State of the art – teacher effectiveness and professional learning
Volume 25 Number 2, 2014; Pages 231–256
The article synthesises research, including various meta-analyses, on effective teaching and effective teacher development. The synthesis identified several aspects of teaching as positively related to student achievement. One of them is the ability to create opportunities for students to learn. In part this is a matter of teaching that follows the curriculum and covers the topics against which students will be assessed. However, it also relates to maximising time on task. To achieve this, the pace of instruction should be fast enough to prevent boredom. Steps should also be taken to reduce misbehaviour, eg by establishing and enforcing a few key rules and procedures, especially with regard to the times when misbehaviour tends to occur. A second aspect of effective teaching concerns the quality of the instruction itself. An effectively structured lesson commences with overviews or reviews; sets out how the points of the work are to be covered, including transitions; and emphasises key concepts, repeating them for emphasis, and reviewing them at the end. During the lesson the teacher talks frequently but mainly about academic content rather than procedure, and the talk consists substantially of questions and feedback on questions, rather than lecturing. Students should also have scope to question the teacher and each other. Small group tasks should be explained clearly, with student progress monitored. Two further aspects of effective teaching – with more modest effect sizes – are the establishment of a classroom climate conducive to learning, and setting high academic expectations of all students. Most of the above research pertains to English and mathematics. The article then turns to research and practice in other areas. One is the promotion of self-regulated learning. The cognitive element of self-regulation covers planning, monitoring and evaluation of one's own studies. The metacognitive element covers strategies to check and regulate cognitive work. The teaching of metacognitive learning strategies should be embedded in the teaching of content. Students should be told about the effectiveness of using metacognitive learning strategies, which should be taught over extended periods. Another area of interest in education research and practice concerns the non-cognitive aspects of child development: well-being, self-concept, motivation and engagement. Teachers' impact on non-cognitive student outcomes has consistently been found to be more modest than on cognitive outcomes; insofar as teachers do promote positive non-cognitive outcomes, it is through the same strategies as they use to promote cognitive outcomes. The article also includes a substantial discussion on the integration of teacher effectiveness research into more general models of educational effectiveness.
A student's perspective on differentiation
Volume 36 Number 1, 2014; Pages 25–29
A teacher describes a range of exercises she set for her year 10 humanities students, each exercise differentiated in a particular way. She also describes students' responses to the differentiation strategy used in each case. The first exercise allowed students to choose between three levels of challenge for the completion of an assignment: one option was to work in groups with added support; another to work in pairs, without assistance; and the third to work as individuals at a higher level of challenge, under test conditions. The second exercise let students choose between different tasks which varied in difficulty and had correspondingly different assessment weightings. The third exercise 'tiered students according to readiness' as they wrote a speech for a UN conference. They could choose one of two roles: one involved delivering a speech with the help of a template, the other, posing a higher level of challenge with less guidance, was that of a 'debater' who had to deliver a one-minute rebuttal of an opponent's speech. Further exercises involved a test that was differentiated as either open- or closed-book, and a research task delivered either as a pre-structured report or as an essay. The final, and most complex, exercise 'specified three different topics that the class would study over a two-week timeframe and also three different skills each student must complete'. Students responded to the differentiation in several ways. One student concern was the possibility of favouritism as the teacher spent added time with certain students, singly or in groups, providing added support or extension activities. This concern tended to diminish as students became absorbed in a particular exercise. Another problem was students' tendency to choose an inappropriate level of challenge, requiring intervention by the teacher. This tendency was least evident during the exercise when students had to speak before the class, perhaps because they sensed that their skill level would face immediate exposure before peers.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Volume 40, 2014; Pages 1–24
Children's academic development advances substantially when their parents read to them frequently, according to recent research. Data was taken from Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, which commenced in 2004. Boys aged four to five who were read to by a parent three to five days per week subsequently read as well as boys almost half a year older; those who were read to six to seven days per week subsequently read as well as boys almost a year older. Effects for girls were 'very similar'. Smaller and less significant gains were also recorded for the children's numeracy, as measured on NAPLAN numeracy test results; the gains were slightly greater for boys. The study found that these benefits to reading skills and other cognitive skills persist 'at least up to age 10 or 11' and most likely in later years as well. While previous studies have established correlations between parental reading and children's cognitive development, the current study identified a causal effect, based on two distinct econometric methods.
Subject HeadingsParent and child
Managing mandated educational change
Volume 34 Number 1, 2014; Pages 39–51
Policy reforms mandated by government are not always smoothly and fully implemented at school level. One critic describes reforms as often being 'rushed, under-resourced or simply not thought through', and therefore difficult for time-poor teachers to implement. A related problem is 'innovation overload': the introduction of multiple 'and sometimes contradictory' reforms in quick succession. Teachers have little opportunity to reflect on how the proposed changes relate to their own opinions about education. As a result of such problems, teachers may resist changes or implement them in a distorted manner, anticipating that a proposed policy change will soon be replaced by a new initiative. The author describes case studies of two public high schools in Sydney, during the NSW Government's introduction of the Quality Teaching (QT) initiative in 2003. The teachers at both schools were given similar amounts of time to learn about the initiative, and both received explanatory booklets about it. Teachers at the second school, which was classed as low-SES, had a small amount of additional time for professional learning, which was used for further study of QT during its introduction. Several years after the introduction of the initiative (results were published in 2007) the researcher interviewed three teachers at each school, who had been teaching during the introduction of QT. The findings support earlier studies: teachers at both schools described a sense of compulsion surrounding the initiative, said they had lacked time needed to interpret the reforms in their own contexts, and that they had perceived the initiative as transitory. However, four of the six teachers indicated that they had found ways to relate the reforms to school goals and their own goals as individual teachers. Findings from the study, and earlier literature, suggest that government policy mandates are likely to be implemented only superficially unless they are linked to the goals that motivate teachers at the school level. In this context school leaders become key mediators between the education system and teaching staff within the school. A school-oriented approach to change means that teachers feel empowered and important contributors to the change process. To be successful reforms also need to be accompanied by 'support for schools and teachers to facilitate teacher understanding, shifts in beliefs and values and changes in pedagogy'. This means that reforms should be less frequent, and implemented over longer time frames.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
New South Wales (NSW)
Inquiring into children's experiences of teacher feedback: reconceptualising Assessment for Learning
Volume 39 Number 2, 2013; Pages 229–246
A longitudinal study in England has examined the intellectual and emotional impact of teacher feedback on primary students. Nine children aged 9–10 in a year 5 class were observed and filmed in threes, twos or individually over two terms, January–July 2010. The same groupings of children later viewed the recordings and discussed them with the researcher. The class was part of a 'thriving' school; their teacher was viewed as 'competent and confident' by the school's head teacher. It appeared that the teacher needed to find a delicate balance, providing adequate support without compromising the children's sense of agency; this balance varied according to different topics, occasions, and groups of children. For example, lower-achieving children tended to object to the teacher repeating her feedback, and to the teacher giving them answers too quickly, limiting their sense of agency, while higher achievers tended to want more detailed and frequent feedback. The children objected to feedback that was overly directive; they also felt that they benefited from 'substantial but not burdensome' detail in the teacher's responses. They appreciated feedback in the form of 'reminder cues', in view of the amount that they had to remember. The children also noted that both negative and positive feedback 'provoked emotions which could interfere with or support learning'. It is helpful for children and their teacher to discuss the impact of teacher feedback; such conversations may be understood as a form of assessment for learning.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Teaching and learning
Assessment for learning (formative assessment)
Reading is now 'cool': a study of English teachers' perspectives on ereading devices as a challenge and an opportunity
Volume 66 Number 3, 2014; Pages 263–275
A survey in England has examined teachers' professional and personal responses towards ereaders. Responses were received from 137 teachers, out of 600 contacted; they were sourced from the mailing list of the National Association of Teachers of English. Approximately half the respondents owned an ereader themselves; of these, three in four had owned the device for less than a year. Three quarters of the respondents worked in secondary schools; the others were primary or tertiary educators, or retired. Most respondents were aged between 40 and 49. Almost half the respondents had been teaching for 15 years or more. Most respondents welcomed ereaders as 'a dynamic element within the reading environment', with particular potential to motivate reluctant or struggling readers. They valued ereaders primarily for their portability, ease of downloads, and the presence of tools to facilitate reading, eg annotation and easy access to dictionary definitions. Some teachers also reported comments from students that ereaders were 'cool', and that they removed the 'stigma' from reading. The most common reason for dislike of ereaders was the absence of the tactile experiences associated with the traditional book. Other concerns related to battery life or the absence of pagination, and the possibility that the devices would be distracting for students. The teachers expected growing demand for the use of ereaders in education – primarily from students, rather than from parents or government. The key issue for most teachers was to deepen students' engagement with reading a wide range of text types, regardless of format.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
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