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Section 4: Gradual Release of Responsibility

The content of this module is applicable for mentor teachers working with teacher candidates during their internship experience.  If you are mentoring a new teacher or on the job teacher or provisionally licensed teacher, this section is optional.

I Do, We Do, You Do

Effective teachers often use the gradual release of responsibility as an instructional model for scaffolding learning in a structured way for their students.  Framed by three key parts —I do (modeling), We do/You do (together), You do (alone)— gradual release is intended to do just that--gradually support learners’ acquisition of new skills by shifting responsibility from the teacher to the students (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). Mentees working with teacher candidates can also use the gradual release approach to build mentees confidence and competence across the internship experience. 


Below is a sample Gradual Release of Responsibilities Map for Elementary Candidates created by one group of mentors at Garfield Elementary in Fairfax County. In this example, gradual release of responsibility occurs in five phases. Within each phase, the mentors conceptualized expectations in four areas of professional development: 1) purposeful observation and reflection, 2) planning and instruction, 3) classroom management, and 4) professionalism.  The mentors also noted possible challenges that may emerge during the phase.


Click "Learn More" under each phase on the graphic below to see an example of how teaching responsibilities become gradually more complex.


A gradual release approach for internship can be used across licensure areas. Take a peek below at examples of gradual release in action in a licensure program at George Mason University.

Phase 1

Understanding and Engaging in the Classroom and School Community

Phase 2

Purposeful Opportunities for Planning, Management, and Instruction

Phase 3

Owning and Embracing Increased Leadership of Planning, Management, and Instruction

Phase 4

Independent Phase

Phase 5

Internship Closure

Gradual Release of Responsibility Map Examples From Other Content Areas

  • Physical Education

  • Special Education - coming soon

  • Secondary Education - coming soon

  • Early-Childhood Education - coming soon

Pause & Reflect

After reviewing the Gradual Release of Responsibilities Map (including each of the five phases above), consider this model in terms of your own classroom and school context. What aspects of this map might work for you? What's missing?


Directions: Pause and reflect on what you learned. Use the questions below to guide your thinking and record your thoughts in a private place you can reference later, such as a journal.

Modeling Through 'Thinking Aloud'

During the gradual release of teaching responsibilities, effective mentors possess the knowledge and expertise to guide and scaffold learning for their mentee.  One way mentors do this is through the act of making their thinking visible.  Much like 'thinking aloud,' a practice we routinely engage in with our Pk-12 learners, making your thinking visible gives teacher candidates a window into your decision-making. 

Watch the video embedded on the right to learn more about why 'thinking aloud' as a modeling practice is essential to teacher learning. For more information about making thinking explicit, visit Mentoring Teachers.

Permission to use content above granted, 2022

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