Do expert teachers look at their class differently?

Teachers’ gaze patterns could reveal the different priorities expert teachers and novice teachers have in their classrooms, according to a recent study published in Learning and Instruction.

Using eye-tracking glasses, Nora McIntyre and colleagues investigated how gaze proportions might be different for teachers of different expertise and culture, indicating differences in teachers’ priorities. Twenty secondary school teachers from Hong Kong and twenty secondary school teachers from the UK participated in this study. Teachers were considered as expert teachers if they had six years’ or more experience, were selected by their school leadership as experts in teaching, had professional membership within the field of teaching, and scored highly in performance ratings.

Teachers’ gaze proportions were measured during questioning (information seeking) and lecturing (information giving) in normal timetabled lessons, for their gaze frequencies on the pupils, pupil materials, teacher materials, and non-instructional areas (such as door, windows). The findings were as follows:

  • Regardless of culture, expert teachers prioritised their gaze to pupils during both questioning and lecturing, while beginning teachers prioritised non-instructional classroom areas.
  • HK teachers prioritised their gazes to teacher materials, while UK teachers prioritised it to non-instructional areas during lecturing.
  • HK expert teachers also used more teacher materials gaze than the UK expert teachers.

The authors suggest that the finding of prioritisation of gaze to pupils by expert teachers was consistent with other research since prioritisation of pupils deepens pupils’ understanding of the subject, emotional security, security with peers, and their interest in subject materials.

Source: Capturing teacher priorities: Using real-world eye-tracking to investigate expert teacher priorities across two cultures (April 2019), Learning and Instruction, volume 60

Great teaching report

A report from the Sutton Trust assessed more than 200 pieces of research evidence in an attempt to address three broad questions:

  • What makes great teaching?
  • What kinds of frameworks or tools could help us to capture it?
  • How could this promote better learning?

The report identified six key factors in great teaching and rated them from strongly evidenced (teachers’ content knowledge and quality of instruction) through moderately evidenced (classroom climate and classroom management) to factors with some supporting evidence (teacher beliefs and professional behaviours).

Common practices not supported by evidence included lavish use of praise, allowing learners to discover key ideas by themselves, grouping students by ability, and presenting information based on students’ preferred learning style.

The report included recommendations for practitioners to sustain their professional learning across the short and long terms.

Source: What makes great teaching? (2014), The Sutton Trust

Content-focused coaching shows positive effects

This article from Learning and Instruction presents findings from a group-randomised trial investigating the effect of Content-Focused Coaching (CFC).

A key element of CFC is “Questioning the Author (QtA)”, a discussion-based approach to reading comprehension. According to the article, QtA encourages teachers and pupils to work together to construct the meaning of a text during the reading process. Teachers strategically pose questions to pupils at key places in a text that promote understanding, interpretation, and elaborated response, and encourage pupils to share and challenge each other’s ideas to grapple with these questions.

Schools assigned to the treatment condition received a CFC-trained coach, and schools in the comparison condition continued with the literacy coaching that was standard practice in their school. The final sample included 29 US schools serving a high proportion of pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and pupils from low-income families.

Findings showed a positive effect of the CFC programme on observed classroom text discussion quality. Findings also showed a positive effect on pupil reading achievement, as measured on a state assessment test, with stronger effects for EAL pupils compared to their English-proficient peers.

The authors note that additional research is needed to examine the effectiveness and feasibility of adopting CFC on a wider scale.

Source: Literacy Coaching to Improve Student Reading Achievement: A Multi-level Mediation Model (2013), Learning and Instruction, 25.

Is there more to reading than phonics?

A new study published in Learning and Instruction suggests that even young children may benefit from being taught not only phonics, but also how English is constructed. The researchers developed a “novel intervention” that taught aspects of the English language such as morphology, etymology, and rules about form. They then randomly assigned 120 5-7 year-olds to either receive phonics then the novel intervention, or the novel intervention then phonics. The novel intervention significantly improved the literacy skills of the children, including both word reading and spelling, compared with the phonics condition. The researchers argue that these results show that children can be taught more about the English language from the start of their formal literacy instruction.

Source: Spelling and Reading Development: The Effect of Teaching Children Multiple Levels of Representation in their Orthography (2013), Learning and Instruction, 25.

A boost to maths learning at our fingertips?

The development of multi-touch surfaces has created opportunities for learning, including touchscreen desks. Researchers from Durham University have been exploring collaborative learning in mathematics using these desks. They created a group and whole-class multi-touch activity, called NumberNet, and, in this article in Learning and Instruction, they describe their research into its effectiveness.

In particular, they wanted to know whether it improved pupils’ mathematical fluency and flexibility. Results from their quasi-experimental study of 86 pupils (44 using NumberNet, 42 using a paper-based comparison activity) indicated that while all pupils increased in fluency after completing these activities, pupils who used NumberNet also increased in flexibility.

Source: Collaborative learning with multi-touch technology: Developing adaptive expertise (2012), Learning and Instruction, 25