Teaching really does matter

30 June 2011

Teacher behaviours mark out 'excellent schools' from 'good schools' The quality of teaching really does matter to children's outcomes and there are particular behaviours that really mark out "excellent" schools from those that are "good", according to an authoritative study on effective teaching. A report published today by the Department for Education (DfE) is based on work carried out by the EPPSE (Effective Provision of Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education) researchers at the Institute of Education, London.

The report describes "real life" examples of what excellent teachers do that makes a difference to children's learning focused on 11 specific teaching strategies.  For instance, excellent teachers seldom discipline their classes but create a climate of mutual respect and purposeful activity, and children rarely misbehave in their classrooms. These teachers used humour or a quiet reminder to deal with any transgressions; by and large they "control by expectation".

 "There is a 'bundle' of behaviours that, taken together, can make a difference to children's development and progress and therefore their later life chances," says Iram Siraj-Blatchford, leader of the study.

These include:
• Excellent organisational skills: teachers share clear learning objectives with the class and have well-established routines
• A positive classroom climate: relationships are characterised by liking and respect and classrooms are happy places
• Personalised teaching: they are sensitive to the needs and interests of their pupils and they are more likely to link learning with the outside world
• "Dialogic" teaching: children work collaboratively and engage in focused discussion with teachers and each other to advance their understanding
• Summarising at the end of lessons: teachers in the best schools are twice as likely as those in poor schools to use the "plenary", which allows feedback and further discussion.

The report gives detailed examples of what excellent teaching looks like at the chalk face taken from observations of teachers at work. Taking just one example: what does positive climate look like in Year 5? The researchers wrote:
• (The teacher) is happy and jokey with the rest of the class.  Lots of smiles are shared. Mentors different groups – praise-encouragement.  Obvious affection seen.
• A feeling that children were enjoying their learning and confident.  A feeling of respect between children and teacher . . .  Very aware of children.  A very warm supportive attitude, which reflects a child-centred approach.  No need to discipline
• Such mutual respect allows children to confidently share their writing with the class.  Everyone listens intently as others read.  Class teacher makes positive comments – but also some fair criticisms well received.

The research explored the differences between poor, average and excellent teaching, using well-established objective measures to identify 125 primary schools across the three categories. They found significant differences in the strategies used by the three groups when they examined English and maths teaching in Year 5.
The study is part of the Effective Provision of Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE 13-16) programme, a wide-ranging longitudinal study based at the Institute of Education, London


Editors' notes

Download the Research (DfE- RR129) and Research Brief (DfE – RB129): Effective Primary Pedagogical Strategies in English and Mathematics in Key Stage 2: A study of Year 5 classroom practices from the EPPSE 3-16 longitudinal study https://www.education.gov.uk/publications

A book based on this research, Effective Teachers in Primary Schools: Researching pedagogy and children's Learning, will be published by Trentham books early in 2012.

For more information please contact the IOE Press Office:  James Russell 020 7911 5556 j.russell@ioe.ac.uk or Diane Hofkins 07976 693455 d.hofkins@ioe.ac.uk
Or contact EPPSE direct: Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford (0207 612 6218/07540070506: i.siraj-blatchford@ioe.ac.uk  or Brenda Taggart (0207 612 6219: b.taggart@ioe.ac.uk).

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute's research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be "world leading". The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its "high quality" initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students "to want to be outstanding teachers". The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.  www.ioe.ac.uk

The Effective Provision of Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE 3-16) project is a large-scale, longitudinal, mixed-method research study that has followed the progress of 3000+ children since 1997 from the age of 3 to 16 years. Previous EPPSE analysis identified significant variation in teachers' classroom practice and pupils' behaviour in Year 5 classes and that this predicts children's later achievement.