Performance classes: 32 characteristics


by Terry Heick

This article was originally written in 2013 and updated in 2023

Instructional design is the strategic creation of learning experiences through data-driven planning, sequencing, and review of learning.

This process includes both how the content is accessed and the learning needs and goals (and how they are determined) themselves. This sets up pedagogical strategies, literacy strategies, curriculum mapping, standard setting, evaluation design, digital cultureand a dozen other facets of education under its umbrella.

Before looking at the categories and facets of a successful classroom, here are some important points in a modern classroom.

See also A Checklist for Today’s Teachers: From Creativity to Assessment

Technological integration

A modern classroom leverages technology to enhance the learning experience. This includes interactive whiteboards, projectors, computers, tablets, educational software and internet access. Technology enables personalized learning, engagement, collaboration, and access to many educational resources beyond traditional textbooks.

Active learning and collaboration

Modern classrooms emphasize active learning techniques rather than passive learning. Students are encouraged to actively participate in discussions, problem solving, and hands-on activities. Collaborative learning is also essential, as it promotes teamwork, communication skills and a diversity of perspectives. Group projects, debates and interactive exercises are common in these classrooms.

Flexibility and customization

A modern classroom recognizes that students learn differently and at their own pace. It encompasses the differentiation and customization of learning experiences to meet individual strengths, weaknesses and interests. Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies to accommodate diverse learning styles, ensuring each student has content, learning strategies, reading lists, assessment styles, and more.

Social-emotional learning

Teaching social-emotional skills in the classroom is crucial because it gives students essential abilities to manage their emotions, build positive relationships, and develop self-awareness and self-regulation. These skills foster a supportive and inclusive learning environment, improving academic achievement and well-being. Students can better manage stress, develop empathy, and make responsible decisions by understanding and managing their emotions. Additionally, social-emotional learning enhances communication and conflict resolution skills, enabling students to collaborate effectively and foster a sense of belonging, contributing to their personal growth and success in academic and social situations. real.

In the context above, we have created the following 32 characteristics of high-performing classrooms to help you spot opportunities for growth in your teaching.

Technological integration

  1. Technology connects students with authentic content and communities
  2. Personalized learning experiences are achieved through a variety of mobile, game-based, or self-directed learning.
  3. Technology creates learning opportunities not possible without it
  4. Technology is a means, not an end

Cognitive demand

  1. From bells and quizzes to responsible discussions and assessments, assignments are nuanced and complex in, as much as possible, each student’s zone of proximal development.
  2. Students generate original ideas from seemingly disparate sources of information
  3. Students are constantly revisiting their ideas, thoughts, and misconceptions in general.
  4. Thinking habits are valued over demonstrated “skills”

Lesson planning

  1. Where possible, lesson planning models focus more on students, teachers, and content than on local mandates, policies, standards, and procedures.
  2. Bloom’s taxonomy (or related learning taxonomies) is/are used to move students from basic to complex thinking every day
  3. Data is accessible to teachers in a way that allows for immediate and consistent revision of planned instruction.
  4. There is clear evidence of a retrospective design


  1. A transfer is required to prove mastery
  2. Data is easily extracted and visualized
  3. The academic standard and the evaluation form complement each other
  4. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they TO DO knowing rather than simply succeeding or failing to demonstrate what the assessment asks
  5. Feedback loops are clear to teachers and effective in helping students learn

Program mapping

  1. Curriculum naturally absorbs and adapts to data sources
  2. Program maps are dynamic and change in response to data and circumstances.
  3. There is a clear priority to academic standards (not all standards are equal)
  4. There is clear evidence of the existence of the gradual release model.

Learner’s choice

  1. Student interview– rather than that of the teacher – stimulates learning
  2. The capacity for self-directed learning extends beyond the topic to assessment forms, research sources, learning technologies, topics and essential questions.
  3. Learning paths can be self-directed by ambitious, supported and/or resourceful students.
  4. Students recognize and can express their own role in the learning process at any time.

Class management

  1. Expectations are clear
  2. Discipline is a collective effort: peers, colleagues, administration and family
  3. Fair doesn’t always mean equal
  4. “Behaviour” begins with self-awareness and self-respect, which must be encouraged and modeled.

Student support

  1. Students have the option of demonstrating their understanding
  2. There are exemplary models immediately available to students of all important works and activities
  3. Students are responsible to their peers, families, organizations and communities, not to you.
  4. Student literacy levels are meaningfully considered when planning instruction


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