Teaching is incredibly complex and nuanced but are there ‘best bets’ for us to work to improve teaching in our classrooms so that our students learn more?
Great Teaching Toolkit
Prof. Robert Coe and colleagues from Evidence Based Education (EBE) reviewed existing research studies and frameworks and synthesised them into their brilliant evidence review. Their aim is to help teachers ‘make better decisions about what they can best do to improve their effectiveness’ and in doing so have identified four overarching dimensions with a total of 17 elements within them from their evidence review of existing research. What is even better news is that this is just the start for them as they want to build a community of practitioners to share examples of the elements of Great Teaching and to tell EBE what they look like in your phase or subject. Get involved here and help shape the next steps of the Great Teaching Toolkit.
Four Dimensions to Great Teaching
The Great Teaching Toolkit is unbelievably rich in wisdom. Therefore, it offers so much food for thought and it is difficult to know where to start but its aim sits right at the heart of what i’d like more of in teaching; helping us identify areas to improve that will have a direct impact on our students. The four overarching dimensions in the toolkit are:
- Understand the content that they are teaching and how it is learnt
- Create a supportive environment for learning
- Manage the classroom to maximise the opportunity to learn
- Present content, activities and interactions that activate their students’ thinking
These are all areas worth pursuing for improvement and as a teacher I feel I do well in them but I could do even better and this toolkit helps me unpack the elements and prioritise my learning as a teacher. As the authors note ‘Great teaching must be defined by its impact: a great teacher is one whose students learn more’. They also discuss that a great teacher cannot be pared down to a particular set of practices as teaching is complex.
The toolkit helps break through this complexity and does well to unpack each of these four overarching dimensions into what they call the 17 elements. These are the ‘best bets’ to focus teacher professional learning on in the future. The toolkit, they say, is the first step of a long term project which you can be a part of.
The 17 Elements
- Have a deep and fluent knowledge
- Knowledge of curriculum sequencing
- Knowledge of curriculum and assessment tasks
- Knowledge of student strategies, misconceptions and sticking points
- Promote relationships that are based on mutual respect
- Promote a positive climate
- Promote learner motivation competence, autonomy and relatedness
- Create a climate of high expectation
- Manage time and resources efficiently
- Ensure that expectations for behaviour are explicit
- Prevent, anticipate and respond to potential incidents
- Give students an appropriate sequence of learning tasks
- Present and communicate new ideas clearly
- Use questions to elicit student thinking
- Respond appropriately to feedback from students
- Give students tasks that embed and reinforce learning
- Help students to plan, regulate and monitor their own learning
You may notice that some of these elements overlap but they follow a consistent pattern to becoming an expert teacher. For instance, It fits in nicely with my belief that we must develop deep subject knowledge as well as pedagogical content knowledge. Furthermore, we must create a classroom culture that is conducive to learning and once these two nuanced and complex areas are set we can then push our students to think hard and learn more. This is what makes the Great Teaching Toolkit so exciting for me. It offers a clear path and vision for teacher learning.
So what next?
Read the Evidence Review and get involved in the Great Teaching Community and help shape the toolkit moving forward. I will blog further on each of the dimensions and the elements within them. Sharing success and identifying areas for improvement. As I type I am excited for what this could mean for teaching in my lifetime. I’ve craved a research informed and research engaged profession and this toolkit goes some way to getting it. The main issue will be ensuring everyone in our profession reads it and then engages with it.
This is important reading for anyone who is leading in teacher professional learning so make sure they get their hands on it. Above all, make sure that your future professional learning is informed by research and is guided by ‘best bets’. After all, we want great teachers who help students learn more in every single classroom.
The future is full of bright spots in every classroom for us to celebrate and share.