What makes an excellent teacher? Research shows that a good sense of humour and a conversational style are two of the key ingredients of great teaching.
The report is 'Exploring Effective Pedagogy in Primary Schools: Evidence from Research', written by Professor Iram Siraj and Dr Brenda Taggart of London's Institute of Education and published by Pearson. It 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 three to 16 in England, to identify the characteristics of “excellent,” “good,” and “poor” school teachers.
Siraj and Taggart suggest that the hallmarks of excellent classrooms are:
- 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.
- Shared objectives - Although most teachers ensure the learning objectives of the lesson/activity is clear (for example, by writing them on the board), teachers in excellent schools are especially good at making sure the objectives are fully understood. Consequently, pupils in these classes are very clear about what they are expected to achieve and how much time they have to do it.
- Homework - Homework is clearly linked to what the children are learning, and set to extend and deepen the children’s understanding.
- Classroom climate - In excellent classrooms, teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil relationships are characterised by warmth and respect, where children are sociable and cooperative.
- 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 (rather than belittling children or practising “over control”).
- Collaborative learning - Children in excellent schools spend relatively more time in collaborative learning situations than those in poor schools.
- 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.
- Making links explicit - Teachers in excellent schools are better able and more consistent in making links to areas outside the specific lesson.
- 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. The use of dialogic teaching, where teachers and pupils enter discourse about learning in order to extend pupil thinking and understanding, is comparatively well used in maths by excellent teachers.
- Assessment for learning - Teachers in excellent schools provide substantial opportunities for pupils to reflect on their learning through review.
- 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 report looks widely at the different classroom practices and pedagogies that occur in more than 80 “excellent”, “good” and “poor” schools in England.