Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

What Is Great Teaching and How Can I Achieve It?

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

What Is Great Teaching and How Can I Achieve It?

Article excerpt

Effective teaching is hard to define and even harder to implement, but if you follow these tips, you will be off to a good start

Defining effective teaching is far from easy - there is no simple recipe. This is hardly surprising, given that classroom teaching has been described as the most complex, nuanced and frightening activity our species has ever invented. A review of more than 200 studies concluded that great teaching was simply that which led to improved student progress.

Given the importance of effective teaching, isn't it a real pity that we can't define it?

It is true that the quality of teaching is the single biggest factor impacting on children's learning in school: over an academic year, a highly effective teacher can add an extra year's development for a disadvantaged pupil.

Aren't there any specific common attributes exhibited by the best teachers?

There is strong evidence that teachers who know their subject well (not necessarily the same as having academic qualifications) and who are skilled in the practice of instruction (including effective questioning and use of assessment) are consistently associated with higher progress among learners.

Is that all?

There are four other factors for which there is moderate evidence of a positive impact on student results: classroom climate (including teacher expectations); classroom management (efficient use of lesson time and managing behaviour); teacher beliefs (what they aim to achieve); and professional behaviours (reflecting on practice, taking part in CPD).

So the path to great teaching simply involves mastering these six things?

Unfortunately not. All of them can be done well or badly. And all of them can be used at certain times or in certain contexts that could make them detrimental rather than beneficial for students. Indeed, master teachers are highly adept improvisers, knowing what to do when. It's a bit like the technical challenge in The Great British Bake Off: you can have the same ingredients and recipe as other people, but it is your personal skill in combining and "cooking" the components that leads to effective learning rather than a soggy lesson.

How do we improve teaching? …

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