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
- 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
teacher priorities: Using real-world eye-tracking to investigate expert teacher
priorities across two cultures (April 2019), Learning and Instruction, volume 60
Findings from an evaluation of a $575 million programme to improve teacher performance found that, while sites implemented new measures of teaching effectiveness and modified personnel policies accordingly, the programme had no impact on pupil outcomes.
The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching initiative, designed and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed to dramatically improve pupil outcomes by improving pupils’ access to effective teaching. Three US school districts and four charter management organisations participated in the programme, which ran between 2009 and 2016.
The final evaluation report, published by the RAND Corporation, found that by the end of 2014-15, outcomes for pupils in the settings that took part in the initiative were not better than outcomes for pupils in similar settings that did not take part. There was no evidence that low-income minority (LIM) pupils had greater access than non-LIM pupils to effective teaching. In addition, it found very few instances of improvement in the effectiveness of teaching overall, and no improvement in the effectiveness of newly hired teachers compared to experienced teachers. The evaluation also found no increase in the retention of effective teachers, although there was some decline in the retention of ineffective teachers in most settings that took part in the initiative.
The report states several possible reasons that the initiative failed to achieve its goals for improving pupil outcome:
- incomplete implementation of the key policies and practices
- the influence of external factors, such as state-level policy changes during the initiative
- insufficient time for effects to appear
- a flawed theory of action
- a combination of all these factors.
Source: Improving teaching effectiveness: Final report: The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching through 2015–2016 (2018), RAND Corporation.
In England there is currently a shortage of maths teachers; among the factors that might be influencing this shortage are that departments lose 40% of teachers during their first six years in the profession, and there are higher private sector wages for maths graduates. At the same time, demand for maths teachers has increased due to policy measures to increase participation in maths for 16 to 18 year olds. To examine what impact this has had, the Nuffield Foundation commissioned researchers from FFT Education Datalab to look at how secondary schools have responded to the shortage.
Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims used data from England’s School Workforce Census and found that schools are using their most experienced and well-qualified maths teachers for year groups taking high-stakes exams (GCSEs, A-levels, and GCSE retakes), and using inexperienced maths teachers and teachers who trained in other subjects to fill staffing gaps elsewhere.
In the most disadvantaged schools (those with more pupils eligible for free school meals), pupils across all year groups are more likely to be taught by an inexperienced teacher. At Key Stage 5 (age 16-18) pupils in the most disadvantaged schools are almost twice as likely to have an inexperienced teacher as in the least disadvantaged schools (9.5% versus 5.3%).
Source: How do shortages of maths teachers affect the within-school allocation of maths teachers to pupils? (June 2018), Nuffield Foundation
A study by John Papay and Matthew Kraft from Brown University considers the impact of schools hiring new teachers after the school year has started.
The researchers used a comprehensive administrative dataset from a large, urban school district in the southern United States that includes student, teacher, and test records from the 1999-2000 to the 2009-2010 school years.
They found that students in grades four to eight (Years 5- 9) in classrooms with teachers hired after the start of the school year do worse than their peers with other newly hired teachers (effect size= -0.042 SD in mathematics, -0.026 SD in reading). A substantial part of this effect comes from temporary disruptions that affect teachers and students in the year when a teacher is hired late. In mathematics, but not in reading, they found that schools that hire late lose stronger candidates. Finally, they found that teachers who were hired late leave their schools, and the district, at much greater rates than their peers who are hired on-time, which may have negative impacts on other teachers and students in the school. Thus, delayed hiring prevents schools from hiring, supporting, and retaining effective teachers.
Source: The productivity costs of inefficient hiring practices: Evidence from late teacher hiring (2016), Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
The edTPA is an assessment in the US, introduced in 2013, that evaluates prospective teachers’ classroom performance. It is used by more than 600 teacher education programmes in 40 states, and passing it is a requirement for licensure in 7 states. In an attempt to discern whether the test can accurately determine if teacher candidates who achieve higher scores on this test help their students better than lower-scoring candidates, The National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) conducted the first independent study of edTPA, and found mixed results.
The study followed 2,300 teacher candidates in Washington State who took the edTPA in 2014. Their scores were correlated with their students’ standardised test scores in reading and maths. The study found that new teachers who passed the edTPA on their first try increased their students’ reading achievement scores more than new teachers who didn’t pass edTPA on their first attempt. There were no differences regarding the effects on students’ math scores.
The authors discuss the complicated implications of these findings for policy and practice. For example, they state that new teachers who fail the test the first time may ultimately become high-performing teachers, and warn of screening them out of the workforce.
Source: Evaluating Prospective Teachers: Testing the Predictive Validity of the edTPA (2016), National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER)
A new working paper from Mathematica Policy Research looks at the role that teachers play in developing non-cognitive skills, the non-tested academic behaviours and mindsets that contribute to children’s long-term success. These behaviours and mindsets include emotional stability, motivation, persistence, and self-control.
Data came from 310 teachers in four US districts who had agreed to have their classes videotaped, complete a teacher questionnaire, and help collect a set of pupil outcomes. The study focused on Grade 4 and 5 (Year 5 and 6) maths classes, although all of the teachers involved were generalists.
The authors examined both “teacher effects” (the teacher themselves) and “teaching effects” (classroom practices) on a range of maths test scores and non-tested outcomes, specifically behaviour in class, happiness in class, and self-efficacy in maths.
They found that individual teachers have large effects on pupils’ self-reported behaviour in class, self-efficacy in maths, and happiness in class that are similar in magnitude to effects on test scores. However, teachers who are effective at improving these outcomes often are not the same as those who raise maths test scores.
The paper concludes that efforts to improve the quality of the teacher workforce should include teachers’ abilities to promote academic behaviours and mindsets.
Source: Teacher and teaching effects on students’ academic behaviors and mindsets (2015), Mathematica.