Evidence-based teaching (also commonly known as evidence-based education or evidence-based learning) is the principle that teachers should use research to make informed decisions with regards to learning, rather than being led by what has been used in the past, personal judgement, or other influences.
For schoolteachers, this approach could be applied to the huge number of decisions they make each day – from what should be taught on what day, how and when homework tasks should be set, or even how they develop relationships and maintain discipline with their pupils.
1. Take it slow at the start
When implementing evidence-based teaching practices, it is important to take small steps and not to overwhelm yourself. Applying new techniques in digestible chunks will benefit teachers and students alike. Furthermore, by starting small, you’ll be able to monitor the impact of the changes you have made more efficiently and effectively, whilst also using this valuable insight to tweak and optimise these evolving practices.
2. Ensure any strategy is fit for purpose
Don’t shoehorn in an evidence-based teaching strategy if it is unlikely to fit with your existing framework and objectives. Look to roll-out the changes when you think it will have the most positive impact and when students are likely to most benefit from these changes.
3. Set clear lesson goals
Once you introduce evidence-based teaching practices it is vital to communicate what you want your pupils to learn during each lesson. According to author John Hattie’s Visible Learning, this level of clarity will lead to students achieving far better results. Clear, concise, and attainable lesson goals will help both teachers and students to focus and succeed.
4. Ensure your students “get it”
When implementing new strategies in the classroom, it is essential to ensure that students are understanding the information they are being taught. There are several ways to monitor this, and Australian-based educational website, Evidence-Based Teaching, suggests random sampling:
“This involves asking a question, pausing and then randomly choosing a student to answer. The pause is to allow all students to think of their answer. And, the random sampling can be as simple as names out of a hat. By using random sampling regularly, students get used to having to have an answer ready in case you select their name.”
The article states that by randomly selecting a small number of students, a teacher will be able to get a “a reasonable estimate of the class’s understanding”. Alternatives to random sampling include student response systems, such as thumbs up or down, true or false cards, and mini whiteboards.
5. “Dollops of feedback!”
In the article, Measuring the Effects of Schooling, John Hattie states that any teacher who seriously wants to boost their pupils’ results must prioritise providing them with “dollops and dollops of feedback”.
As part of this approach, it is important to understand how feedback differentiates to praise. Praise directly focuses on the pupil in question, whilst feedback focuses on what the student did, supplemented with a tangible understanding of what they did well, where they currently are, and how they can continue to improve.
6. Reject ineffectual methods
In a previous post on the IG Schools blog, Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research at the Chartered College of Teaching, made an interesting point with regards to the rejection of ineffectual methods. She wrote: “Engaging with research should not just be about introducing new, effective approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, but also about the identification and rejection of existing, ineffective practices – for example, differentiating activities to cater to students’ so-called ‘learning styles’. In this way, teacher workload can also be reduced.”
We recommend you take the time to read her post in full.
7. Be willing to learn and develop your own skills
Jonathan Haslam, Director of the Institute for Effective Education, explained in a recent IG Schools blog that the interest in evidence-informed learning had never been higher – and that he had seen some events attract hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers - even at the weekend!
The teaching sector’s commitment to enhancing its knowledge of evidence-based learning is both admirable and exciting. It is important to take advantage of these opportunities to share information and best practice.
Take part in an IG Schools event and gain CPD points! You can explore our latest forums, conferences, and training courses, here.
8. Patience is key
In the same post on the IG Schools blog, Haslam cited an insightful comment from former teacher Nick Rose, who said that it will take a generation for teaching to become evidence-informed. Whilst agreeing with Rose, Haslam claimed that the sector will require plenty of patience: “But one day there will be an evidence-informed education system that is built on a secure body of knowledge, with individuals who have the skills to make use of that knowledge. It’s a learning journey, not just for an individual, but for an entire profession.”