As part of my teaching practice each week I have to reflect on my performance and what I have learned. So it was with interest that I came across this article in the Guardian this morning talking about what makes great teaching. In short it’s a report published by the Sutton Trust and Durham university.
My reflection included a comment along the lines of “once again I am reminded about how complex teaching is. It is an intricate interplay between teaching and learning.” Part of a teachers job is knowing how this relationship impacts each of their students and is one of the main reasons why we spend four years at university.
The report identified six components of great teaching. The first two of which had the strongest impact. Those areas that had suggested the strongest impact on student out comes were 1. teachers content knowledge and 2. the quality of instruction.
Content knowledge was not restricted to the subject but had a wider meaning within the context of learning. The authors put it this way,
“The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions.”
When talking about the quality of instruction they pointed out that it,
“Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction.”
One of the interesting findings from this report is that it suggests that a more traditional teaching style does in many cases, improve educational outcomes. It’s a controversial claim and part of a debate that is as old as public education itself. If you’d like to read the whole report you can get it here.