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Effective Instruction


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FY Awards

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Dr. Wai-Ying Chow
(202) 245-8198


The Effective Instruction topic supports research on strategies for improving instruction in ways that promote student learning and achievement.

Through this topic, IES is interested in identifying and understanding (1) the specific knowledge and skills a teacher must possess to promote student learning and achievement; (2) effective approaches to assess teacher knowledge and skills; (3) strategies to help teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need to improve classroom instruction; and (4) effective programs and policies for teacher recruitment, retention, certification, and evaluation that lead to the promotion of student learning and achievement. The Effective Instruction topic encourages researchers to employ methodologies from a variety of disciplines, such as industrial-organizational psychology and cognitive science, to identify the micro-level and context-specific teaching behaviors linked to student outcomes.

The long-term outcome of this research will be an array of instructional practices, programs (professional development interventions, etc.), assessments, and policies (recruitment, retention, and teacher evaluation, etc.) that have been demonstrated to be effective for improving and assessing instruction and teachers in ways that are linked to improvement in student outcomes.


In FY 2003, IES funded research on teaching and teachers through two topic areas, specifically Teacher Quality: Reading and Writing and Teacher Quality: Math and Science. In FY 2012, IES established the Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching topic as the primary topic for K-12 teaching research. In FY 2020, the topic name was changed to Effective Instruction to further emphasize the role of observable teacher actions in shaping learner outcomes as well as to include research on postsecondary and adult education instruction, which has been and continues to be supported through other topic areas, such as Postsecondary and Adult Education.

The general consensus in the education field is that variation in teaching matters for learner outcomes — even after accounting for home and learner variables (such as socioeconomic status, previous academic achievement). However, the education field has yet to reach consensus on the specific core aspects that constitutes "good" or "effective" teaching and the manner and extent to which those aspects differ according to grade level, subject area, student population, setting, and other contextual factors of the U.S. education system. Furthermore, rigorous evaluations of teacher professional development interventions have yielded very limited causal evidence of these interventions improving student outcomes (Summary of Research on the Effectiveness of Math Professional Development Approaches; Reviewing the Evidence on How Teacher Professional Development Affects Student Achievement), even when changes in teacher practices were obtained (Focusing on Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Teacher Professional Development).

These findings underscore the crucial need to identify key teaching/teacher constructs and understand the process by which these constructs are interconnected. This knowledge would help pinpoint the specific knowledge and skills needed by a teacher to promote student learning and achievement, focus efforts to develop psychometrically strong measures of teaching, and focus professional development interventions.

Why is This Program Important?

Educator accountability for the academic successes and failures of U.S. students is increasingly emphasized because international assessments continue to show that U.S. students lag behind other industrialized nations and even some developing nations in academic achievement (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)), the student population continues to be increasingly diverse, and educational disparities persist. Rigorous research focused on building our understanding of effective teacher instruction is necessary to inform teacher training/support, recruitment/selection, evaluation, and all other aspects that shape teaching.