Instructional Framework 101

What It Is, Why It's Important,

And Why Every School Should Have One

All teachers want to be the best they can be for their students.

learning framework They want to be sure they are using the most effective instructional strategies and practices to ensure that all their students learn efficiently and successfully. They want their classrooms to be places where students are actively engaged in meaningful, relevant and challenging work every day. And they want to be responsive to the wide range of learning needs of their students.

Being the best teacher consistently and pervasively can be a daunting task, however. The challenge is that teaching is a complicated endeavor:

  • Teacher evaluation models detail dozens of strategies and practices that teachers should know and be able to do.
  • Also, with every new educational book, newsletter, journal article, webinar, course or professional development session, teachers learn more and more approaches they could be using to support students’ learning.

With so many pieces in the “education puzzle”, teachers can easily become overwhelmed, overloaded with information, and fragmented in their efforts. The solution to this challenge lies in utilizing an instructional framework.

What Is an Instructional Framework?

frameworkWhat is the definition of an instructional framework? An instructional framework provides a cohesive structure made up of proven components, but it is adaptable so as to work with varying teaching styles, content areas, and student needs (while maintaining the core structure of the framework). Teachers can unleash their creativity with confidence that their students are going to be successful.

Instructional frameworks are often referred to as curriculum frameworks, lesson planning frameworks, and sometimes as programs. There are key differences, however.

  • A curriculum framework is a set of standards that specifies the content to be learned. It is different because it defines the intended curriculum, or “what” to teach. It is not "how" to structure an exemplary lesson.
  • A lesson planning framework is what teachers use to organize, plan, and reflect their thinking. It is different because it usually focuses on general ideas to engage with and explore content, but it often does not identify specific evidence-based practices to accomplish those ideas.
  • A program provides what to teach and how to teach it. It is different because teachers are required to follow the program instead of adapting to meet the needs of learners you might have. It’s important to understand that an instructional framework is not the same thing as a program.

The Power of Frameworks

Consider the following quote from a remodeling magazine:

“All kitchens share the same purpose and elements. Refrigerators are for chilling, counters for chopping, sinks for cleanup, etc. So are all kitchens the same? Hardly. Like painters at canvases, kitchen designers make individual choices in layouts, colors, cabinets, and such.  The best result comes when the design is tailored to the needs of a particular household.”

Remodeling Ideas for Your Home, Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications, February/March 2005

Can you imagine trying to design, say a kitchen, without a framework to guide you?

  • Where would you start?
  • Would you just make it up as you went along?
  • How would you choose among the thousands of building products available in a home improvement store?
  • Would the “fad” of the day influence your design decisions?
  • How would you make sure that your choices fit together to allow you to have an operational kitchen?
  • How would you communicate your ideas to others or understand their ideas?
  • What would ensure that your choices would remain functional over time eliminating the need for a complete overhaul every year?
high achievement always takes place in the framewrk of high expectation

The same problems occur when a school operates without a common instructional framework. Teachers are left to figure out things on their own, select among the multitude of instructional strategies out there, and sort out how to work collaboratively with colleagues who may have a completely different mental “blueprint” of effective instruction. Improvement efforts become scattered and diffused over time, not to mention abandoned from year to year in favor of “the next best new thing.”

Exemplary Schools Use Instructional Frameworks!

exemplary school definitionIt is not surprising then that a pattern found in exemplary schools (and not very often in typical schools) is the use of a common instructional framework.

This provides consistency, organization, and certainty that all teachers are planning and providing the most effective instruction. Schools are no longer swayed by whatever comes along because their work is grounded in a collective vision of good instruction.

An instructional framework also supports effective professional learning because teachers can learn together, support each other, and focus on improving their practice over time. When schools use a common instructional framework so that all teachers have a common approach to teaching and learning, students achieve more and teachers teach more effectively (Robinson, 2011).

“The most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher. More can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor.”

Sanders, W. L., & Rivers, J. C. (1996).

7 Goals for Implementing an Effective Framework

Just as kitchens must be tailored to meet a family’s particular needs, the most effective instructional frameworks are flexible enough that schools can focus on their specific goals. For example:

  • 1 Teacher Lesson Planning: one of the biggest differences between typical and exemplary schools is how teachers plan. Teachers who intentionally plan lessons that connect the most proven practices to ensure that students meet or exceed grade-level standards are the most effective. With an instructional framework, teachers can ensure success.
  • 2 Differentiating Instruction: one of the hallmarks of effective teaching is the ability to differentiate so all students are successful in meeting grade-level learning expectations. An instructional framework ensures teachers gain the knowledge and skills to consistently and pervasively plan and teach lessons that are differentiated to meet the needs of all students.
  • 3 Teaching in High Poverty Schools: purposefully engaging students from poverty is a difficult task; however, when teachers plan specific connected strategies within an instructional framework, student engagement increases significantly. With instructional frameworks, teachers gain the knowledge and tools needed to create meaningful relationships with students, energize lessons, enhance the learning environment, build motivation and improve attitude, increase cognitive capacity, and champion high expectations.
  • 4 Effective Teaching at All Levels: without a framework specifically designed for effective teaching, it is extremely challenging for teachers to consistently and pervasively plan and instruct at the levels needed for all students to be successful. With a teaching and learning framework, teachers increase their capacity to plan and implement exemplary lessons that engage all students in mastering rigorous content.
  • 5 Higher Order Thinking and Rigor: with an instructional framework in mind, teachers gain practical, yet effective ways to plan and deliver instruction so all students are learning at the high levels demanded by today’s standards.
  • 6 Moving Beyond Remediation to Close Achievement Gaps: using a framework, teachers learn to anticipate when and where students might struggle and put in measures to address the root causes of academic failure for many students -- the lack of prior knowledge, skills, vocabulary, and experiences that are required to learn new knowledge and skills. This framework gives teachers the tools and structure to plan and deliver instruction so all students are learning at high levels, with the support they need to demonstrate learning at the levels expected by standards and assessments.
  • 7 Teaching with Comprehension in Mind for Literacy-Focused Schools: The Common Core State Standards and the new generation of state standards emphasize the importance of focusing on literacy in all content areas. Without a framework specifically designed to integrate literacy, it is challenging to ensure that every lesson supports literacy development. This helps teachers intentionally plan lessons that focus on building literacy growth for all students while deepening their understanding of academic content.

If we would never consider planning a kitchen without a framework, surely with something as important as teaching and learning, a common instructional framework should be of the highest priority.

Not All Frameworks Are Created Equal

An exemplary instructional framework, such as the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework, addresses all of the needs above. It empowers teachers to plan and teach at their best and all students to reach their highest potential in every lesson. It allows a school staff to increase coherence, thus creating a focused, sustained, and shared vision. In addition, students learn more in schools with an instructional framework because their teachers are learning together, supporting each other, and providing similar learning experiences across the school.

We are confident that, like so many others, you too will experience the immediate and lasting changes that can only be realized by unleashing the power of the strategies and practices found in the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework.


The Framework is Learned in Three Stages:

Stage 1:
The High Performance
Learning-Focused Lesson

This stage focuses on the organizational structure and essential exemplary practices that make up an effective lesson. This lesson framework helps ensure that all teachers are consistently providing quality lessons that are engaging for students and that result in successful learning of grade-level standards.

Learning focused framework step 1
framework to increase rigor

Stage 2:
Increasing the Rigor of Learning-Focused Lessons: Higher Order Thinking, Reading and Writing

The second stage provides the resources and tools for planning purposeful, rigorous lessons that advance students through the Levels of Learning in every lesson. Using the foundation learned in the first stage teachers shift their planning focus to higher-level instruction, questions, learning activities, grade-level assignments, and assessments.



Stage 3:
Accelerating Learning-Focused Lessons: Catching Kids Up!

The third stage provides the resources, knowledge, and skills for proactively planning and teaching using specific strategies and practices that result in all students learning grade-level content faster, more effectively, and at a much higher level than is found in typical schools. Students who are one or more years behind will catch up with these strategies and practices. Instead of students gaining one year or less of learning per year of school, Accelerating Learning-Focused Lessons: Catching Kids Up! can increase achievement 1.5 – 3 years of learning per year of school!

framework to accelerate student learning - Step 3

Interested in talking with us about bringing the power of instructional frameworks to your school?

Contact us today to learn if our training is a fit for your school.