What values underpin your teaching? What about the values of your teacher colleagues? To what extent are these values used to judge the effectiveness of your teaching?

Brin Best outlines an important research article that presents far-reaching conclusions about the need to incorporate values into any examination of effective teaching.

In a nutshell

Writing in the Oxford Review of Education, R.J. Campbell and three colleagues argue that values have been a much-neglected aspect of research into teacher effectiveness. Although the authors were writing mainly from the perspective of educational researchers working on teacher effectiveness, there are major implications for individual teachers’ practice and from the perspective of performance management. They distinguish two facets to the topic of values that are relevant:

  • general values associated with the processes of education
  • the more specific values underlying effective teaching.

The authors argue that the traditional research base on educational effectiveness in the USA and Europe has instead focused mainly on student outcomes. Within this work, there’s often been an assumption about the values underpinning the education of students being investigated, which are not always borne out by the schools or teachers educating them.

Two examples of how teacher effectiveness might be re-conceptualised to incorporate a values dimension are offered, namely effectiveness in developing independent learning and effectiveness in achieving a classroom climate characterised by inclusiveness. They suggest that any model of teacher effectiveness must include an analysis of the values of the schools and teachers involved. They also suggest that a helpful approach to the identification of values in teacher effectiveness is through teacher self-evaluation.

They draw upon work by other researchers who have suggested that Ofsted measurement of standards achieved by teachers is invalid, because there is no examination of values. The inspection process involves collecting, evaluating and reporting evidence but without any explicit reference to aims and values. Furthermore, judgements of the ‘effectiveness’ of schools or departments cannot be made unless it’s clear what aims are being effectively achieved or what values are successfully embodied – instead the nature of these standards is often presupposed.

Discussion

It’s worth noting that the revised National Curriculum (published in 2000) came with a statement of values under four headings:

  • self
  • relationships
  • society
  • the environment.

Within each section there were very specific value positions, but these values did not come with a statutory force. Instead, it was claimed that there was consensus in society about these values, even though some brought meanings that were obviously open to much individual difference.

Additionally, the General Teaching Council has produced a general code of ethics, which expresses a set of professional values required of its members. These include having high expectations of all students and demonstrating personal qualities in their dealings with others, such as tolerance, fairness, honesty, an appreciation of different backgrounds and taking responsibility for professional development.

However, the authors suggest that these kinds of approaches are problematic because they tend to lack a direct connection with effectiveness. More robust was the Hay McBer model of teacher effectiveness, published in 2000, which was developed as a basis for teacher appraisal as part of the ‘modernisation’ of the teaching profession. The model made explicit a set of values associated with ‘professionalism’ that it was claimed had a clear connection with teacher effectiveness. They included:

  • respect for others
  • challenge and support
  • confidence
  • creating trust.

Conclusions

The article makes a convincing case for the need to incorporate values into any assessment of teacher effectiveness. If we – or others – are to judge how effective any teaching experience has been, then it’s essential to uncover the values underpinning that experience and the intended outcomes that stem from them. The starting point is surely to examine the values that form the foundation of your own teaching.

However, the topic of values is not well covered in handbooks for teachers, in particular the methods that can be used by teachers to reveal their own values and how this information can develop their teaching expertise. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it has been slow to be incorporated into teacher effectiveness studies.

Reflection points

After reading the above, reflect on the following:

  • What values do you think underpin your teaching?
  • Do other teachers and leaders at your school share these values?
  • How is your effectiveness as a teacher judged at your school?
  • What are the values of your students and their parents and, if they differ from your own, what are the implications of this for your day-to-day work as a teacher?
  • What action points do the above questions suggest? TEX

Reference

1. Campbell, R.J., Kyriakides, R.D., Muijs, R.D. and Robinson, W. Effective teaching and values: some implications for research and teacher appraisal. Oxford Review of Education 30(4):451-465.

2. The Hay McBer characteristics of effective teachers can be downloaded from www.teachernet.gov.uk, along with an interesting task that challenges you to apply the model to your own teaching.

Brin Best worked as a teacher and head of department before joining the advisory team of an LEA. He is now the director of Innovation for Education Ltd, and is carrying out part-time doctoral studies at Leeds University into effective teaching and learning. Brin is the author of a wide range of books for teachers and school managers and is the series consultant for the award-winning Teachers’ Pocketbooks.