Let Me Be Explicit! Increasing Capacity of Pre-Service Educators to Deliver Explicit Instruction

Let Me Be Explicit! Increasing Capacity of Pre-Service Educators to Deliver Explicit Instruction

By Cyndi Caniglia

In this Voices From the Field piece, the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) speaks to Cyndi Caniglia, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Education at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Caniglia’s research focuses on students who may need special education or already receiving intensive services. In this article, she discusses how she meaningfully integrates NCII’s Features of Explicit Instruction Course Content modules within her preservice Intervention for Academic Learning Problems class. These modules were developed in partnership with the University of Connecticut and designed specifically to support faculty and professional development providers with instructing preservice and in-service educators who are developing or refining their explicit instruction implementation.

NCII: How did you integrate the Features of Explicit Instruction Course Content into your classroom instruction?

Dr. Caniglia: I wanted the students to experience the modules in a flipped-classroom style. This meant integrating the explicit instruction modules along with the required textbook on explicit instruction (Archer & Hughes, 2011). The text and modules complemented each other quite nicely. My students viewed the modules as an out-of-class assignment, took notes on the key takeaways, and completed the corresponding workbooks. I held my students accountable for viewing the modules through their completion of the workbooks. I also had my students complete assignments called Chapter Tips. During Chapter Tips, the students would take their assigned textbook chapter and the corresponding module and list bullet points on key information to remember and integrate into their future classroom curriculum.

We also viewed or re-viewed some of the module videos in class so that I could point out key ideas or takeaways I felt students really needed to know. In this way, I could be sure to highlight the key tenets of explicit instruction and give very succinct examples using the videos. My students enjoyed seeing explicit instruction in action and having the time to think about how to make it meaningful for their context.

NCII: What are next steps for future implementation of the Features of Explicit Instruction Course Content?

Dr. Caniglia: This year was the first time that these explicit modules were available; therefore, I asked my students how they would refine the process for next year. I received feedback that some of the students enjoyed the guided notes in the workbook while others were so concerned about filling in the guided notes that they would miss key content. The great thing about the NCII materials is that they are always editable, and I have the autonomy to modify them to fit within my context and need. For next year, I will add a blank section for note-taking and guided notes and then provide students with an option to choose.

In order to enhance the real-world context and understanding of explicit instruction, I am going to create multiple opportunities for students to look at real school curricula and practice modifying that curriculum based on student need. I often hear about scenarios where my first-year special educators walk into their classroom and maybe have the curriculum that the general education classroom is using, hopefully have curriculum that the resource room is using, and possibly some other ad hoc curricula. It’s hard to know where to start or determine how and what they should use. By including this assignment within my class, I am hoping to provide my students a better understanding and ability to adjust and align instruction.

One of my other action items includes viewing the NCII Intensive Intervention in Mathematics Course Content and incorporating that content into the pre-service courses I instruct.

There aren’t many resources out there like the modules from NCII that are quality and designed for the preservice teacher. The modules offer preservice educators more practice in the classroom that will strengthen their knowledge and field-based experiences. Because the resources are free, my students can go back and re-watch the modules as needed. This makes them an easy addition to any course meant for preservice teachers.



Archer, A. L., & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

About the author

Cyndi Caniglia
Cyndi Caniglia
/ Teacher Education Department at Whitworth University

Cyndi Caniglia, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Teacher Education Department at Whitworth University. She has worked as a special education teacher, an education specialist, and a consultant during the past 25 years and has worked in higher education as an adjunct instructor for 17 years and as a full-time faculty member for 3 years. Dr. Caniglia provides professional development and coaching related to data-based decision making, intensive intervention, and evidence-based literacy instruction for elementary and adolescent learners. Dr. Caniglia’s current research and areas of service at the state and local levels include improving teacher education preparation, inclusive and explicit instruction, and implementation of universal design for learning in higher education and K–12 settings.