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Gradual Release of Responsibility Practice for Student Learning

Updated on December 21, 2017

Learning approach



The Gradual Release of Responsibility practice (GRR) is an important and beneficial practice that will be used to help gradually shift the learning responsibility from the teacher (s) to the student. As such, it will allow the students to become more actively involved in their learning thereby taking more responsibility in the process. Here, we will look at how the practice can be used to benefit students struggling in mathematics in an elementary school and thus making it possible for them to take more responsibility in their own learning and understanding and consequently improving. Given that the practice involves four major parts, I will discuss each of these steps and how it can be used to benefit students by shifting learning responsibility from the teachers to the students.

Description of gradual release of responsibility instructional practice

Having identified the needs of the students, then student can then be divided into small groups according to their needs in order to start engagement and meet their respective needs. Having identified the needs of these student groups, then the necessary tools can be chosen to meet these needs. This first step typically involves the teacher providing the students with suitable instructions that they can then use on their own. Here, the teacher may have to repeat explaining a number of times as the students take notes, listen and ask questions for clarification. This step may take time given that it involves helping the students understand how to solve problems using given tools and strategies. The second step involves more active interaction between the teacher and students. This typically involves more student participation where the teacher works through the problems (such as math problems) with the students. The teacher gets to ask some questions in the process, monitor progress through the interaction to determine how well the students have understood and even provide additional modeling. In the event that the students are still facing difficulties, then the teachers continue with this step for longer in order to identify areas of difficulties and help the students through.

Third and forth steps

The third step involves allowing the students some independence and evaluating their progress. At this point, students work together in smaller groups (two or three students) as they discuss and help each other in the process. Here, the teacher simply observes the accuracy of their work and assists whenever the students need it. The teacher can also provide the students with questions and prompts to determine how well they have understood and correct any misunderstanding. Lastly, the students get to do it alone independently. Here, they largely rely on what they were taught, the notes and examples they were given as well as the tools they have been given to solve problems. However, the teachers still get to briefly interact with the students for feedback, assessment and determine how well the students understand how to approach and solve problems on their own. In the three last steps, it is recommended that students get at least 80 percent accuracy rate for the teachers to proceed.



Research on instructional practice

In a research study that was conducted in 2009, a total of 80 students (six-graders) learning English as their mother tongue were included in a study that involved all the four stages of gradual release of responsibility practice. These included a modeled instruction phase, guided instructions, peer cooperation as well as the independent learning phase where students do it on their on individually. During this study, these students were encouraged to exhibit creativity, to be informative as well as enjoy themselves in the process. The study was carried out in the course of one school semester with the students being given a questionnaire at the end of the semester. Although this was not revealed to them, the questionnaire also served to test their summary writing and determine their attitude towards the practice. From the results of the study, 98.75 percent of the students felt that the model work of their teachers were beneficial with 90 percent of the total students only preferring that the teacher model the task twice (or more) before moving on. This showed that the students found this step to be very beneficial in their learning. On the other hand, 90 percent of the students felt that it was important for all teachers to use the model (GRR) in the learning process. The study also found out that the practice significantly benefited students in terms of summary writing given that there had been an improvement. In addition to students have a positive attitude towards the practice, the study found it to benefit the students directly.

More studies

According to another study that was published in 2008, Doughlas Fisher and Nancy Frey found out that it is possible to effectively shift responsibility to students for leaning. However, the researchers explain that this is only possible through establishing the learning objectives, teacher modeling as well as collaborative work. Here, the researchers explain that it is essential that teachers clearly establish the significance of every activity in addition to explaining what students are expected to do in order to perform as expected. In doing so, the learners get a clear picture of the background knowledge, which in turn allows them to move forward with ease. On the other hand, modeling is essential for this process given that human beings are hardwired to imitate others according to the researchers. Through examples and the most suitable strategies, students will have an idea of how to work on the problems presented to them. Finally, through collaborative work and guided instructions, the researchers explain that students get an opportunity to not only engage, but also learn from their peers, which enhances responsibility among the students themselves. For instance, according to a quoted study that was carried out by Totten, Sills, Digby and Russ in 1991, it was shown that students tend to learn and retain more when working on productive groups.

Transfer responsibility


Analysis of teacher responses

Teachers have determined that GRR has a positive impact on students and have been actively involved in its implementation. Therefore, it is possible to see some similarities here given that more teachers are moving and starting to rely on the practice as a means of improving learning among students. By placing some responsibility on students, they get a sense of self-importance and worth in as individuals as a group that can active discuss and assist each others. Here, most teachers also feel that students are reacting positively towards the practice, which proves that it has a positive impact on them. While it is beneficial, it is also evident that most teachers agree that it takes time to plan all the four activities. However, given that it has a positive outcome, this is viewed as a minor challenge. Teachers also seem to agree that GRR is beneficial in the assessment process given that the practice itself involves passing knowledge and then assessing how well they have understood what they have been taught through monitoring and feedback.


In conclusion, it was clear that the teachers' responses aligned, which shows that there is a positive attitude towards GRR. Despite the fact that it takes a long time, the benefits have been shown to be significant in that it allows the active participation of the students and thus enhancing learning. Here, it can be concluded that GRR has a lot to offer given that it involves moving away from strict lecture-based learning to actively involving the students. This makes it possible for students to share and raise concerns where they have difficulties. Here, the teachers can come in and help the students so that they can then move forward to the next step. However, the greatest benefit of the practice is that it ensures active participation on the part of the students, which would be the best way to determine how well they understand, areas of weakness and how to assist them.

© 2017 Patrick


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