Students work hard to please a teacher they care about. The teachers students do care about are those who have taken the time to establish a personal relationship (in the classroom) with each of their students. This is the crucial factor which was left out of R. Barker Bausell’s research into how the most effective teachers conduct their classrooms.
Bausell’s conclusions are summarized in his May, 2011 article in the New York Times, “A New Measure for Classroom Quality.” In his article, Bausell explains clearly why student test scores do not provide a consistent means of separating good teachers from bad.
The best approach, Bausell explains, is to measure the amount of time a teacher spends delivering relevant instruction, that is, how much teaching actually gets done in a day. The studies show that some teachers were able to deliver as much as 14 weeks more of actual instruction during a single year than ineffective teachers. These efficient teachers were also those who produced the best gains on standardized tests.
Bausell recommends that school reforms, therefore, should focus on: “Lengthening the school day (which would probably require more team teaching), week and year; adopting a near-zero-tolerance policy for disruptive behavior, which classroom cameras would help police; increasing efforts to reduce tardiness and absenteeism; and providing as much supplementary and remedial tutoring (the most effective instructional model known) as possible.”
Additionally, instead of waiting until the end of the year to evaluate test scores, Bausell suggests that administrators “could simply videotape a few minutes of instruction a day, then evaluate the results to see how much time teachers spent on their assigned material and the extent to which they were able to engage students. Indeed, the very process of recording classroom instruction would probably push some underperforming teachers to become more efficient.”
As a teacher of two decades, I do agree with Bausell’s conclusions, with one crucial difference. More teaching time would certainly improve student results, but only somewhat. What really maximizes student achievement is when students strive hardest to please their teacher. When a teacher both loves their subject, and takes the time to (appropriately) know students personally, making the curriculum relevant to their lives now, the students will double their efforts (especially when compared with the type of teacher who keeps a wall up between themselves and the students).
For more information on how to develop positive relationships with students, see Improving Students’ Relationships with Teachers, by the American Psychological Association, or “Classroom Management Strategies for Difficult Students–Promoting Change Through Relationships”, by Mary Ellen Beaty-O’Ferrall, Alan Green, & Fred Hanna in the Middle School Journal.