Findings from a randomised controlled trial of Tools of the Mind (Tools) suggest that the programme improves kindergarten (Year 1) pupils’ academic outcomes in reading and writing, enhances children’s joy in learning and teachers’ enjoyment of teaching, and reduces teacher burnout.
The Tools programme is a play-based preschool and
kindergarten curriculum that emphasises self-control, language and literacy
skills. The study, published in the journal PLoS One, analysed the
effectiveness of Tools on kindergarten teachers and 351 children (mean age 5.2
years at entry) with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in 18 public schools in
Canada. Schools were paired with closely matched schools and then randomised to
either the intervention group or control group. Teachers in the intervention
group received a three-day workshop on Tools before the school year began,
along with funds for resources. Control group teachers were offered the same
amount of training hours and funds for whatever training and resource materials
The results showed that pupils in the Tools group made
greater improvements than pupils in the control group on standardised tests for
reading and writing. By May, three times as many children in Tools classes than
in control classes were reading at Grade 1 (Year 2) level or better. Similarly,
three times as many children in Tools classes than in control classes were able
to write a full sentence that they composed themselves. Tools teachers also
reported that their pupils could continue to work unsupervised for two and a
half times longer than control teachers estimated for their pupils, and that
100% could get back to work right away after breaks, compared to 50% of control
The Tools programme also had a positive impact on how
teachers felt about teaching. More than three-quarters of Tools teachers, but
none of the control teachers, reported in May that they were still enthusiastic
control trial of Tools of the Mind:
Marked benefits to kindergarten children and their teachers (September 2019), PLoS One
This Campbell systematic review examines the evidence on the correlation between teacher qualifications and the quality of early childhood learning environments, as measured by the Environment Rating Scale (ERS). The review summarises findings from 48 studies with 82 independent samples. The studies had to be comparative or correlational and report either an overall quality scale or an environment rating scale.
Overall, the review suggests that higher teacher
qualifications are positively associated with classroom quality in early
childhood education and care (effect size = +0.20). The review also suggests a
positive correlation between teacher qualifications and classroom quality on a
number of subscales, including:
structure – focusing on the schedule, time for free play, group time and
provisions for children with disabilities (ES = +0.22).
– this relates to fine motor, art, music/movement, blocks, sand/water, dramatic
play, nature/science, maths/number, use of digital technologies, and promoting
acceptance of diversity (ES = +0.20).
and reasoning – encouraging children to communicate, use language to
develop reasoning skills, and the informal use of language (ES = +0.20).
The researchers conclude that while there is evidence for
the relationship between teacher qualification and classroom quality as
measured by the ERS, further research is also needed into the specific knowledge
and skills that are learned by teachers with higher qualifications that enable
them to complete their roles effectively. It is important to note also, that
while higher quality in early childhood education and care may lead to improved
outcomes for children, we cannot assume that this is the case.
relationship between teacher qualification and the quality of the early
childhood education and care environment (January 2017), Campbell Systematic Reviews, Volume 13, Issue 1.
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