Focus on Learning: Measures of Effective Teaching

December 15, 2010

“Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) is a major Gates Foundation-funded, multi-year, complex research project that aims to learn whether and how we can measure effective teaching in K-12 schools.  Do we know it when we see it? If so, what are the best ways to see it?

A first research report from the project has just been released.  You can read it here, and I recommend reading the whole thing.  If you want a brief overview, you can’t do better than Elena Silva’s overview at “The Quick and the Ed,” the Education Trust’s blog.

On the results so far, (1) Yes, we can know effective teaching when we see it.  (2) One good way is to look at which teachers’ students improve on (those hated) standardized tests.  Teachers whose students improve one year turn out to do so reasonably consistently in future years, though teachers, like the rest of us, have better and worse years.  And teachers whose students improve on standardizaed exams also do better in other subjects, so it’s not just “teaching to the test” — as if all these better-scoring students can do is test better.

And (3) students can tell you who is an effective teacher if you ask them.  They know.  At Earlham, we’ve long believed that students can tell us a great deal about effective teaching.  That’s why we do course and teacher evaluations in every course, every semester.  We expect faculty members to read and learn from them (which they do), and we use the evaluations (read critically, not mechanically) in making decisions about re-appointment and tenure.

There’s more to come from the MET project in future years.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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