Back to Blog

CATESOL Book Review: Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High-Leverage Teaching Practices – Vol. 2 By Eileen W. Glisan & Richard Donato

Michelle Skowbo

Book Review – Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High-Leverage Teaching Practices – Vol. 2

By Eileen W. Glisan & Richard Donato

Enacting the Work of Language Instruction: High-leverage Teaching Practices Volume 2 Eileen W. Gusan Richard Donato

By Kara Mac Donald 

This review examines the second volume in the Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High Leverage Teaching Practices series. The first volume was reviewed in the November issue of CATESOL’s Blog Book Review column. As a recap the first volume Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High-Leverage Teaching Practices (HLTPs) – Volume 1, was published in 2017, and was followed by Volume 2 just this past year (2021) and adds four additional HLTPs to the initial six offered in the first book.
The book opens again with the first chapter (i.e. Introduction) dedicated to a reflection shared by Kate Paesani of CARLA, University of Minnesota, as was done in Volume 1.

Before outlining the additional four HLTPs, the authors provide a Preliminary Chapter, and this time the focus is Completing the Set of High-Leverage Teaching Practices for Language Instruction. The chapter outlines the initial six HLTPs: #1: Facilitating Target Language Comprehensibility, #2: Building a Classroom Discourse Community, #3: Guiding Learners to Interpret and Discuss Authentic Texts, #4 Focusing on Form in a Dialogic Context Through PACE, #5: Focusing on Cultural Products, Practices, and Perspectives in a Dialogic Context, and #6: Providing Oral Corrective Feedback to Improve Learner Performance. Then, it describes the motive for adding the additional, final four HLTPs. The first six HLTPs in Volume One aimed to better address common target language learning issues drawing on recent approaches and themes to make language learning and interaction more communicative, dialogic and community based. The second volume offers a broader perspective and level of support by addressing relevant and known language learning domains to support learners in all domains of communication and language use. The structure of the second volume is also shared, with highlights of the first volume’s structure that have been maintained.

Chapter 1: HLTP #7: Establishing a Meaningful and Purposeful Context for Language Instruction focuses on what is meant by a context and highlights the value of understanding context, as language functions are closely aligned with the activity/reality and how and what is needed to perform essential and appropriate speech and socio-cultural acts. Literature on the views and understanding of context are explored, through context and pedagogy, theory on context, examining context through the specific lens of the S-P-E-AK-I-N-G model, an acronym by Hymes (1974), describing the qualifying factors for communication. The model consists of:
S – scene and setting – physical location of the speech

P – participants – people who are speaking

E – ends – the purpose or reason of the speaking

A – act sequence – speech acts and the order they are presented in

K – key – the way the speaking is performed (tone, manner, delivery)

I – instrumentalities – the mode of communication used

N – norms of interaction – the social rules of what is proper in conversation

G – genre – the type of speech act or event (gossip, jokes, conversations) within the culture

Guidance on how to foster a meaningful context for communication is shared and the final lengthy section on deconstructing process is aimed at classroom teachers and provides step by step snippets.

Chapter 2: HLTP #8: Planning Instruction Using Iterative Process for Backward Design

Using the chosen context for the lesson, teachers then need to determine how to plan and assemble the instructional components. To do this with a high-leverage teaching practice, the authors argue for backward-design as it focuses on the stages of learning and what learners demonstrate they can do with the language as outcomes and assessment. Backward-design is contrasted with forward design and central design and accompanied by a broader discussion of its positive impacts. The authors then move to backward-design specifically in foreign language education, situating the approach with regard to ACFTL’s Proficiency Guidelines, National Standards Collaborative Board’s World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, and other language learning descriptor and guideline documents and theories that can be used assist in using backward-design. Next a good section of the chapter is dedicated to deconstructing the practices and offers step by step guidance on each of the stages by working from the established context to identifying outcomes, suitable forms of evidence that learners will produce, planning the learning experiences, and self-assessment and reflection on the learning.

Chapter 3: HLTP #9: Engaging Learners in Purposeful Written Communication

The authors highlight that in this chapter they purposefully move to address written communication, as many HLTPs in Volume One focused on speaking and listening for communication. For this is that writing proficiency is directly connected to the development of foreign language literacy skills (i.e. reading and writing are reciprocal in learner development of each), in understanding and performing various genre features and discourse moves. Additionally, without direct instruction, learners cannot notice the subtleties of how written texts founded on culturally based norms develop ideas and arguments, and how written language is distinct from spoken language structures and conventions. The authors highlight that the definition of literacy has been expanded beyond reading and writing and now encompasses understanding and creating multimodal text which is important as learners interact with content in digital forms. Next, they describe the value of a genre-based approach to writing instruction with an explicit focus on the process of developing meaning through writing, and provide a brief review of literature with a description of two studies to demonstrate the value of a genre-based approach, highlighting three points that make it an HLTP. The chapter closes with the deconstruction of the practice in two steps: the lesson planning stage and in identifying how the lesson will be delivered.

Chapter 4: HLTP #10: Developing Contextualized Performance Assessments

The notion of how assessment has changed opens the chapter to show that currently assessment is not an action given to learners after a period of instruction, but rather is an action intertwined throughout stages of instruction (i.e. before, during, after), and functions for a variety of objectives beyond assigning a final grade. However, to create meaningful and contextualized communicative assessments there needs to be a direct link between lesson planning, language instruction, and assessment design. The authors acknowledge that this is a complex, multifaceted process and to identify a HLTP for assessment, they break the task down into three functions that teachers need to know how to do. These are i) developing and delivering oral and communicative social assessments, ii) developing written presentations, iii) developing and using performance rubrics for learner feedback. The following subsections of the chapter share research and theory that justifies the value of the assessment types and related practices.  The three functions  of HLTP assessments are deconstructed by examining oral assessment, where guidance for developing an oral social communicative assessment is offered, followed by advice for administering such an assessment. The same is done for developing assessments for written presentations and how to offer learner feedback using performance assessment rubrics.

Chapter 5: Putting It Back Together: Embracing and Reconstructing the Practices

The HLTPs presented in this volume, as well as in Volume 1 (Reviewed CATESOL Book Review, December 2021 Issue) are based on research and theory and offer effective means to raise instructional effectiveness through deconstruction of practices. The authors, however, highlight that these are not a one size fits all for all contexts, nor is the process of each HLTP the superficial engagement with the practices in a linear format. It is rather the active process over time that develops educators’ performance and this happens through analyzing choices made, the outcome of the instructional course of action, and reconstructing the informed practices for their particular context. An example teaching scenario is presented of a teacher in training providing  a mini teaching lesson to her peers to show that although there was utilization of the HLTP of comprehensible input, the lesson was ineffective as there was no objective, context or connection to learning outcomes. This raises the importance of using HLTPs in communicatively meaningful situations, and not within a rigid, lock step, lesson plan. The chapter closes by expanding on this point, and discusses the need for teachers to become adaptive based on informed decision making and recommendations on how to develop this in teachers.

In closing, the practice-based focus again of this second volume begins by highlighting and reminding us that a context for learning needs to be based on the learners’ needs and future community. Instructional practice needs to be examined through deconstructing it, with meaningful design of assessment through contextualized language instruction. Ensure you check the CATESOL Blog, Book Review, for the Volume 1 Book Review. There are two volumes for a reason.


Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, p.53-62.