What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research by Coe et al. (A summary)

Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S., & Elliot Major, L. (2014). What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research. London: Sutton Trust. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/What-Makes-Great-Teaching-REPORT.pdf

  1. What makes “great teaching”?
  2. What kinds of frameworks or tools could help us to capture it?
  3. How could this promote better learning?

Q1. What makes “great teaching”?

Effective teaching is that which leads to improved student achievement using outcomes that matter to their future success; student progress is the yardstick by which teacher quality should be assessed. [This statement makes several assumptions: that “achievement,” or grades, indicate learning; that so-called relevance – “outcomes that matter to … future success” – is the goal of learning (with what counts as success being undefined and “outcomes” of learning assumed to be what we should value) — Sean]

Strong evidence of impact on student learning:

  1. content knowledge
  2. quality of instruction

Moderate evidence of impact on student learning:

  1. classroom climate
  2. classroom management

Some evidence of impact on student learning:

  1. teacher beliefs
  2. professional behaviours

Q2: “What kinds of frameworks/tools could help us to capture great teaching?”

A formative teacher evaluation system (based on continuous assessment and feedback rather than a high-stakes test) must triangulate a range of measures, from different sources, using a variety of methods.

Moderate validity in evaluation:

  1. classroom observations by peers, “superiors” or external evaluators
  2. “value-added” models (assessing gains in student achievement)
  3. student evaluations

Limited validity:

  1. the judgement of superiors
  2. teacher self-reports
  3. analysis of classroom artifacts and teacher portfolios

Q3: “How could this promote better learning?”

Teacher learning can have a sizeable impact on student outcomes, especially when structured explicitly as a continuous professional learning opportunity in which

  1. the focus is kept clearly on improving student outcomes
  2. feedback is related to clear, specific and challenging goals for the recipient
  3. attention is on the learning rather than to the person or comparisons with
  4. teachers are encouraged to be continual independent learners
  5. feedback is mediated by a mentor in an environment of trust and support
  6. an environment of professional learning and support is promoted by the institution

And …

What doesn’t work?

Here are seven common teaching practices that are not backed up by evidence:

  1. Using lavish praise

Use praise that is valued by the learner

  1. Allowing learners to discover key ideas for themselves

Teach new ideas, knowledge or skills directly

  1. Grouping learners by ability
  2. Re-reading and highlighting

Teach students to test themselves at intervals to allow for productive forgetting

  1. Addressing issues of confidence and low aspirations

Enable students to succeed and their motivation and confidence should increase

  1. Teaching to a learner’s preferred learning style
  2. Active learners remember more than passive learners

Get students to think about what you want them to learn – “actively” or “passively”


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