Rethinking the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
By Tim McCaffrey, posted June
6, 2016 –
Does “I do—we do—you do” ring a bell? Well of course it
does. Better known as the gradual release of responsibility, this model of
teaching ensures that students have the right tools and thinking before
attempting problems on their own. This post focuses on enhancing this model by
doing one simple thing: reversing the order. Click
here for a helpful diagram that shows the relationship between teacher and
Start the lesson by giving your students a task and see what
they can do with it. Not just any task but a worthwhile task. In addition to the 10
principles laid out by Dan Meyer for engaging math tasks, I would add
a few as well:
These types of rich tasks allow students to play around with
mathematical ideas and use the math tools they currently have in their tool
After students have had an opportunity to work independently
and have probably run into some roadblocks, they need time to work with their
peers. One of the best collaborative structures I have seen is called complex instruction. There are four components
to complex instruction:
I won’t go through each of the four components in this post,
but you can find additional resources from Jo Boaler and NRICH. One of my favorite components is
the multidimensionality of the
classroom environment. For instance, I asked 220 secondary students in my
district, “What does it take to be successful in math?” and the top-three
answers were not surprising:
The same question was asked of a group of students who were
engaged in complex instruction. They answered:
The implications of each list are what are valued in the
classroom. The second list had a breadth of dimensions on how students learned
mathematics and how students were given opportunities to represent their
Now your students are ready to listen to you. You have given
them a need for your direct instruction, and you have a ton of data to pull
together to make a rich learning experience for your students. For example,
some of the data you now have are the following:
In my next post, I will give concrete examples of what this
entire process could look like in your classroom.
Tim McCaffrey is the
founder of Agree or Disagree?, writes at http://timsmccaffrey.com/, and tweets at @timsmccaffrey. He currently serves as the
mathematics coordinator for grades 6–12 in Fontana, California. He desires to
help coaches and administrators implement sound mathematical practices that
will help students become deep thinkers.
Thank you so much for this post. I just started implementing this "reverse gradual release" this year with my fifth graders. It's so important that they lean to notice and wonder about problems, struggle through trying to solve new types of problems and build endurance. We also worked with 3 act tasks by Graham Fletcher. I feel like those problems provide my students with real life, meaningful ways to develop their problem solving skills.
Just revisiting this post via the MyNCTM community - such a great framework for the work of "investigate before explain" that invites students to think, before teachers tell. Huge fan of the work!
Did you ever repost the graphic link from the top of the article that was not functioning? And where would it be if you did?
Your link is broken at the top. Could you repost the link for us?