Schools that involve students in discussions and presentations, rather than rote learning, are getting much better test results, according to research by Ana Hidalgo-Cabrillana and Cristina Lopez-Mayan, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society''s annual conference at the University of Bristol in April 2017.
Their study, which draws on both student and teacher reports of what type of lessons are being taught in Spanish schools, finds that a 10% increase in the use of modern teaching techniques is associated with an increase in test scores equivalent to the difference between having a parent with a college degree instead of high school degree. A 10% increase in the use of traditional practices creates a fall in test score that''s equivalent to starting school aged four years old instead of the usual age in Spain of three.
The benefits of modern teaching practices are stronger in reading than mathematics, and more pronounced in girls than boys, the authors find. They comment: ''The effect of modern teaching practices is potentially large, so interventions targeting what teachers actually do in class seem to be very effective and could be implemented at a relatively low cost.''
Teamwork and involving students in discussions and presentations (modern practices) are strongly related to better achievement. The use of individual work and rote learning (traditional practices) is detrimental. That is the central message of this research, which analyses data on nearly 12,500 nine year old Spanish students, their teachers and their families. The study concludes that:
• A 10% increase in the use of modern practices is associated with a 3.4% of a standard deviation increase in test scores. This is equivalent to having a parent with a college degree instead of a high school degree.
• A 10% increase in the use of traditional practices is related to a 2.6% of a standard deviation decrease in test scores. This is equivalent to starting school one year later than the usual age of three.
• There is substantial heterogeneity on the effect of teaching practices in student outcomes: i) by subject, because the effects are stronger in reading than in maths; ii) by gender, because the effects are stronger for girls than for boys; iii) by type of school, because the effects are stronger for public schools than for private ones; iv) by type of teacher, because the effects are stronger for a student with a new teacher who was not teaching in the previous grade; and v) by type of family, because the effects are stronger for students coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Uncovering the effect of teaching practices on student achievement is challenging because of the potential self-selection of students of a privileged background into more innovative schools. But the richness of our data set allows us to exploit variation in teaching methodologies within a school, which eliminates the bias arising from the endogenous selection of students into schools.
There might also be the potential concern about selection of more able students into classes more prone to modern teaching practices within a school. But this does not seem to be the case for two reasons:
• First, student allocation to classroom is mostly random in Spain, where tracking is extremely infrequent.
• Second, our data allow us to control for a rich set of teacher variables and student and family characteristics.
Our results are obtained with information on teaching practices reported by the students. Alternative information on teaching practices is also provided by the teachers themselves. But when assessing the teaching practices with the information provided by teachers, the results are much weaker and the wealth of heterogeneous effects dilutes substantially.
Previous work on this subject has only used one of these two perspectives to measure in-class work. Information reported by students and teachers have different advantages and disadvantages.
Teachers may be better qualified to assess their teaching practices. But many of the answers to assess the teaching practices require a judgment call, which may contain substantial noise. Therefore, the answers given by a large group of students can average out idiosyncratic assessments and better reveal the true nature of the teaching practices. Our results suggest that this second route of gathering information may be a valuable complement to the information reported by the teacher.
Our study delivers several lessons:
• First, the effect of modern teaching practices is potentially large, so interventions targeting what teachers actually do in class seem to be very effective and could be implemented at a relatively low cost.
• Second, the effectiveness of teaching styles, however, depends on the context –type of subject, type of students, type of school and type of teachers.
• And third, because teaching is a complex activity, accurately measuring what works in class may require different sources of information.
TEACHING STYLES AND ACHIEVEMENT: STUDENT vs TEACHER PERSPECTIVE – Ana Hidalgo-Cabrillana