Instructional Intelligence

Teaching is not an either or issue. It is not phonetics or whole language or constructivist or behaviourist; it is about what works with particular students; often a bit of many approaches makes the difference.

Dr. Barrie Bennett, OISE/UT

In 2002, the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB), under the guidance of Ainsley Rose, committed to a five-year project in Instructional Intelligence with Dr. Barrie Bennett (OISE/UT) in order to help WQSB teachers implement Québec’s new curriculum, the QEP (Québec Education Program).  Bennett (2002) defines Instructional Intelligence (II) as the integration of content knowledge, assessment, knowledge of how we learn, instructional repertoires, personal/professional change, as well as, systemic change.  Dr. Bennett is a master at combining his classroom experience with a vast amount of research on educational topics.  II explores the following areas:

  • instructional tactics (things the teacher USES : simple cooperative structures, like think-pair-share; graphic organisers, like Venn diagrams)
  • instructional skills (things the teacher DOES, like providing think time, framing questions, and modeling)
  • instructional organizers (theories and knowledge that organise overall planning and teaching – for example Bloom’s taxonomy and Gardner’s multiple intelligences)
  • instructional strategies (frameworks for teaching and learning academic content : more complicated cooperative structures and graphic organisers, like mind-mapping, concept formation, simulation, socratic dialogue, etc)
  • instructional concepts (what a class needs to function: enthusiasm, motivation, respect, active participation, etc)
  • classroom management & Tribes (safe classroom and learning environments)

Teachers involved in this professional development initiative express that it has had the most impact on changing the way they teach and it certainly has been for me.  Instructional Intelligence is currently being applied in eleven districts in three countries: Canada, Australia and Ireland.  Each district involved with II has conditions that they strive to meet either at the start of the project or throughout.  These conditions for involvement relate to the current research on change and systemic change and are:

  • teachers come in teams to workshops with their school administrator(s)
  • central office administrators also attend the sessions
  • follow up sessions are provided during the year to share what is working and what is not working
  • follow up sessions are provided to share samples of teacher and student work
  • classroom demonstration lessons are provided to illustrate how the workshop ideas play out in kindergarten to grade twelve classrooms
  • the classroom demonstration lessons are video taped and made available to teachers in the district
  • websites are created to share work
  • advisory committees made up of key stakeholders meet during the year to discuss progress
  • when possible, the district connects with the local university or college
  • sharing occurs between districts
  • participants are encouraged to engage in research (action research, masters, doctorate)
  • by the end of five years, the district has to have developed the internal capacity
  • write a book on how their system went about change over a five year or more time frame

Currently in the WQSB we have developed internal capacity and our training team recruits graduates from our current three year (14 day)  program which we now call Collaborative Instructional Intelligence (CII).  CII involves Tribes, Classroom Management, Instructional Intelligence strategies, tactics and skills and QEP (curriculum) training.  It remains a work in progress and will probably change again by the end of this year.


Toronto District School Board Instructional Intelligence strategies:

Beyond Monet: The Artful Science of Instructional Integration
by Barrie Bennett and Carol Rolheiser

Classroom Management: A Thinking and Caring Approach
by Barrie Bennett and Peter Smilanich

Cooperative Learning: Where Hearts Meet Minds
by Barrie Bennett and Carol Rolheiser and Laurie Stevahn

Graphic Intelligence: Playing with Possibilities