27 SES 04 A, Special Call 2019: Successful Teacher Development: Linking Skills, Competencies and Knowledge
The importance of skilled teachers has been a topical question for a long time. Two decades ago, Darling Hammond (1996, p. 5) wrote about a quiet revolution that was on its way, reshaping the role of teachers and teaching in an increasingly complex society:
“Because rapid social and economic transformations require greater learning from all students, society is reshaping the mission of education. Schools are now expected not only to offer education, but to ensure learning. Teachers are expected not only to "cover the curriculum" but to create a bridge between the needs of each learner and the attainment of challenging learning goals.”
Since then, we have witnessed an increased societal desire to identify evidence-based ‘best teaching practices’, and a tremendous amount of empirical research, reviews, meta-studies and syntheses have been published, the most well-known milestone probably being Hattie’s Visible Learning (2009). Through Hattie’s and many others’ research, we know by now that several factors to greater or lesser extent affect students' learning and outcomes in school. We know, for instance, that family background and what students bring to the classroom account for around 50 percent of the variance in student achievement, whereas teacher factors account for around 30 percent (Hattie, 2003). Since it is hard to do something about family background and what students otherwise bring to school, bridging the gap between students’ different needs and challenging learning goals, as argued by Darling-Hammond above, stands out as a central task for schools and teachers.
The research project in which the current study is situated aims at extending the knowledge about successful teaching and teachers. For this purpose, we set out to find, observe and interview 20 successful teachers and a total of 102 16-18-year-old students. The current study draws on empirical data from the student interviews, and is guided by the overarching research question:
- What, from a student perspective, characterizes the teachers and teaching actions (i.e. what teachers say and do) of the teachers that the students perceive as the best?
We chose to define successful teachers as teachers who have a proven ability to create knowledge development for students based on their respective prerequisites, adapt their teaching based on students' varied needs, and create a desire in students to learn and take part in classroom activities.
The study departs from an activity theoretical framework, understanding classroom instruction as an activity system. Since teachers and teaching are the focus of attention, it is the teachers who are understood as the subject whose goal-directed actions within the activity system are directed towards an object. Engeström and Sannino (2010, p. 4), describe the object of an activity as “both resistant raw material and the future-oriented purpose of an activity”. In this study, we assume that the object that the teachers' actions are directed towards is the students and their learning and development. Listening to students and taking an activity-system view of classroom teaching enables us to see what sort of systems students are in, what their own role is in it, and what it looks like from their perspective. This, in a sense, means taking an opportunity-to-learn (OTL) perspective, as it is described from a sociocultural point of view by Moss et al. (2008). Whereas conventional notions of OTL focus on access to content, resources and instructional processes, the reconceptualization of OTL from a sociocultural perspective moves beyond merely access and focuses on the interactions between learners and elements in their learning environments.
The study was carried out in collaboration between two researchers at the university and a regional development center funded by ten municipalities which together form a larger province in southern Sweden. In each municipality, a development strategist at local school administration level assisted when respondents were to be selected in accordance with the criteria described above. Included teachers were instructed to randomly select 4-6 students from a list of students volunteering to take part in the focus group interviews. It turned out that volunteering students together represented a great span of knowledge levels and individual needs. The interviews with students followed an interview guide containing two open-ended introductory questions and several possible follow-up questions. The two initial questions were: 1. You have gone to school for many years and met a lot of teachers - how would you describe a really good teacher? What distinguishes a good teacher from one who is not as good? 2. What characterizes teaching that you think leads to learning and development? (try to give examples of what, more specifically, the teacher does to accomplish that). All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The analysis was inspired by Graneheim and Lundman’s (2004) inductive qualitative content analysis approach. The entire data set was considered the unit of analysis, in which meaning units were sought. Meaning units are understood here as content areas identified with little interpretation, shedding light on specific areas of content responding to the research question. The meaning units were subsequently labelled with codes summarizing in a few words the core meaning. Coffey and Atkinson (1996, p. 32) describe codes as ‘heuristic devices’ which allows the data to be thought of in different and/or new ways. Next, codes were counted, and the most frequently occurring codes were sorted into groups sharing a commonality, finally resulting in eight categories/areas that together describe what, according to the students, characterize the best teachers and their teaching actions. The interviews showed very large similarities with each other, and the content represented in the categories was frequently occurring in all 20 interviews.
Most prominent in the results is that students fully agree that a prerequisite for learning is a safe learning environment. Such safety is created partly when there is order and clarity about rules and tasks in the classroom. However, it is mainly created when the students clearly feel that the teacher a) shares the responsibility for learning with them, b) sees, confirms and respects them “both as individuals and learners, c) articulates a belief in their learning ability and development potential, and d) never gives up on them, even if they or the circumstances they are in are sometimes challenging. Moreover, the students argue that in order to learn - or endure the fact that one must be in school and learn every day – motivation is crucial. Motivation largely goes hand in hand with the above-mentioned safety but is also created by the teacher being passionate about teaching and equally passionate about the students’ learning. Motivation is also created when the teacher varies instructional approach, when the learning experience is multi-sensory, and when the teacher connects to a world the students are familiar with. In addition, the students highlight the importance of there being room for alternative pathways and in-depth dialogue. Motivation is lowered and the stress level increases when teachers place excessive focus on formal requirements, grades and standardized tests. The study shows that if we are to listen to what the students experience as important for well-being and knowledge development we can not only focus on subject knowledge and teaching methods. The knowing-what and knowing-how of teaching are essential but not sufficient. Rather they need to be accompanied by a knowing-when. Knowing when it is appropriate to act in a particular way with a particular student is something that seems to characterize the best teachers.
Biesta, G. J. J. (20129. Giving Teaching Back to Education: Responding to the Disappearance of the Teacher. Phenomenology & Practice, (6)2, 35-49. Coffey, A., Atkinson, P. (1996). Making Sense of Qualitative Data. Complementary Research Strategies. Sage Publications Inc., Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi. Darling-Hammond, L. (1996). The quiet revolution: Rethinking teacher development. Educational Leadership 56(6), s. 4–10. Engeström, Y. & A. Sannino (2011). Discursive manifestations of contradictions in organizational change efforts: A methodological framework. Journal of Organizational Change Management 24(3), s. 368–387. Gee, J.P. (2008). A sociocultural perspective on opportunity to learn. In P.A. Moss, D.C. Pullin, J.P. Gee, E.H. Haertel & L.J. Young (Eds.), Assessment, Equity, and Opportunity to Learn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Graneheim, U.H. & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24, 105-112. Hattie. J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge. Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? Paper presented at the Building Teacher Quality: What does the research tell us, ACER Research Conference, Melbourne, Australia. Moss, P. A., Pullin, D. Gee, J.P Haertel, E. & Young, L. (Eds), (2008). Assessment Equity and Opportunity to Learn. New York: Cambridge University Press. Vygotskij, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Wertsch. J.V. (1998). Mind as Action. New York: Oxford University Press.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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