There’s more than one way to teach effectively — or to flop — concludes a new study.
Analyzing test scores doesn’t measure teachers’ strengths and weaknesses, writes Meredith Kolodner on the Hechinger Report.
When children in Classroom A and Classroom B show the same improvement on their math tests, Teachers A and B get the same evaluation score, and the assumption is that both teachers excel at the same things.
But that assumption may be entirely wrong. Teacher A is a rock star when it comes to imparting math content while Teacher B is not, but Teacher B excels at getting students to persevere when they hit obstacles. So the Classroom A students did well on their tests because they knew the content, while the Classroom B kids did well because they didn’t give up easily and reviewed their answers.
Matthew A. Kraft, who works at Brown, and David Blazar, who works at Harvard, “used student surveys and test score results and pored through hours of video of teachers at work in four urban school districts,” writes Kolodner.
They examined four measures of students’ skill that have been demonstrated individually to predict future academic success and job prospects – high math scores, good behavior, happiness in class and perseverance in the face of difficulty. Their research looked at whether “good teachers” were indeed successful at improving all four of these outcomes.
It turns out they’re not.
“What we find is that teachers who are successful at raising test scores are not [not necessarily] the teachers best at improving behaviors,” said Blazar.
Happy students are more likely to have higher test scores. the researchers found. “However, teachers who improve test scores do not always make students happy in class.”
If distinct teaching skills can be analyzed, they can be taught to new teachers, said Blazar. “We have millions and millions of teachers who work in classrooms, and we do a disservice to the profession if we say we’re only going to try to find those teachers who have that natural spark, when we have evidence that these skills are teachable.”