Exploring the Value of Whole Group Instruction

whole group instruction
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Whole group instruction is direct instruction using traditional textbooks or supplemental materials with minimal differentiation in either content or assessment. It is sometimes referred to as whole class instruction. It is typically provided through teacher-led direct instruction. The teacher provides the entire class with the same lesson regardless of where any particular student is. The lessons are typically designed to reach the average student in the classroom.

Teachers will evaluate understanding throughout the lesson. They may reteach certain concepts when it appears that many students in the class do not understand them. The teacher will likely provide student learning activities designed to practice new skills, and that will also build on previously learned skills. In addition, whole group instruction is a great opportunity to review previously learned skills to help student maintain their proficiency in using them.

How Whole Group Instruction Benefits a Classroom

  • Whole group instruction is a terrific tool for introducing new material. Introducing concepts in a whole group setting gives the teacher the opportunity to present the basic material to every student at once. Many students will pick up these new concepts through whole group instruction particularly if the lessons are dynamic and engaging. Trying to introduce a new concept in small group setting is both cumbersome and repetitive.  Whole group instruction ensures that every student is exposed to key concepts and new information within a particular topic. It should, however, serve a first step in the learning process.


    • Whole group instruction helps determine a baseline for learning and assessment. Within any class, there are going to be students who pick up new concepts quickly and those who take a little more time. Teachers utilize the information gained from whole group instruction to plan for the future. Teachers must conduct both informal and formal assessments as they move throughout a whole group lesson.  If the teacher is receiving little to no feedback from students when questions are posed, the teacher probably needs to go back and try a different approach.  When a majority of the class seems to have grasp a topic, the teacher should then beg to focus on strategic small group or individual instruction.


      • Whole group instruction is easier to plan for.  It takes a lot more time to plan for small group or individual instruction than it does for an entire group.  Addressing the whole group takes one plan, where addressing small groups of students takes multiple plans or approaches.  The key to planning for whole group instruction is two part. First, the teacher must develop a lesson that engages students throughout the entirety of a lesson.  Second, the teacher must be able to teach the concepts in such a way that they majority of the class grasp the information that is being presented.  Doing these two things helps decrease the amount of time needed for reteaching and/or small group instruction.


      • Whole group instruction is most effective when it is immediately followed by small group instruction.  Any teacher who does not see value in both whole group and small group instruction is limiting their effectiveness.  Whole group instruction should occur first, for many of the reasons discussed above, but it should immediately be followed with small group instruction.  Small group instruction helps solidify the concepts learned in the whole group setting, allows the teacher identify struggling students, and take another approach with them to help them master the content.