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Thinking about quality teaching

March 15, 2014

Search for images of thinking on MorgueFile and you discover people in Rodin mode along with kittens, babies, monkeys and lightbulbs.

Pensive staring prevails.

And the subject is always alone.


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More often, I find that thinking is collaborative; reflective processes undertaken with people you work/ live with tend to become known or familiar in practice, and co-constructed meaning emerges.

In our school this week, thinking focused around a key question:

What is quality teaching?

The impetus for discussion arose from a recent staff meting exploring performance and development tools. AITSL standards were reviewed and a teacher monitoring tool was flagged; resources for an effective performance and development cycle can be found here. I notice that in many of these documents, the term effective teaching is used more often than “quality”.


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My personal favourite in the suite of reflective tools is this resource for building a performance and development culture: The matrix, in particular, evaluates both impact and achievability of current strategies; then the quadrants yield information about school structures/ culture.

How do we do things around here?

Is there alignment between our practices and goals?

Applying these two prompts to instructional rounds each week, for example, could serve as action research, or a review cycle to implement aligned change. Coaching conversations will be an effective means of sharing ongoing feedback, as depicted in this Teacher Toolkit.

According to research, 8 methods of teacher appraisal and feedback “provide incomplete observation of the teacher” and should be used in combination:

  1. Student performance and assessments
  2. Peer observation and collaboration
  3. Direct observation of classroom teaching and learning
  4. Student surveys and feedback
  5. Teacher self-assessment
  6. Parent surveys and feedback
  7. External observation
  8. 360-degree feedback (Jensen & Reichl, 2012, pp. 7-9).


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Elsewhere, quality teachers 

as rated by students, are those who challenge, who have high expectations, who encourage the study of their subject, and who value surface and deep aspects of their subject (Hattie, 2009, p.116).

Essentially, research shows the extent to which effective teachers make a difference to students’ learning or performance, in particular due to enhanced engagement in classes with person-centred teachers. Relationships are seen as paramount.

Corollaries can be drawn: relationships in the school ecosystem are also critical to effectively sustain ongoing change with teaching staff.

In focusing on the greatest source of variance available (teachers at 30% are only surpassed by students who themselves constitute 50% of the variance), Hattie also emphasises distinctions between expert and experienced teachers. Five dimensions of excellence expand into 16 attributes of expertise. He concludes:

Students who are taught by expert teachers exhibit an understanding of the concepts targeted in instruction that is more integrated, more coherent, and at a higher level of abstraction than the understanding achieved by other students (Hattie, 2003, p. 15).

Makes for more considered thinking.

Selected references

Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? Australian Council for Educational Research paper presented October, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2014

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Oxon: Routledge.

Jensen, B. & Reichl, J. (2012). Implementing a performance and development framework. Melbourne: Grattan Institute. Retrieved March 14, 2014

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