14 June 2024

All teachers improved their teaching considerably after receiving visits and feedback from experts on their performance during lessons. This is shown in a report from Linköping University that compiled observations from 30 compulsory schools. The report also highlights the importance of teachers talking to each other about how they work in the classroom.

Students and teachers in a classroom.
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“The overall conclusion is, with small inputs, there are good opportunities to make it possible for more students to learn more while they are in school,” says Marcus Samuelsson, senior associate professor at the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning at Linköping University.

The report is based on observations of just under 700 lessons from preschool to secondary school. It looked at issues such as whether students were told the goal of the teaching, whether teachers followed up to make sure that students understood the goal, whether students were taught to cooperate and take responsibility for their own learning, and how teachers performed as leaders in the classroom. These are some factors that, according to previous research, make for successful learning.

The analysis shows that the quality of teaching varies greatly in all schools and that it rests to a remarkably low degree on a scientific basis.

Many shortcomings in teaching

In 60% of the lessons, students were not told the goal of the teaching. In many cases, this was because the teacher had not set any goals. In 90 percent of the lessons, the students had not understood what they were supposed to learn. In nearly half of the cases, the teacher’s leadership was focused on control rather than motivating and inspiring. The students were often left alone and rarely helped each other when they got stuck.

Portrait of a man outdoors
Senior associate professor Marcus Samuelsson..
Immediately after the lesson, all teachers received personal feedback and coaching from the experts. What had gone well? What could be improved? The overall results for each school were also compiled so that teachers and school leaders together could discuss and develop their teaching.

The experts revisited 14 of the 30 schools to see the effect of their first visit. It turned out that there were improvements for all teachers on all the points examined. At the beginning, the teachers were concerned about being judged, but afterwards they were happy to have been able to develop their teaching skills. They were also very pleased that they had started to talk with their colleagues about how they can further develop their skills.

Every school has a job to do

The researchers were surprised that all the shortcomings in teaching were found in all the schools surveyed. This shows that all schools have a job to do, and that places demands on politicians and school leaders, on teacher education and, not least, on the education of principals, according to the researchers.

“It’s the principals who must lead systematic quality assurance, but our experience is that many of them don’t feel that they have the tools to conduct lesson visits because they haven’t been trained in this in their education,” says Marcus Samuelsson.

He thinks that the research results are likely to apply to most Swedish schools. In a new research project, he and his colleagues will follow teachers over a three-year period to see if observations, coaching and conversations with colleagues improve the quality of teaching.

The report was compiled by Linköping researchers Marcus Samuelsson and Joakim Samuelsson in collaboration with independent experts Bernt Friberg, Urban Hansson and Mats Rosenkvist. The research was funded by Linköping University.

 

The report (in Swedish): Undervisning med uppseendeväckande brister - så blev den signifikant bättre, M Samuelsson, J Samuelsson, B Friberg, U Hansson & M Rosenkvist, Skrifter från Forum för ämnesdidaktik nr 17, Linköping University, 2024, doi: 10.3384/9789180757355

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