Release of Responsibility

Rethinking the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

One of the first instructional models I learned as an educator was “I Do, We Do, You Do.” Also known as the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model. As an IB Educator and School Visitor, I have observed this model being used in many schools that I have taught at and visited. I found that most educators use the GGR model when introducing a new concept/strategy. Educators using the model educators stated that it helped to front load students about a new concept/strategy during the “I Do” phase before allowing them to explore the concept/strategy further (We Do/You Do). 

When viewing the GRR model from an IB or inquiry-based learning perspective, however, we find that the model has some major shortcomings: The model assumes all students learn and work at the same pace (teaching from the middle with little understanding of students’ prior knowledge). Thus, the model fails to optimize individual student learning, makes it difficult to incorporate student voice, choice, ownership and differentiation, and support multiple learning modalities.

 Based on the above shortcomings of the Gradual Release of Responsibility model, I encourage educators to revise the model by shifting the order of “I Do, We Do, You Do” to: We/I Do (I Observe) > We/I Inquire (I Support) > We/I Engage (I Do) [Student (Teacher)]. This change, I believe makes the model more aligned with IB thinking and inquiry-based learning.

Revised Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

We/I Do (I Observe)

Instead of the teacher teaching a concept/strategy and students watching, the revised Gradual Release of Responsibility model would see students being given a provocation connected to the concept/strategy being learned while the teacher observes and documents student levels of understanding/prior knowledge about the concept (formative assessment). This approach would allow the teacher to determine each student’s prior knowledge about the concept/strategy being learned. This data would be used to plan for differentiated instruction using multiple learning modalities. It would also force each student to reflect on what they currently know and would like to know about the concept/strategy being taught. In other words, the students do the heavy lifting…not the teacher. 

We/I Inquire (I Support)

In this phase, students and the teacher collaborate to decide on possible pathways that will lead to the understanding and demonstration of the concept/strategy being learned. The teacher uses the observation data (formative assessment) compiled during the You Do/I Observe phase with student feedback to inform future learning pathways. This will allow for various ways to differentiate instruction and learning – such as flexible groupings based on interest, knowledge, etc.; connecting learning to student interests; and the complexity of materials available for each student/group. It will also encourage greater student voice and choice leading to ownership of their learning

We/I Engage (I Do)

This phase is used throughout the learning process as needed. If a student(s) requires addition support in understanding a concept/strategy, the teacher will engage the student(s) using direct instruction as a way to further scaffold their learning. For example, a student or group of students may find they need some support or guidance in developing their understanding of the concept/strategy being learned. Alternatively, the teacher, through observation/conferring, may decide that some direct support is required. This will result in the provision of either providing additional materials or direct instruction. The goal is for the teacher to engage students (individual/small group/whole class) to further their understanding, correct a misconception or guide them to deeper thinking, thus elevating their Zone of Proximal Development

The revised GRR model allows for greater student voice, choice and ownership, differentiation, and supports multiple learning modalities. It relies heavily on regular summative assessment (observation/documentation) to inform future learning strategies and pathways that support differentiation of student learning.

Source: P Ketko - Inspiring Inquiry + see below

Additional Resources

Misunderstanding Gradual Release Of Responsibility 

Click/Tap the image above to view this interesting article by Grant Wiggins that discusses the development of the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework.
Source: TeachThought | Apr 21, 2022

Flipping “I Do, We Do, You Do” - Differentiated Instruction

Click/Tap the image above to view this interesting article that discusses flipping the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework.
Source: Kiddom - by Amanda Glover | Jan 12, 2017

You Do, We Do, I Do: A Strategy for Productive Struggle

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by: Katie J. Waddell

When you walk into your classroom tomorrow, I propose you try something new. Instead of following the typical gradual release model of "I do, we do, you do" learning, flip it! Using a "you do, we do, I do" approach to learning creates excellent opportunities for students to engage in productive struggle. Jessica Hiltabidel, an 8th grade math teacher in Baltimore, writes,

"Inquiry-based lessons … begin with "you do" and give students the opportunity to figure things out for themselves. They rely on the first of the eight practice standards: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. The theory is that if a student works through the steps on his or her own, that student has a higher likelihood of retaining the information than if he or she were simply given steps to follow."

Flipping the gradual release model by starting with a "you do" (rather than the teacher-centred "I do") approach allows children to grapple with new concepts and deepen their understanding through problem solving and grit. But what does this strategy look like in a primary classroom and when should teachers use it? My favourite time to flip the gradual release model is at the beginning of an instructional unit. This allows students to take ownership of the new content and make meaningful connections with their prior learning through productive struggle. I take on the role of facilitator in this type of learning model, stepping back so that students can learn more through their own explorations.

Here's how I implemented the "you do, we do, I do" approach when introducing three-digit addition with regrouping to my 2nd grade students. During the "you do" portion of the lesson, students moved between four classroom stations to solve a different problem. Students used their prior knowledge of addition and worked together to solve each station's problem using base ten blocks, dry-erase boards, and markers. Moving between groups, I listened to the student discussions, shared insights between groups, and provided guiding questions to help students through the productive struggle. At the end of the task, students discussed their thinking and reasoning. This phase of the lesson gave students the opportunity to engage in inquiry, problem-solving, and perseverance.

During the "we do" portion of the lesson, I presented another problem to the class. This time, the entire class worked together by taking their previous discoveries and modelling their solutions. I used this time to discuss any misconceptions students may have had during the "you do" portion of the lesson. Students were able to defend their strategies and engage in math discussions.

Before moving to the "I do" phase of the learning model, I assessed students with a quick check (similar to an exit ticket). This allowed me to provide data-driven instruction and feedback during the remainder of the lesson. Students who were able to solve the problems transitioned to independent practice. Students who needed more support joined me for a typical "I do" lesson where I broke down the problem step-by-step and provided individualized support. Each student received instructions specific to their needs. By implementing this model, my students were able to successfully master three-digit addition with regrouping more quickly than previous classes, retain and apply the skills learned on future assessments, and explain their thinking.

The "you do, we do, I do strategy" gives students an opportunity to engage in productive struggle throughout the school year and across subjects. Students become self-driven learners who can make their own connections between classroom content. As a teacher, I want to move beyond lecturing to facilitate learning and give my students challenges that strengthen their ability to persevere. I want students to leave my classroom with the skills they need to succeed and a passion and curiosity for new information. Use this strategy to keep students actively engaged, intrinsically motivated, and ready for the future beyond your classroom.

Source: ASCD Express, Vol. 14, No. 11 - Katie J. Waddell is a 2nd grade teacher at Edinboro Elementary School in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Rapid Release of Responsibility: You Do, We Do, I Do

Click/Tap the image above to view this interesting article that discusses flipping the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework.
Source: Education Week - by David Ginsburg — Jan 31, 2015

Must All Good Instruction Begin With Teacher Modeling?

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Rethinking the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

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By Tim McCaffrey, posted June 6, 2016

Does “I do—we do—you do” ring a bell? Well of course it does. Better known as the gradual release of responsibility, this model of teaching ensures that students have the right tools and thinking before attempting problems on their own. This post focuses on enhancing this model by doing one simple thing: reversing the order. Click here for a helpful diagram that shows the relationship between teacher and student responsibility.


Start the lesson by giving your students a task and see what they can do with it. Not just any task but a worthwhile task. In addition to the 10 principles laid out by Dan Meyer for engaging math tasks, I would add a few as well:

These types of rich tasks allow students to play around with mathematical ideas and use the math tools they currently have in their tool chest.


After students have had an opportunity to work independently and have probably run into some roadblocks, they need time to work with their peers. One of the best collaborative structures I have seen is called complex instruction. There are four components to complex instruction:

I won’t go through each of the four components in this post, but you can find additional resources from Jo Boaler and NRICH. One of my favorite components is the multidimensionality of the classroom environment. For instance, I asked 220 secondary students in my district, “What does it take to be successful in math?” and the top-three answers were not surprising:

The same question was asked of a group of students who were engaged in complex instruction. They answered:

The implications of each list are what are valued in the classroom. The second list had a breadth of dimensions on how students learned mathematics and how students were given opportunities to represent their thinking.


Now your students are ready to listen to you. You have given them a need for your direct instruction, and you have a ton of data to pull together to make a rich learning experience for your students. For example, some of the data you now have are the following:

In my next post, I will give concrete examples of what this entire process could look like in your classroom.

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics