Last week somebody shared a talk by F.J.G. Janssens (in Dutch) discussing 4 myths in education. Although the myths all deserve attention (homework, repeating a grade, ability grouping), one myth made me wonder if it’s truly a myth: teacher make the biggest difference in education.
It’s something I’ve been saying myself in talks, but maybe I was wrong. Well, it depends.
If you look e.g. at this earlier research on what is the influence of e.g. heritability on test scores with an influence of over 50 procent, one could say the biggest influence on education is the child itself. This is also in line with this summary of John Hattie on who has an influence on learning:
Daniel Muijs in his recent talk at ResearchED Amsterdam also put the pupil first as the biggest influence on differences in learning. But he also added that teachers are responsible for 75% of the variation in school results. The difference between a pupil in math class being taught by the most effective teacher versus being taught by the least effective teacher is 25% (Muijs & Reynolds, 2001). And… the effect of teachers is bigger for children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The question is also: how much can be changed to the characteristics of the children? And by who? And will this be ethical?
So, I do think that teachers can make the difference, although Timothy Shanahan does have a point when he says it’s more about the verb (effective teaching) than the noun (effective teachers). This something I want to follow up, it might even end up in the follow up on Urban Myths we’re working on! All comments are – as always – welcome.