Good teachers don''t just help children learn more: they also help them to become happier. That is one of the findings of research by Sarah Fleche, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society''s annual conference in Brighton in March 2016.
We already know that having a good teacher means that you learn more at school – what makes a good teacher, however, has often been a lot less clear. What''s more, the effect that good teachers have for pupils'' wellbeing (in addition to their test scores) has not been explored as much.
This study analyses data on 10,000 children growing up in the Bristol area who have been tracked from birth in the early 1990s until they turned 21. The author finds that having a top 10% teacher compared with a bottom 10% teacher leads not just to students doing 27% better in their tests, but also to their happiness and emotional well-being (from self-esteem to perseverance) being 20% better.
The study also finds that what makes a good teacher is not just their experience; instead, their job satisfaction and teaching methods (such as class streaming, strictness and encouraging discussion in the classroom) matter more. This suggests that traditional ways of rating teachers based on their qualifications and experience might need to be revised.
? Teacher quality is one of the most important school drivers of pupils'' success.
? Having a good teacher is associated with beneficial effects on pupils'' test scores as well as pupils'' emotional health.
? What makes a good teacher depends little on teacher''s experience.
? Rather the quality of instruction depends on teacher''s job satisfaction and the teaching methods applied.
Teacher quality is one of the most important school drivers of pupils'' success. Having a top 10% teacher (versus a bottom 10% teacher) increases pupils'' test scores by 27% at end-of-year exams. Moreover, the benefits of a good teacher increase pupils'' emotional wellbeing by 20%.
These are the main findings of this study by Sarah Fleche at the London School of Economics. Her work analyses data from the ALSPAC cohort, a survey that has followed 10,000 children born in Avon (UK) from birth to age 21.
The researcher estimates the average benefit of having a good teacher on pupils'' cognitive skills (measured by test scores) as well as pupils'' non-cognitive skills (self-esteem, motivation, perseverance, social skills, etc.). Her empirical analysis shows that moving up the teacher quality distribution significantly raises pupils'' achievement in mathematics and languages as well as pupils'' emotional wellbeing. For comparison, the effects of a ten pupil reduction in class size are smaller.
In addition, the evidence suggests that whether the instruction is of good quality mainly depends on teacher''s job satisfaction and the teaching methods applied. The belief that teacher quality is based on teacher''s experience or teacher''s educational level seems controversial, the author notes. By way of contrast, if the teacher enjoys teaching or uses appropriate teaching methods, the benefits of good teaching quality may yield high return.
Until recently, there was little compelling evidence on what makes a good teacher, because no exhaustive survey was available. Teacher''s educational level, gender or years of teaching experience explain only 10% of the observed variation in teacher quality.
The availability of information on both teacher''s job satisfaction and teaching methods (class streaming, strictness, classroom discussion, etc.) enables the benefits of teacher quality to be decomposed into more detailed factors. The finding that teacher quality is mostly correlated with teacher''s job satisfaction and teaching methods suggests that traditional teacher appraisal schemes (based on teacher''s educational level and experience) might need to be revised.
Importantly, the ALSPAC data also enable the measurement of classroom and school environments on the basis of information on school type, school policy, peer characteristics and class size. The estimates indicate that a better school environment as well as a better classroom environment increases pupils'' emotional wellbeing, but not as much as good teacher quality.
There is a widely held belief that teachers are important inputs in pupils'' cognitive achievements. But much less is known about teacher effects on pupils'' emotional wellbeing. This study highlights the need to consider emotional health at school – both children''s and teacher''s emotional health – in addition to intellectual development. In many countries most of these objectives are still marginalised.
TEACHER QUALITY AND PUPIL SUCCESS: Evidence from UK primary schools data