Given the fact that the concept of “classroom management” and its connotations as well as its relation to effective teaching, despite decades of world-wide research, remain rather undefined, or, at least, not fully described, different educational systems and teachers around the world try hard to develop a wide variety of classroom management theories and strategies, since they obviously consider it as being significantly related to effective teaching. Effective classroom management reflects teachers’ multifaceted high-ranked ability to, inter alia, establish and maintain within their classrooms acceptable rules of productive teacher-to-student and student-to-student communication, to motivate students to work cooperatively, and to fruitfully implement best teaching strategies according to their students’ individualized learning needs. Moreover, it presupposes teachers’ ability to create a learning context where students’ disruptive attitudes are prevented or addressed and misbehavior is reduced while positive expected learning outcomes are achieved, and the students’ cognitive, social and affective development is continuously facilitated and sustained. Finally, it is based on teachers’ ability to set clearly defined and agreed—between teacher and students—codes of communication, to produce measurable learning outcomes that fulfill students’ and their parents’ expectations, and to take full advantage of their students’ features, classroom features, and local space features in order to develop their own professional features. It is, thus, evident why successful classroom management is considered by teachers, parents, students, and researchers to be tightly linked to teachers’ professional competence and effectiveness. Moreover, teachers who successfully implement classroom management are reported to create in time a regulatory framework for communication within the classroom through the establishment and adoption of rules and consequences. They also tend to safeguard the quality of communication with their students, and to develop their professional authority profile. They succeed in that by strengthening their willingness to meet students’ learning requirements, needs, and interests, by using effectively verbal and non-verbal communication to encourage learning and, above all, by controlling and managing their institutionalized power. International research over the past years has shown that the implementation of learner-centered innovative teaching strategies on the basis of flexible differentiated teaching focused on students’ personal values, abilities and potential, the establishment of student-to-student shared responsibility and of a student-to-teacher commitment contract, the development of a dynamic interplay between students during group work, the respect for diversity, and the reinforcing of students’ self-regulation all highly contribute to the creation of a fruitful in-class learning environment. In such an environment students feel secure and accepted, teachers manage the classroom successfully and are considered to be competent and effective professionals.
Keith J. Topping
Both peer tutoring and cooperative learning are types of peer assisted learning; they involve people from similar social groupings who are not professional teachers helping each other to learn and learning themselves by teaching. Peer tutoring usually involves pairs of students, one in the role of tutor and the other as tutee, with the more able or experienced member helping the other to learn material which is new to the tutor but not to the tutee. By contrast, cooperative learning is usually done in small groups of perhaps four students, often of mixed ability. The group works toward a consensus on a problem. Because it is easier to dominate or hide in a group, roles are often assigned to each group member. Earlier perspectives tended to use the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, perhaps with some consideration of Bandura and Dewey. Chi, King, and Graesser have been prominent in more recent work. However, a theoretical perspective is offered that integrates these elements with more practical issues. In general, both peer tutoring and cooperative learning “work”— in a wide range of curricular subjects and with a wide range of ages. Given the appropriate form of organization, cognitive gains ensue for both helpers and those who are helped. This is not the main research issue, which is exploring how and why these practices work, in order to improve effectiveness. There are several meta-analyses (a statistical procedure for combining data from multiple studies) which are relevant, and beyond this, key individual papers of specific importance are highlighted. Over the years, we have become wiser about some of the key issues. In peer tutoring, same-ability tutoring has appeared in recent years, sometimes reciprocal, and we need to know under what conditions it works. Cooperative learning has issues regarding the most effective roles for group members and how these integrate with student ability and personality. There has also been much recent work in online peer tutoring which raises different issues. The existing literature is well-developed since these are not new methods. Future research should include more tightly defined studies focusing on more minor variables of context and organization. Many teachers will say they use both peer tutoring and cooperative learning, but very often they overestimate how often anything like good practice takes place. Simply putting students together and hoping for the best will not do, although it might have mild effects. Teachers using these methods need to be clear about what organizational parameters are vital in their context with their type of peer assisted learning. These features then need to be maximized in practice and an eye must be kept on implementation fidelity throughout. Education administrators need to organize professional development for teachers which is thorough, including initial instruction and practice followed up by support and monitoring in the classroom.
Diane Mayer, Wayne Cotton, and Alyson Simpson
The past decade has seen increasing federal intervention in teacher education in Australia, and like many other countries, more attention on teacher education as a policy problem. The current policy context calls for graduates from initial teacher education programs to be classroom ready and for teacher education programs to provide evidence of their effectiveness and their impact on student learning. It is suggested that teacher educators currently lack sufficient evidence and response to criticisms of effectiveness and impact. However, examination of the relevant literature and analysis of the discourses informing current policy demonstrate that it is the issue of how effectiveness is understood and framed, and what constitutes evidence of effectiveness, that needs closer examination by both teacher educators and policymakers before evidence of impact can be usefully claimed—or not.
Clive Beck, Clare Kosnik, and Elizabeth Rosales
The longitudinal study of teachers gives a time perspective on the life and work of teachers, instead of just a snapshot at a particular point. The time period in question may be just a few intense months, as in some ethnographic research, or several decades, as in some life-history research. Longitudinal research is useful in exploring such topics as how teachers change and grow over their careers, changes in teachers’ professional satisfaction over the years, patterns of teacher retention and drop-out, the impact of teachers on their students over time, and the influence of preservice and/or in-service teacher education on teachers. Continuous study of the same teachers over many years is challenging and accordingly not common. It is typically expensive and time-consuming, and extends beyond the time span of most research funding; moreover, many participants either leave the profession or move to other locations, making it difficult to keep in touch with them. Accordingly, additional ways to do longitudinal research need to be found: for example, studying teachers intensively for a shorter period; asking teachers to recall earlier phases in their life and/or career; or studying different cohorts of teachers at various career points (as in the classic Huberman study and parts of the U.K. VITAE research). Each of these methods has limitations but maintains the valuable outcome of providing a time perspective. Where it can be arranged, however, interviewing the same teachers at intervals over several years has the advantage of enabling researchers to get to know the participants well. As a result, the researchers are in a better position to understand what the participants are saying in the interviews, and assess the veracity of their self-reporting about their views and practices, past and present. Also, a degree of trust is established such that the teachers are more likely to be frank about their feelings, challenges, and concerns. But one danger of the emerging relationship is that the support the relationship it provides may positively impact the teachers’ experience (e.g., helping them fine-tune their practice and maintain their morale to an unusually high level). This limitation has to be weighed against the advantages in deciding whether or not to use this approach to the longitudinal study of teachers.
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a buzzword in contemporary professional debates, for example, in education, medicine, psychiatry, and social policy. It is known as the “what works” agenda, and its focus is on the use of the best available evidence to bring about desirable results or prevent undesirable ones. We immediately see here that EBP is practical in nature, that evidence is thought to play a central role, and also that EBP is deeply causal: we intervene into an already existing practice in order to produce an output or to improve the output. If our intervention brings the results we want, we say that it “works.” How should we understand the causal nature of EBP? Causality is a highly contentious issue in education, and many writers want to banish it altogether. But causation denotes a dynamic relation between factors and is indispensable if one wants to be able to plan the attainment of goals and results. A nuanced and reasonable understanding of causality is therefore necessary to EBP, and this we find in the INUS-condition approach. The nature and function of evidence is much discussed. The evidence in question is supplied by research, as a response to both political and practical demands that educational research should contribute to practice. In general, evidence speaks to the truth value of claims. In the case of EBP, the evidence emanates from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and presumably speaks to the truth value of claims such as “if we do X, it will lead to result Y.” But what does research evidence really tell us? It is argued here that a positive RCT result will tell you that X worked where the RCT was conducted and that an RCT does not yield general results. Causality and evidence come together in the practitioner perspective. Here we shift from finding causes to using them to bring about desirable results. This puts contextual matters at center stage: will X work in this particular context? It is argued that much heterogeneous contextual evidence is required to make X relevant for new contexts. If EBP is to be a success, research evidence and contextual evidence must be brought together.
Evageloula A. Papadatou
The effective operation of a school unit relies on various factors, the most critical of which is leadership, as it this which shapes the working environment through which the school succeeds or fails. Indeed, an effective leader can inspire vision and promote educational policy in the interests of the school and other stakeholders. This leadership role in schools is undertaken by head teachers, who are called to act as supervisors of the school’s human resources in parallel with their purely administrative work. In order for school leaders to achieve these outcomes, however, they must be adequately trained so as to be competent in undertaking the arduous task of leading a school unit. Consequently, in order for school leaders to carry out their daunting tasks successfully—in other words, achieve the best possible results with the fewest sacrifices and least effort—they must possess certain knowledge and aptitudes. For this reason, the staffing of the school units in any country (and hence in Greece) with capable school leaders should be the top priority of the State, while measures should be taken to ensure that the processes for selecting school leaders and for their professional development remain objective and systematic, if the country intends to implement an educational policy efficiently and effectively. Taking into account that the school leader is not born but becomes, and that school leaders are central to the administration of a country’s educational system, it is vital that a system of selection and development of schools’ head teachers be institutionalized.
Amanda Nuttall and Edward Podesta
School reform in England, under the guise of school improvement and school effectiveness, is not new. Existing policy directions and trajectories for school reform in England seemingly continue to follow industrial drivers of the 19th century, promoting a highly regulated and regimented schooling system. This direction is underpinned by neoliberal forces which emphasize the relationship between education, business, and economy. Critiques of this model of school reform point to key issues around lack of response to key societal challenges and a reductionist approach to increasingly complex needs of diverse societies and cultures. Such reductionist school reform policies, in combination with stringent accountability measures, generate and consolidate differences between schools which are particularly detrimental for schools that serve students and families in poverty. In England, “success” in schools and educational outcomes is drawn from narrowly defined measures of quality with a privileging of quantitative data and testing outcomes above all other indicators. Within these measures, schools in poor, disadvantaged communities are more likely to be labeled “failing” and subjected to further intrusive monitoring, inspection, and sets of performance training in mandated methods of teaching. In these externally driven and policy-focused school reform strategies, teachers become victims of change with their voices censored and their students viewed as deficient in some way. In contrast, more meaningful school reform may be effected by recognizing that schools have the capacity to improve themselves. This improvement should be driven by those closest to the school: teachers, students, and their families. Above all, authentic school reform programs should be context specific, inquiry driven, and rooted in research and theory. Teachers should not be expected to reinforce a single hegemonic version of the “successful” school, notably in England, but should be able to engage in genuine school reform which is emancipatory and empowering.
David Gurr, Lawrie Drysdale, and Helen Goode
Large, sustained, multinational, and collaborative research networks are becoming more popular because of their power to produce findings that generalize across contexts as well as to provide contextually nuanced views of a phenomenon. In educational leadership, four major projects have been initiated since the beginning of the 21st century: The International Successful School Principalship Project; the International Study of the Preparation of Principals; Leadership for Learning; and the International School Leadership Development. These projects cover from seven to more than 20 countries and have run for 5 or more years. The discussion of these projects provides insight into principal effectiveness research and some guidance to those who seek to collaborate with colleagues nationally and internationally. International projects like these bring the interplay of leadership and context into focus and show that context is important in terms of educational success and how leadership is enacted. Despite the complexity in considering leadership and context, a standout feature of the projects is that across different contexts, there are general findings that emerge, either confirming contemporary understandings or proposing new views through the construction of leadership models, and recommendations emerge that can transcend contexts (such as the need for high-quality but contextually relevant leadership preparation programs). These international comparative projects are important works, as they endeavor to counter the blancmange view of education that comes through the pervasiveness of things like international testing programs and the reliance on meta-analyses.
Phonics is a method of teaching people to read and spell (and therefore write) in an alphabetic writing system by associating symbols (letters/graphemes) with sounds (phonemes). The place of phonics in teaching children to read and spell is vigorously debated among researchers, often spilling over into the popular press. Advocates of principally comprehension-based (e.g., whole language) teaching have maintained that little or no phonics instruction is needed; others are of the view that it is essential and must be systematic. Analysis of the most rigorous evidence from research reviews and meta-analyses suggests that systematic phonics teaching is effective for teaching children to read and spell in English, and that the combination of systematic phonics teaching and comprehension-based approaches is probably more effective than either alone. Research has therefore begun on integrated teaching of literacy that incorporates both code and meaning emphases, but currently the requisite professional knowledge and teacher capacity are challenges for many school systems. The principal forms of phonics teaching are synthetic, where children are taught to sound out the letters of a word and to blend (synthesize) the sounds together to form a word; and analytic, in which sounding-out is not taught to start with, but children identify the phonic element from a set of words in which each word contains the element under study, for example, pat, park, push, and pen. There is not yet sufficient convincing research evidence to decide which of these is more effective. Systematic phonics teaching in general is effective across the primary age range, for normally developing and most at-risk children, and probably for children whose first language is not English; and its effects last, at least in the crucial early years. Nonetheless, government policy and reform interventions in this area are sometimes heavy-handed, frequently influenced by political and community pressure, and may face difficulties of scale, resources, and implementation that hamper their effectiveness and generalizability across school systems. A new, large systematic review may be needed to clarify various outstanding issues.