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SMARTER Planning

Research on teacher planning has long moved away from the idea that planning is a discrete stage of teaching that occurs before instruction begins. In addition, research on evaluation has also moved away from the idea that assessment is an activity that takes place after instruction is complete. Effective instruction is now seen as a complex and ongoing interaction of planning, teaching, evaluating activities that are mediated by reflection around collaborative co-constructed learning experiences between and among both learners and teachers. Planning and evaluating activities are integrated throughout teaching, and comprised of both reflection and action i.e., reflection ( Bulgren & Lenz, 1996). We see evidence of this when we implement any of the Content Enhancement Routines, despite the fact that we sometimes refer to some routines as planning routines and others as teaching routines. In truth, they are all instructional routines that require planning, teaching, and evaluating activities co-constructed with students that live in an ongoing instructional cycle (Clark, Girod, Roberts, Aben, Galindo, Farmer, & Noble, 2001). In an effort to use language that more accurately reflects the dynamic nature of SMARTER Planning, we refer to it as the SMARTER Instructional Cycle, and propose that instructional coaching for improved course, unit, and lesson implementation be tied to this cycle.

The table below shows the SMARTER Instructional Cycle that has emerged from over 30 years of research conducted on the cycle of teacher planning, teaching, evaluating, and co-constructing that we know leads to effective instruction in secondary classrooms. The cycle appears to accurately reflect how effective teachers respond to the diversity of academic classrooms. The steps shown in the table represent the various points in the instructional process where there are opportunities for course level, unit level, and lesson level types of SMARTER-based opportunities for coaching instructional change. From another perspective,each of the steps shown also represent various opportunities to engage students in various forms of academic communication about learning. The evolution to the use of practices linked to providing more collaborative, co-constructed types of learning experiences rests on a teachers’s ability to engage students as part of the completion of each of these instructional steps. Students can/must be enlisted to participate in conversations about critical questions, the structure of information, why learning is difficult, how learning difficulties can be addressed, how to improve teaching, their perceptions of progress towards achieving learning outcomes, and how to participate in actions related to improving results of summative assessments.


The SMARTER Instructional Cycle begins by examining an entire course using the steps in the SMARTER Instructional Cycle to develop a “best bet” plan for the course. The Course Organizer is designed to prompt the use of these steps and record decisions. The Unit Organizer is designed to prompt the use of these steps and to visually record decisions that are shared with students, colleagues, and parents.* Again, these decisions are visually recorded and shared with students and others. Research on course planning that led to development of the Course Organizer Routine showed that when teachers more fully predicted the types of routines, strategies (learning and social), communication systems, and accommodations that they felt addressed the difficulties in learning that they anticipated and the types of learning that needed to occur, teachers who engaged targeting in advance these  types of innovations in explicit course and unit level planning, and then continued to update and refine their decisions, were more likely to implement these instructional innovations than
teachers who did not engage in this type of course to unit to lesson planning.