Executive Principal's Blog

The Effective Teacher

9 January 2017

The effective teacher

Carried along by the Christmas and New Year celebrations as we have been, you may have missed a major new educational report from Pearson which appeared last month.  Based upon feedback from teachers, students, parents, headteachers and policy makers, the report attempts to identify the key features which combine to make an effective teacher.  It is worth quoting the top ten aspects identified by English respondents to the survey in the order of importance they were given:

1. Ability to develop trusting, compassionate relationships

2. Patient, caring and kind personality

3. Ability to engage and motivate learners in their learning

4. Subject knowledge

5. Knowledge of learners

6. Professionalism

7. Managing the classroom learning environment

8. Ability to make ideas and content clear

9. Dedication to teaching

10. Teaching skills/pedagogical approach

Discounting some of the vagueness in these headings, this remains an interesting list.  All teachers should take note of the importance placed upon trust, compassion, patience and care.  In essence, the survey suggests that it is in the area of relationships that teachers make most impact and receive most credit from those they serve.  I think many of us in the profession would testify that our own experience bears out this view.  Certainly, it is much easier for young people to make progress if they feel valued and secure.

As with many such surveys however, there is a danger in accepting these findings without sufficient questioning.  There are some obvious areas in which we need to be cautious about these results:

-these factors work in combination.  The best teachers possess all of them and all of them are to some degree necessary if the best teaching is to take place.  It is therefore rash to isolate individual factors if this results in teachers trying to emphasise these at the expense of others.

-in any hierarchical list such as the one above it is natural to give greater credence to the items near the top.  We do need to be careful however not to devalue those which appear slightly further down.  It is quite possible that items 8, 9 and 10 in a list like this were still seen as being very important if not quite so important as items 1, 2 and 3.

-the question of what constitutes effectiveness also needs to be considered. This survey has focussed on the views of what are termed 'stakeholders' (those with a direct interest in the school system) and their view of teachers.  It has not looked, for example, at the exam results different types of teachers achieved.  There may be a message here, perhaps the users of education in England would rather have strong and caring relationships than excellent GCSE results.  I suspect that they would want both and the danger is that schools have lost something of their compassion and care in the pursuit of ever improved grades.

This all brings us back to a central and perennial conundrum for schools.  How do we reconcile the highest possible academic achievement with developing happy, secure and self-confident young people?  Some of us get closer to this than others, none of us will ever crack the challenge completely.  If nothing else, findings like those in the Pearson survey remind us of what matters to students and their parents and help us to adjust our thinking and actions accordingly.

Posted at 10:37 on 9 Jan 2017