In a recent study by Professor John Hattie, of Auckland University, the most effective strategy for improving education appears to be raising the quality of student-teacher interaction. The study was based on 50,000 other studies covering all aspects of schooling across the world. Professor Hattie has produced a ranking system of most to least effective strategies. At the top comes:
1. Students assessing themselves
2. Students working at a level just beyond their current level (appropriate challenge)
3. Formative evaluation
4. Teachers reflecting on their own practice
Less effective interventions, those appearing lower down the list, include:
133. Student centered "open" classrooms
132. Giving students control over learning
131. Multi-age classes
The report seems to suggest that students, when given regular opportunities to reflect on their progress, develop a good understanding of what they need to do next and do not need excessive testing. Other strategies which seem to work well include teachers being clear about their expectations and "reciprocal" teaching - students taking turns to teach the class.
Issues like gender, television, class size and setting by ability appear to be less important in their effect. In an interview with the TES, Professor Hattie remarks "A teacher's job is not to make work easy. It is to make it difficult. If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, feedback is useless." This raises some interesting issues about the nature of challenge for individual students, the significance of mistakes in the learning process and the importance of personalised formative assessment.