Teachers are at the fulcrum of the Education story. So, to improve learning outcomes, it falls to teachers to raise the game and improve the quality of education. They say, that the student can only be as good as their teacher – so for learning outcomes to improve, there must be an improvement in teacher quality.
So far, so good.
Though I’d take a little step back, purse my lips and whistle through my teeth. Take a moment to note, that in the process of learning, it is not just the teacher but a whole host of factors that impact learning outcomes. There is early years nutrition, parental education and support, mental capacities, attitudes and values, prior learning gaps and peer culture that impacts learning outcomes as much as the curriculum, content, pedagogy, teaching support, resources and assessment systems.
Phew, that was a listicle moment, wasn’t it.
There’s more coming up. Get your click-counters to the ready.
In all of these, we do acknowledge that some triggers are more important than the others, and what could be more important than the frontline of actual teaching and learning – the teacher.
We do not know much about the actual process of learning, or about the moment learning actually happens, but we do know that whatever magic must be created is in the interaction between learner-teacher-content-resource. And the responsibility for this is given to the teacher. The teacher pivots and aligns all four towards the learning outcome.
How do we know that this is being done, and being done well? How can we know that the best possible learning outcome was achieved? That student potential was activated? That the teacher did their best and can now be held accountable for outcomes? What should we be measuring to watch and improve teacher quality?
Let me kickstart the solution. Here is an eight step checklist for ensuring and watching teacher quality.
First, and the most essential: Teacher presence
Second: Teacher capabilities – knowledge, skills, training, and even certification.
Third: Resources and pedagogies – Curriculum, Outcomes frameworks, resource packs, teacher toolkits, support services, remedial resources and managerial support in addition to the basic capabilities.
Fourth: Teacher qualities: These would include innovation, resourcefulness, empathy, listening, connect/engagement, pivot to context, learnability. The spark that can be passed on, enthusiasm, goal orientation, organisation and delivery across formats.
Fifth: Feedback loop frequency and action. How often does the teacher give and receive feedback. What is the action taken on the feedback. Every 2 mins, 5 mins? After each part of the session? At the end of the session? Of the topic? Every week? Month? Year? Half yearly etc. The ability to adapt assessment frameworks to increase efficacy. For example, the CCE system expected teachers to create relevant and supportive assessment modes for their students – and most teachers failed to even understand the ask let alone create a useful set of assessments and subsequent feedback and improvement mechanisms.
Sixth: Means and rewards for useful professional development. How does the teacher improve including the reasons and mechanisms to enable constructive progress.
Seven: Teacher incentives and motivation. (This is probably the most discussed of the eight, along with the first and possibly the second. Any investment in just a few of the eight will be wasted unless the entire set is included in the design). Teacher incentives need to encompass the entire range of public, private, monetary, non monetary and more to start a positive motivation spiral. Motivation of course is about more than incentives and this again needs a sensitive, responsive, customised approach for each area, context and possibly, person.
Eight: Teacher Pathways for professional Growth. This is not an incentive but a systemic way of building continuous improvement into the teacher eco system. This set of pathways need to working on both teacher quality and systems improvement for the main goal of improving long term learning outcomes.
Now begins the real work of understanding these and making them work for each and every teacher.
As with every system design, over engineer it and you have a straitjacket, give too much slack and you have a system that works only after high levels of motivation and excellence have been achieved. The challenge now is to design a scaled systemic approach to the Teacher-Eight above so that each teacher feels valued enough to add value to each student.
(These are notes from a work in progress. Please feel free to join in and comment)