What Makes Great Pedagogy?

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What makes great pedagogy?

Understanding what makes great pedagogy has long been debated, this post aims to draw upon educational research and suggest 9 characteristics / features of great pedagogy.

There is a strong consensus that high performance in education systems is dependent on the quality of teaching. Barber and Mourshed put it simply: ‘the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’ (Barber & Mourshed, 2007:13) and his report for McKinsey concluded that ‘the best school systems are those that have the best teachers’ (ibid:7).

Recent UK research concluded that ‘having a very effective, rather than an average teacher raises each pupil’s attainment by a third of [an examination] grade’ (Machin & Murphy, 2011:5). In a review of the research on teacher quality, Machin and Murphy (2011:5) argues that:

“Bringing the lowest-performing 5-10 per cent of teachers in the UK up to the average would greatly boost attainment and lead to a sharp improvement in the UK’s international ranking. All other things equal, in 5 years the UK’s rank amongst OECD countries would improve from 21st in reading to as high as 7th, and from 22nd in maths to as high as 12th…; over 10 years (the period a child is in the UK school system before the PISA examinations) the UK would improve its position to as high as 3rd in reading, and as high as 5th in maths.”

Whelan (2009:35) also provides a useful summary:

“School systems need to ensure that their curricula are relevant and contain enough flexibility to accommodate different learners and different social and economic needs. They need to ensure that school buildings are in good condition… All these things are important and ultimately impact academic performance. However, none is nearly as important as the quality of teaching.”

PISA data suggests that whilst variance in performance within schools is widespread – and particularly in countries that select pupils relatively early in the secondary phase – in almost all systems, in-school variation, or variance between teachers, is much greater (McGaw, 2008).

Summarising the evidence, Schwartz concludes that ‘the most important school-related factor in student learning… is teaching’ (Schwartz, 2009:online).

However, there is much less attention in the overall literature on what constitutes effective teaching, or, put differently, on the behaviours and actions of good teachers: what it is that good teachers do to promote good learning. At its worst, this produces a circular argument: good teachers are those who produce good outcomes, so that those pupils with good outcomes must have been taught by good teachers.

What makes great pedagogy? 9 suggestions from research

Effective pedagogies…

  1. give serious consideration to pupil voice.
  2. depend on behaviour (what teachers do), knowledge and understanding (what teachers know) and beliefs (why teachers act as they do).
  3. involve clear thinking about longer term learning outcomes as well as short-term goals.
  4. build on pupils’ prior learning and experience.
  5. involve scaffolding pupil learning.
  6. involve a range of techniques, including whole-class and structured group work, guided learning and individual activity.
  7.  focus on developing higher order thinking and metacognition, and make good use of dialogue and questioning in order to do so.
  8. embed assessment for learning.
  9. are inclusive and take the diverse needs of a range of learners, as well as matters of student equity, into account.

Read the full paper

The suggestions above are taken from Great pedagogy: nine claims from research by Chris Husbands and Jo Pearce. To read the full paper including the evidence that has informed the basis of these nine claims please click on the link below:

What Makes Great Pedagogy: 9 Claims From Research

Covid 19 – Nurturing effective pedagogies via remote online learning…

How can the characteristics of effective pedagogies outlined above be translated to online and remote delivery?

  1. give serious consideration to pupil voiceProvide opportunities for pupils to shape their online learning environment. How would they prefer to learn and receive online learning?
  2. depend on behaviour (what teachers do), knowledge and understanding (what teachers know) and beliefs (why teachers act as they do) – Share best practice and successes among colleagues. Pedagogical practice for online learning and delivery is somewhat a different beast from classroom practice. Discuss what is working and the challenges with as many colleagues as possible.
  3. involve clear thinking about longer term learning outcomes as well as short-term goals – This is a difficult characteristic to enact when it is unclear how long remote learning make be in place, but plan for long term schemes of learning that can be altered if the situation changes and returns to face to face learning.
  4. build on pupils’ prior learning and experience – Ensure that content continues to challenge and progress students learning. But also don’t assume things have been covered or students are proficient in online tools, find out what they know and scaffold from there.
  5. involve scaffolding pupil learning – As per the previous point students are all at different points in their learning and ICT literacy use scaffolding to teach to the top.
  6. involve a range of techniques, including whole-class and structured group work, guided learning and individual activity – Try and keep online learning activities and structured varied to keep interest and select the best structure for the intended learning outcomes.
  7.  focus on developing higher order thinking and metacognition, and make good use of dialogue and questioning in order to do so – This is possibly one of the biggest challenges with online delivery how can you promote discussion, dialogue and feedback. Consider break out rooms that you can drop into to reduce student anxiety when answering to the whole group this also promotes accountability in small groups.
  8. embed assessment for learning – Try google forms or other tools to embed assessment for learning into your online delivery this will consolidate learning but also inform you on what has been learnt and by whom.
  9. are inclusive and take the diverse needs of a range of learners, as well as matters of student equity, into account – Can you provide those who need more time or support with materials ahead of time or a booklet to support online learning to enable them to follow the flow / coverage of information.

The above are just a few ideas to get you thinking about productive online and remote learning. If you have any top tips that have been successful for you please comment below this post.

References

  • Barber, M & Mourshed, M, 2007, How the World’s Best Education Systems Come Out on Top, London & New York, McKinsey
  • Machin, S & Murphy, S, 2011, Improving the Impact of Teachers on Pupil Achievement in the UK: Interim Findings, London, Sutton Trust
  • McGaw, B, 2008, The role of the OECD in international comparative studies of achievement, Assessment in Education, 15(3), 223-43
  • Schwartz, R, 2009, Attracting and retaining teachers, OECD Observer [online]. Available at www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/2235/ [accessed 15 April 2012]
  • Whelan, F, 2009, Lessons learned: how good policies produce better schools, London, Fenton

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