The ‘teacher effect’

Last Friday, the Sydney Morning Herald published the results of a University of  New England Study claiming ‘teacher effect’ only plays a minor role in student learning.

St Michaels 045In response, I refer again to John Hattie’s book Visible Learning in which he claims: ‘ what teachers do matters’.  As educators, we should no longer be satisfied with simply reaching minimum standards or getting over the line.  (Read Adele Horin’s powerful comments from 25/7/09 on teacher quality)

As Hattie says, rather than asking ‘What works?’ we should be asking ‘What works best?’

We do know there is a growing body of research showing that excellent teachers positively influence student learning outcomes.  Why?  Because expert teachers don’t simply teach: they recognise when learning isn’t happening, then employ and monitor personalised strategies that as Hattie says ‘work best’ for each learner.

My views on teacher quality in last Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald is really a call to action.  This is the time to step-up to the demands of the profession by addressing the core issues preventing us from making quantum leaps not just superficial steps.


5 thoughts on “The ‘teacher effect’

  1. Greg, your comment: “expert teachers don’t simply teach: they recognise when learning isn’t happening” is as accurate today as it was in 1975 when my Year 3 (one astute Sr Belt) realised that I had a problem with numeracy, and that fractions were crippling my ability to perform other mathematical calculations.

    The fortunate thing is, she realised that the whole class had a similar problem – and it had nothing to do with how she was teaching, but rather how the loose curriculum of the day was ‘prescribed.’

    What’s causing us to make those ‘quantum leaps?’ In my humble opinion there are many, but let’s start with improving teacher leadership, driving bureaucracy out the door and acting in the best interest of student learning.

    It’s time our politicians stopped speaking ‘core promises’ and delivering another version – demonstrating more sleight of hand than an evening of grand illusion with David Copperfield.

    Time for leaders of all vocations to stop standing there like strawberry ice-creams melting in the sun, and actually act on improving what ‘works best’ for all learners.

  2. We’ve reached the tipping point – poignantly illustrated by the comments of a mother in Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald letters page.

    Mrs Dalziell says her daughter is a gifted teacher but she is considering walking away from the profession because of the ‘frustration of trying to work with resentful, comfortably underperforming teachers.’

    As Michael Fullan emphatically says, ‘you can’t send a changed individual into an unchanged environment.’ So while the system and schools will need to work on changing the culture of learning environments, I think our universities and teacher-training institutions desperately need to re-examine the methods of selecting, training and mentoring new teachers. Should one’s decision to teach come down to the UAI score or a love of learning and children?

    I’ve been reading a fascinating article about this very issue. Will share shortly.

  3. I worked in a public school for 15 years and slowly watched all the outstanding teachers leave. I finally also left and now work teaching corporate people. Funnily enough my area was personal development (soft skills) and I am using similar content with the adults that I used for the students. But the adults see the importance of the topic. The school environment made it an uphill battle. However the I still feel that the school days were the most valuable as X students I catch up with tell me the impact it had. I just wish there was a way for the good teachers to be more acknowledged so they end up staying and influencing the whole education.

  4. As a professor my job is to motivate them to want to learn. They teach themselves and get guidance from me. Almost anything can be learned outside of a classroom. However, we offer accountability, guidance, counseling and an environment that will ensure they learn a set of skills before they can pass our courses.

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