What Is Known about Effective Teaching?

By Cano, Jamie | The Agricultural Education Magazine, November/December 2001 | Go to article overview

What Is Known about Effective Teaching?


Cano, Jamie, The Agricultural Education Magazine


In the United States, research on teaching has produced vast amounts of information. The majority of this research has been conducted using causative factors, such as classroom activities, curriculum initiatives, or methods of instruction. Since the 1970s, teacher behaviors have been researched as they relate to learner achievement. What is still missing is research on how teacher behaviors affect and effect the curriculum, the school environment, and their learners. In spite of all the research efforts in education, agricultural education included, the most frequently asked question continues to be: What makes for effective teaching?

While there are many characteristics to describe effective teaching, there is no single definitive quality that can be attributed to the success of teaching. Current research studies reveal a strong association between specific instructional behaviors and learner performance. Further, there is a wealth of research manuscripts on specific teacher behaviors and gender/ethnic expectations. In all that has been written, researchers have attempted to identify specific managerial, instructional, and personal attributes of teachers to distinguish the effective teachers from the more ineffective teachers. McDonald (1977) stated that it was a combination of knowledge of subject matter (content), knowledge of teaching and learning theory, and the utilization of various teaching methods that produced effective teachers. Also, in the 1970s, researchers like Dunkin and Biddle, Gage, Good, Brophy, and Evertson, attempted to build a scientific foundation for teaching by associating teacher behavior with learner achievement. What was learned in all these studies was that when teachers systematically structured their behaviors, learner achievement increased. It was concluded that because of greater teacher effectiveness and superior teaching quality, there was a corresponding resurgence in learner achievement.

Brophy and Good teamed together and reviewed a large number of research studies involving teacher behaviors and learner achievement. The conclusion reached by Brophy and Good (1974) was that the most effective strategy for optimal learning was the conceptual level, a level at which the teacher and the learner were matched cognitively. Other researchers found significantly greater interpersonal relationships between teachers and learners who were matched in their cognitive style, versus those who were mismatched. Three sources of increased learner achievement were: a shared interest with the teacher, shared personality characteristics with the teacher, and a similarity in communication modes with the teacher.

Research in sociology, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy, disciplines which are the foundation for education, supported the premise that teaching was a highly complex, content-specific, interactive activity in which differences across classrooms, schools, and communities were critically important. Other studies in teaching investigated cooperative learning, social learning theory, and information processing strategies as a link between teaching methods and learner outcomes. The results were non-- consistent.

While the research in teacher effectiveness is on-going, and by no means complete, there are significant factors which are known to affect learner achievement as related to teacher effectiveness. Educational research has produced a number of teacher behaviors that can be replicated with success in classrooms of any subject matter. The quality and frequency of learner-teacher interactions can directly affect the learner's ability to learn. Research studies have documented the effects of the teacher's interaction with learners and found the degree and frequency of praise, use of classroom time, and the amount of attention given to groups or individuals to have significant positive correlations to a learner's ability to learn.

The most noteworthy study of the 1970s was the work by Rosenshine and Furst. …

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