University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Observing Effective Classroom Practice

Kington, Alison ORCID:, Day, C., Sammons, P. and Regan, E. (2009) Observing Effective Classroom Practice. In: The European Conference on Educational Research 2009 "Theory and Evidence in European Educational Research", 28th - 30th September 2009, Vienna, Austria. (Unpublished)

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This paper reflects on a two-year project which used an integrated mixed-method design. The project investigated variations in teachers' classroom practice, and relationships with professional life phase, professional identity and school context which builds on and extends a previous four-year, longitudinal research study (Day et al, 2006). The study sought to identify key factors that contribute to effective teaching and pupil outcomes in elementary and secondary phases of schooling in a sample of 83 effective teachers (45 elementary and 38 secondary), 39 school leaders and approximately 3000 pupils.

The project had three broad objectives: (1) to describe, analyse and explain the variation in elementary and secondary school teachers' classroom behaviours and practice using two observational instruments, detailed fieldnotes, and pupil and teachers' perceptions, focusing on English and mathematics teaching; (2) to explore 'typical' and 'more effective' classroom practice of teachers across different school contexts, professional life phases and ages in relation to observation of practice and professional, situated and/or personal factors which are perceived to affect observed practice over time; and, (3) to draw out implications from the findings of (1) and (2) for policymakers concerned with raising standards, and for school and teacher development.

Having examined the relevant literature, a set of guiding questions was developed which formed the basis of an initial conceptualisation for the development of a research design. However, the concepts were kept sufficiently broad in order that, as the research advanced, a process of progressive focusing could be applied (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The questions the study sought to address were:

1. What are the factors which influence typical and more effective teachers’ classroom practices?
2. What are the relationships between typical and more effective teachers’ perceived effectiveness and their classroom practice and organisation?
3. What are the similarities and differences in the factors that influence classroom practice in different school phases and subjects?
4. What are the relationships between observed classroom practice and policy, school context, teacher professional life phase, and professional identity?
5. What are the implications of this for key stakeholders who are involved in raising standards in schools?

In order to examine the complexities of effective classroom practice, the research developed an holistic design which enabled a research-informed account and explanation of the relationships between teachers’ histories, contexts, conditions, and interactions, and their effectiveness in terms of pupils’ classroom learning and attainments.

Although the strength of this study was in its mixed-method design (semi-structured interviews repertory grid interviews, focus groups, questionnaire surveys, fieldnotes), the central method of data collection was classroom observation. Two observational schedules were used:

i) the International System for Teacher Observation and Feedback (ISTOF), developed as part of a cross-national research initiative by the Methodology of Research in Effectiveness (MORE) group involving 21 countries was used after the first round of lesson observations (Teddlie et al, 2006);
ii) the Quality of Teaching (QoT) schedule (van de Grift et al, 2004), used after the second round of observations, was developed in collaboration between different inspection systems.

The project design was innovative in that it linked together both descriptive, interpretative accounts and statistical summaries. It also allowed collaborative and participatory methods to be used in shaping these accounts, working with individual teachers and headteachers to share interpretations of the data generated.

This project explored the practices of 'typical' and 'more effective' teachers, a classification derived from an examination of school value added data over the past three years combined with overall scores for teachers from the pupil survey. Although many of the aspects of effective classroom practice were utilised by both typical and more effective teachers, the more effective teachers seemed to possess and combine a greater range of teaching and learning strategies in addressing a number of areas in consistently positive and more reflective, complex and contextually-responsive ways.

This paper addresses the main differences between effective and more effective teachers through the use of teacher cameos. Data will be presented from two primary teachers and two secondary teachers, and will describe their observed classroom practice, the main influences on their classroom practice and effectiveness, and what pupils said about their teaching.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Education
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Depositing User: Alison Kington
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2017 10:27
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2019 09:29

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