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Madeline Cheek Hunter (1916–1994)

Madeline Cheek Hunter, professor of educational administration and teacher education, was the creator of the Instructional Theory Into Practice (ITIP) teaching model, an inservice/staff development program widely used during the 1970s and 1980s.

Hunter entered the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), at the age of sixteen and, over the course of her career, earned four degrees in psychology and education. In the early 1960s Hunter became principal of the University Elementary School, the laboratory school at UCLA, where she worked under John Goodlad. She left the school in 1982 amidst controversy over her methods, but continued at UCLA as a professor in administration and teacher education. She also continued to lecture and write, and by the time of her death at the age of seventy-eight, Hunter had written twelve books and over three hundred articles, and produced seventeen videotape collections.

Hunter's influence on American education came at a time when public schools were criticized widely for falling test scores, increasing dropout rates, and discipline problems. Hunter claimed that her teaching methods would transform classrooms into learning environments, allow the dissemination of more knowledge at a faster rate, and use positive reinforcement and discipline with dignity to greatly reduce disruptive behavior. Her seven-step model and related educational theories, outlined in her extensive writings, lectures, and videotape series, gave teachers strategies for controlling their classrooms and planning their lessons. Administrators used the model as a way to assess the effectiveness of their teachers.

Hunter defined teaching as a series of decisions that take place in three realms: content, learning behaviors of students, and teacher behaviors. Content refers to the specific information, skill, or process that is appropriate for students at a particular time. Content decisions are based upon students' prior knowledge and how it relates to future instruction; simple understandings must precede more complex understandings. Decisions regarding learning behaviors indicate how a student will learn and show evidence of that learning. Because there is no best way for all students to learn, a variety of learning behaviors is usually more effective than one. Evidence of learning must be perceivable by the teacher to ensure that learning has occurred. The third area of decision-making, teacher behavior, refers to the use of principles of learning–validated by research–that enhance student achievement.

In order to successfully implement Hunter's methods, teachers undergo extensive professional development that conveys the types of decisions they must make. Training includes viewing videotapes that demonstrate effective decision-making in the classroom, and the Teaching Appraisal for Instructional Improvement Instrument (TAIII), administered by a trained observer or coach, which diagnoses and prescribes teacher behaviors to increase the likelihood of student learning.

Hunter's method of direct instruction, generally referred to as the Madeline Hunter Method, includes seven elements: objectives; standards; anticipatory set; teaching; guided practice; closure; and independent practice. Behavioral objectives are formulated before the lesson and clearly indicate what the student should be able to do when the lesson is accomplished. Standards of performance inform the student about the forthcoming instruction, what the student is expected to do, what procedures will be followed, and what knowledge or skills will be demonstrated. The anticipatory set is the hook that captures the student's attention. Teaching includes the acts of input, modeling, and checking for understanding. Input involves providing basic information in an organized way and in a variety of formats, including lecture, videos, or pictures. Modeling is used to exemplify critical attributes of the topic of study, and various techniques are used to determine if students understand the material before proceeding. The teacher then assists students through each step of the material with guided practice and gives appropriate feedback. Closure reviews and organizes the critical aspects of the lesson to help students incorporate information into their knowledge base. Independent practice, accomplished at various intervals, helps students retain information after initial instruction.

Although the Hunter Method was widely used during the last quarter of the twentieth century, it has not been without its critics. Based on behavioral psychological theory, some educators concluded that it is mechanistic and simplistic and is only useful–if at all–to teach the acquisition of information or basic skill mastery at the cost of stifling teacher and student creativity and independent thinking. Others deplore the use of the Hunter Method as a lockstep approach to instructional design. The Hunterization of teaching has even led some districts to require teachers to utilize the Hunter approach and base their teacher evaluation instruments on it. Hunter herself lamented this misuse of her methods and claimed that there was no such thing as a "Madeline Hunter-type" lesson. A significant body of criticism questions her claims that her method could enable students to learn more at a faster rate and improve student achievement. Several studies, most notably the Napa County, California, study, indicate little, if any, evidence to justify her claims.

Proponents point to Hunter's clear and systematic approach to mastery teaching. They argue that, rather than being prescriptive, Hunter provides a framework within which teachers can make decisions that are applicable to their own classrooms. Rather than being simplistic or superficial, Hunter's method is straightforward and uses a common language that classroom teachers can easily understand. Although Hunter's method may be easy to implement, it may also be complex in its application, depending upon the specific objectives of the teacher.

During the height of her popularity, Hunter's ITIP Model for mastery teaching was formally adopted in sixteen states and widely used by many others. Hunter is regarded by many as a "teacher's teacher" for her ability to translate educational and psychological theory into practical, easy-to-understand pedagogy, and her influence on classroom teaching techniques is still evident in the twenty-first century.



GIBBONEY, RICHARD A. 1987. "A Critique of Madeline Hunter's Teaching Model from Dewey's Perspective." Educational Leadership 44 (5):46–50.

HUNTER, MADELINE. 1967. Teach More–Faster! El Segundo, CA: TIP Publications.

HUNTER, MADELINE. 1979. "Teaching Is Decision Making." Educational Leadership 37 (1):62–65.

HUNTER, MADELINE. 1982. Mastery Teaching. El Segundo, CA: TIP Publications.

ROBBINS, PAM, and WOLFE, PAT. 1987. "Reflections on a Hunter-Based Staff Development Project." Educational Leadership 44 (5):56–61.

SLAVIN, ROBERT E. 1987. "The Hunterization of America's Schools." Instructor 96 (8):56–60.


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