Lemovs teaching techniques influencing Charter schools but also academies here
Doug Lemov, an American teacher and the author of Teach Like A Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college (2010) is having a considerable impact on some US schools in the Charter movement. Lemov is managing director of Uncommon Schools, a chain of 32 charter schools (the US equivalent of academies) operating in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. These have become the highest-performing schools in their districts, despite being located in some of the most deprived communities. Lemov’s book has become a “bible” for thousands of teachers in the US . It is also having an impact here. Ark, one of the most successful academy chains here, rather like his ideas .
Teach Like A Champion Field Guide is a practical resource to make the 49 techniques your own. It claims to provide a detailed look at top classroom techniques used by top teachers -that work. Lemov includes a DVD of teaching clips that illustrate what these techniques look like in practice. For each technique he provides enough detail on the practice but also seeks to provide an explanation of the rationale behind it.
The book is not just aimed as a tool for teachers. It seeks to provide a resource to help school leaders understand the elements of effective teaching which is vital in both observing and training their own teachers. When Lemov refers to a ‘technique’-what exactly does that mean? Here are two examples:
Technique 1: NO OPT OUT
In typical classes, when students don’t know an answer, or don’t want to try, they quickly learn the teacher will leave them alone if they respond to a question with “I don’t know” or shrugging their shoulders. The teacher then moves on to another student. Instead, NO OPT OUT is a useful tool to get all students to the right answer, as often as possible, even if only to repeat the correct answer.
For example, on day 1 to review you ask Charlie, “What is 3 times 8?” He mutters, “I don’t know” and looks away. Many teachers don’t know how to respond, and students come to use “I don’t know” to avoid work all year long. Instead, at a minimum, you can turn to another student, ask the same question, and if you get the correct answer, turn back to Charlie, “Now you tell me what is 3 times 8.”
Charlie, and all of the students, have just learned that they can’t get off the hook and must do the work in your class. In a more rigorous form of NO OPT OUT you or another student can provide a cue. For example, in a class where a student was unable to identify the subject of the sentence, “My mother was not happy” the teacher asked another student, “When I am asking you for the subject, what am I asking for?” The second student responded, “You are asking for who or what the sentence is about.” Then the teacher turned to the first student and said, “When I ask for the subject, I am asking for who or what the sentence is about. What’s the subject?” This time the student was able to respond correctly, “Mother.” The sequence began with the student unable to answer and ended up with him giving a correct answer. Note that the tone in most classrooms that use NO OPT OUT is positive and academic and using it only reinforces the teacher’s belief in students’ ability to get the right answer.
Technique 2: RIGHT IS RIGHT
Students often stop striving when they hear that their answer is “right.” However, many teachers often accept answers that are partially correct or not totally complete. They affirm these answers by repeating them and then adding information to make the answer completely correct. For example, when asked how the families in Romeo and Juliet get along a student says, “They don’t like each other.” You would hope that the teacher would ask for more elaboration, but instead, she might say, “Correct, they don’t like each other and have been feuding for generations.” By responding in this way, the teacher is setting a low standard for correctness. The key idea behind RIGHT IS RIGHT is that the teacher should set and defend a high standard of correctness by only naming “right” those answers which are truly and completely right. There are four ways to use the RIGHT IS RIGHT technique.
1. Hold out for all the way. When students are close to the answer, tell them they’re almost there. While great teachers don’t confuse effort and mastery, they do use simple, positive language to appreciate what students have done and to hold them to the expectation that they still have more to do. For example, “I like what you’ve done. Can you get us the rest of the way?”
2. Answer the question. Students learn if they don’t know an answer they can answer a different question, particularly if they relate it to their own lives. If they can’t identify a story’s setting, for example, a student might start with, “That reminds me of something in my neighbourhood…” Or, you ask for a definition and a student gives you an example, “Eyeball is a compound, word.” Instead, direct the student back to the question at hand, “Kim, that’s an example, I want the definition.”
3. Right answer, right time. Sometimes students get ahead of you and provide the answer when you are asking for the steps to the problem. While it may be tempting to accept this answer, if you were teaching the steps, then it is important to make sure students have mastered those steps, “My question wasn’t about the solution. It was, what do we do next?”
4. Use technical vocabulary. Good teachers accept words students are already familiar with as right answers, “Volume is the amount of space something takes up.” Great teachers push for precise technical vocabulary, “Volume is the cubic units of space an object occupies.” This approach strengthens a student’s vocabulary and better prepares him/her for college.
The TES reported on 12 April that Lemov’s Uncommon Schools are often visited by Future Leaders, which is why the charity is one of the biggest promoters of US teaching methods in England. Once a year, it flies a group of UK teachers to the US to see how particular schools in some of the poorest regions of the country function. Heath Monk, chief executive of Future Leaders, says that the purpose of the US trips is more to do with school culture than pedagogy. The US as a whole, he admits, does not perform well, but there are pockets of brilliance where schools are working miracles.
“We are looking at very small subsets of very successful charter schools; schools that are achieving, by US standards, outstanding outcomes,” Monk says. “And they are doing so with some seriously challenging kids. It shows what can be achieved with an outstanding school culture, even when their pedagogy would likely be judged by Ofsted as requiring improvement.”
Most teachers reach a performance plateau after 3-5 years
Little evidence that teachers improve much after a couple of years
Alex Quigley , a teacher, writing in The Guardian this week ,reminded us that the author, Joshua Foer, originated the term ‘ok plateau’ in his popular science book, Moonwalking with Einstein, on the subject of improving memory. He used it to describe that common autopilot state when you have habitually mastered the basics of a task, but despite being skilled you stop really improving to reach expert status; you simply plateau in performance .Teachers are as prone as any other profession to this state. Indeed evidence, from Rivkin, Hanushek and Kain (2005) (see below), is that after the first couple of years teacher quality reaches a plateau and teacher experience beyond this point has a negligible impact upon student attainment. This, Quigley correctly claims, clashes with our basic presumptions about experience in teaching and it should certainly give us food for thought.
So, what is the evidence, more generally, about the impact of experience on teachers performance?
Experience does make a difference—especially at the beginning of a teacher’s career. On average, teachers with some experience are more effective than brand new teachers.
(Kane,Rockoff and Staiger (2006). “What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?” NBER Working Paper 12155.)
Teachers improve the most early in their careers. One study found that “close to half of the teacher achievement returns to experience arise during the first few years of teaching.” (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor (2007). “How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?” CALDER Working Paper)
The shift from no experience, to some experience, makes the biggest difference. One study found that “the bulk of the experience effects occur during the first year,” while another noted that “the effect of moving from being completely inexperienced to having a full year of experience” matters most.
(Harris and Sass (2007). “Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement.” CALDER Working Paper ) Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Rockoff, and Wyckoff (2008). “The Narrowing Gap in Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement.” NBER Working Paper 14021
However, most teachers reach their peak after about five years in the classroom. Teachers gradually reach plateau after 3-5 years on the job.
(Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor (2006). “Teacher-student matching and the assessment of teacher effectiveness.” National Bureau of Economic Research)
As one study put it,“ there is little evidence that improvement continues after the first three years.” (Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain (2005). “Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement.” Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458.)
Another found that, on average, teachers with 20 years of experience are not much more effective than those with 5 years of experience. (Ladd, Helen F. (2008). “Value-Added Modelling of Teacher Credentials: Policy Implications)
Some studies suggest that effectiveness actually declines toward the end of a teacher’s career. For example, the most experienced high school maths teachers in the States may be less effective than their less experienced colleagues and even their inexperienced colleagues.
(Ladd (2008); Harris and Sass (2007))
Teacher performance varies at all levels of experience. Individual teachers tend to improve with experience, but not all teachers begin their careers with the same skills or rise to the same level.
(Xu, Hannaway,and Taylor (2009). “Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School.” CALDER Working Paper 17. National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research)
The fact that a fifth-year teacher is more effective than she was in her first year doesn’t mean she’s more effective than all first-year teachers. In fact, research shows that some less-experienced teachers are more effective than teachers with more experience.
(Sass, Hannaway, Xu, and Figlio (2010). “Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty and Lower-Poverty Schools.” CALDER Working Paper 52)
One study found that when layoffs are based on seniority alone, about 80% of the novice teachers who get pink slips are more effective than their lowest-performing colleagues who remain. (Goldhaberand Theobold (2010). “Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs.” Center for Education Data & Research, University of Washington-Bothell)
There is limited evidence, but not consensus, that returns to experience vary based on how a teacher is assigned over the years—by subject, and by how long they teach the same grade.
(Ost, Ben (2009). “How do Teachers Improve? The Relative Importance of Specific and General Human Capital.” Cornell University)
In teaching experience helps, but it doesn’t tell the full story—and it certainly doesn’t guarantee excellence. As one study of more than a half-million students concluded, “experience is not significantly related to achievement following the initial years in the profession.”
You would have thought that Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should be able to address this challenge. But part of the problem, according to Quigley (an English teacher at Huntington School, York) is ‘ our system of continuous performance development ’.
He writes ‘This system is tied to targets and professional standards that actually inhibit conscientious teachers taking risks and experimenting with new teaching strategies. We set targets, either consciously or subconsciously, so that we may meet them, regardless whether they genuinely improve our practice or not. Gone is the regular critical feedback of our first couple of years. We move into autopilot, often even entering a state of professional inertia.’
Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement Steven G. Rivkin; Eric A. Hanushek; John F. Kain Econometrica, Vol. 73, No. 2. (Mar., 2005), pp. 417-458.
TEACHING QUALITY AND CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Lessons from the London Challenge?
Research from the London School of Economics for the Sutton Trust has shown that English schools could move into the world’s top five education performers within a decade if the performance of the least effective 10% of teachers were brought up to the average. So, how do we improve the quality of teaching in our schools? The Teacher Development Trust cites research from New Zealand on the impact of high-quality CPD on the education outcomes of children, where children taught by teachers on high-quality CPD programmes were improving twice as fast as those in other classes. The improvement is more pronounced for those deemed in the 20% ‘least able,’ who made improvements four to six times as fast as their peers. The important point here is that CPD has to be high quality. Sadly,historically, much CPD hasn’t been high quality. Simply sending teachers to an occasional external course will have little or no effect on them, or on student outcomes, for that matter. Thomas Guskey has identified, in his research on evaluating CPD, that impacts of CPD must be measured through children’s outcomes. Schools have to be led by the evidence on what works to improve their pupils’ education.
Currently, there is a growing body of resources for schools to draw on. The Sutton Trust’s Pupil Premium Toolkit, the York Informed Practice Initiative (YIPI) and the Teacher Development Trust’s Good CPD Guide web site are all very useful in this respect.
Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary, believes that we can learn much from the London Challenge about effective CPD. So, what can we learn? He writes: (Teaching Leaders Quarterly-March 2013): ‘There are three policy lessons. We need a system of challenge and support. Stick without the carrot might make popular headlines but it will do little to change the outcomes of the children served by underperforming teachers. London Challenge advisors set clear and ambitious new standards. But they did so by working in collaboration with teachers to get buy in. Second, working across schools underpinned the programme. Teachers would receive training from high performing colleagues in other schools. It is clear that being in a different setting was an important aspect for learning new and improved ways to teach. Third, the evidence from Ofsted’s evaluation of London Challenge found that where teachers were trained on improved teaching and learning strategies, this led to lasting legacies in their schools. Crucially, the impact was not only felt by schools in receipt of the support from partner schools, it was also felt by host schools.
The Logical Chain (Ofsted, 2006) noted that: ‘Few schools evaluated the impact of CPD on teaching and learning successfully’ a situation that appears not to have changed much.
Thomas Guskey (2000) introduced a significant focus on evaluating CPD through the impact it had on learning outcomes for young people. Guskey sees impact as being achieved at five potential levels:
organisation support and change
participants’ use of new knowledge and skills
student learning outcomes
Crucially, he argues that we need to pay attention to all five levels of impact if the goal of improving classroom learning is to be achieved, especially levels 2 – 5.
Following Guskey, Goodall et al investigated the range of evaluative practices for CPD. Using Guskey’s levels as a framework, they found that schools lacked experience, skills and tools to evaluate the impact of CPD.
(Acknowledgments to the Teacher Development Trust)
Performance pay-be careful what you wish for
From September 2013, the set “spine points” on teachers main pay scale are to be scrapped, with schools free to set teachers’ pay anywhere between minimum and maximum levels depending on performance.
While academies are already free to deviate from national pay structures, (very few have, to date) the plans drawn up by the STRB – and accepted in full by the Department for Education – will now give other schools greater power to link teachers’ pay to performance.
It is clear that the issue of performance related pay is high on this governments agenda. Ministers are trying to raise the quality of teaching to compare with the best in the world. The OECD (2009) concluded that “the effective monitoring and evaluation of teaching is central to the continuous improvement of the effectiveness of teaching in a school”. It is less clear that this issue is high on teachers and governors agendas.
The last Labour government introduced a PRP system in the late 1990’s and just about every teacher who was eligible met the criteria for a pay rise ,(96%) so it didn’t really work . In short, it failed effectively to link extra rewards to higher performance. Heads and governors dont much like dealing with this sensitive issue head on as inevitably it causes some conflicts and ill feeling within staff rooms, which may go some way to explaining why the last system failed.
Central to PRP or ‘merit ‘pay is the ability to accurately measure and evaluate individual teachers performance. The system you develop should be fair, efficient and not have a large bureaucracy attached to it. And that is why,frankly, it is problematic.
The three most common ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness, according to research, are gains in test scores, classroom observations and pupil surveys. Each method though has its known weaknesses. Teacher observation apparently is the least predictive method of assessing teacher effectiveness. Nonetheless, despite this, those involved with teacher evaluation say that each element has its place within a comprehensive and fair teacher evaluation system. The key they claim is to get the right balance between these different elements, which is easier said than done.
Of these elements, gains in pupil test scores are seen by most as the best available metric to measure teacher performance. However, as they are finding in the USA, it doesn’t come without its problems. (around forty states have introduced some form of merit pay, incentivised to do so by the Federal government) . Although schools can have a substantial impact on performance, student test scores can also increase, decrease or remain flat for reasons that have little or nothing to do with schools. Measurement errors can occur, while parental education levels, family’s economic circumstances, and parental involvement, can also play a role. There is self-evidently a strong incentive for playing the numbers to look successful on “quality” measures since the numbers carry substantial consequences for the teacher. This is a very high stakes game. Working out how to look good, through test results, becomes an end in itself, with the numbers becoming more important than the primary task of teaching students. Given that many politicians now worry about teachers being pre-occupied with teaching to the test, and children’s education suffering as a consequence, introducing test scores as the primary metric to evaluate teachers is going to encourage more (indeed all) teachers to teach to the test ,not less.
It would seem that Value-added or progress measures, rather than absolute test or exam results, should be the primary data used in evaluating performance, certainly this is what many experts recommend. But, and its quite a big but, measuring value added is itself not free from controversy and there are different models available, with their own strengths and weaknesses, and with no clear consensus identifiable.
There are ways, though, of using pay to encourage groups of teachers to work better together to improve outcomes. And, if one is honest about this issue, it sticks in the craw that outstanding teachers are not rewarded as they should be, while poor teachers can stay in the profession for life having a hugely negative effect on students life opportunities, and education outcomes, while acting as a drag on improving the system more generally (quite apart from irritating their better performing peers).
To recap-to make progress in this area you need to develop a system that is fair, balanced, transparent and not too bureaucratic. They are still struggling with this challenge in the States, where they are well ahead of us in both thinking and practice on this issue.
One recent study titled ‘The Use and Misuse of Teacher Appraisal’ (Laura Figazzolo- Education International Research Institute Consultant- January 2013) found: ‘ The evidence is that many dimensions need to be taken into account when evaluating teachers. Student achievements are but one dimension – especially when these are standardized tests. Where teacher appraisal is based on professional standards, classroom observations, curriculum development, and a wide range of associated factors which are associated with teaching and teacher perspectives, comprehensive methods seem to be able to provide more valuable information. When teacher appraisal arrangements and policies are conceived with the participation of teachers and their unions, comprehensive methods seem to be able to gain teachers’ trust and provide valuable information. As such, they are gaining growing recognition in the debate on teacher appraisal’
It is frustratingly true that schools here seeking expert advice and guidance on this issue will be confronted with much conflicting evidence and the issue is neither simple nor straightforward..
GROUPING BY ABILITY -EVIDENCE MIXED
Does it help the equity agenda? Look at international practice.
Grouping by ability means that pupils with similar attainment levels are grouped together either for specific lessons on a regular basis (setting or regrouping) or as a class (streaming or tracking). The assumption is that it will be possible to teach more effectively or more efficiently with a narrower range of attainment in a class.
The Education Endowment Foundation ,which has reviewed evidence on grouping by ability, found that while there is some evidence that there can be benefits for high attaining pupils these benefits are outweighed by the direct and indirect negative effects for mid range and lower performing pupils, with low attaining learners falling behind on average by one or two months a year compared to progress in their class without segregation .The EEF also found ‘research shows a clear longer term negative effect on the attitude and engagement of low attaining and disadvantaged pupils’.However, and this is important, the exception is the impact that separate teaching can have on gifted and talented pupils ‘who benefit from a range of different kinds of ability grouping’
Jo Boaler, a Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University in her paper ‘The ‘Psychological Prisons’ from which they never escaped: The role of ability grouping in reproducing social class inequalities’ (2005)asserted that the ability grouping policies that the last Labour government had encouraged in schools would not be entertained in most other countries in the world and goes some way to explaining the inequities in the UK system. She writes ‘England strides forward, encouraging extensive ability grouping practices at the youngest possible age. It is only the rarest and bravest of teachers who have managed to resist the pressures to group by ‘ability’ from the current Labour government, thereby maintaining a vision of schooling that promotes equity and high attainment for all. ‘ In Sweden ability grouping is illegal because it is known to produce inequities. In the US parents have brought law-suits against school districts that have denied high level curricula to students at high school age; the idea that such selectivity in ‘opportunity to learn’ (Porter, 1994) could happen at elementary school is inconceivable for most Americans. In Japan (Yiu, 2001) students are believed to have equal potential and the aim of schools is to encourage students to attain at equally high levels. Japanese educators are bemused by the Western goal of sorting students into high and low ‘abilities’.
Boaler suggests that one of the most important goals of schools is to provide stimulating environments for all children; environments in which children’s interest can be peaked and nurtured, with teachers who are ready to recognize, cultivate and develop the potential that children show at different times and in different areas. It is difficult to support a child’s development and nurture their potential if they are placed into a low group at a very early age, told that they are achieving at lower levels than others, given less challenging and interesting work, taught by less qualified and experienced teachers, and separated from peers who would stimulate their thinking. Yet the predictability of performance in English schools seems not to trouble policy makers who support early and extensive ability grouping (Carvel, 1996). This is one of the reasons that the UK scores at the bottom of the scale on PISA’s measures of equality (OECD, 2000; Green, 2003) she claims. It is an interesting point. How many children are identified early on as weak in a particular subject and placed in a low ability grouping normally with the worst teacher, and stay there, so reinforcing their sense of underachievement and failure? Quite a few I would suggest. Large scale analyses of school effectiveness, conducted with international datasets, such as PISA and SIMS, conclude that ‘schools that group students the latest and the least have the highest outcomes.’ Research on ability grouping has persistently shown high correlations between social class and setting (Ball, 1981, Boaler, 1997a), with social class working as a subtle filter that results in the over-representation of working class children in low groups.
Boaler conducted a longitudinal study of two schools, one of which set by ability early on, the other had mixed ability classes and then set by ability just before exams. Cohorts of students in the two schools, who were similar in terms of social class and prior attainment, were monitored for three years (Boaler, 1997a, 2002).. The one that left setting to the last moment had much better results. Indeed, many of the students in the setting school reported that they gave up on their learning when they were placed into any set from 2 downwards. Boaler was particularly worried about how keen the Governments was to introduce ability grouping in Primary schools. Her conclusion was that if the Government ( then Labour) cares about promoting ‘social justice’ then an important part of their agenda for the future must be to learn about equitable and effective grouping policies that promote high achievement for all and reduce rather than reproduce social inequalities.
This is all very interesting given how strongly some educationalists and politicians feel about the positive impact of setting.One experienced teacher, and consultant, Joe Nutt, commenting on this issue and the Boaler research wrote ”Taking primary education out of the equation, then any research on setting which doesn’t show an acute awareness of its relevance in different subject disciplines through its design, isn’t worth a great deal. I’d argue that setting in those subjects where knowledge gain is heavily sequential, is almost a necessity. The risk of under-performance works at both ends of the scale and is equally costly’
Politicians shouldn’t be telling schools whether they should set by ability or not, that is called micro-management from the centre and self-evidently undermines school autonomy. It is precisely the kind of decision that should be left to schools themselves, informed by evidence of what works best in practice, in particular contexts.
The importance of teachers continuous professional development
Four elements needed for success
Teachers are being challenged to transform educational outcomes, often under difficult conditions, says Andreas Schleicher of the OECD in a recent article for Huffington Post
No matter how good the pre-service education for teachers is, it cannot be expected to prepare teachers for all the challenges they will face throughout their careers.
All this underlines the need, Schleicher says, to better support and encourage teacher participation in continued professional development and to ensure that professional development really matches teachers’ needs. The OECD identifies several aspects as central to success:
‘First, well-structured and resourced induction programs can support new teachers in their transition to full teaching responsibilities before they obtain all the rights and responsibilities of full-time professional teachers. In countries such as Finland, once teachers have completed their pre-service education and begun their teaching, they begin one or two years of heavily supervised teaching. During this period, the beginning teacher typically receives a reduced workload, mentoring by master teachers and continued formal instruction.
Second, effective professional development needs to be ongoing, include training, practice and feedback, and provide adequate time and follow-up support. Successful programs involve teachers in learning activities that are similar to those they will use with their students, and encourage the development of teachers’ learning communities.
Third, teacher development needs to be linked with wider goals of school and system development, and with appraisal and feedback practices and school evaluation.
And finally, there is need to re-examine structures and practices that inhibit inter-disciplinary practice and to provide more room for teachers to take time to learn deeply, and employ inquiry- and group-based approaches, especially in the core areas of curriculum and assessment.
In sum, Schleicher says ‘ the transformation of today’s teaching force requires smarter development of professionals. The significant rewards that come with better educational outcomes show that getting this right is worth it’
Schleichers views reflect the strong focus now being placed internationally on improving the quality of teachers and teaching and in ensuring that teachers have access to high quality, continuous professional development throughout their professional lives. Research shows that good and bad teachers have a very significant effect on student outcomes, even after taking into account socio-economic factors (see Hanushek et al)
PERFORMANCE RELATED PAY IN EDUCATION-NO CONSENSUS ON MEASURING VALUE ADDED OR ON FAIREST SYSTEM FOR REWARDING TEACHERS PERFORMANCE
Performance related pay
Inconclusive evidence provides cause for concern
A tool kit is promised
I make no apologies for returning to this subject so often -not least because schools are expected ‘to develop systematic and transparent arrangements for both appraisal and pay.’
Performance pay or performance-related pay is where there is an attempt to link a teacher’s wages or bonus payments directly to their performance in the classroom.
A distinction can be drawn between progression related awards where performance leads to a higher salary and payment by results where teachers get a bonus for their higher test scores. In the USA it is sometimes referred to as ‘merit pay’, and, due to federal government incentives through the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), has been increasingly used by state governments. We have highlighted the fact that there is no consensus among academics as to how you accurately, reliably and fairly measure value added. Value-added methods refer to efforts to estimate the relative contributions of specific teachers, schools, or programmes to pupil test performance. But, and this is important, there is no one dominant Value Added Measurement. Indeed no single value-added approach (or any test-based indicator, for that matter) addresses all the challenges to identifying effective or ineffective schools or teachers. Each model has shortcomings, and there is no consensus on the best approaches. Indeed, little work has been done on synthesizing the best aspects of each approach. If there is a consensus among those who are closely familiar with these Value Added measurement schemes it is that they do not provide, and are unlikely to provide any time soon,, a valid basis for decision-making about the quality of teaching, such as those involved in performance-related pay. Secondly, the 30 or so states that have introduced some form of evaluation system linked to merit pay have produced a variety of systems and there is no settled consensus on which one is the fairest, the most reliable or the most cost effective. The most challenging problem for them remains how to measure student growth, or learning, for the vast majority of teachers who don’t teach in tested subjects or grades.
The best that can really be said about it is that the evidence is ‘ not conclusive’. Our own Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has looked at the evidence(that’s its role) and it concludes:
‘ Payment by results has been tried on a number of occasions, however the evidence of impact on student learning does not support the approach. The UK evidence offers a cautious endorsement of approaches which seek to reward teachers in order to benefit disadvantaged students by recognising teachers’ professional skills and expertise. However, approaches which simply assume that incentives will make teachers work harder do not appear to be well supported.”
It continues ‘As the evaluation of a number of merit pay schemes in the USA have been unable to find a clear link with student learning outcomes, it would not seem like a good investment without further study. Whilst teacher quality is an important aspect of education, it may be more effective to recruit and retain effective teachers, rather than look for improvement based on financial reward.’
If you want an excellent summary of Value Added measures, the different types of evaluation, performance and reward systems, the issues and the evidence, take a close look at this Australian Report:
Research on Performance Pay for Teachers Lawrence Ingvarson Elizabeth Kleinhenz
Jenny Wilkinson Teaching and Leadership Research Program, Australian Council for Educational Research (2007)
The STRB has recommended that the DFE develops guidance or a toolkit to help schools develop systematic and transparent local approaches to pay progression. Subject to consultees’ views,the Government propose to accept this recommendation. (thank goodness for that!)
A report for the US Department of Education ‘ Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Student Test Score Gains’ (July 2011) found that there is ‘evidence that value-added estimates for teacher-level analyses are subject to a considerable degree of random error when based on the amount of data that are typically used in practice for estimation.’ It also said, and this is crucial, that evidence suggests ‘that more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under control of the teacher’
What about the 360 degree method of assessment? A 360° appraisal uses feedback from a variety of people; in a school this would take the form of self-reflection, peer, line manager, student and even parental feedback.
They certainly need to know how new discoveries of how the brain works can help classroom practice
The study of how the brain works and how this might be applied to the learning environment and teaching practice is very much in vogue at the moment.
This is on the back of significant advances in neuroscience which we have touched on before. The problem is that the way in which the brain works is very complex and scientists in order to explain how it works to the layman ,tend to oversimplify the process, leading to some basic misunderstandings and myths.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
It is probably true that a high percentage of teacher’s hold false beliefs about the brain, and thus ought to be “armed” to evaluate claims that they encounter in professional development sessions, the media, etc. The bald truth is that it takes a lot of work for any individual to become knowledgeable enough about neuroscience to evaluate new ideas, let alone apply them, for example, to classroom practice. And why would it stop at neuroscience? One could make the same case for cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, sociology, cultural studies, and economics, among other fields. Too much information spread thinly is probably not a good approach. What’s really needed, and this is a suggestion from Professor Dan Willingham ,is for a few trusted educators to evaluate new ideas, and to periodically bring their colleagues up to date. There are people in education whose job it is, supposedly, to do exactly this–to keep up to date with the latest research, in all of the fields, that relate to education, and to be gatekeepers of sorts to ensure that this high quality evidence helps inform practice. But the reality is that there is quite a lot of evidence out there but no easy means of separating the wheat from the chaff . It was interesting to see that the Sutton Trust has developed a tool kit that tells teachers what evidence shows about the kind of interventions that can work to help improve outcomes , dispelling a few myths along the way. This is the kind of approach we need more generally.
What teachers probably need to know is not the complexities of neuroscience (cognitive heuristics (and biases), working and procedural memory, implicit knowledge, spacing effects, visual-spacial retrieval cues and encoding, attention, embodied cognition etc) but how precisely these recent discoveries can help them in the classroom, and there seems to be a lag here between what neuro-scientists are discovering and what this could mean for the teaching profession and pedagogy. This is potentially a very exciting area. And teachers need some help to make sense of it all.
If you want to improve teaching then the place to do it is in the context of a classroom lesson
We know the importance of teachers’ continuous professional development in order to improve the quality of teaching and to improve student outcomes. CPD is delivered internally through school based programmes and externally. But the quality varies. How do the Japanese approach CPD? Kounaikenshuu is the word used to describe the continuous process of school-based professional development that Japanese teachers engage in once they begin their teaching careers. Participation in school-based professional development is considered an essential part of the teacher’s job in Japan. Run by teachers, Kounaikenshuu consists of a diverse set of activities that together constitute a comprehensive process of school improvement. Jugyou kenkyuu or “lesson study” is one of the most common components of kounaikenshuu. Teachers engage in lesson study to systematically examine their practice, with the goal of becoming more effective. This examination centres on teachers working collaboratively on a small number of “study lessons” to plan, teach, observe, and critique lessons. To give focus and direction to this work, the teachers select an overarching goal and related research question that they want to explore. This research question then serves to guide their work on all the study lessons. The simple premise behind lesson study is simply if you want to improve teaching, the most effective place to do so is in the context of a classroom lesson.
In the past teachers in England have too often been considered to be fully equipped once they have gone through initial teacher training. This culture is changing helped by research that clearly shows that good, and bad teachers, significantly influence student outcomes and therefore their life opportunities. Japan considers participation in professional development a core job requirement, with lesson planning and on-the-job training often taking as much as half of a teachers time.
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