Tuesday, 1 December 2015

What makes a 'good teacher'?

Press reports suggest encouraging 'good teachers' to go and work in schools which are not improving.

But, is there such a thing as a 'good teacher'?  Is there something about another person which means they could never be good?

The evidence shows that some teaching methods, management styles and staff training are more effective than others.  This is confirmed when we look in the classrooms of highly effective teachers.  We do not see them doing strange things; we see them using evidence-based methods.  For example they:

  • are more likely to assess, or be aware of, the knowledge the student has and link new learning to it
  • will use more visual or tactile methods to present new information
  • check learning using questioning
  • promote discussion
  • value effort rather then 'cleverness'
  • make sure the students re-visit new learning regularly over the coming days
However, if you ask these teachers why they are using these methods, they do not say "I read the evidence and have adjusted my teaching", they usually say something like "Oh!  That's just what I do."

In other words, many great teachers have simply intuited the evidence.  (or, they were lucky in their guesswork!).

This is good news. It means there are no 'bad teachers', just teachers using methods which are not effective.  It means that the focus should be on staff training - getting teachers to identify learning needs, pick an effective method and use it repeatedly over 6 months until it is part of their regular practice.

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