What’s the evidence?

The following quote is attributed to Peter F. Drucker, a well-known management expert. I’m unsure of the context so maybe I’m mis-using it, but if we take the quote at its face value then it’s easy to say that – fortunately – he couldn’t be more wrong.

Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the ‘naturals,’ the ones who somehow know how to teach. “

The myth of the ‘natural-born’ teacher dies hard, but dead it certainly is.

Education is now awash with evidence about what works in the classroom and what does not.  There is no room for the belief that teacher performance is a ‘gift’, and plenty of reason to believe that teaching and learning improves with evidence-based practice.

Robert Marzano and John Hattie are just two education experts who have spent considerable time sifting through the research into educational practice to identify the school structures and teaching pedagogies – practices, strategies, techniques and approaches – that best assist learning.

It makes sense, doesn’t it, to take advantage of all of this research?

Teachers often use pedagogies either because they are familiar and therefore comfortable or, in some cases, because they are new and therefore exciting.  Professional discussions about the value of particular pedagogies or approaches are rare.  (Yes, I acknowledge the time pressures: teacher meetings do have crowded agendas, but arguably the ‘core business’ is a focus on improving student achievement. Often agendas are crowded with non-educational items that can be dealt with in other ways made possible by technology, for instance.)

What happens in your classroom?  Which of these approaches or pedagogies do you use? (Add to the list ….)

 whole class instruction*group instruction*peer teaching*spelling lists*scheduled time for student reflection on their own progress and learning*other self-assessment strategies*worksheets*ability grouping*interest grouping*learning intentions and success criteria*oral feedback*written feedback*peer feedback* flipped classroom instruction* inquiry learning*problem-based learning*collaborative learning with or without the aid of technology*technology to enhance feedback*technology to enhance presentation skills* homework*gamification*play-based learning*negotiated curriculum*teaching grammar in the context of student reading and writing*modelling* graphic organisers*learning styles*use of portfolios, digital or otherwise*simulation*role-play*immersion* …

  • Which of these approaches or pedagogies do you know for certain are evidence-based?
  • Do you know for certain which approaches you use are more effective or influential than others? (Hattie argues that while most things that teachers do are effective to some degree, some things certainly work better than others. )

The conscious use of evidence-based practices in the classroom leads to improved student achievement.  Perhaps, when articulated and shared with parents, the fact of evidence-based practice, with its emphasis on the professional skill of teaching, will also lead to an enhanced public perception of the teacher’s role. Perhaps we’ll even get rid of the notion held by non-teachers such as politicians  that they ‘know’ how teachers should be teaching…