4 Critical Areas in Evidence Based Teaching

“Empirical research on an array of pedagogies has helped illuminate which strategies are most likely to positively increase learning outcomes. By focusing on the diffusion and implementation of these proven methods, we increasingly create student-centered learning environments.”

“Evidence Based Teaching.” Center for Teaching Innovation. Cornell University 2020, https://teaching.cornell.edu/evidence-based-teaching Accessed 14 April 2020

Based on Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation, there are four critical areas in evidence based teaching: 1) Designing Curriculum, 2) Inclusive Classrooms, 3) Engaging Students, and 4) Assessments and Evaluations. Happy Tinkering!!!

1. Designing Curriculum

When designing curriculum, teachers must write clear Student Learning Outcomes (SLO). This provides students with a purpose to their learning while giving teachers the necessary tools for instruction. Explicitly teaching reading and writing strategies are also part of effective learning.

Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) need to be specific and measurable. I would also make them visible on assignments and assessments. Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs are a great strategy to use with the following formula:

Students will (verb) + by (outcome).

The SLO are examples from Higher Order Thinking Skills to Lower Order Thinking skills to match the image below.

  • Students will investigate characteristics of other sonnets during Shakespeare’s time period by using guided research questions.
  • Students will defend their favorite Shakespearean sonnet by giving a presentation on the impact of literary devices and theme.
  • Students will compare literary devices of two Shakespearean Sonnets by creating a visual representation on Google Slides.
  • Students will interpret the impact of literary devices on a Shakespearean Sonnet by discussing in a Socratic seminar.
  • Students will identify the characteristics of a Shakespearean Sonnet by labeling a sonnet using their notes.
  • Students will define the characteristics of a Shakespearean Sonnet by taking Cornell notes and answering poll questions.

Reading and Writing Strategies

Teach students a variety of strategies that will help them build their meta-cognition as they reflect on what worked and what didn’t work for them. Some students might not need them if they are great readers and writers; however, it helps those who do need them particularly English Language Learners and Special Education students.


  • Reread
  • Annotate (ask questions, highlight rhetorical strategies and devices, make connections, make inferences)
  • Context Clues
  • Paraphrase
  • Summarize


  • Outline
  • Free-writing
  • Brainstorm Bubble
  • Graphic Organizers w/ Sentence Frames
  • Student Samples
  • Analytical Rubrics (My preference as it provides students with areas of strengths and improvements.)

2. Inclusive Classrooms

Build a positive classroom environment that allows all students to understand the expectations of the class as a whole, connect with you, and be able to see themselves in books they read.

Classroom Culture

Have clear expectations, so that students know how they are required to behave in your classroom. This will create a safe learning environment for all students. I chose five simple actions that I want my students to display in my classroom.

Connecting with Students

Treat others how you way want to be treated. Students are no exception to this old adage. They deserve our respect just as much as we deserve theirs. Here are some ideas to connect with your students.

  • Honesty. Students respect you more for it. Ooh, that’s a good question. I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Who’s learning now?
  • Digital Portfolios. Get to know them. Students can present their About Me page on the first week of school, which can include academic and personal goals.
  • Ask Questions. If a student is late, you can express your concern after class. No one likes to be called out not even you. I’m glad you’re here. Is everything okay?
  • Available and Flexible. Let’s find a good time we can meet to discuss your essay?
  • Pick and Choose Your Battles. Designate an area where your students can get essential materials such as pens, pencils, lined paper, highlighters, ….This is an easy one for me to let go.
  • Open Ended Questions. Use this on assignments to give students an opportunity to make personal connections.
  • Team Building Activities. Students love these stress reducers, and it builds camaraderie. My class favorites are back to back drawing, and girl vs boys rock paper scissors.

Diverse Texts

Choose diverse texts for your classroom to balance the classics with minority authors and different genres like graphic novels, fiction, and memoirs…. Better yet, you can implement student choice. If students cannot engage in their reading, they will have a difficult time working on assignments and assessments.

3. Engaging Students

This is the second most difficult task for me. With the ever looming advancements in technology, we are now competing with games and social media for our student’s attention. We shall prevail!!! All kidding aside, we can engage students using strategies that support active learning, effective questioning, and collaborative learning.

Active Learning

Active learning methods allow students to actively participate in their learning in contrast to traditional lecture.

  • Think Pair Share
  • I do, You do, We do
  • Note Taking w/ live poll questions
  • Problem-Solving
  • Videos and Multimedia to create a visual for complex ideas
  • Group Activity

Design Effective Questions

Effective questions check for understanding, challenge, and encourage discussion of complex ideas.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning usually happens in pairs or in groups, four works great in my class. Students work collaboratively to find a solution on a complex issue.

  • Analyzing a text or visual
  • Debate
  • Research

4. Assessment and Evaluation

Students must have multiple opportunities and immediate feedback on assessments and evaluations. As an English teacher, this is the most difficult task for me because scoring and providing immediate feedback on 180 essays is unrealistic.

As a result, I am diving deeply into creating an automated system for all my assessments. I most recently designed two charts that list both formative and summative assessments for my content area. These charts seem manageable, and that makes me very Excited!!!


Reading5-10 questions
WritingSentences or Paragraphs
Speaking & ListeningFormal Discussions
Language5-10 questions


Reading 20 – 25 questions
Writing Paragraphs or Essays
Speaking & Listening Presentations or Debates
Language 20 – 25 questions

Peer and Self-evaluations are also highly effective forms of teaching because students learn from each other. I am hopeful that I will implement more evaluations with my new system.

Thankfully, I did create a teacher evaluation fours years ago that I use at the end of each semester. It’s simple yet very effective in more ways than one. I use Google Forms to anonymously ask my students four questions.

  • What helped you learn in my class?
  • What didn’t help you learn in my class?
  • How can I improve in your class?
  • What’s my grade?

Teachers no one knows you better than your students. I love their brutal honesty and insightful responses. Some of the changes I make in my classroom are a direct result of student feedback. Self-improvement has never been easier.


Peer EvaluationGoogle Forms
Self-EvaluationGoogle Forms
Teacher EvaluationGoogle Forms

Both assessments and student evaluations will be in a mini rubric format using Google Forms and Autocrat to try to automate most if not all my grading. Alas, my dream as an English teacher is to spend less time grading and more time creating data driven lessons to improve student achievement.

Published by Noemi Gonzalez

I'm an experienced high school English teacher sharing best practices to inform, to inspire and to reflect on my own craft. Love implementing new ideas and efficient systems that make teaching manageable. Teachers need a surmountable amount of support to help them survive, and every year comes with its own challenges. When I am not teaching or creating, I love hiking, running, anything outdoorsy! I am also a mother of two boys, one in college the other in his last year of middle school. Hope you can utilize what I create and share on this platform.

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