A class act: giving teachers feedback

by Kristen Weatherby
Senior Analyst, Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

When I think back on my first experiences as a student teacher of English language and literature to 13- and 14-year-olds, I don’t really remember the successes; I am not sure there were many during my teaching practice. Rather, I am reminded of the more colourful episodes of classroom management and student behaviour that seemed to occur all too frequently. For example, there was the time I looked up from reading to the class to see one student staring back with a green mustache and eyebrows. Another time one student jumped up from his desk and threw another student’s books out the window before I could blink. And then there were the countless times that I had to take away combs, brushes and makeup from both girls and boys in an effort to turn my classroom from a beauty salon into a place of learning. Needless to say, in these moments I didn’t feel like a very effective teacher.

Little did I know it at the time, but I was not alone in feeling a bit like a failure due to a less-than-ideal classroom climate. The newest Teaching in Focus brief, “How can teacher feedback be used to improve the classroom disciplinary climate?” discusses how providing teachers more feedback to improve their classroom’s disciplinary climate can have a positive effect on their sense of mastery of the situation, what is known as self-efficacy. The OECD’s  Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) measures classroom disciplinary climate by the amount of time it takes to ready students for a lesson, the number of student interruptions, and the amount of noise in the classroom, among other factors. TALIS data shows that, on average, 13% of a typical class’s teaching and learning time is lost to keeping order.

TALIS data also shows that most teachers are not receiving the kind of feedback that helps them to improve their classroom disciplinary practice. As a result,  teachers are left feeling much as I did as a new teacher – not very effective. In fact, this is supported by the TALIS data, which indicates a relationship between teacher self-efficacy and classroom disciplinary climate. Teachers’ self-efficacy can have a significant impact on what goes on in the classroom, as it indicates not only aspects of productivity but also how teachers act in class. And teachers who report poor classroom discipline also report lower levels of self-efficacy.

Policymakers, union leaders, and teachers will be meeting next week in Amsterdam for the third International Summit on the Teaching Profession. This year’s topic is teacher evaluation and professional standards. Constructive feedback – as part of formal or informal teacher appraisal – could help teachers to improve their classroom disciplinary climate. TALIS 2008 results suggest that individualised feedback that considers the teachers’ characteristics, competencies, and individual classrooms, would be most helpful in improving classroom disciplinary climate and teacher self-efficacy. It undoubtedly would have helped me to chalk up a few successes during those early days in front of the class.

Watch this space for more blogs related to the Teachers’ Summit. We’ll also be tweeting live from the Summit. Follow the summit on twitter: #ISTP2013


For more on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey:www.oecd.org/edu/talis
Teaching in Focus: How can teacher feedback be used to improve the classroom disciplinary climate?
Third annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession, 13-14 March 2013, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Teachers for the 21st Century: Using Evaluation to Improve Teaching
Follow TALIS and Kristen Weatherby @Kristen_Talis
Photo credit: Positive feedback/Shutterstock

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