Gradual release of responsibility

Teachers support increasing independence as students develop knowledge and skills.

What is gradual release of responsibility?

Teachers deliver a structured and sequenced approach to explicitly teaching new content. Learning is most effective when teachers break new information down and teach it explicitly using explanation, demonstration and modelling. This is especially relevant when students are new to a area (AERO 2024).

Gradual release of responsibility is not linear. Teachers move between modelling, guided and independent practice throughout lessons. Teachers make decisions based on student understanding and readiness. Students may move 'forwards' and 'backwards' in this process.

Gradual release is sometimes referred to as ‘I do, we do, you do’ or ‘modelled, guided, independent practice’.

Teachers check for understanding as they move students between modelled, guided, and independent practise. There is extended handover in the ‘we do’ (Sherrington 2020).

The concept of extended handover is central to gradual release of responsibility (Sherrington 2020).

What could it look like in the classroom?

  • Teacher moving flexibly between modelled, guided and independent teaching practice responsive to student learning
  • Joint construction of a product/solution
  • Providing multiple opportunities for practice
  • Think-alouds (Victoria Department of Education 2018).

What it isn’t

Moving too quickly to independent practice without ensuring student readiness. This does not support optimal learning.

Independent doesn't mean that students always work alone – it's the teacher's support that is reduced as students are ready (Hertzberg 2012).

Further reading

AERO (Australian Education Research Organisation) (2024) Teach explicitly, AERO, accessed 16 April 2024.

Hertzberg M (2012) ‘Teaching English Language Learners in Mainstream Classes’, NSW Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA), Newtown.

Sherrington T (2020) The art of modelling: it’s all in the handover, Teacherhead, accessed 26 March 2024.

Victoria Department of Education (2018) Modelling through think alouds, Victoria Department of Education, accessed 17 April 2024.


  • Teaching and learning


  • Explicit teaching

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
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