students for learning. Acquiring strategies help students integrate and process their learning. Applying strategies help students consolidate their learning.

Activating Strategies
Activating strategies prepare students for learning. Students are prepared for learning by activating an overview of the upcoming learning experience, their prior knowledge, and the necessary vocabulary. One strategy to activate a lesson or unit overview is Lesson Frame. Strategies to activate prior knowledge include KWL Plus, Mind Maps, Anticipation Guides, LINK, Word Splash, and Focused Free-write. Strategies to activate vocabulary include Word Cycle, Sort and Predict, and Three-Point Approach. Success for all Learners page 6.17.

Animation for Learning
Creating animations provides students with opportunities to apply new knowledge and represent concepts and ideas graphically. Students may create animations to illustrate patterns, cycles, changes over time, or cause and effect relationships. In creating animations, students develop skills in sequencing and timing graphics to communicate the concepts and ideas they are animating. The interactive and graphical nature of electronic animations provides alternative ways for students to demonstrate their learning.

Applying Strategies
Applying strategies help students consolidate their learning. They include reformulating strategies and extending strategies. Reformulating strategies include concept organizers and fact-based and issue-based analysis. Extending strategies include Reading and Expressing from Another Point of View, RAFT, and Gallery Walk. Success for All Learners page 6.65.

The systematic process of gathering information about what a student knows, is able to do, and is learning to do. Student assessment is integrated with learning and teaching, thus engaging students, parents, teachers, and administrators (the learning community) in insightful observation, descriptive feedback, reflection, goal setting, adjusting instruction, and celebrating learning.

Assessment as Learning
Assessment as learning is the active engagement of the learner in the learning-teaching process. Learning and assessment are seamless as the learner reflects on the continuous process of reflecting, adjusting, and planning for the next steps. Students and teachers are co-learners and share the responsibility of learning and teaching in the classroom.

Assessment for Learning
Assessment for learning involves learners, both teachers and students, in ongoing dialogue, descriptive feedback, and reflection throughout instruction.

Assessment of Learning
Assessment of learning is observing performance tasks or summative assessments to determine the quality of the learning that has taken place at the end of a unit or theme, term, semester, or school year. Specific learning outcomes and standards are the reference points, and grade levels may be the benchmarks for reporting.

Brain Research
Brain research applies emerging understanding of the cognitive function of the brain to inform classroom instruction. Three principles from brain research: emotional safety, appropriate challenges, and self constructed meaning tell teachers that

  1. Not all students need to be doing the same thing at the same time.
  2. Students are not all at the same level of ability and they don't learn in the same way. It follows that different groups within the same class should be working at a variety of different levels of complexity and/or difficulty simultaneously, but at different rates.
  3. Students need to be actively involved in making decisions and modifications to their learning efforts.
  4. Students need appropriate challenges, a secure environment, an opportunity to explore ideas and have fun learning.
  5. Students need to learn to ask questions, think and interact verbally.
  6. Students need to be able to construct meaning by interacting with peers, problems, issues and with materials.
  7. Learning is more effective if concepts are learned in context and related to existing knowledge. Content needs to be relevant, integrating multiple aspects simultaneously.
  8. Peer teaching may be as valuable for the child who is "teaching" as for the "learner".

A checklist used for assessment can be a list of student behaviors or a list of elements of student work. Teachers often observe students and use checklists to keep track of the presence of specific behaviors such as ability to collaborate, participation during discussions, and so on. Checklists can also be used to keep track of the presence of specific elements in student work when there is no need to score quality.

Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning is a personal philosophy, as well as a classroom technique. In all situations where people come together in groups, it suggests a way of dealing with people that respects and highlights individual group members' abilities and contributions. There is a sharing of authority and acceptance of responsibility among group members for the groups actions. The underlying premise of collaborative learning is based upon consensus building through cooperation by group members, in contrast to competition in which individuals best other group members. Collaborative learning practitioners apply this philosophy in the classroom, at committee meetings, with community groups, within their families and generally as a way of living with and dealing with other people.

Collaborative Learning Groups
Heterogeneous groups of approximately four members that are formed for an extended period of time to develop a “micro” community of learners in the classroom community. This grouping allows for a wide range of abilities to work together. (Also see flexible groups)

Concept Mapping for Learning
Concept mapping involves organizing ideas and information visually. This helps students identify patterns and relationships, build upon prior knowledge, and stimulate creative thinking. As students acquire new information, they can organize additional ideas graphically to integrate new knowledge and reinforce their conceptual understandings. Concept mapping helps students and teachers identify misconceptions and clarify their thinking. The use of colours, symbols, and images reinforces written text and the ease with which changes in relationships can be represented make electronic concept mapping particularly helpful for visual learners. Strategies that use concept mapping include brainstorming (activating), developing a research plan (acquiring), and displaying new connections and relationships (applying). Electronic concept mapping also allows students to move directly from a visual representation to an outline for writing, to connect concept maps together, and to use as a presentation tool.

Constructivism is a learning theory that encourages teachers to

  1. pose problems of emerging relevance to students - real-world context for learning
  2. structure learning around primary concepts - essential questions
  3. seek and value students' points of view
  4. adapt curriculum to address students' suppositions
  5. build on students' prior knowledge
  6. assess student learning in the context of teaching

Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is defined by a set of processes which help people interact together in order to accomplish a specific goal or develop an end product which is usually content specific. It is more directive than a collaborative system of governance and closely controlled by the teacher. While there are many mechanisms for group analysis and introspection the fundamental approach is teacher centered whereas collaborative learning is more student centered.


Databases for Learning
Databases allow students to record data and analyze relationships and patterns. Students can use databases to organize their research data and to make comparisons. Students may then query the data by sorting to identify patterns and relationships. As students develop skill in using databases, they are able to apply these skills in the context of analyzing issues and concepts related to their research.

Desktop Publishing for Learning
Desktop publishing provides opportunities for students to synthesize new knowledge and represent their understandings creatively, including text, images, maps, and charts to communicate information and concepts. Students should identify the purpose of the final desktop published product and plan to ensure it communicates the purpose effectively to their intended audience. Examples of products students can produce using desktop publishing may include brochures, posters, and newsletters. Desktop publishing products can be produced individually, or collaboratively by student groups.

Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction means creating multiple paths so that students of different abilities, interest or learning needs experience equally appropriate ways to absorb, use, develop and present concepts as a part of the daily learning process. It allows students to take greater responsibility and ownership for their own learning, and provides opportunities for peer teaching and collaborative learning.

Electronic Portfolio
A student’s purposeful collection of electronic work over time, that serves as evidence of learning and achievement. Selection of items for the electronic portfolio is made with regard to student learning goals and/or criteria and involves self-assessment and reflection. Portfolio assessment involves both process and product. Portfolios become powerful student-centered assessment tools to share within the learning community.

Email for Learning
Email offers authentic opportunities for students to communicate with others. Students articulate ideas and information in composing their email and analyze email responses for relevancy and accuracy. Students may use email to conduct interviews, request information, state a position, or share understandings on a topic or issue. Students should identify the purpose of their email communications and use language that is respectful of others. Students must use safe email practices such as not including personal information in email communication with people they do not know.

The process of interpreting assessment information, determining to what extent students have attained learning outcomes and standards, and describing the quality of student learning. Evaluation is used primarily for communicating student achievement.

Explicit Instruction
Explicit instruction is a systematic method for presenting material in small steps, pausing to check for student understanding and eliciting active and successful participation from all students"(Rosenshine, 1986, p. 60, as cited in Conway, J., 1997). According to Conway (1997), the model of explicit instruction is well grounded in Behaviorist Theory and has been classified as a 'transmission' model. There are six teaching functions that form a sequence in the method of explicit instruction:

  1. daily review
  2. presenting new material
  3. guided practice
  4. corrections and feedback
  5. independent practice
  6. weekly and monthly reviews.

Flexible Groups
Groups of two to six members that are formed for the purpose of assessment, strategic instruction, practice, or personal inquiry. These groups change frequently, depending upon the needs of the learners. On occasion, individuals may work independently as part of a flexible group. (Also see collaborative groups)

Formative Assessment
Ongoing assessment information (what teachers see and hear) gathered during instruction to determine what students know and can do and to provide descriptive feedback to improve learning and inform teaching. Feedback is generally directly connected to student learning goals and referenced to student-generated criteria.

General Learning Outcomes
General Outcomes (GOs) are broad statements identifying knowledge, skills and strategies, reasoning, and attitudes that students are expected to demonstrate with increasing competence and confidence from Kindergarten to Senior 4.

Gradual Release
The gradual release model of instruction encourages students to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and to become self-directed rather than teacher-directed learners. This model can be divided into three stages:

  1. modeling and scaffolding
  2. guided practice
  3. application and metacognition

Graphics for Learning
Students may use graphics software to illustrate, and label where appropriate, concepts and ideas they are exploring. Students can create images that they can then import into other software applications such as word processor or presentation software. Students may change and adapt previously created images to reflect new understanding as additional information is acquired and knowledge built.


Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
ICT learning experiences are those that introduce new technology skills in the context of current curriculum outcomes. These learning experiences are in preparation for interdisciplinary work integrating technology.

Inquiry-Based Learning
Inquiry-based learning is a student-centered, active learning approach focusing on questioning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. It's associated with the idea "involve me and I understand."

Interdisciplinary Units
Interdisciplinary units are those that integrate learning outcomes from at least two subject areas.

Learning Community
A trusting relationship that develops over time among students, teachers, administrators, and parents as they become engaged in learning and teaching in the classroom.

Percentages representing student achievement based on summative assessments and/or evaluations.

Multimedia Presentations for Learning
Multimedia presentations provide opportunities for students to synthesize new knowledge and communicate their understandings. Students can use multimedia presentations to represent their understandings creatively by combining text, images, sound clips, and links to additional sources, to support their ideas. Multimedia presentations are often collaborative in creation and intended to be shared with a broader audience. In planning their multimedia presentations, students should consider how the structure and format of their presentation will allow them to communicate most effectively with their intended audience.

A purposeful, systematic, and cumulative classroom assessment method that focuses on what the learner knows and can do in a variety of authentic contexts in order to inform instruction, improve learning, and assess or evaluate achievement.

Ongoing Learning Experiences (OLE)
OLEs are those that integrate the use of ICT with classroom routines such as Daily Edit or Reading Circles. These learning experiences begin at the start of the school year and continue throughout.

Paradigm Shift
A paradigm shift represents a fundamental change in attitude and belief about a concept. For example, recent research builds a powerful case against what used to be accepted "truths" about learning and technology. First, there is strong evidence that traditional models of learning, traditional definitions of technology effectiveness, and traditional models of the cost effectiveness of technology don't work. In place of these old assumptions, researchers are positing new ways of looking at learning that promote:

  1. engaged, meaningful learning and collaboration involving challenging and real-life tasks; and
  2. technology as a tool for learning, communication, and collaboration

Performance Tasks
Authentic processes, performances, demonstrations, or products by which students demonstrate or apply the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes that they have acquired as a result of instruction and practice. Assessment of performance tasks is based on criteria that, for summative assessment, may be extended into a rubric to describe the quality of the performance.

Problem-Based Learning
Problem-based learning is an approach to learning that focuses on the process of solving a problem and acquiring knowledge. The approach is also inquiry-based when students are active in creating the problem.

Professional Judgement
Teachers’ decisions about learning and teaching based on their classroom experience and sound academic knowledge of developmental learning, curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy.

Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning is an approach to learning that focuses on developing a product or creation. The project may or may not be student-centered, problem-based, or inquiry-based.

Promising Practice
Learning and teaching that is theoretically grounded in the research base of current curricula (social constructivism).


Question (essential)
Essential questions are questions that require students to make a decision or plan a course of action. Writing the essential question is the first part of the research process. The essential question will be the focus of the student's research.

Question (foundation)
A foundation question is one whose answer provides the facts used to answer the essential question. Foundation questions are typically the "What is" questions. They will be the questions students will try to find answers for. The facts obtained by finding the answers to foundation questions will be used to build the answer to the essential question. Students craft an answer to the essential question from the facts found as answers to the foundation questions.

A set of criteria that describes levels of performance (what it should look or sound like). Rubrics should be developed from student-generated criteria and with student involvement. Rubrics can be used to measure achievement for summative assessments at the end of a theme, unit, semester, term, or school year. Marks may be calculated by allocating numeric values to each performance level.

Instructional approaches or strategies that activate prior knowledge of a topic or concept; or a strategy that provides adjustable and temporary assistance or support to the student in his or her achievement of the learning task.

Simulations for Learning
Students can interact with simulation software to explore new concepts and ideas. Simulations provide an environment where students can explore, experiment, question, and hypothesize about real life situations which would otherwise be inaccessible in the classroom. Students can explore 'what if' scenarios as they predict the results of various actions, modify parameters accordingly, and evaluate the resulting outcomes. Simulations allow students to visualize complex and dynamic interactions and to develop deeper understandings than may be achieved simply by reading. By exploring a simulated environment, students can be active learners in a complex world.

Specific Learning Outcomes
Specific learning outcomes (SLOs) are concise descriptions of the knowledge, skills and strategies, reasoning, and attitudes that students are expected to demonstrate at the end of a grade.

Spreadsheets for Learning
Spreadsheets allow students to record data and analyze relationships and patterns. With spreadsheets, students can enter formulas to calculate values. They can then chart their data by creating graphs that will help them analyze their data. As students develop skill in using spreadsheets, they are able to apply these skills in the context of analyzing issues and concepts related to their research.

Summative Assessment
The celebration, summary, evaluation, or judgement at the end of a theme, unit, semester, term, or school year based on performance tasks/products and formative assessment data.

Word Processing for Learning
Word processing supports students through the writing process and encourages them to revise initial drafts and to organize their writing to best represent what they understand to their intended audience. Students may take advantage of standard word processing features to improve their writing, including spell check, grammar check, thesaurus, formatting, etc. Students can save multiple copies of their work as it progresses through the editing and revising process. This provides evidence of their growth and improvement as they learn to write and write to learn.