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RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS

Teacher competences and pupil achievement in pre-school and school

Which dimensions of teachers’ manifest competences can be shown, through effect studies, to contribute to pupil achievement?
Nordenbo, S. E.; Søgaard Larsen, M.; Tiftikçi, N; Wendt, R. E.; Østergaard, S. (2008). Teacher Competences and Pupil Learning in Pre-school and School – A Systematic Review Carried Out for the Ministry of Education and Research, Oslo. Copenhagen: Danish Clearinghouse for Educational Research, School of Education, University of Aarhus.

What did we find?

From 1998 to 2007, 70 studies were published on the influence of manifest teacher competence on pupil achievement. These present three primary findings:

(1) The teacher must possess the competence to enter into a social relation in respect of the individual pupil.

(2) In relation to the whole class (all pupils) the teacher must possess the competence to direct the teaching work of the class, whereby the teacher as visible leader throughout the course of the teaching gradually cedes responsibility to the pupils and the class for the development of rules and encourages the pupils to establish and maintain the rules themselves. Both of these competences are significant for the development of overall aims such as the pupils’ motivation and autonomy, and they play a role in promoting academic learning.

(3) In relation to the content of the teaching, the teacher must possess competence both in the teaching-learning process in a general sense and in the individual subjects taught.

What are the implications?

For practice: Teachers and teacher educators can derive inspiration from a range of practical features that this systematic review has shown to be of significance for their pupils’ learning.

For policy: Politicians and policy-makers can use the three proven competences as a basis for the evaluation of the appropriateness of existing teacher training and as pointers for future teacher training programmes.

For research: It is recommended

a) that empirical research is initiated into the influence of manifest competences on pupil achievement using research designs capable of accounting for such influence with the greatest weight of evidence,

b) that theoretical and empirical research is instigated focusing on the development of appropriate theoretical ways of understanding the concept of competence generally and of each individually specific competence, and finally

c) that empirical research should be carried out both into the individual competences presented here and into the links between them.

 

Systematic review
A systematical summary of studies in the current topic based on formal criterias for evalution of related studies.
Published: 11.04.2013
Last updated 27.10.2014
PDF PDF - 345 KB Project summary

In this systematic review the following review question is answered:

Which dimensions of teachers’ manifest competences can be shown, through effect studies, to contribute to pupil achievement?

The answer is given partly by conducting a research mapping and a narrative synthesis on the basis of the last 10 years’ empirical pedagogical research.

The answer is that the following three competences contribute to learning in children and young people:

  • Relational competence
  • Rule management competence
  • Didactic competence

In the report’s Sections 0 and 4.6.2 an account is given of the details of this answer. The following rider can be added about the strength of this assertion:

  • The answer is based on the best evidence available from pedagogical and educational research in the period 1998-2007
  • The answer is based upon a research mapping and a research assessment of that research
  • The answer has been arrived at by undertaking narrative analyses generated on the basis of a data extraction carried out by a review group and Clearinghouse.

The answer invites the following comments:

The answer is of interest both in terms of what it directs attention towards and in terms of what it does not direct attention towards. It does not highlight factors that are not already familiar. But it indicates that it is precisely these
competences — and not others — that are central, according to our best evidence.

The answer points to certain very basic competences that can essentially be interpreted in relation to the didactic triangle:

(1) The teacher must possess the competence to enter into a social relation, the qualities of which are discussed in Chapter 4, with the individual pupil.

(2) In relation to the whole class (all pupils), the teacher must possess the competence to lead the activity of the class, whereby the teacher as visible leader throughout the course of the teaching gradually devolves responsibility to the pupils and to the class for the development of rules and encourages the pupils themselves to establish and maintain the rules. Both of these competences are significant for the development of overall aims such as the pupils’ motivation and autonomy, and they play a role by promoting scholastic learning.

(3) In relation to the content of the teaching, the teacher must possess competence both in the didactic sphere in a general sense and in specific academic subjects.

The answer suggests that teacher training should focus on the development of these three basic competences and that all other details of teacher training should be able to be associated organically with one or more of these
competences.

The answer indicates that above and beyond the teacher’s academic knowledge of his/her subjects, social competence, competence in managing work in the classroom and didactic competence are significant prerequisites for the teacher’s successful contribution to pupil learning.

Recommendation for practice, policy and research

In conclusion consideration should be given to the recommendations for practice, policy and research that derive from the results of the systematic review carried out here.

Practice

It makes no sense to recommend to teachers that they ‘possess’ the three competences presented here. By definition, competences are inner psychic structures that you either ‘have’ or ‘do not have’ and that have to be activated in given social contexts that call for a solution. To recommend that these competences should be ’acquired’ or ’developed’ is more of a task to be dealt with at policy level.

The three competences advanced here include, however, a large number of dimensions and aspects of competences that are discussed in detail in Section 0. A range of these dimensions and aspects comprise specified teaching situations in which concrete approaches and relational features are shown to be significant. The result of the narrative syntheses can provide inspiration for appropriate teaching action for teachers who find themselves in similar teaching situations.

We can, therefore, recommend that teachers take account of a range of practical features that this systematic review has shown to be of significance for their pupils’ learning.

Policy

For decision-makers and planners of educational policy, politicians and officials the results of the present systematic review can help to select which elements should be ensured by a course of training for teaching. According to the best available evidence, the systematic review indicates that the three competences mentioned above should be allotted a central role. This is, however, on the understanding that the effects that the given competences can be seen to promote are also those that are deemed desirable.

At the same time it should be emphasised that the result of the systematic review only answers the question as to which competences can be shown to be central for pupil achievement. The systematic review has not looked into and gives no answer to questions addressing how the competences can be acquired, learnt or developed. To identify this is a separate independent empirical assignment.

We can, therefore, recommend that politicians and officials wishing to promote these aims for pupil learning can, as a result of what the systematic review has demonstrated, use the three proposed competences as a basis for evaluating the appropriateness of existing teacher training courses and as bearings for future teacher training courses.

Research

The present systematic review has surveyed the last ten years of empirical research into the relation between manifest competences and pupils’ learning.

The research mapping and research assessment have shown that over this period pedagogical and educational research have shown interest in this issue but that there is still a long way to go.

On several occasions it has been noted that randomised controlled studies are entirely absent. And generally speaking it would be an advantage if there existed a larger number of studies conducted on the basis of those research designs that could provide the greatest evidence for the effect of the teaching competences under review.

While the registration of pupil achievement in the studies under survey is presented with reasonable quality, the assessment is that the registration of competence dimensions and of the way they form part of the theoretically constructed generation of competences require a greater theoretical elucidation. There is no generally accepted, clear terminological consensus in the area that can ensure that studies conducted can be compared with each other.

Finally the results of the systematic review indicate that primary research should be carried out to shed light on the three competences advanced here and on the relations between them.

It is to be expected that carefully focused research can contribute to uncovering the inner relations and details of these competences and to providing a more specific understanding of the ways and the areas in which they influence promotion of pupil learning in the desired direction.

It is, therefore, recommended

a) that empirical research is set in motion on the links between manifest competences and pupil achievement using research designs capable of accounting for such links with the greatest weight of evidence,

b) that theoretical and empirical research is instigated focusing on the development of appropriate theoretical ways of understanding the concept of competence and, alternatively, of each individual competence and, finally,

c) that empirical research should be carried out both into the individual competences presented here and into the links between them.