Common Instructional Framework

JFF's Common Instructional Framework, a core component in Early College Designs for schools, contains six powerful teaching and learning strategies to build college readiness.

At a Glance

JFF's Common Instructional Framework, a core component in Early College Designs for schools, contains six powerful teaching and learning strategies to build college readiness.

Published mar. 01, 2016



Areas of Work
  • Ensuring Equity in Advancement
  • Meeting Employer Needs


The Common Instructional Framework, a core component in Early College Designs for schools, contains six powerful teaching and learning strategies:

  1. Collaborative Group Work
  2. Writing to Learn
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Questioning
  5. Classroom Talk
  6. Literacy Groups

Early College Design schools that have implemented all six strategies with fidelity have experienced significant gains in student achievement and strong improvement in student graduation rates. They have also improved the success rate of their students in college-level courses. The Common Instructional Framework, when implemented comprehensively, is built on high expectations for all students.

Teachers in these schools work hard to make sure that all students know exactly why they are being asked to use the strategies and exactly how and when to use them. Teachers model their use, provide clear guidelines and structures in implementing them, and continually provide feedback on how students are incorporating them in to their learning. As a result, students recognize the six strategies as critical to their under standing of complex material. Within a short period of time, students use them on their own initiative throughout a lesson to support their learning throughout every lesson.

In addition, teachers and students can use classroom time to concentrate on learning and mastering important ideas and skills since everyone throughout the school uses the same instructional strategies in every lesson. With the clear structures that the six strategies provide, teachers can concentrate on planning and implementing intellectually engaging and challenging learning activities for all students during every lesson.

Collaborative Group Work

In Collaborative Group Work, students engage in learning by constructing group solutions, texts, experiments, or works of art. Effective group work is well planned and strategic. Students are grouped intentionally, with each student held accountable for contributing to the group work. Activities are designed so that students with diverse skill levels are supported as well as challenged by their peers. They are planned around meaningful tasks in the subject area that are conceptually rich, engaging, and have multiple entry points for all students.

Writing to Learn

Through Writing to Learn, students can develop their ideas, their critical thinking abilities, and their writing skills. Writing to Learn enables students to experiment every day with written language and to increase their fluency and mastery of written conventions. By taking time to write in low-stakes exercises, students actively engage in thinking about a concept. Writing to Learn increases equity within the classroom since students have time to try out their ideas in non-evaluative activities before they have to present them to a group or as individuals. Writing to Learn can also be used as formative assessment and as a way to scaffold mid- and high-stakes writing assignments and tests.


Scaffolding helps students to connect prior knowledge and experience with new information and ideas. Teachers use information from assessments of prior knowledge to plan a careful sequence of activities that continually links that knowledge and understanding to new knowledge and skill attainment. Teachers challenge students step by step with increasingly more difficult tasks and concepts to ensure they are continuously learning.


Questioning challenges students and teachers to use good questions as a way to open conversations and further intellectual inquiry. Effective Questioning (by the teacher and by students) deepens classroom conversations and the level of discourse students apply to their work. Teachers use this strategy to create opportunities for students to investigate and analyze their thinking, as well as the thinking of their peers and the authors they read in each of their classes. The mark of a highly engaged classroom is when all students are asking thoughtful questions on their own initiative.

Classroom Talk

Classroom Talk creates the space for students to articulate their thinking and strengthen their voices. Classroom Talk takes place in pairs, in Collaborative Group Work, and as a whole class. As students become accustomed to talking in class, the teacher serves as a facilitator to engage students in higher levels of discourse. Teachers introduce and reinforce the use of academic language and encourage students to use that language in their classrooms.

Literacy Groups

Literacy Groups provide students with a collaborative structure for understanding a variety of texts, problem sets, and documents by engaging them in a high level of discourse. Group roles or rounds traditionally drive Literacy Groups by giving each student a role to play and a defined purpose within the group. The specific roles or discussion guidelines may vary for different content areas, lengths of text, or students’ levels of sophistication, but the purpose of Literacy Groups is to raise engagement with texts by creating a structure within which students actively probe the meaning of the text or problem set.

Instructional Strategy Guidebooks

We currently have three instructional strategy guidebooks available for sale for teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches implementing the framework on the ground:

  • The Common Instructional Framework: Rubrics and Support Guides for Teachers
    This publication is intended for high school teachers and provides clear rubrics and information for teachers implementing the Common Instructional Framework in their classrooms as part of Early College Designs.
  • Initiating, Developing, and Demonstrating the Common Instructional Framework for Instructional Coaches and Administrators
    This publication is intended for instructional coaches and administrators and provides recommendations for supporting teachers. This publication includes the publication for teachers listed above, with an additional set of rubrics for instructional coaches and administrators.
  • Initiating, Developing, and Demonstrating Rounds
    This publication is intended for school leaders establishing a Rounds program and provides a step-by-step process for implementation. Rounds are a practice of observing, reviewing data, and collaborating with all teachers for continuous school improvement.

For PRINT HARDCOPIES of the guidebooks, click here to download an order form, and return it to

For ELECTRONIC PDF FORMAT guidebooks, please download and fill out this contract agreement, and return it to along with the number of staff who will be using each book.