The Sutton Trust Report: What Makes Great Teaching?

Sutton TrustPicture

A new report from the Sutton Trust has reviewed the evidence around successful teaching practices. Here is their summary of the report, some ‘take away’ key points and various links to its reception in the media and blogosphere.

The Sutton Trust’s Summary

“This report reviews over 200 pieces of research to identify the elements of teaching with the strongest evidence of improving attainment. It finds some common practices can be harmful to learning and have no grounding in research. Specific practices which are supported by good evidence of their effectiveness are also examined and six key factors that contribute to great teaching are identified. The report also analyses different methods of evaluating teaching including: using ‘value-added’ results from student test scores; observing classroom teaching; and getting students to rate the quality of their teaching.”

Quick Take Aways

Deemed Effective

  • (Pedagogical) content knowledge
  • Quality of instruction
  • Classroom climate
  • Classroom management
  • Teacher beliefs
  • Professional behaviours

Deemed Less Effective

  • Using praise lavishly
  • Grouping students by ability
  • Addressing low aspirations and confidence before teaching content
  • Presenting information to students in their preferred learning style
  • Allowing students to discover key ideas for themselves
  • Encouraging re-reading and highlighting to memorise key ideas

 Links to its Reception

Certainly, the report both challenges many of our everyday practices as teachers and offers some serious thinking points.  We’d love to know what you think so please remember to leave a comment below!

Mirror, Mirror: The Power of Reflection

The following post has been adapted from Zoe Elder’s book Full On Learning and her philosophy on deep reflective professional development.

With Wilmslow High School’s Learning Conference just around the corner I thought it would be a great starting point to discuss why it is important to create time to reflect on, and be open to, new pedagogical practices to support both our self development as teachers and our students’ learning experience and progress.

Here are some questions posed by Zoe in her book to stimulate discussion on the vital subject of reflection and improving as a teacher:

1.  Who could you invite to come and see what you are doing with a particular group and help you assess its effectiveness? (Open classroom invitations?)

2.  Who would you like to see doing ‘their thing’ with one of their groups?

3.  What aspect of AfL/technology/group work/creative learning do you know, in your hearts of hearts, you avoid?

4.  Is there anybody in your school, or a local school, who does the above regularly and seems to be comfortable with it?

5.  What aspect of your pedagogy could you offer to others for them to come and see it in action?

6.  How would you design opportunities to stand back and observe the impact of your teaching on the quality of learning during your own lessons?

7.  What area of your subject teaching would you like to evaluate through some action research/student voice/learning walks/lesson observations?

8. When might you find time in a week to take 10 minutes out and reflect on the way in which your learners are making progress/engaging with their own learning/developing group work skills as a result of your teaching practice?

To conclude, in Zoe’s own words, ”In the frenetic world of school, time for quality self reflection can feel so precious to the extent of it being perceived as  an unrealistic luxury.  But it is essential that we find the time to reflect and develop our practice as part of our practice.  Often, we miss great practice happening in our own schools, possibly just down the corridor”.

Our mission at Wilmslow High School is to continue to create deliberate spaces of time to offer all of our teachers a chance to improve their practice through reflection.  A small step towards achieving this goal will hopefully be achieved through our in-house learning conference on Friday 19th October.

We look forward to feeding your learning appetite in a workshop near you soon!

High Performers: Going ‘beyond outstanding’

Alistair Smith’s ‘High Performers‘ book is a must read for any classroom teacher, middle leader or senior leadership team member looking to take their pedagogy, team or school to ‘beyond outstanding’.  It is firmly based in current practice and is based on Smith’s visits to 20 top performing state schools in the UK.

The book shares cutting edge practice that will make you think, and think hard, about your school’s current environment and culture and it emphasises a great motto:

‘Be curious and question everything’

A personal highlight for me was Chapter 18, ‘Challenging: ask the right questions’.  This chapter starts by suggesting ‘hard questions’ to ask about your school in order to avoid coasting and promote positive progression in your school environment.  Here is the list of questions in full:

  1. Are our lessons actually worth behaving for?
  2. Why does our timetable never change? How many different timetables are worth considering in an academic year?
  3. Why does school start at the same time for everyone?
  4. Should specialists take all exam groups?
  5. Would gap year students be a better option than teachers to help with A level support?
  6. Can we create supergroups by combining sets and giving them high quality lectures with follow up support?
  7. What do we do on a regular basis that does not contribute to improving learning? How soon will we abandon such practices?
  8. What’s wrong with mobiles in lessons? Why not introduce them in Year 10?
  9. Should the department have a Facebook or Twitter account?
  10. Should we all be on Twitter?
  11. Can we put revision tips on YouTube? What about lesson starters?
  12. Do we allow coursework to be submitted that is less than the target grade?
  13. What proportion of PE lessons need a gym? What proportion of science lessons need a lab?
  14. Have we provided parents with a booklet of work  for each subject for when their child says there is no homework?
  15. How useful to a parent is a raw grade or score for effort?
  16. In what ways does a grade for behaviour reflect the students capacity and willingness to learn?
  17. Many schools spend 100 hours per year on registration.  How do we use it?
  18. Why do we do so few lesson observations? 10 observations per year is still only 1% of anyone’s teaching.  Most people can turn it on for an observation but it’s what happens day in day out that counts.
  19. How productive are our assemblies? Why not have learning assemblies or motivational assemblies for different groups in Year 10 and 11?

Smith goes onto conclude that:

‘As a matter of course we should be reflecting on our professional practice.  The opportunity to question some of our most cherished practices needs to be positioned as a positive collegiate activity otherwise it becomes sniper training for cynics’

Wilmslow High School has a copy of this book in our Learning Resource Centre

Matt Bebbington

Twitter: @BebbPEteach