What the resource is:
This is the full research report of a two-year mixed method study funded by the ESRC into effective classroom practice in both the primary and secondary phases of schooling. This research, which was undertaken between 2006 and 2008 by a team at the University of Nottingham, built on an existing longitudinal four-year research project involving 80 teachers, and aimed to draw out the key factors that contribute to effective teaching.
Of the sample of 80 teachers participating, 26 had been involved in the earlier research and 55 were recruited for the current study. These teachers were recruited from schools identified as being effective, based on examination and assessment data. The study sought to build a multi-dimensional picture of effective teaching by exploiting a variety of structured observational instruments as well as field notes, semi-structured interviews with the teachers themselves, and their pupils and school leaders. The research considered the learning environment, the lessons themselves, and teacher persona, in order to elicit the core characteristics of effective teaching, which matched , by and large, those arising from the extensive literature review undertaken for the project.
The aims of the resource:
The principle aims were three-fold. The first was to explain the variation in the practice of primary and secondary school teachers through the use of two different observations instruments. The second was to explore typical and more effective classroom practice across different contexts, professional experience and any personal factors impacting on teachers, and thirdly, the aim was to explicate these findings for policy makers and the teaching profession.
Key findings or focus:
Effective teachers were found to be well-planned, have well-organised lessons with clear objectives, and to encourage a supportive environment for learning by affording pupils support. Pupils were engaged by interesting activities and positive classroom management strategies. The data from observations suggested that there are some generic or core characteristics of teacher effectiveness, i.e. they are context independent, but some observations supported the idea that these may also be context dependent and may vary according to the lesson or group that they were teaching.
Teachers in the sample stated that relationships are a key factor in being successful in the classroom, although with primary teachers being more likely than secondary teachers to wish for pupils to get to know them. Praise and feedback to pupils were viewed as critical to building relationships. High expectations were quoted also by teachers as being significant to good practice. The teachers in the study commented that good subject knowledge was essential and that CPD enhanced their practice. These teachers also rated planning and good organisation highly as contributing to their effectiveness. They were motivated and extracted great job satisfaction from their work. These, together with enthusiasm and positive relationships with pupils, were viewed as being more important than experience or having good pedagogical knowledge. For pupils, their enjoyment and security were paramount.
The study summarised the findings by concluding that the key components of effective teaching take account of: climate for learning, the learning and teaching, pupil needs, assessment for learning, resources and environment, and planning and organisation. This study, then, revisits the findings of other research on effective teaching and learning, such as those of the Hay McBer Report (2000), and, as such, supports the idea that in fact these teachers exhibit good pedagogical knowledge despite not rating it as highly as the interpersonal aspects of the job. Pedagogical knowledge was found to contribute greatly to effective practice.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
This is a research report produced for the ESRC by a well established research team in a highly regarded department and university. It is to be recommended for the bibliography alone. It is methodologically robust and the evidence has been triangulated.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
The evidence in the report shows that effective teaching is based on sound pedagogical principles, and these will be familiar to those in ITE, since they form the basis of teacher education. The report could be used to supplement recommended texts, as well as other research and students could be referred to the extensive bibliography in addition to any course reading lists. It illustrates the valued of research evidence, and draws attention to the valued placed by teachers on good planning, which will delight any tutor.
The relevance to ITE students:
The report highlights the importance both of pedagogical principles and interpersonal relationships. It shows that building relationships are vital for effective teaching, and this may serve to encourage student teachers as they work hard to build these in very short teaching practices. Of particular note is the emphasis placed by teachers in the study on good planning and organisation since it draws attention to the fact that there are few short cuts in teaching!
Dr Anne Bore
The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:
McBer, H. (2000) Research into Teacher Effectiveness. London: DfEE