What can be done to enhance teacher effectiveness?

2019-12-09

Delivering top-quality teaching has a major impact on pupils achieving their true potential, yet there is a startling lack of research into teaching effectiveness, according to a new study.


The research from academic Simon Burgess, a professor of economics at the University of Bristol, suggests that there is little reliable evidence on how best to enhance teachers’ skills.


In a blog on the topic, he points to an array of research that showcases the role of teacher effectiveness in boosting grades, yet adds that there is not enough work that says how to make teachers better.


The impact that replacing the least effective teachers could have cannot be underestimated either – one study from the USA suggests that replacing the least effective 8% of teachers could provide an economic boost of $100 trillion.


Professor Burgess found that current measures of effectiveness are not hugely influenced by the motivation or previous attainment of a class either, meaning they “seem reliable”.


Studies that looked at academic progress made by pupils over a defined period using their test scores provided the background for the research.


However, he suggests there is “tantalisingly” limited evidence on how to enhance teacher effectiveness, adding: “It’s like a kid seeing sweets in a shop window but not being able to get at them.”


Of course, schools do not know how effective a member of staff will be before they are hired, and professor Burgess adds that there is not a clear link between teaching qualifications and effectiveness.


One study even suggests that the least effective teachers should be moved on after just one year in a school, although such a move is hugely, and understandably, unpopular with teaching unions.


Professor Burgess suggests that peer mentoring and personalised teacher coaching could be beneficial for teachers, although only in the short term.


As a result, he said it is “challenging to create robust measures of their effectiveness”, despite the obvious benefits that having a defined set of measures could have on the education sector as a whole.


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