Student Success

The SST reports on a “study of studies” on student achievement done by Professor John Hattie 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.

Anne Tolley is welcoming it:

The research has been dubbed “teaching’s Holy Grail” by an influential UK education journal, the Times Educational Supplement. National’s new education 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 performance pay. 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 PPTA 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.

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