Lessons From High-Performers

Posted: November 13th, 2014 | Author: | | No Comments »

Noah Yarrow studied 78 high-performing classrooms, and 44 low-performing classrooms. He did this in the Palestinian Territories.

From the World Bank Blog:

We found that teachers of these high-performing classes tend to use more student discussion in the classroom, have a higher proportion of students engaged in learning in a given class period, receive greater support and conduct more outreach to parents.

We also found some differences in how these schools were managed, particularly in terms of school mission and behavior policies and expectations.

None of this is shocking – past studies and even personal experience demonstrate that teachers who keep their students engaged are likely to get better results.

Good stuff. Read the whole thing here. Bonus Lionel Messi reference!

At Bridge, we’ve now just begun some similar work — we’ve built the data system to allow

us to identify outlier teachers, controlling for the baseline starting point of their students. Now we need to study these folks, interview them, and develop some hypotheses on why they achieve such good results. Then we can test the hypotheses.

For example, Dr. Yarrow above describes “more student discussion.” But is it really discussion that leads to gains? Perhaps. Here’s another plausible explanation. Perhaps he’s noticing that good classrooms have less teacher lecture. Hence anything (reasonable) that is not lecture drives up performance. Student discussion is one way to subtract long boring lectures, but another is simply having kids doing more of the reading or problems themselves, while the teacher circulates.

Moreover, even if it’s true that “Top teachers leading discussion” does work in those 78 classrooms — it might be that when you try to scale up, it doesn’t work well. “Typical teachers leading discussions” might not work so well…perhaps those teachers lack the domain knowledge (or facilitation skills) needed to drive achievement up.

How to move forward? Generally, you work to define the hypotheses; then try to train other teachers to copy what seem to be high-performing behaviors and do qualitative research (does it seem to be working); then you organize a randomized control trial, possibly with an outside scholar, to really measure if student outcomes go up.

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