One of the most important questions a school leader needs to consider is “ How will I know that there is effective teaching happening in the school?” This presentation is designed to help school leaders answer this question by developing a conceptualization of what it means to teach effectively.
This presentation examines three views of teaching effectiveness: The ‘style’ view A common view of teaching effectiveness which focuses on how teachers teach. The ‘outcomes’ view A common view of teaching effectiveness which focuses on student results. The ‘inquiry’ view An alternative view of teaching effectiveness that incorporates style and outcomes within an inquiry-based framework. It will be argued that while the style and outcomes views include elements that are important in any consideration of teaching effectiveness, the inquiry framework offers the most defensible and coherent conceptualization of what it means to teach effectively.
The style view basically argues that teachers should be assessed on the quality of their teaching actions. The assumption behind this view, and represented by the dotted arrow and lightly shaded student outcomes box, is that if teaching actions are appropriate they will generate the desired student outcomes. Teaching effectiveness, therefore, is determined by what the teacher does.
The assessment of teaching effectiveness within this view is usually judged by considering performance against predetermined characteristics that are deemed to be important to effective teaching. These characteristics usually fall into three main areas: firstly, personality characteristics such as warmth or enthusiasm – teachers who display warmth or who demonstrate personal enthusiasm for what they are teaching are judged more effective than those who do not. secondly, teaching techniques. Teachers are assessed on their ability to demonstrate techniques that are considered to reflect effective practice such as providing an overview at the start of a lesson, or asking a range of closed and open questions, or supporting oral explanations with the use of visuals. And thirdly, teaching approaches. Teachers are assessed on the extent to which they adopt a “desired” pedagogy or the extent to which they avoid an “undesired” one. So, for example, a teacher who spends most of the time teaching the whole class from the front of the room may be considered unfavourably compared with a teacher who uses a more facilitative, cooperative learning approach because the whole class approach is considered less desirable than the cooperative one. Assessment consistent with this view of effectiveness has an obvious appeal to teachers. Experience develops expertise, and experienced teachers can draw on this experience to describe the qualities of effective teaching. Furthermore, they can often cite r esearch to support these qualities giving them credibility and strength.
While it is clear that teaching actions influence student outcomes, and that there is considerable research evidence that supports the use of particular actions or teaching approaches, there are three main flaws in basing the assessment of teaching effectiveness on the style view alone. From an assessment perspective the style approach looks in wrong place, it over-generalises research findings, and it glosses over context. Lets consider each of these in turn.
The first flaw is that the style view focuses on what the teacher demonstrates (against a predetermined list of qualities deemed to be “effective”) rather than what is happening for the students . As David Berliner (1987) explains, the fundamental problem with this approach is that a teacher can be judged to be good if they model the desired practices irrespective of whether the students learn . It is not unlike assessing a golfer or a tennis player on the quality of their swing or action rather than where the ball goes.
The second flaw is that it assumes that the research generalizations are unequivocal . The ongoing and sharply polarised debate around teacher use of rewards, about the role of questioning in increasing student participation in class discussion, about the impact that a storytelling or narrative approach has on students’ understanding of history, and about phonics and whole language are some of the many examples of disputed findings which challenge the assumption that there are clear research generalizations available about the impact of particular styles. The source of many of these debates is contested views about desired outcomes (for example, increasing student independence and control versus the improvement of test scores). In the absence of agreement about teaching purposes it is very difficult to marshal compelling research evidence as the basis for assessing effective teaching.
The third flaw is that the arrow from Teaching Action to Student Outcomes assumes a linear connection that is complicated by such contextual factors as: the nature of the students the subject being taught the time of day the nature of the teaching environment the availability of resources the mood of the teacher The complex context of teaching is such that it is simplistic to claim that there is one right way to teach (for example, cooperative learning, or facilitation, or direct instruction) or that there are a list of qualities that can define a right way of teaching. Research generalisations, as generalisations, are not necessarily valid for all students in all contexts. Lists of style-based assessment criteria often appear to be inclusive but they are often inclusive of a general idealised view of teaching, not for the particular daily circumstances of teaching.
The key question as Ackerman explains is not the approach the teacher is using but the value of that approach in the particular context within which they are teaching: there is nothing intrinsically ‘bad’ about (direct instruction) or ‘good’ about co-operative learning. The overriding question must always be: In the time available, which pedagogical pathway is likely to lead students to the biggest pot of educational gold? (p. 345) In summary – the problem with the style view is that it is not what the teacher does that matters – it is what is happening for the students and the style view pays no direct attention to this. Before leaving the style approach it is important to clarify that all that is being claimed here is that style is an inappropriate means of assessing teaching effectiveness. It is not being claimed that teachers should disregard or research findings into effective teaching. They are an important source of advice about improvement but they are not determinants of effective performance.
This takes us to the polar opposite view – that the effectiveness of teaching is determined by student outcomes. The assumption behind this view, and represented by the dotted arrow and lightly shaded teaching actions box, is that if students’ achieve, then the teaching actions were effective.
Teaching effectiveness, therefore, is determined by what the students achieve or, in a more sophisticated view, by determining the value that a teacher adds to students’ entry level knowledge and abilities. This view has popular appeal (especially outside the teaching profession) and a simple logic. “ Effective teachers cause students to learn. Thus high student achievement can be attributed to effective teaching; low achievement to ineffective teaching.” The league tables of school pass rates in national examinations reflect such logic – the implication being that the best have the highest pass rates and by extension have the best teachers. A further extension of this logic is to suggest that teachers should be rewarded, through the mechanism of performance pay, for the successes of their students. Often implicit in this approach to teaching effectiveness is a comparative element that evaluates effectiveness by comparing achievement results.
While there is no disputing the need to relate the assessment of teaching effectiveness to student learning and achievement the simple comparative logic has three main flaws – it glosses over the significance of prior knowledge; it diminishes the student contribution to achievement; and it potentially restricts outcomes to easily measured learning. Lets consider each of these in turn.
Prior knowledge is a powerful determinant of current achievement. Forty years ago the educational psychologist David Ausubel wrote that If (he) had to reduce all of (the field) to just one principle, (he) would say this: The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach … accordingly. More recently Robert Marzano’s metaanalysis which aimed at identifying strategies for increasing student achievement reported an average correlation of 0.66 between a student’s prior knowledge of a topic and the extent to which that student learns new information on that topic. This is compelling evidence that, in Marzano’s words, “what students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content” These findings illustrate the flaw in claiming a simple, direct link between achievement and teaching and the unfairness of comparing the summative achievements of students and to attribute any difference to superior or inferior teaching.
The second flaw in the outcomes approach is that b y linking achievement directly and solely to teaching actions, this approach diminishes the role of the student as a source of success for their own achievement. A teacher’s ability to progress a student between time-points 1 and 2 is influenced by factors internal to the student such as their personal organisation, interests, motivation, personal attributions of success or failure, and beliefs about and motivations for particular subjects and tasks. While it is certainly true that a teacher can mitigate these influences, these factors cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant to student progress and by extension to the assessment of teaching effectiveness.
The third flaw in the Outcomes approach is that the measurement of student learning between time-points 1 and 2, if it is to be genuinely attributed to a teacher’s teaching, is extremely complex. The complexity arises because learning is not just influenced by teaching, and by factors internal to the student, but also by such factors as family background, ethnicity and social class. A genuine measure of a teacher’s contribution to learning would need to take account of these significant influences. There are three related complications: Firstly, the complexities of measurement may bias the assessment of teaching effectiveness towards more easily measured, objective, short-term outcomes. Secondly, even if more sophisticated measures were used that took account of social class there is no guarantee that the student’s learning could be attributed to the teacher. The student may well have received extra tutoring or support from external sources that contributed more to the outcome than the . And thirdly, even if learning could be attributed it would lead into something of a “black box”. We would know that Teacher A had contributed substantially to the learning and achievement of the students but we would not necessarily know what, of the many things that Teacher A did, made the difference.
In summary, therefore, while the assessment of teaching effectiveness must attend to student outcomes and a teacher’s role in developing these, outcomes do not determine effectiveness. So where does this take us to? If a focus on teacher actions is an inadequate basis for assessing teaching effectiveness, and a focus on student outcomes is equally inappropriate, what options are left?
The option that is left is one that focuses on the relationship between actions and outcomes. Put simply, this approach argues that: Effective teachers inquire into the relationship between what they do (style) and what happens for students (outcomes). But effective teachers do more than simply inquire (or reflect) – they take action (in relation to what they are doing in the classroom) to improve the outcomes for students and continue to inquire into the value of these interventions. Thus effective teaching is more than style and it is more than outcomes – it is the continual interrogation of the relationship between these two dimensions with the aim of enhancing student achievement . Such a model implies particular attitudes or dispositions (open-mindedness, fallibility) and particular actions (questioning students about what they are understanding) but it does not prescribe or checklist such qualities . It simply prescribes inquiry, action and the search for improvement.
The inquiry view of teaching effectiveness depicts two phases of inquiry: Inquiry 1 focuses on the impact of teaching actions on student outcomes. Central to this inquiry is the collection and analysis of high quality evidence based on the key question: “What is happening for students in my classroom?” and sub-questions that explore the relationship between teaching actions and student learning. Inquiry 2 focuses on identifying possibilities for improvement sourced in the experiences of other teachers (craft knowledge) and from research. The cycle of inquiry established by the processes of Inquiry 1 and Inquiry 2 enhances the opportunity to learn for the teacher (in the sense that they are learning about the impact of their own practice) and for the students (in the sense that changed teacher practices are aimed at increasing student engagement and success). There are two important caveats associated with this model: Firstly, while the model portrays a sequence from teaching action to student outcomes (Inquiry 1) followed by inquiry into possibilities for revised teaching actions (Inquiry 2), the cycle may start at any point. The first inquiry may, for example, be into teaching actions that are likely to generate desired outcomes (Inquiry 2 on the model here); and the second into the impact of those actions (Inquiry 1 on the model here). Also critical to this model is the determination of outcomes. A teacher may establish a strong inquiry approach that investigates the impact of their teaching on learners and that generates new possibilities for actions aimed at improving outcomes but if the outcomes are trivial or reflect poor use of limited time then the cycle of inquiry is not supporting effective teaching. In other words, there is a form of pre-inquiry where the teacher decides on, and is able to justify with reference to curriculum and community expectations, and to identified student needs, the outcomes that are forming the basis of their teaching and their ongoing inquiry.
Inquiry 1 . is guided by questions aimed at finding out what students are experiencing – for example, to what extent are they experiencing leaning that is actually aligned to intended outcomes? To what extent are they engaged/involved in/thinking about their learning? And To what extent are they experiencing success? Such questions lead to the need to seek information about student achievement, teacher planning (to understand intention and alignment), and the students’ own and observed responses. Effective teachers, therefore, Know how to pose questions that capture the main dimensions of the relationship between teaching and learning Know how to collect valid and reliable information that helps answer the questions about the relationship between teaching and learning Know how to analyse data to identify patterns and issues, and know to observe and analyse the teaching of others in ways that identifies actions that impact positively on student learning
Inquiry 2 . This inquiry focuses on identifying possibilities for improvement sourced in the past experience of the teacher, or in the experiences of colleagues, and from research. Effective teachers, therefore, know how to locate evidence that informs improvement and they know how to evaluate the quality of that evidence as an informant of improvement. In searching for possibilities for improvement it is easy to drawn to the ideas that are familiar and to restrict ourselves to sources that support our beliefs (about the “right” way to teach). Inquiry 2 is about seeking out the claims that are best supported by evidence. Not all claims are of equal value and given the responsibility we have to our students it is beholden on us to seek the strongest warrants to support our experimentations with revised teaching actions. It is also important to note that Inquiry 2 adopts a different approach to use of evidence than the style-based approach described earlier. Craft and research knowledge are not regarded as absolutes to be applied in all circumstances. They are regarded, no matter how competent the warrant, as the source of working hypotheses for enhancing the relationship between teacher actions and student learning. As such, they too need to be evaluated in the particular context within which the teacher is teaching.
While the discussion to this point has drawn attention to the knowledge and abilities necessary to support effective inquiry fundamental to this view of teaching effectiveness are the attitudes of openness and fallibility. By openness I mean an attitude that seeks to advance knowledge about personal practice. Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle refer to this as adopting an “inquiry stance” that is deliberate and systematic. They do not deny that much inquiry and action in teaching is, and needs to be, spontaneous but the inquiry stance implies a genuine willingness to re -search one’s own teaching – to open it to ordered and intentional analysis and critique. Openness also means searching for possibilities from all sources – not just the easy and familiar. By fallibility I mean understanding and accepting that in an area such as education there are no absolute truths and that, therefore, that in spite of seeking the strongest warrants for our practice we are operating on conjectures, or working hypotheses, that might fail. Even more than this it means not searching only for the fragments of evidence that might “prove” our pet theories right but increasing the strength of their warrant by searching for evidence that indicates the approach might not be working (for particular outcomes, with particular students, in particular contexts).
The inquiring teacher: Clarifying the concept of ‘teaching effectiveness’
The inquiring teacher: Clarifying the concept of ‘teaching effectiveness’ To support the First-time Principals Programme Module 2: Elements of teaching effectiveness
Three views of ‘teaching effectiveness’: <ul><li>the ‘style’ view </li></ul><ul><li>the ‘outcomes’ view </li></ul><ul><li>the ‘inquiry’ view </li></ul><ul><li>It will be argued that the INQUIRY framework offers the most defensible conceptualization of teaching effectiveness. </li></ul><ul><li>. </li></ul>
The style view Teaching actions Student outcomes
Effective teachers (style view)… <ul><li>Personality characteristics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>display warmth </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teaching techniques </li></ul><ul><ul><li>provide an overview at the start of teaching something new </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teaching approaches </li></ul><ul><ul><li>minimise the amount of time they are teaching the whole class from the front (direct instruction) </li></ul></ul>
The style view Teaching actions Student outcomes FLAW 2 Debates about research findings FLAW 3 Complex context FLAW 1 Looks in wrong place
Flaw 1 (style view) <ul><li>Looks in the wrong place </li></ul><ul><li>What the teacher demonstrates (against a predetermined list of qualities deemed to be “effective”) rather than what is happening for the students . </li></ul>
Flaw 2 (style view) <ul><li>Debates about research findings </li></ul><ul><li>It assumes that the research generalizations are unequivocal. </li></ul><ul><li>But consider the debates about : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the use of rewards, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the role of questioning in discussion, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the use of storytelling and narrative in history </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>phonics and whole language. </li></ul></ul>
Flaw 3 (style view) <ul><li>Complex context </li></ul><ul><li>The teaching – outcomes relationship is complicated by context: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>nature of the students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the subject being taught </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the time of day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the nature of the teaching environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the availability of resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>personal mood. </li></ul></ul>
The style view The overriding question must always be: In the time available, which pedagogical pathway is likely to lead students to the biggest pot of educational gold? (Ackerman, 2003) <ul><ul><li>It is not what the teacher does </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>that matters – </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>it is what is happening for the students . </li></ul></ul>
The outcomes approach Teaching actions Student outcomes
Teaching effectiveness (outcomes approach) <ul><li>... is determined by what students achieve. </li></ul><ul><li>The effectiveness of teachers is best determined by: </li></ul><ul><li>comparing the achievement of the students they teach. </li></ul><ul><li>comparing the added value they contribute to the achievement of the students they teach. </li></ul>
Flaw 1 (outcomes approach) Prior knowledge is a powerful influence on achievement. Unfair to compare summative achievements of students and to attribute the difference to superior or inferior teaching.
Flaw 2 (outcomes approach) <ul><li>Linking achievement to teaching actions diminishes the role of the student’s : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>personal organisation, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interest, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>motivation, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>personal attributions of success or failure, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>beliefs about and motivations for particular subjects and tasks. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Influence rather than change. </li></ul>
Flaw 3 (outcomes approach) <ul><li>The complexities of measurement : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>socio-economic factors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>bias to the easily measured </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>external assistance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ black” box. </li></ul></ul>
The outcomes approach <ul><ul><li>While the assessment of teaching effectiveness must attend to student outcomes and a teacher’s role in developing these, outcomes do not determine effectiveness. </li></ul></ul>
The inquiry approach More than style and it is more than outcomes . Continual interrogation of the relationship between these two dimensions with the aim of enhancing student achievement . Quality of inquiry into the relationship between teaching actions and student learning.
The inquiry approach Evidence 1 Question posing Data collection and analysis Teaching actions Student outcomes Inquiry 2 What are the possibilities? Evidence 2 Craft knowledge Researcher knowledge Working hypothesis Inquiry 1 What is happening? The cycle of inquiry established by the processes of Inquiry 1 and Inquiry 2 enhances the opportunity for teachers to learn about their own practice, and students to increase their engagement and success. Opportunity to Learn Pre- Inquiry What is worth spending time on?
Inquiry 1 Impact of teaching actions on student outcomes <ul><li>Posing questions about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>outcomes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>alignment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>success. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Collection of high quality evidence : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>student achievement data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>teacher documentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>classroom observation: student responses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>student feedback. </li></ul></ul>
Inquiry 2 Identifying possibilities for improvement <ul><li>Sources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the experiences of other teachers ( craft knowledge ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>researcher knowledge . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Seeking: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>strongest possible warrants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>evidence of impact on student learning. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Outcome: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>working hypotheses. </li></ul></ul>
Attitudes <ul><li>Openness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ordered, deliberate analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ideas from all sources. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fallibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>conjectures not absolute truths </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hypotheses may fail but that it is important to keep searching </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>searching for disconfirming evidence . </li></ul></ul>