Education Week - June 20, 2018 - 9
There's been some debate here in
the States about the role of praise in
teaching students. What do you think?
Teachers, being nice people, have a lot of
praise for kids who struggle. The problem
The first four or five years of a teacher's
[working] life, they are hungry for
information about, 'Am I doing it right?' 'Is
it good enough?' 'Am I having the kind of
impact you expect?'
Unfortunately, many get diverted very
quickly into, 'Have you got the right
resources?' and 'Is it interesting?' There's
one teacher I'm shadowing at the moment
who spends all her minutes marking the
kids' work and creating resources [for the
She's going to be exhausted in a few
years' time and she's going to say, 'No one
supported me,' because she's being taught
that the only good teacher is a busy teacher.
But a good teacher is a teacher that
has been prepared to have a discussion
about the impact [of teaching on student
learning.] One of the most effective
[instructional practices] is teacher collective
efficacy, teachers working to support each
other and understand what their impact
is. I worry that a lot of the professional
learning communities that are being set
up to [improve teacher efficacy] are not
focusing on [collective improvement], but
are focusing once again on curriculum
resources and assessment.
In talking with people outside of
education, what's the most common
thing that they love and think is
effective, that is not at all?
We asked 1,000 adults what they wanted
most to invest in, in schooling, and it was
all negatively correlated [with improving
education]. ... It's all the structural things,
the things they can see: different kinds of
buildings, different kinds of curriculum,
different kinds of assessment, academies,
smaller class sizes, all these things. If you
want a bigger budget to get new computers
or to reduce class size, the public would do
it; if you wanted to invest that money in
building [teacher] expertise, they wouldn't.
We need to be smarter about educating
parents about what learning looks like, and
how successful many teachers are at acting
Under ESSA, states are rethinking their
assessments and accountability for
schools. Is there anything you think
they should be considering, to help
Every child, no matter where they start,
is entitled to a year's growth for a year's
input. Here's the irony: Teachers have at
their fingertips thousands if not tens of
thousands of measures of achievement,
but very, very few measures of growth. So
I think it's incumbent on the system to
provide teachers with the resources they
need to do their jobs. ... The whole model
here, the psychometric model seems to be,
create brilliant tests and then demand
teachers use them.
But if teachers don't find value in them,
they shouldn't use them. I think for a lot of
the tests around today, if teachers weren't
required to use them, they wouldn't use
them. I'm a strong believer in ... helping
teachers have these discussions and when
they defend their impact, to be able to use a
variety of methods, not just the compulsory
Can you think of one clear, lowhanging fruit to help teachers improve
their instruction and feedback in the
[In a study of about 12,000 classrooms in
the United Kingdom], we found on average
teachers talked about 89 percent of the time;
that's not a lot of listening. What we want
teachers to do is to interview students about,
'What don't you understand about what I
said when I made these comments?'-so we
start to focus on how the teacher's comments
are being received. I do think the power of
teaching is in the art of listening.
Coverage of continuous-improvement strategies
in education is supported in part by a grant from
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Education
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Visit the INSIDE SCHOOL RESEARCH blog,
which tracks news and trends on this issue.
WHAT IS CONTINUOUS
Continuous school improvement is a cyclical process intended
to help groups of people in a system-from a class to a school
district or even a network of many districts-set goals, identify
ways to improve, and evaluate change.
The most common approaches seem to share a few concepts,
such as: looking at problems as part of a system rather than
as isolated episodes; working to improve policies and processes within that system; repeatedly
testing assumptions about the causes of problems and their possible solutions; and involving
those most affected by changes-like teachers and students-in deciding what tweaks to make.
As one school superintendent in Wisconsin described the process, "We don't want random acts
There are changes over time. Up to around
age 10, there's a lot of compliance behavior.
Kids think coming to school means, 'Sit
up straight, do your work, and watch the
teacher work.' ... They want personalization.
We know, for example, when teachers give
feedback to the whole class, every kid knows
it's not about them and they tune out.
By 12, there's a lot more peer involvement
and therefore kids welcome feedback much
more if it's done privately than they do if
it's done publicly. And all of us, regardless of
age, welcome praise.
What kinds of feedback are most
helpful to teachers early and later in
Photos by Ian Bates for Education Week
Are there differences in how students
absorb feedback at different ages?
with praise is that it has zero-to-negative
impact on improving the task or the work.
That isn't to say you shouldn't praise
kids, because that's the essence of a lot of
relationships. But you should separate it,
so when you are talking about the work,
you should be talking about the work, not
the person. If I tell you, 'Here are things
you should change to improve,' and then I
tell you how good you were, the next day,
what do you remember? You'd remember
the praise; that dominates.
Praise does make a difference to
relationships, and obviously building
relationships is critical. But I remind people
that the reason to build a relationship is so
that you can talk about the errors.
Photos by Ian Bates for Education Week
simple: 'Help me know what to do now.'
One of the ironies is that students who are
above the average are less likely to ask for the
'what now?' feedback because they can usually
work it out on their own. The kids who are
below average really want that dialogue, want
the information-and they're the least likely
to get it. They get 'correct, incorrect, you could
improve here'-checks and crosses that give
them no information.
When teachers spend hours and hours
writing comments, if there's no feedback
providing concrete steps for the students to
improve, students will argue themselves blue in
the face that they never received anything. The
key question is, does feedback help someone
understand what they don't know, what they do
know, and where they go? That's when and why
feedback is so powerful, but a lot of feedback
doesn't-and doesn't have any effect.
Jane Addams to sign students up for
courses in the spring, and that activity didn't involve parents, Tudor said.
The opportunity for Hale to build
a close relationship with one of its
feeder middle schools arose from
a confluence of events, Tudor said.
After many years as a K-12, and then
a K-8, Jane Addams reorganized as a
6-8 school just as the Johns Hopkins
study was getting off the ground.
Those changes offered "the perfect timing" to make new connections, Tudor said. And it felt really
necessary: Hale High emphasizes a
personalized, rigorous approach to
learning and wanted incoming 9th
graders to be as prepared as possible, Tudor said.
The extra attention to attendance
and course completion-from both
school staff and parents-has allowed Hale to outperform the district on the proportion of 9th graders
who are on track for on-time graduation, Tudor said.
Other high schools in the research
project have also teamed up with
their middle schools to co-host family information nights for 8th graders. Some have focused on training
parents to use their schools' web
portals, so they can monitor their
children's progress in class.
The Seattle Housing Authority
also partnered with the project by
sending postcards to families in its
rental units about the importance
of attending school regularly, said
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