Monday, July 27, 2009

Teacher quality

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that differences between teachers play only a minor role in how well a child will learn.
Teacher quality makes little difference, July 24, 2009
The global study, led by the University of New England, monitored 500 pairs of identical twins during their first three years of school.
They were divided into two groups: twins who shared the same teacher, and siblings who were split across different classrooms.
The same genetics and home life ensured the twins had the same ability to learn. The study was designed to reveal any differences linked to their teacher alone.
Professor Brian Byrne said the finding contradicted the views of educationalists who claimed teacher quality could account for a variance of up to 40 per cent in a child's learning outcome.

An excerpt from Maralyn Parkers Daily Telegraph column on this research points out:
Professor Byrne said the study did not measure the quality of the teaching, as the researchers did not actually visit any classrooms. However he said the majority of difference in childrens’ literacy levels in their first three years of schooling, 60 to 70 per cent, was due to genetics.

Byrne’s research is being undertaken under the auspices of the Australian Twin Registry
The latest paper available online from Byrne is “Genetic and environmental influences on early literacy, 2006”

Byrne discussed findings from the above research in an article in the Armidale Times. “Twins Aid research” in 2007 saying “We’re not finding big effects of different schools - or even different teachers - on the literacy levels of children within the same school year.”

Other articles from Byrne

Byrne, B. (2004). "Guest editorial on behaviour genetics." Australian Journal of Psychology Special edition.
Byrne, B., C. Delaland, et al. (2001). "Preliminary Results from a longitudinal preschool twin study of early reading
development." Annals of Dyslexia.
Byrne, B., R. K. Olson, et al. (2006). "Genetic and environmental influences on early literacy." Journal of Research in Reading
29: 33-49.
Byrne, B., S. Wadsworth, et al. (2005). "Longitudinal twin study of early literacy development: Preschool and kindergarten
phases." Scientific Studies of Reading 9: 219-235.

Some other research in this area
U.Va. Study Finds Teaching Quality Inadequate in Most U.S. First-Grade Classrooms
Interestingly, the study found that factors traditionally thought to influence quality, such as class size and teacher credentials, had little influence on classroom quality. Instead, the study found that high classroom quality is linked more strongly to teachers who are both creating a positive social climate and offering strong instructional support.

Estimating Teacher Effectiveness From Two-Year Changes in Students’ Test Scores
Teacher fixed effects show a significant association with some, though not all, observable teacher characteristics. Experience has the strongest effect, with a large effect in the early years of a teacher’s career.

How much of the variation in literacy and numeracy can be explained by school performance?
Family background is known to have a substantial impact on students’ literacy and numeracy results. This raises questions about whether any of the remaining differences in results are due to school performance — or whether they are merely due to random noise. This article reviews research from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, based on student-level analysis. It then presents new evidence based on publicly reported school-level data from Western Australia. Combining test results with data on schools’ socioeconomic characteristics, this study estimates the degree to which some schools outperform those with similar characteristics. On a ‘like schools’ basis, school differences are shown to be persistent across subjects, grades and years.

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