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Teacher Practices That Support Positive Academic and Behavioral Outcomes for Students

Teacher practices that increase students’ engagement in instruction are critical to improving their academic and behavioral performance (Harbour, Evanovich, Sweigart, & Hughes, 2015). Modeling, increasing opportunities to respond (OTR), and providing feedback are three simple, yet powerful, practices that teachers can incorporate into existing instructional routines (Harbour et al., 2015).  When applied consistently and effectively, these three techniques have been shown to strengthen teacher-student relationships, increase student participation in learning activities, and nurture student self-confidence and motivation to attempt and succeed at academic tasks (Harbour et al., 2015).


Harbour et al. (2015) define modeling as “demonstrating a desired skill or behavior while simultaneously describing the actions and decisions being made throughout the process” (p. 6). Through guided practice and checks for understanding, teachers slowly decrease both academic and behavioral modeling until the student can independently perform the desired skill or behavior (Dunn, 2011; Harbour et al., 2015). For example, modeling accommodations for students with disabilities is an important step in supporting them to understand and practice using their accommodations to mastery and to determine which ones work best for them (Hart & Brehm, 2013). Routine use of modeling eliminates students’ confusion regarding academic and behavioral expectations, thereby increasing time on task and engagement in positive behaviors (Harbour et al., 2015).

The Teaching Channel video “I Do, We Do, You Do” illustrates how one teacher uses modeling to support the learning of students with disabilities and English language learners in her classroom. Figure 1 below also provides examples of the uses of academic and behavioral modeling.



Provide models of good writing to students who struggle with the writing process (Dunn, 2011). Model how to work with peers or in cooperative groups (Hart & Brehm, 2013).
Model how to use math manipulatives to solve a problem similar to one that students will be expected to solve independently. During the demonstration, think out loud to model the problem-solving process (Kirby-Weher, 2009). Model how and in which academic circumstance it is appropriate to request accommodations (e.g., flexible timing during tests or assignments) (Hart & Brehm, 2013).
Model how to use parts of words or context clues to determine the meaning of words (Lea, 2013). Model respect for others by actively listening when students are positively contributing in class (Regan, 2012).

Figure 1. Examples of academic and behavioral modeling.

Increasing Opportunities to Respond 

Teachers provide opportunities to respond (OTR) by posing “an academic question, prompt, or task” followed by an Kindergarten teacher and children with hands raised in library“immediate chance to engage with instruction and receive contingent feedback” (Harbour et al., 2015, p. 8).  When teachers offer a high rate of opportunities for students to respond during instruction, they increase the likelihood that students will demonstrate positive and on-task behaviors and will provide a greater number of correct responses (Simonsen, Myers, & DeLuca, 2010). In addition, teachers who maximize the use of OTR for students with behavioral challenges increase instructional time by decreasing the amount of time spent diffusing negative behaviors (Haydon, MacSuga-Cage, Simonsen, & Hawkins, 2012). A previous T/TAC Link Lines newsletter article, “Increasing Student Opportunities to Respond,” provides examples of ways to increase verbal, written, and gestural OTR.


Providing contingent, specific, regular, and plausible feedback on their performance is considered a powerful strategy for improving students’ academic achievement and increasing their positive behaviors (Harbour et al., 2015). Performance feedback provides information that helps both students and teachers improve (Chan, Konrad, Gonzalez, Peters, & Ressa, 2014). In order to be effective, positive and corrective feedback should be delivered during instruction, immediately follow a behavior, and help the student move toward desired performance targets (Chan et al., 2014; Harbour et al., 2015). Feedback should also be specific and focused on the learning behavior, not the student (Chan et al., 2014). For example, feedback such as, “Franklin, thank you for remembering to raise your hand before answering the question. That’s three times in a row! Great job!” is specific and skill-focused.Such statements provide the student with specific feedback regarding his current performance toward the behavioral expectations (Chan et al., 2014).

The Teaching Channel video “Giving Feedback, Say No to No” shows how one teacher provides corrective academic feedback to redirect her students after first pointing out what they are doing well, another critical feature of effective feedback (Chan et al., 2014). Examples of positive academic feedback are also provided at Intervention Central, Teacher Praise: An Efficient Tool to Motivate Students.”

Additional Resources

In summary, modeling, increasing OTR, and feedback can benefit both students and teachers. Students’ confidence in their learning potential increases, and teachers have more time to teach and improve student outcomes. Additional resources that provide practical information on the aforementioned instructional practices include:

– Modeling –

– Modeling and Feedback

– Modeling, Feedback, and OTR


Chan, P., Konrad, M., Gonzalez, V., Peters, M., & Ressa, V. (2014). The critical role of feedback in formative instructional practices. Intervention in School and Clinic, 50(2), 96-104.

Dunn, M. (2011). Writing-skills instruction: Teachers’ perspectives about effective practices. Journal of Reading Education, 37(1), 18-25.

Harbour, K., Evanovich, L., Sweigart, C., & Hughes, L. (2015). A brief review of effective teaching practices that maximize student engagement. Preventing School Failure, 59(1), 5-13. doi:10.1080/1045988X.2014.919136

Hart, J., & Brehm, J. (2013). Promoting self-determination: A model for training elementary students to self-advocate for IEP accommodations. Teaching Exceptional Children, 45(5), 40-48.

Haydon, T., MacSuga-Cage, A., Simonsen, B., & Hawkins, R. (2012). Opportunities to respond: A key component of effective instruction. Beyond Behavior, 22, 1-12.

Kirby-Wehr, A. (2009, August 14). Teaching matters: Teacher modeling. Retrieved from

Lea, K. (2013, March 20). Modeling: Essential for learning [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Regan, M. (2012, March 5). Modeling ethical conduct in the classroom [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Simonsen, B., Myers, D., & DeLuca, C. (2010). Teaching teachers to use prompts, opportunities to respond, and specific praise. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 33, 300-318. doi:10.1177/0888406409359905