Student Success

January 4th, 2009 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

The SST reports on a “study of studies” on student achievement done by Professor of Auckland University. It has been a 15 year study that merges results from 50,000 indiidual studies of 83 million pupils.

So what does it show:

… that the key to effective teaching is the quality of the feedback students get and their interaction with teachers.

is welcoming it:

The research has been dubbed “teaching’s Holy Grail” by an influential UK journal, the Times Educational Supplement. National’s new minister, Anne Tolley, says it will have a “profound influence” on the future of schooling in New Zealand.

Hattie says:

Auckland University professor John Hattie, who authored the study, says some of the results fly in the face of National’s popular election promise to reduce class sizes. He believes extra money should instead be spent on boosting teacher salaries. “Class size has a pretty small effect… and I wonder why they would spend a penny on it.”

He also believes it is time to revisit the controversial idea of performance-related pay for teachers.

I am all in favour of higher pay for teachers, so long as there is proper . The top teachers should be earning six figure salaries. But none of this automatic pay scale nonsense.

Hattie used these studies to rank 138 aspects of schooling and found that overwhelmingly, student-teacher interaction at schools came out on top.

Number one is “self-reporting” when the student knows exactly how well they are doing and can explain this, as well as any gaps in their understanding, to their teacher.

Tactics such as letting students take turns to teach the class, and teachers doing post-mortems on their own lessons, are also key.

Heh I used to teach the maths class – even at intermediate school!

And teachers, Hattie says, should ask themselves, “how many of the kids in your classroom are prepared to say, in front of the class, `we need help’, `we don’t know what’s going on’ or `we need to have this retaught’?”

He says that sort of trust is too rare which is why he wants to work out a way of paying teachers extra for excellence, rather than experience.

“It’s a lot easier to throw money at smaller classes, more equipment, more funding, to worry about the curriculum, to worry about the exams. “It’s a hell of a lot harder to differentiate between good and bad teaching… I think we need to spend a lot more policies on worrying about this.”

Tolley says that although rewarding teachers for excellence is a “tricky issue” it needs to be on the table, particularly as Hattie is close to defining what makes an excellent teacher.

I think this research and its implications are terribly exciting.

Of course the is against:

Kate Gainsford, head of the secondary teachers’ union, defended teachers, saying they deserved praise for being in the classroom despite in many cases poor resources, pay and support.

She says teachers are already using many of the interactive methods. But she points out that to have time to interact with students, classes need to be kept smaller and that some now have more than 30 students, despite what schools’ teacher-student ratios claim.

“This is not rocket science. We know that relationships between students and teachers are very important. And we know how those relationships can be supported, and how they can be eroded.”

She emphasises that teachers need to be backed up by resources, policies and training.

Gainsford says it would be “extraordinarily problematic … on so many fronts” to work out an excellence-based pay formula. She would like to see the focus on supporting “all kids, in all classes, in all schools”, rather than on a sorting mechanism for teachers.

Why does there need to be a formula? Other workplaces do not have formulas. They have employers who agree on a pay rate with you, based on their judgement of your experience, ability and worth. This is not some untested concept, but the norm in most sectors.

13 Responses to “Student Success”

  1. Zippy Gonzales (470 comments) says:

    If it’s not rocket science, why do you need a formula? Prue Kelly’s comments in this Nine to Noon audio ( on school hours is also worth a listen. Flexibility has benefits for teachers and students. In Wellington High School’s case, it allows the broodier teenagers to come to school later, and allows working teacher parents to shuffle their work life balance better.

    Ditch zoning, bring back bulk funding, and stop throwing all that money into rapidly-depreciating computer labs.

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  2. JC (1,102 comments) says:

    National and ACT fought for years to introduce the concept of pay for excellence, but never got any traction against the teacher unions and Labour. This research hems in the antis that little bit more.

    What I find amusing is that the little school I attended nearly 60 years ago had it’s average to good share of academic successes with just two teachers and two classrooms, one each for all the primers and all the standards 🙂

    The teachers were simply well organised.. they taught one class at a time and the rest went on with prepared work.


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  3. adamsmith1922 (1,003 comments) says:

    Predictably the PPTA is against.

    Arguably good people are turned off teaching by the attitudes of the unions towards merit pay.

    it is strange that pay for performance adopted widely in other sectors is such an anathema to teachers.

    On the other hand is it? Given the lamentably poor product of the education system

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  4. goodgod (1,347 comments) says:

    I doubt very much the standard state school hierachy is in any position to objectively rate performance. Unless you almost totally eliminated a set curriculum and set terms and hours, (except, perhaps, a basic level of reading writing and mathematics) you couldn’t do it without seriously perverting the methods you find in average private industry.

    Performance pay would have to be a small adjustment to a massive rethink of how children are taught. Just tacking it onto the existing structure would force the old socialist-bastardised-capitalism scenario, and when it failed, capitalism, performance pay, the free market – or all three – would be blamed.

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  5. maurieo (95 comments) says:

    Some of the best teachers I have seen are not at the chalk face in front of children. The career path for teachers is from the classroom into management. Good teachers can only progress their careers by leaving the classroom and becoming managers or consultants. Creating career options to allow good proven teachers to stay in the classroom would go some way to addressing the issue raised. Paying good and proven practitioners to progess their careers and to continue to teach children at the chalk face is essential. This flawed “progress into management” model is not only responsible to some degree for the shortage of good teachers but also good nurses, good doctors, good engineers, etc. Our current career paths in these and many other areas do not value excellence at the “coal face,” in some instances they hold it in contempt.

    Recognising that teachers are professionals and allowing them to provide a quality learning environment by providing them with more preparation and marking time (feedback) and releasing them from trival and menial tasks they are required to perform would go a long way to improving outcomes for children. What other professionals are required to act as security guards during their breaks, patrolling the grounds to see that their clients are safe? What other professionals are expected to give up their own time to coach the company sports team? What other professionals are paid a little extra to administer a budget less than the extra they are paid? What other professionals are required to check that their clients are wearing the correct uniform or have a doctors note for a day off?

    Treating teachers as the professionals that they are and by providing them with the opportunity to excel, will improve educational outcomes. Keeping good proven teachers in front of students by providing rewarding career options for classroom excellence will encourage better results for students. Let the managers manage the security guards, coaches gardeners, uniform police administrators etc afte rall they choose to be managers and let those who want to teach continue to teach.

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  6. artemisia (523 comments) says:

    Some simple things could be implemented quickly. For example, I would like to see teachers who learn and then work with accelerated learning techniques getting rewarded for their extra effort and almost certainly extra results. Incidentally, many accelerated learning techniques lend themselves to larger groups of students rather than smaller class sizes. Acc learning study skills, for instance, could be presented to the whole school at once.

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  7. Russell Brown (382 comments) says:

    David, you seem to be dutifully ignoring the fact that the other major conclusions of this research run perpendicularly opposite to the education amendments National forced through under urgency before Christmas.

    It finds conclusively against frequent testing and teaching test-taking, both of which are are the heart of the scrawl of a law that National passed under urgency last month. I’m tempted to wonder if that was actually the reason National’s soundbite policy was suddenly shoved into urgency. A select committee could hardly have heard this in evidence and then proceeded with the policy.

    I’m very much in favour of the best teachers being rewarded and kept in the profession. But if you’re going to describe this research as “exciting”, you should be honest about what it says, and about the gulf between what Anne Tolley said in the paper and what she did before Christmas.

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  8. Anthony (880 comments) says:

    You might be right Russell but I didn’t see anything in the newspaper article saying frequent testing was bad.

    Everyone who has ever been taught by a good teacher and a poor teacher know it is very easy to tell the difference just by observing the class for a relatively short space of time. I guess this is not easy to put into objective terms. But if schools themselves had the power to decide on performance I’m sure the good ones would get it largely correct.

    I attended a meeting at our local primary school back around 1999 when they were deciding whether to introduce bulk funding, and I must say I came very close to losing my temper with some of the people treating bulk funding as an evil capitalist plan to destroy relations between teachers – as if other workers don’t get along because they are paid differently!

    I agree with Maurieo that good teachers shouldn’t have to go into management to get well rewarded.

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  9. Russell Brown (382 comments) says:

    You might be right Russell but I didn’t see anything in the newspaper article saying frequent testing was bad.

    Fair enough — in the print edition it was in the top five list of things found not to work, along with teaching-to-test.

    But that’s hardly news. In the US, No Child Left Behind has been a real failure.

    In the Public Address forums, we had some very good teachers who were really appalled by the Education Amendment Act and the way it was shoved through without scrutiny. And now, three weeks later, a major New Zealand study says that it was precisely what not to do.

    Hattie’s research isn’t just about performance-related pay — it’s about investing in teachers in all kinds of ways. I’m sure if you went to teachers with performance pay as part of a package that included some of his other recommendations, including allotting a day a week for teachers to discuss and plan lessons with their colleagues, they’d be very positive about it.

    I agree with Maurieo that good teachers shouldn’t have to go into management to get well rewarded.

    Yep. I think that’s a very important goal. And not just in teaching for that matter …

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  10. Viking2 (14,365 comments) says:

    First question; who is a Professional? the teacher who goes to school for 20 years doing the same thing and thinks they know it all and gets paid for this type of performance ot the teacher that regularly does “trade” training” i.e.does constant learning and training?
    There is a big difference and teachers should be judged by their customers like the rest of us.
    As with most things the Nats. are half hearted and I have been thus far underwelmed with the actions and abilities of all these so called leaders. Not one cabinet minister has yet shown they had a grasp on what to do and how to get on with it.
    Tolley is just another in that ilk.
    All that time in opposition to formulate good idea’s and policy and yet she doesn’t even appear to have a grasp of the basics and will therefore be captured before long by the buraucracy like most of the others.
    People without passion.
    And guess who makes good teachers.
    People with passion for learning and education.

    which is of course why politicans and unionists should be removed from education (and most things.)

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  11. fruitshop (46 comments) says:

    I agree Teaching is more an art than a science.
    Who will be responsible for assessing performance?
    Judge them by how well their students perform and there will be no teachers wanting to teach less able kids-
    the ones who really need passionate committed teachers.

    Teachers depend on cooperation and support of each other in the common room. It is a team effort.
    There are certain professions which should not rely too heavily on individual competition for higher pay in the workplace.
    In corporate situations. if your workmates look bad, it is to your advantage.
    If I am ever on an operating table, and a medic makes a mistake, I hope the other one will cover for them.
    Similarly in a crime situation with police.

    Yes there are good teachers and bad teachers.
    The argument for performance pay is a hard one.

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  12. Anthony (880 comments) says:

    The teachers my kids have had trouble with largely have been those ones who have been doing the same thing in the same school for 20 years and don’t cater for anyone who doesn’t suit their teaching style. What incentive do they have to bother as none of their pay is at risk and they get the general pay increase regardless. Almost impossible to sack them too. On the other hand, the more passionate often younger teachers who go the extra mile often get paid less.

    Maybe Teachers should be on fixed term contracts. Good teachers would invariably get theirs renewed while those that had continual problems with the pupils and/or parents would have to move on. I mean, teaching is only one of the most important jobs where someone can make a real difference, yet a useless performer is safer than in almost any other job.

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  13. bevanjs (34 comments) says:

    Performance based pay is a nice ideal but schools do not typically have trained managers. I don’t think it would work in the real world and would fast become a negative.

    It’s common across the public services that the only career path to higher remuneration is a step into “management” often with no training an no mentoring.

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