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Research School Network: How the Gradual Release of Responsibility model improved my teaching Using research to help us utilise the ​‘best bets’


How the Gradual Release of Responsibility model improved my teaching

Using research to help us utilise the ​‘best bets’

As I write this, schools in England have returned and everyone is talking about Covid catch-up and how best to fill in the gaps’. I am not a fan of the term catch-up’, instead I want to think about how we can use research to help us utilise the best bets’ so that we are using our time more effectively. Professor Becky Francis, the CEO of the EEF states that Evidence does not provide easy solutions, but evidence-informed improvement is a process that has integrity and holds greater promise than any alternative.” (Tes, 2020)

One area of research that has really informed and improved my practice has been a focus on explicit modelling to my pupils. The Metacognition and Self-Regulation guidance reports, explains modelling as,

A tailor will teach an apprentice by allowing them to work alongside them watching their movements and techniques closely, modelling their craft. Teachers in all subjects do the same – reveal their expert subject knowledge and skill to their novice learners (page 16).

Put simply, modelling is when the teacher explicitly models a process to their pupils. This might involve breaking down a maths problem into bitesize chunks, it might be the teacher explaining how they are adding meaning to a text in guided reading, or it might be how to correctly hold a tennis racquet in a PE lesson. Modelling can take many forms but the foundations are the same – the teacher is sharing the stages of their thinking out loud for the pupils to listen to and use a guide for their own thinking.

Modelling is nothing new, teachers have been modelling concepts and processes to children for years. I have always ensured that I modelled concepts and processes to the pupils in my class, some a lot more successfully than others, but one thing that I didn’t do explicitly was to model my thinking out loud for them. I also never carefully planned how I was going to use modelling to encourage the children to take on the work themselves more independently. They always seemed to grasp it but I think that was more by luck than judgement at times!

The Gradual Release of Responsibility model

It was in the Improving Literacy at Key Stage 2 guidance report – Recommendation 3: Teach reading comprehension strategies through modelling and supported practice – where I first came across the Gradual Release of Responsibility’ (GROR) and I instantly loved it! It just seemed to make sense and it was also reassuring to know that what I had been doing was partly right, I just needed to refine it a bit further. From doing further reading about the model from Pearson and Gallagher (1983) I started to shape and further develop what I had been doing before now that I was more aware of the evidence and the stages that were involved. It allowed my teaching to become more effective and therefore have more impact on the pupils that I taught.

Responsilibity diagram 1

Above is the original visual of the model and it illustrates how, through guided practice, the amount of responsibility shifts from teacher to student. However, at no point are the students being passive, they are being guided through the new learning by the expert’ until they are ready to take on the responsibility of their learning and understanding themselves. Initially, this was created for the instruction of reading comprehension lessons but I don’t see why it can’t be used as a framework for all subjects.

Fisher and Frey (2013) have adapted the above model to one that I use more widely now in training sessions. I prefer this model because I think it is more explicit as it goes through the stages and you can see how this would look in a lesson.

Teacher Responsibility diagram

In this model, you can see how the responsibility is distributed between the teacher and their students, and how the stages help to structure this change in distribution. I think the inclusion of the phrases, I do it, we do it, you do it together, you do it alone’ help to exemplify the key message for each stage and make it more accessible.

The EEF also have a useful visual in the Metacognition and Self-Regulation guidance report (page 17).

Student Teacher lesson

Again, you can see how the amount of responsibility changes throughout the lesson. This model is a strategy for teaching metacognitive strategies but being confident to think about how you think’ is crucial in all areas of learning.

With the GROR model, it is important to remember that there isn’t a timescale attached to it. You could move through the model in one lesson, in one week, over a half term or even longer.

The gradual release of responsibility in a handwriting lesson

I find that handwriting is a really useful lesson to help demonstrate the stages. Here’s how the lesson would fit with the Fisher and Frey four stage model.

Teacher Pupil

At all stages, the teacher will have identified children who need more support with this task – not all children will progress through the stages at the same time. Some might need more modelling from the teacher, this could be a short 1:1 in their books, or it could be an intervention at a different time. The Gradual Release of Responsibility model is not rigid, it is a guide to how you might structure your lessons to support your pupils. I really hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Sarah Izon
Lead of the Aspirer Research School


D. Fisher & N. Frey, 2013, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility (2nd ed.), Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Higgins, Steve and Martell, Thomas and Waugh, David and Henderson, Peter and Sharples, Jonathan, Education Endowment Foundation, corp creator. (2017) Improving literacy in key stage 2. [ Guidance report ]

Pearson, P.D., & Gallagher, M.C. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8(3), 317 – 344. doi:10.1016/0361 – 476X(83)90019‑X

Quigley, Alex and Muijs, Daniel and Stringer, Eleanor, Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), corp creator. (2018) Metacognition and self-regulated learning: guidance report.

Tes, 2020‑s…

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