New study suggests 11 essential practices of excellent teaching

According to new research, a good sense of humour and a conversational style are just two of the key ingredients of great teaching.

Today Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, issues a new report that explores the characteristics that define ‘excellent’ school teachers. The report, by Professors Iram Siraj and Brenda Taggart of London's Institute of Education, uses data from the EPPSE (Effective Pre-school, Primary, and Secondary Education) study, which monitored the academic attainment and socio-behavioural development of more than 3,000 children from the age of 3 to 16 in England.

They suggest that the hallmarks of excellently managed classrooms are:  

  1. Organisation - Teachers prepare their resources ahead of time, and make productive use of instructional time by maintaining good pace and ensuring that every second of their lessons count.
  2. Shared objectives - Although most teachers ensure the learning intention of the lesson/activity is clear (for example, by writing the ‘learning objectives’ on the board), teachers in excellent schools are especially good at making sure the children understand what this means. Consequently pupils in these classes are very clear about what they are expected to achieve and how much time they have to do it.
  3. Homework - Homework is clearly linked to what the children are learning, and set to extend and deepen the children’s understanding.
  4. Classroom climate - In ‘excellent’ classrooms teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil relationships are characterised by warmth and respect, where children are sociable and cooperative.
  5. Behaviour management - Children in excellent schools are less disruptive and rarely need to be disciplined; but where teachers do need to correct behaviour, they use humour or a quiet reminder.
  6. Collaborative learning - Children in excellent schools spend relatively more time overall in collaborative learning situations than those in poor schools. (Although overall, the study found that the amount of time children spent in these groups across the board is fairly low.)
  7. Personalised teaching and learning - ‘Excellent’ teachers are sensitive to the individual needs of their pupils and provide learning materials that are appropriately challenging, and rich and varied in content. They do not distance themselves from their pupils by staying at their desks, they regularly offer feedback, and take notice of individual children’s behaviour or needs.
  8. Making Links Explicit - Teachers in excellent schools are better able and more consistent in making links to areas outside the specific lesson.
  9. Dialogic Teaching and Learning - An excellent teacher will progress learning by ensuring pupils are continually informed by previous work, rather than merely answering, correcting or silencing them. This is particular evident in maths, where dialogic teaching will take the form of analysis.
  10. Assessment for Learning - Teachers in excellent schools provide substantial opportunities for pupils to reflect on their learning through review.
  11. Plenary - Excellent teachers are more likely to use plenaries in their lessons to provide opportunities for further discussion, to explore issues in more depth and to extend work and concepts covered in the lesson.

The 74 page report (Exploring Effective Pedagogy in Primary Schools: Evidence from Research) looks widely at the different classroom practices and pedagogies that occur in more than 80 'excellent', 'good' and 'poor' schools in England. Report author Professor Iram Siraj of the IOE said:

“What clearly emerges is a ‘bundle’ of pedagogical behaviours that, taken together, can make a difference to children’s development and progress and therefore their later life chances. This is especially true for those children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Sir Michael Barber, Pearson’s chief education adviser, added:

“What this research provides is the evidence to corroborate what will already be familiar practices for many teachers. The more we can, as a global community, rely on data to prove - or contradict - what we think we know, the more confident we can be of achieving improved outcomes for more pupils.”

The full report can be found at

This is the latest in a series of practical publications for policy makers, educators and the wider learning community, containing new ideas and evidence about what works in education. The series is available at available at

About Pearson

Pearson is the world's leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 70 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning.

We provide learning materials, technologies, assessments and services to institutions, corporations, teachers and students in order to help people everywhere aim higher and fulfil their true potential. We put the learner at the centre of everything we do.

About the London's Institute of Education

Founded in 1902, as a teacher training college in London, the IOE is now a world-class research and teaching institution.  Our distinguished history and current mission are rooted in a commitment to social justice. We know that education transforms lives – and so do our supporters. Learn more at